Growing up hunting and just being outdoors, my grandfather never left his binoculars at home. This is a trend that has slowly faded away in the hunting community but has recently been seeing somewhat of an uptick in popularity. This is likely due to the increase in quality of compact binoculars. Unlike the large and quite heavy ones my grandfather carries, its possible to get a great pair of binoculars that weigh only ounces and have excellent clarity and power.
I think its past time that we reinstate the carrying of binoculars. For hunters, scanning is much easier than with a spotting or rifle scope. And you never know what you may see out there.
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- 1 What Makes the Best Compact Binoculars
- 2 8 Best Compact Binoculars 2018
- 2.1 1. Steiner Tactical 10×28 Compact Binocular – Best of the Best
- 2.2 2. Zeiss Terra ED Compact Pocket Binocular – Best Image Quality
- 2.3 3. Nikon ProStaff 7S Compact Binocular – Most Rugged
- 2.4 4. Leupold BX-1 Compact Binoculars – Best Value
- 2.5 5. Vortex Optics Vanquish Binoculars – Best Bang for your Buck
- 2.6 6. MINOX BF Compact Binoculars – Smallest Binocular
- 2.7 7. Olympus 10×25 WP II Binocular – Most Comfortable Small Binocular
- 2.8 8. Wingspan Optics Spectator Compact Binocular – Best Budget Binocular
- 3 Conclusion
What Makes the Best Compact Binoculars
The whole reason we want a pair of binoculars is for the magnification. Having something with sufficient power to make a difference is a mandatory requirement. That said, you don’t need something super powerful. Your rifle scope or spotting scope is a much better tool for the details but having something of moderate power to aid in quickly scanning an area should be your goal.
I prefer something between 8x and 12x. It gives enough detail to see what you need to see but a large enough field of view to make scanning much easier. If you go any lower, you will likely not see enough benefit to binoculars over your naked eye and if you go much higher, you will be too close to a spotting scope. Keep it reasonable.
2. Weight & Size
The biggest advantages of today’s compact binoculars are weight and size. Having something that can fit in your pocket while being so light that you almost forget they are there is a great advantage. I used to carry a large pair around my neck and they did very little more than get in the way.
Some of the most compact binoculars today may only weigh as 5 or 6 ounces and be only a little larger than a deck of playing cards. You can fit them in any pocket and never even realize you are carrying them. If the goal is to make this an indispensable tool for the outdoorsman, weight and size will always be a primary consideration.
3. Ruggedness and Weatherproofing
Having any outdoor tool that can’t handle the environment is a no-go. As outdoorsmen, we need to demand quality, durability, and longevity in all of our gear. Some of the cheaper binoculars may have sufficient power and weight but if they can’t stand up to rain, mud, and getting dropped from time to time, none of that matters.
The best you can get will have a sealed and purged interior with some form of rubberized armor. They will be water, fog, and shockproof. These are the binoculars that will last a lifetime and the ones you should be looking closely for.
4. Optical Quality
I save this for last, not because it isn’t important, but because its often not the primary feature of binoculars. Truth be told, you can deal with less optical quality out of binoculars than you could out of a rifle scope or spotting scope. They aren’t intended for seeing fine details.
That said, you should still get the best glass you can get. Look for binoculars that have multicoated lenses and a reputation for good craftsmanship. Chances are if they make a good scope, they make good binoculars. Leave the budget models at the big box stores alone, they often aren’t worth it.
8 Best Compact Binoculars 2018
|Steiner Tactical 10x28||0.79 lbs||4.9|
|Zeiss Terra ED||0.68 lbs||4.7|
|Nikon ProStaff 7S||0.92 lbs||4.8|
|Leupold BX-1||1.04 lbs||4.6|
|Vortex Optics Vanquish||0.7 lbs||4.5|
|MINOX BF||0.57 lbs||4.6|
|Olympus 10x25 WP II||0.5 lbs||4.5|
|Wingspan Optics Spectator||0.95 lbs||4.5|
1. Steiner Tactical 10×28 Compact Binocular – Best of the Best
When it comes to binoculars, its hard to beat a company that has produced them almost exclusively for the last 75 years. When it comes to quality, reliability, and straight up toughness, go with Steiner and you will never be disappointed. The larger and more powerful models have been a go-to for several militaries around the globe and are the current choice of the United States Coast Guard.
