Worldbirds.com is user-supported. When users buy via links on our website, we may earn a commission. More info

12 Best Binoculars for Hiking (Lightweight & Trail-Tested)

Binoculars are an essential tool for enjoying dazzling views of the outdoors as you explore nature’s offerings. Hiking is a major part of many outdoor hobbies as well as a popular hobby unto itself. In this article, we’ll examine some of the best options for the hiker in need of binoculars. Great hiking binoculars should be light and compact, durable, easy to use and quick to focus, and capable of delivering crystal clear views. Continue reading to hear our recommendations so that you can enjoy your next hiking trip to the absolute fullest!

We Recommend

Best compact option

Zeiss Terra ED

Best that money can get

Zeiss Conquest HD

Best budget option

Vortex Diamondback HD

Best Binoculars for Hiking

1. Zeiss Terra ED 8X25mm Compact Pocket Binocular

binoculars on a white background

Those with an interest in optics will recognized Zeiss as a brand name that is truly trusted to deliver optical quality that doesn’t disappoint. The Zeiss Terra ED Compact Pocket Binocular brings Zeiss quality into a package that is lightweight, portable, and ready to face whatever the trail throws at it.

With a nice wide 357 foot field of view at one thousand yards, the Zeiss Terra ED is great for tracking moving objects, like birds in flight, as well as surveying the terrain ahead as you continue to hike. A close focus range of just over six feet means that the Terra ED can provide crisp views of nearby objects as well as objects farther away.

The Terra ED features ED glass and a Schmidt-Pechan prism system which provides sharp optics at a low weight. As far as weight is concerned, the Zeiss Terra ED is petite at just under eleven ounces. While certainly not the lightest set of binoculars on the market, these travel well and are compact enough to be comfortably carried long distances. Rugged and ergonomic, the Terra ED is Nitrogen sealed to prevent damage from moisture.


What we liked

  • Zeiss premium quality
  • With central focus, these binoculars are very easy to focus
  • The lens comes with a multi-layer coating to ensure clearer images 
  • It features long eye relief that makes viewing through the eyecups very convenient
  • Schmidt-Pechan prism system ensures better light transmission and also keeps the weight of the device on the lower side
  • Lightweight, compact yet durable 
  • Multi-coating (hydrophobic) ensures optical accuracy

What we didn’t like

  • Not ideal for dim light conditions
  • Average eye relief
  • Doesn’t come with a hard case

Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Hydrophobic multi-coated
Field of View: 357 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: Schmidt-Pechan roof prism
Eye Relief: 16mm
Weight: 11 oz

2. Zeiss Conquest HD 10X32 Backpacking Binoculars

zeiss conquest hd binoculars

The Zeiss Conquest HD is yet another offering from Zeiss. Unlike the compact Terra ED, the Conquest HD is a much bulkier option for hikers who would prefer to sacrifice a lighter weight in favor of top tier optics.

With large 32 millimeter objective lenses, the Conquest HD is capable of much higher light transmission than the Terra. The Conquest HD has excellent low-light performance. In fact, in almost every area, the Conquest HD is like the Terra ED cranked up a notch. The Conquest HD has a tighter close focus of just under five feet, a water resistance rating which is four times greater than the ED, and HD multi-coated lenses.

Of course, all of these added advantages come with drawbacks. The Conquest HD is much more expensive than its more compact cousin. Additionally, the Conquest HD weighs over twenty-two ounces, more than twice the weight of the comparatively dainty Terra ED. This added weight gives the Conquest a nice solid feel, but these binoculars certainly don’t travel as lightly or easily as some of the more compact list. Stay tuned, though, because the Conquest HD is by no means the bulkiest contender on this list.


What we liked

  • Decent eye relief of 16mm makes the binoculars comfortable to use with glasses
  • Wider FoV of 345 feet at 1000 yards at higher zooms for better viewing 
  • With T* multi-coating lenses Zeiss ensures high light transmission 
  • Larger exit pupil for better low light performance 
  • Multiple accessories available for outdoor use
  • Fully fog and water-resistive design
  • Central focus ensures quick adjustments 

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price tag
  • Neither very compact nor very lightweight

Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: T* multi-coated
Field of View: 345 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: Schmidt-Pechan roof prism
Eye Relief: 16mm
Weight: 22.2 oz

3. Vortex Diamondback HD 10X42 Hiking Binoculars

binoculars on a white background

The Vortex Diamondback HD is a great generalist. With powerful optics, versatile specs, and a price tag that’s fairly “beginner-friendly,” the Diamondback is an outdoorsman’s best friend. Ruggedly built, but not very compact, these binoculars weigh only a small amount less than the Conquest HD and may be a bit bulky for some hiking applications. If the size and weight aren’t a problem, though, then the 10x magnification and large 42 millimeter objective lenses make this piece of equipment a powerful and reliable trail companion.

