Trying to balance the need for high-quality optics when hiking or backpacking can be a real challenge. On the one hand, the best binoculars have very large, high-quality lenses that can sometimes be delicate.
On the other hand, your equipment needs to be durable and lightweight to survive the challenges of the outdoors. These are the difficulties every hiker, bird watcher, and traveler’s faces when choosing the best compact binoculars.
We’re going to discuss some of the benefits and features of many compact binoculars. Further, I’m going to help you decide on the best way to choose lightweight and compact binoculars packed with modern technology.
Compact Binocular Reviews
1. Zeiss 8×25 Terra ED Compact Binocular Review
Fiberglass reinforced body, waterproof casing, and sturdy design mean that Carl Zeiss is delivering nearly the perfect hiking binocular.
Fully multi-coated lenses are hydrophobic and repel fog and water for clarity and precision in any conditions.
With all these features, it’s hard to figure out how Zeiss managed to pack it all into a 10.9-ounce package – the lightweight binoculars in our lineup.
For this model, Zeiss has focused specifically on an easy to use and smooth focus adjustment wheel which makes objects easy to find and focus on quickly.
Combine that with the 8x zoom and 25mm objective lens for a compact binocular that’s meant to handle anything you need.
These binoculars are centered around a lightweight, compact design meant to withstand nasty conditions and function with best-in-class performance in any weather.
I think the Zeiss 8×25 Terra ED’s are best compact binoculars for hiking. Also available in 10×25 if you need some extra magnification.
2. Leica 8×20 BCR Ultravid Compact Binocular Review
You’ll be hard pressed to find a compact binocular sporting as many high-end features as the Leica 8×20.
With adjustable eyecups, quick focus wheel, and right eye diopter you’ll be able to adjust for the perfect comfort and view, even if one eye is slightly different than the other.
Waterproof, sealed case and inert gas internal filling mean that you won’t have to worry about fogging from the inside.
AquaDura lens coating on the outside prevents water from impeding your view by repelling water droplets. If you’re looking for a compact binocular that has been engineered for the highest quality image from the ground up, this is your best choice.
While not what I would call inexpensive, they are the best compact binoculars for the money in my opinion. The Leica Ultravid binoculars are rugged, compact binoculars with superb optics and all the features you could need.
They’ve even gone out of the way to design the lenses for maximum crispness using an asymmetrical pattern. There’s no detail missing. If you’re into birding, the Leica BCR Ultravid’s might be the best small binoculars for bird watching.
3. Vortex Optics Viper HD 10×42 Binocular Review
Vortex makes several great models of binoculars equipped to deal with the rigors of hiking and outdoor use. These 10x magnification binoculars are equipped with large objective lenses for low light viewing and a lifetime warranty.
Be cautious when choosing a high zoom binocular at 10x or above as the magnification can exacerbate any small movements in an unsteady hand. These are a good choice for someone with a rock-solid grip and stable hand.
With a padded neck strap, rain guard, and included lens covers, they’re ready to be used in rough field conditions right out of the box.
Fogproof inert gas and water repellent lens coatings make them robust enough to handle use in any weather. Vortex even made them waterproof so there’s nothing to worry about if you’re taking them along on a trip into rainy conditions.
With the superb quality, ability to take a beating and 10x magnification, I think the Vortex Optics vipers are the best 10×42 binoculars. They are also available in sizes ranging from 8×32 to 12×50.
4. Celestron 71330 Nature DX 8×32 Compact Binoculars
At a sub, $100 price was now looking at budget priced binoculars. Celestron perhaps best known for their telescopes have applied their optics technology to the Nature DX compact binoculars.
Even at this price, we’re looking at fully coated optics for a bright and glare-free image.
If you’re just getting started bird watching these are an ideal choice for beginners. Of course, they are not just for bird watchers.
Weighing in at only 18 ounces, these are a seriously lightweight and compact pair of binoculars. They are rubber coated to be waterproof so they won’t get ruined when you get caught in the inevitable rain storm while you’re out hiking.
Nature DX’s are also nitrogen purged and fog proof, which is surprising at this price point. If you wear glasses, you will appreciate the twist-up eyecups for comfortable viewing.
This particular model is 8x power magnification but they are available from 8X25 all the way to 12X56, so you have a wide range to choose from.
With quality construction at a bargain price, the Celestron Nature DX’s are the best pocket binoculars.
5. Wingspan Optics SkyView Ultra HD 8X42 Review
While these binoculars may not be the smallest possible choice for hiking, they’ll be great for the day-hiker or birder out for a stroll.
With their large factor objective lens at 42mm, they’ll be an excellent choice for the early birder (ha!). Low light dawn and dusk is no problem for a larger objective lens.
Polaris has created these binoculars with extra-low dispersion glass which is fog proof and crystal clear. These binoculars are waterproof, though Polaris doesn’t tell us what the IPX rating is.
You’ll be able to protect the lenses with included covers and the microfiber cleaning cloth. It’s a no-brainer to keep your lenses covered up when traveling with your binoculars in the car or in the pack.
For hiking, you’ll be able to take advantage of the DuraTech manufacturing technology which Polaris uses to make their binoculars, “light as a feather and durable as a tank”. In my opinion, the Polaris Optics SkyView’s ruggedness and light weight make them the best travel binoculars.