These are on the larger side of compact binoculars at just a little over 5” in length but for that, you get a 10x binocular with an amazing field of view and outstanding optical quality. All of the glass is multicoated and the lenses and prism are all of the absolute finest quality. For a 10x binocular you would never need anything more!
They may be a little large but weighing under a pound makes them easy to transport in a pocket or anywhere else. They are fully rubberized, tough as nails and nitrogen purged so you have no worries about what or fog. If you want binoculars that are built like a tank and still perform with precision, get a pair of Steiners!
- Amazing Image Quality
- Tough as Nails
- Somewhat Large
2. Zeiss Terra ED Compact Pocket Binocular – Best Image Quality
The first pair of Zeiss binoculars was manufactured way back in 1894. I’m not sure how good the quality was but the craftsmanship back then was top notch. As a matter of fact, those binoculars still work to this day. If they could do that back then with some brass, glass, and solder, imagine what they can do now?
Well, what they can do is produce some absolutely stellar glass. Seriously, anything better would cost thousands of dollars and that’s no exaggeration. The high tech multicoated lenses and prism in a set of Zeiss are second only to companies that produce lenses for NASA. Out of an 8x binocular, you won’t believe how clear and bright an image you can get until you give these a shot.
Unlike a true field binocular, these aren’t the most rugged tool you can get for the money. They are water and fog proof, nitrogen purged and durable enough for pocket carry, they just aren’t what I would consider hard use gear. They are outstanding in all other regards.
- Outstanding Image Quality
- Comfortable to Use
- Small Size
- Could be more durable
3. Nikon ProStaff 7S Compact Binocular – Most Rugged
Let’s not pretend that Nikon isn’t an absolute powerhouse in the world of optics. If it’s got lenses, Nikon makes and they make it very well with high quality material and premium glass that for the money is probably about the best you can get. This is especially true of the ProStaff series of optics.
Much like their rifle scopes, Nikon’s lenses in their binoculars have a baked on coating to improve the overall optical quality and brightness. Once added to their already high quality glass, it gets even better and even brighter. Dollar for dollar, I don’t think you do much better.
These 10x binoculars are small and weigh under a pound, making them very easy to transport but don’t sacrifice on toughness. With a nitrogen purged interior and shockproof rubber armor, these are great binoculars that will last a lifetime or more. For sheer value, this is the binocular to get!
- Great Image Quality
- Super Rugged
- Small and Light
- Great Value
- Somewhat Costly
- Small size can be hard to use
4. Leupold BX-1 Compact Binoculars – Best Value
Every outdoorsman should treat themselves to a fine pair of binoculars, you never know when you may want or need them. In that case, consider treating yourself to these Leupold binoculars which I am pretty sure you will never see for this price again. These are a serious but attractive tool for the outdoors and carry the legacy of Leupold.
For a compact 10x binocular, these are a little long thought they are still narrow enough to fit a pocket easily. Packed into their 8” length is still some amazing quality glass just like you get in Leupold’s finest scopes. There are few companies that carry the reputation for quality that Leupold does and their phenomenal multicoated lenses are the primary reason why.
Not to skimp on durability, these are nitrogen purged, water and fog proof, the prism is phase coated, and the lenses are scratch resistant. On top of that, they are coated in an anti-shock gray rubber armor which adds a touch of flair. These are a very attractive binocular at an even more attractive price. Snatch these up before they are gone!
- Great Optics
- Rugged and Tough
- Easy to Use
- Amazing Value
- Not Cheap
- Longer than most compact binoculars
5. Vortex Optics Vanquish Binoculars – Best Bang for your Buck
You can’t possibly start looking at quality optics these days without looking at a Vortex. The mystery here is how Vortex has managed to pack this much quality in to so small a package and then sell it at such a low price. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it perfectly. Quality wise, these are better than some binoculars that cost twice the price.