These camping binoculars feature fully multi-coated lenses and provide you with a field of view of 330 feet at 1000 yards at full zoom. With HD lenses, these binoculars produce high-quality images with true colors and plenty of vibrancy.

Armored against impacts and designed with demanding outdoor conditions in mind, the Vortex Diamondback is a true “Jack of All Trades.”


What we liked

  • Best in class VIP warranty
  • Unbeatable price
  • Full HD optical system for better color production and image clarity
  • Rubber armor body  for a good shock-resistant performance 
  • Fully multi-coated optics with dielectric prism coating for better viewing at high zoom
  • Waterproof construction to handle moisture and rain
  • Comes with a variety of accessories
  • Eyepiece cover with rainguard protection

What we didn’t like

  • The attachment for the eyepiece cover is pretty low quality 
  • Average eye relief may be uncomfortable for some users with glasses

Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Field of View: 330 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: BaK4 roof prism
Eye Relief: 15mm
Weight: 21.3 oz

4. Leica Ultravid 10X25 BR Lightweight Binoculars

binoculars on a white background

The Leica Ultravid BR is an impressively designed tool which marries extreme portability and lightweight convenience with top tier build quality and incredibly sharp optics. Rivalling full-sized binoculars in many categories, the Ultravid BR pulls off an impressive 10x magnification with 25 millimeter objective lenses at just over nine ounces of weight.

Despite being so compact and lightweight, the Ultravid is armored and surprisingly tough. Housed in nitrogen-sealed aluminum, these binoculars are waterproof at up to five meters or sixteen feet of submersion.

The field of view on the Ultravid is a nice robust 295 feet at 1,000 yards. This is a bit narrower than some other competitors, but the incredible zoom of the Ultravid is a fair trade. Similarly, because the Ultravid is so compact, it may fall slightly short in low-light scenarios. All in all, though, this is an absolutely terrific option for hikers, birders, and outdoor hobbyists who want full-sized optics that easily fit into a pocket or backpack.


What we liked

  • Leather finish for easy grip and hold
  • Lightweight construction and compact size
  • Quality image sharpness and contrast
  • Black rubber armor for impact resistance 
  • Leica AquaDura and HD coating for maximum light transmission
  • High magnification with wide FoV
  • Water resistivity up to 16.5 feet

What we didn’t like

  • Short exit pupil makes it not an ideal choice for low-light situations
  • Higher price tag

Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: HD and AquaDura coating
Field of View: 295 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: BaK4 roof prism
Eye Relief: 15mm
Weight: 9.44 oz

5. Nikon Monarch 5 10X42 Hiking Binocular

binoculars on a white background

The Nikon Monarch 5 is another piece of equipment with a lot of strengths and few major weaknesses. The Monarch 5 is an excellent entry-level choice for a beginner looking to try out somewhat high-end optics.

10x magnification and large 42 millimeter objective lenses means that the Nikon Monarch 5 is ideal for enjoying the outdoors, even when lighting conditions are dim. The Monarch 5 also features over 18 millimeters of eye relief, allowing for comfortable use even whilst wearing glasses.

Dielectric coated with ED glass and a sturdy roof prism system, the Monarch 5 is a solid contender in almost every category. Unfortunately, when it comes to weight and field of view, these binoculars do fall a bit flat. At just under twenty-two ounces, the Monarch 5 may be slightly bulky for some hiking or backpacking applications, although this is still light enough for many such activities.


What we liked

  • The eyecups come with a multi-positional twisting lock for convenience
  • The polycarbonate body makes the device convenient to use in the outdoors
  • Rugged construction and easy to carry
  • Fully water and fog-resistant for an exceptional all-weather performance
  • Central focus ensure that you get to see the view quickly without missing any action
  • Long eye relief to ensure convenient use with spectacles

What we didn’t like

  • Lens caps come off quite easily
  • Somewhat limited FoV
  • On the slightly heavy side

Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Field of View: 288 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: BaK4 Roof Prism
Eye Relief: 18.4mm
Weight: 21.6 oz

6. Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10X42mm Binoculars

Vanguard Endeavor ED II binoculars

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II is another powerful option for hiking. The Endeavor ED II is a heavy duty tool which comes with a reasonable price tag and satisfyingly sharp optics. With a rather bulky weight of around 27.2 ounces, however, the Endeavor ED II is likely to be too heavy for users in search of compact and portable options.