These are the only porro prism binoculars on this list and while that won’t mean much to most readers, it does improve the quality of the image you get through these super small and amazingly light weight 8x binoculars. Like all Vortex optics, the glass is outstanding quality and fully multicoated inside and out before being sealed in the tubes which are then filled with nitrogen.
This makes the binoculars fog and waterproof for a lifetime of use. Add that to the rubberized coating for shock resistance and you have a tool that can handle any environment. For a binocular weighing less than a pound and only 4” long, what more could you possibly ask for? These are an amazing value!
- Superb Image
- Built like a tank
- Amazing value
- Overall outstanding performance
- More sensitive parts
6. MINOX BF Compact Binoculars – Smallest Binocular
It’s very possible that most hunters and outdoorsmen aren’t familiar with MINOX who mostly produces cameras, but don’t worry, I will introduce you! In many industries, including maritime, MINOX are highly sought after binoculars that can be quite costly due to their extremely high quality. In this case, you can own a pair that are very compact and reasonably priced but with that same stellar reputation.
Not to be outdone by other companies, MINOX has scaled down some of their finest cameral lenses for these 8x binoculars. With a phase coated prism and multicoated glass, you get some outstanding image quality. Special care was taken with these binoculars to preserve natural color and image quality and it really shows!
While not as rugged as their big brothers, these tiny binoculars pack a lot of power and toughness into a very small package. They are 100% fog and waterproof for hard days in the field and have a rubberized coating that enhances grim and wards off some of the smaller dings these may take. If money is tight, these are a very good buy that most any outdoorsman would be happy with.
- Serious Quality
- Tiny and super light weight
- Could be tougher
- Small size can be hard to use
7. Olympus 10×25 WP II Binocular – Most Comfortable Small Binocular
Another camera company that has expanded into the world of sport optics, Olympus makes quite the quality product and doesn’t charge a premium price for them. Though they may not stack up quality wise to some of the binoculars on this list, you will probably never see the difference. These are a great binocular for the money and will do well in most any environment.
Like most good binoculars these 10x slimline optics are multicoated through and through for the best image quality and high color fidelity. The lenses are top notch and the fit and finish is nearly perfect which is a vital consideration in any folding binocular. The prism is phase coated and provides high contrast images in perfect rendition to how they look with the naked eye.
These have a tough aluminum housing and are rubberized for resistance to weather and the occasional spill. They are sealed against water and fog intrusion and even have a coating that actively repels dust. These are a perfect binocular to leave in the truck for those times you may want them and will hold up just about anywhere.
- Good Image Quality
- Very Comfortable
- Quite small, very light
- Could be more durable
- Parallax issues
8. Wingspan Optics Spectator Compact Binocular – Best Budget Binocular
It’s probably time we had a newcomer. Most of the companies here have been around for ages and its good to have some new blood to keep things exciting and that is what Wingspan has done. While you won’t find the out of this world quality of some of the highest priced binoculars, you will absolutely find a usable tool that is rugged as can be and for a price that is almost unbelievable.
While the glass and prism themselves are very good quality, the lenses lack the multicoating that most companies offer. This does save on cost but hurts the brightness of the image. Wingspan’s answer to this was a larger objective lens which would normally make a larger binocular but these are still quite small and easy to carry in a pocket. The quality is still there and they are far better than any big box store binocular you are likely to buy.
Where the Spectators really shine is their durability. Fully water, fog, and dust proof for a start and quite resistant to shock as well. These should last a lifetime which is how long Wingspan warranties them for. If you break them, they replace them. For the price, what more could you ask for?
- Very Affordable
- Quite robust and tough
- Great Warranty
- Image is a little off
- Large diameter can be harder to carry
- Some concern over lens seals
If you hunt or just enjoy the outdoors, you will benefit from a pair of good quality, light weight, compact binoculars and there is no doubt about it. Once you start carrying them, you will be shocked at how often you reach for them. It may be just to get a better look at a rock formation or something else that catches your eye. Or it may be at your next trophy buck.
All of the old time hunters carried these amazingly versatile tools for just such occasions. Why we stopped is anyone’s guess but its high time we started this tradition again. With the modern day price and quality, getting the best compact binoculars is nowhere near as costly or difficult as it has been in the past. Join me and let’s get this tradition restarted!