It is equipped with ED glass, which offers extremely clear and bright images in all light conditions. Due to its view quality and color fidelity, this device is an excellent choice for wildlife research and bird watching.

These are fantastic binoculars for sightseeing and they feature a BaK4 roof prism. This robust and rugged construction makes these binoculars quite a useful trail companion. The Endeavor ED II is nitrogen filled and sealed against damage from water or fogging.


What we liked

  • BaK4 roof prism with fully multi-coated lenses
  • Fully fog and water-resistant with O-rings and nitrogen purging
  • A wide FoV of 374 feet at 1000 yards  for better situational awareness
  • Decent amount of eye relief available glasses wearers
  • Central focus makes focusing easy and quick
  • Fully ergonomic open-bridge construction

What we didn’t like

  • Some chromatic aberration (not an issue if you aren’t an optics nerd)
  • Quite heavy

Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Field of View: 342 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: BaK4 roof prism
Eye Relief: 18.5mm
Weight: 27.2 oz

7. Celestron Nature DX 8X42 Binoculars

binoculars on a white background

Celestron is a great brand for entry-level optics at beginner-friendly prices. The Nature DX is one of Celestron’s best offerings for outdoor binoculars. Large 42mm objective lenses let in lots of light so that you can take in as much of your hike as possible. With 8x magnification, this device provides a wide field of view of 388 feet at 1000 yards.

With 17.5 millimeters of eye relief, the Celestron Nature DX is sufficiently comfortable to accommodate most users who wear glasses.

Weatherproof, capable of performing in dim lighting, and all around powerful, the Celestron Nature DX is your entry point into field ready optics at less than 200 dollars. The Nature DX is also tripod compatible, allowing for accessories which further stabilize images.


What we liked

  • Great price
  • Broader exit pupil for better dim light performance 
  • Wide FoV of 388 feet at 1000 yards with 8x full zoom
  • Easier adjustments with the central focus
  • Nitrogen purged for fog and water resistivity 
  • Rubber armored body for easy gripping 
  • Lightweight to carry around in the pack

What we didn’t like

  • No image stabilization 
  • No anti-glare features 

Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Field of View: 388 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: BaK4 roof prism
Eye Relief: 17.5mm
Weight: 22 oz

8. Vortex Razor UHD 8X42 Wildlife Binoculars

vortex binoculars

The Vortex Razor UHD is incredibly clear, bright, powerful, and rugged. The Razor UHD is a precision piece of equipment which provides stunning views of wide swathes of land with a field of view of 420 feet at 1,000 yards. These binoculars are versatile and extremely impressive. Unfortunately, optics this good come with a sizable price tag. For optics enthusiasts with money to spend, the Razor UHD is a great option, however our list covers many options that are more budget-friendly.

At 32.2 ounces, the Vortex Razor UHD is quite a far cry from the portable convenience of compact binoculars. Fortunately, however, these binoculars are tripod compatible allowing for sharp and stable views if you have the patience and luxury to lug both the binoculars and the accessories.

Impressively, the Razor UHD has a close focus distance of less than five feet allowing for gorgeous close ups of skittish subjects. This is ideal for viewing nature whether it be birdwatching or other outdoor hobbies. For the hiker who has enough space and spare cash, the Vortex Razor UHD is a fantastic choice.


What we liked

  • High-quality ED glass optics for high contrast and sharpness
  • BaK4 roof prism with XR coated lenses to prevent glare and for maximum light transmission
  • Extended eye relief of 17.5mm for convenient use with spectacles
  • 5.3mm exit pupil for better performance in dark conditions
  • Wider FoV of 420 feet at 8x zoom
  • The central focus for convenient use and management
  • Rubber armored body for quality all-weather performance

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price tag
  • Quite heavy

Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: XR+fully multi-coated
Field of View: 420 ft at 1000 yds
Prism Type: BaK4 roof prism
Eye Relief: 16.7 mm
Weight: 32.2 oz

9. Nikon Trailblazer 10X25 ATB Backpacking Binoculars

binoculars on a white background

The Nikon Trailblazer hiking binoculars come with 25mm objective lenses and 10x magnification. Their compact size and lightweight construction make them an ideal choice for your hiking and camping trips. Not to mention the fact that the Nikon Trailblazer is incredibly affordable and makes an excellent choice for beginners and enthusiasts alike.

For under 100 dollars, the Nikon Trailblazer provides a wide 342 foot field of view at 1,000 meters, fully multi-coated lenses, and a convenient lightweight design that weighs less than ten ounces.

Short eye relief means that glasses-wearers may have a hard time operating these binoculars comfortably. Furthermore, the Trailblazer is inexpensive for a reason. Though a fantastic value for its price, the Trailblazer just cannot quite compete with some of the higher end options available.


What we liked

  • Turn & Slide eyecups ensure proper fitting and protection
  • The rubber-armored body makes the device easy to grip and hold
  • These binoculars are fog and waterproof with nitrogen purging
  • Extremely lightweight and convenient for all-day use
  • Central focus quickly focusses both lenses simultaneously
  • Multi-coated lenses with BaK4 prism for maximum light transmission
  • Anti-reflective compounds on lenses for better viewing in broad daylight

What we didn’t like

  • Short eye relief
  • Not that great in low light situations

Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: Multi-coated
Field of View: 342 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: BaK4 roof prism
Eye Relief: 10mm
Weight: 9.9 oz

10. Steiner 10X42 Predator Binoculars

binoculars on a white background

The Steiner Predator features a 42mm objective lens and 10x magnification. They are specifically designed for hunting, but can make for an amazing pair of trail binoculars for hiking and backpacking, so long as a little bit of weight isn’t an issue. At 27.5 ounces, the Steiner Predator is neither compact nor lightweight, but it is light enough for plenty of applications and can still be quite handy on the go.

With BaK4 roof prisms, the Steiner Predator provides vibrant true-to-life colors. These binoculars are housed in sturdy Makrolon armor and coated in rubber for impact resistance.

The Steiner Predator is waterproof, weatherproof, and all around tough and rugged enough to handle even the most difficult terrain or weather conditions.


What we liked

  • A top-quality performer in low light conditions
  • Can produce brighter contrast with natural HD colors
  • These binoculars have a rugged body that is very convenient to hold in your hands 
  • Fog and waterproof construction 
  • A wide FoV with a wide exit pupil for better viewing with lesser ambient light
  • An excellent choice for hiking as well as hunting
  • Ergonomic construction for long hours use

What we didn’t like

  • Don’t come with a tripod mount
  • The neck strap clasp is very low quality
  • Somewhat heavy

Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: HIgh contrast
Field of View: 328 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: BaK4 roof prism
Eye Relief: 16mm
Weight: 27.2 oz

11. Leupold BX-1 Rogue 10X25 Compact Hiking Binoculars

binoculars on a white background

The BX-1 Rogue Leupold comes with 25mm objective lenses and a zoom of 10x times. The best feature of these binoculars is their compact size. Weighing 12.7 ounces and measuring in at just over four inches in length, the BX-1 Rogue slips easily into a pocket or backpack for convenient portability.

Durable rubber armor and an ergonomic design means that these binoculars are both comfortable to use and rugged enough to take anywhere. The BX-1 Rogue is built to take a beating.

Unfortunately, where actual optics are concerned, these binoculars do have a few drawbacks. Firstly, with a close focus range of 14.1 feet, nearby objects cannot be brought into focus until such a distance is put between the lenses and the object in question. These binoculars also have a slightly narrower field of view, though this is typical for binoculars with high magnification. Over all, the Leupold BX-1 Rogue is a great choice for tackling the outdoors on a very reasonable budget. These binoculars typically retail at just over 100 dollars.


What we liked

  • High-quality accessories included
  • Best lightweight binoculars for hiking
  • Twist-up eyecups are very comfortable for an extended viewing
  • Nitrogen sealed to keep the binoculars fog or water-resistant
  • The inverted BaK4 prism system ensures clarity and improved light transmission
  • Fully multi-coated lenses for maximum color fidelity and high contrast 
  • Durable aluminum body with rubber armor coating to make the device impact resistant 
  • The central focus is tactile and large for a convenient use

What we didn’t like

  • Not a suitable option for viewing nearby subjects
  • Field of view doesn’t quite impress
  • The eyecups detach a bit too easily

Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Field of View: 294 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: BaK4 Porro prism
Eye Relief: 15mm
Weight: 12.64 oz

12. Rudolph Optics 8X32 HD Ultra Lightweight Binocular

binoculars on a white background

Rudolph Optics 8×32 strikes a pretty great balance between compactness and optical quality. At just under sixteen ounces, these binoculars are a bit lighter than your typical 8×32s, but quite capable of delivering on performance.

Middling in price, middling in specs, and capable of ticking most major boxes without ever really standing out much, the Rudolph Optics 8×32 is a generally strong piece of equipment that is either outpaced in quality by higher end options or outpaced in value by many budget options. There is, however, very little about these binoculars that warrants major criticisms.


What we liked

  • Comes with rubber coating finish for waterproofing
  • Central focus makes the device easy to use
  • Good to use in low light conditions with 5.1mm exit pupil
  • Eye relief of 14.7mm makes them easy to use for glasses-wearers
  • Fully multi-coated optics with BaK4 roof prism for sharper and brighter images
  • Lightweight and compact making them easy to store in your backpack
  • Wider FoV for better viewing the sights during your adventure

What we didn’t like

  • The carrying case is a bit low on quality
  • No image stabilization 
  • Short eye relief

Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Field of View: 430 feet at 1000 yards
Prism Type: BaK4 roof prism
Eye Relief: 14.7mm
Weight: 15.84 oz

How to choose the right binoculars for hiking?

Aperture

An aperture of a pair of binoculars refers to the objective lens diameter. Smaller diameter lenses are ideal for hiking because they are more compact and light, however small lenses tend to transmit less light and perform less well in dim conditions.

Therefore, for hiking we recommend choosing something between 25 millimeters and 42 millimeters. For long distances or backpacking scenarios where weight is a major factor, sticking to 25 millimeters is a good bet.

Magnification

Higher magnification means more detail. However bigger isn’t always better. Powerful magnification means a narrower field of view. For wider views, 7x or 8x magnification is more than sufficient. If you are interested in bird watching or wildlife observation on your hiking trips, choose a device with 10x magnification for better zooming. 

Prism

Quality prisms are needed for sufficient light transmission. Phase coated prisms are great due to their higher color fidelity. Prism settings also provide information about how a set of binoculars is built. Different arrangements can be heavier, lighter, or more or less durable. Roof prisms are good for outdoor excursions because they are both compact and fairly durable.

Field of view

Magnification and field of view (FoV) are influenced by one another and so it is important to decide which to prioritize as you seek a balance between the two. With higher magnification, you have to give up FoV and vice versa. So if you think you enjoy wider scenery and don’t intend to focus on a single object, FoV is more important than magnification.

And if you tend to focus more on one particular target, such as birds or wildlife, choose higher magnification. Obviously, an ideal set of binoculars will allow you to have the “best of both worlds” as much as possible.

Lens coating

Hiking is an outdoor hobby which presents many opportunities to damage your lenses or distort your vision. Lenses that are coated with a variety of layers can ensure they stay top-notch in various conditions and against different elements. Fully multi-coated lenses are the best choice to keep your binoculars safe from damage. You may also consider going for anti-reflective coatings to keep glare under control and ensure convenient use in broad daylight. 

Eye relief

Eye relief is the distance which your eyes should be from the device’s ocular lens when viewing the images that your binoculars produce. Devices with longer eye reliefs are easy to use and more comfortable, especially, for users with glasses. If your eyes are too far or close from the lens, the images will darken from the borders. Therefore, consider going for eye relief around 15mm to 18mm. If you wear glasses, it is a good bet to stick to the higher end of this range.

Weatherproof

Your device should be trail tested and needs to come with a weather shield that protects it from harsh weather conditions such as scorching heat and rain. Different types of armoring can be used to protect against weather, as well as nitrogen purging which removes air from within and prevents the intrusion or build up of moisture.

Weight

Weight is often an overlooked factor when choosing binoculars, but it should be emphasized that heavy binoculars are harder to stabilize and less comfortable to use. More powerful optics will always be a bit heavier, but for hiking and exploring the outdoors, a lighter weight is often worth the sacrifice. I would recommend the optics enthusiast choose something between 10 ounces and 24 ounces for hiking, however heavier binoculars might be worth the extra work if the impressive optics appeal to you.

Related:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *