A pair of binoculars sitting on a ledge.

The Best Compact Binoculars for Hiking and Backpacking

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When you head out into the backcountry with a pair of binoculars, you always have to compromise. Since what makes a pair of binoculars particularly amazing is often a set of very large, very heavy, and very delicate high-quality lenses, as backpackers and hikers, we need to determine if we’re willing to carry and care for such a bulky and fragile object in the outdoors.

That’s where compact binoculars come into the picture. Significantly smaller, lighter, and more durable, compact binoculars are better prepared to handle the rough and tumble world of mountain pursuits while fitting easily into your backpack. While compact binoculars do have to sacrifice a bit on lens quality to achieve a smaller and more portable size, modern compact binoculars manufacturers have made incredible strides toward creating high-end optics for the outdoor enthusiast.

That being said, there are a whole lot of different compact binoculars out there, so it can be challenging to determine which pair is the best for your needs. To help you out, we’ve compiled this ultimate guide to compact binoculars, complete with a buyer’s guide and reviews of seven of the best compact binoculars on the market today. Here we go!

Skygenius 8×21 Small Compact Lightweight Binoculars

Tipping the scales at just under half a pound (0.38lbs, to be exact), the Skygenius 8×21 Small compact Lightweight Binoculars are nothing short of tiny. Their easy to focus lenses are made from green multi-coated BK7 glass for maximum light transmission in high-contrast images.

Plus, these binoculars feature roof prisms for a compact, shape that’s perfect for backcountry and frontcountry adventures, alike. With a 1000 yard field of view and a center-focus dial, they’re great for both children and adults who love to explore the world around them.

Pros:

  • Very compact and lightweight
  • 1000 yard field of view
  • Green multi-coated lenses for maximum light transmission
  • Good for high-contrast images
  • Roof prism design is slender and compact

Cons:

  • Made with low-quality BK7 glass
Skygenius 8x21 Small Compact Lightweight Binoculars
813 Reviews
Skygenius 8x21 Small Compact Lightweight Binoculars
  • Large field of view: 369 ft/1, 000yds&131m/1000M.8x magnification, 21-millimeter objective diameter
  • Compact size: 4.14x3. 62x2. 35inch, 0.38lb, foldable design, Mini pocket size, lightweight to carry with.
  • Easy on focus: adjust by smooth "center-focus knob" And right eye lens, Easy on focus even for kids.
  • Good quality: Bk7 Roof Prism & fmc Green multicoated optics offer more clear image.

Occer 12×25 Compact Binoculars

These compact binoculars from Occer provide 12 times magnification power for viewing the tiniest of birds out in the distance. Featuring large, adjustable eyecups that are perfect for both people who wear glasses and those who don’t, they’re great for comfortable viewing all day long.

This pair of binoculars are made with quality BAK4 lens glass that is multilayer coated for optimum optical performance. They are waterproof, durable, and comfortable to hold, even with just one hand.

Pros:

  • 12x magnification power
  • 1000 yard field of view
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Large eyecups are useable by people who wear glasses
  • Quality BAK4 multilayer coated lens glass

Cons:

  • Porro prism design adds bulk
Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars
600 Reviews
Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars
  • 【HIGH-POWERED LARGE EYEPIECE BINOCULARS】 This binoculars has 12x magnification, 25mm objective lens and wide field of view, 273ft/1000yds, letting you look farther and see wider. Coating with FMC Broadband coating and premium BAK4 prism, it ensure imaging verisimilar.
  • 【FMC BROADBAND COATING TECHNOLOGY】The lightweight cruise binoculars is cover with BAK4 prism texture. The objective lens use optical FMC multilayer broadband green film, and the eyepiece-optical is made of blue FMC coating. All design can can mostly reflect the light to keep a good image and make you have a amazing experience.
  • 【PORTABLE, COMPACT AND SMALL BINOCULARS DESIGN】 One hand can be mastered when you use the birding binoculars for opera,bird watching camping, traveling,wildlife watching,football games,cruise or other outside activity, the low light night vision goggles is more convenient for using and carrying.
  • 【DURABLE AND WATERPROOF, COMFORTABLE TOUCH】 The binoculars are made of ABS plastic and it also come with a cruise binocular strap, you can use this item in different situations. And nonslip rubber armor is made for secure grip, shockproof, water resistant.The pocket size binoculars is not only suitable for men and women,but also suitable for kids.It is wonderful to be a gift on Father's Day and Children's Day.

Aurosports 10×25 Folding High Powered Binoculars

These tiny binoculars pack a lot of imaging power into a small palm-sized package. With a magnification power 10 and a 25mm wide objective lens, these binoculars let you see small features with exceptional clarity.

They also feature a 1000 yard field of view and fully multi-coated lenses for maximum light transmission of 99.5%. Plus, these folding binoculars are waterproof and feature an anti-slip grip, so you can keep enjoying your surroundings, even in the rain.

Pros:

  • 10x magnification power
  • 1000 yard field of view
  • Folding design is useful for storage and transport
  • Fits into the palm of your hand

Cons:

  • Porro prism design is somewhat bulky for such small binoculars
Sale
Aurosports 10x25 Folding High Powered Binoculars
987 Reviews
Aurosports 10x25 Folding High Powered Binoculars
  • Perfect compact lightweight binoculars for bird watching. Can be Used for both day and night (low-light-level night vision, can't see anything in complete darkness)
  • Large field of view. Focusing in on your target for brilliant detail at 1000 yards out.
  • Fully multi-coated lenses, waterproof, hyper-durable anti-slip grip gives you everything you want. Light-weight and can be folded, very convenient and easy to carry
  • 10x magnification with 25 mm objective lens allows you to see objects 10x's closer with clarity that strikes envy into the heart of your bird watching friends

Wingspan Optics Spectator 8×32 Compact Binoculars

Designed to be your go-anywhere binoculars, the Spectators are a pair of pocket-sized optics that provide optimal viewing, even from 1000 yards out. They boast a magnification power of 8 and a large 32mm outside lens diameter to provide premium image quality, even for the smallest of objects.

These binoculars from Wingspan are both waterproof and fogproof as they feature a sealed body and nitrogen-filled lenses that make them perfect for foul weather conditions. Finally, their ErgoComfort non-slip grip feels comfortable in your hands after hours of viewing. What’s not to love?

Pros:

  • Slender shape with roof prism design
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • 1000 yard field of view

Cons:

  • 32mm lens diameter is larger and bulkier than most other compact binoculars
Sale
Wingspan Optics Spectator 8x32 Compact Binoculars
1,611 Reviews
Wingspan Optics Spectator 8x32 Compact Binoculars
  • PERFECT COMPACT BINOCULARS FOR BIRD WATCHING AND ANY OTHER OUTDOOR ACTIVITY. Great lightweight and Pocket sized binoculars for bird watching, nature watching, star gazing or other outdoor activities enjoyed by adults or children.
  • WIDE FIELD OF VIEW -View An Entire Field Of Action Then Focusing In On Your Target For Brilliant Detail at 1000 YARDS OUT. A Wide Field of View makes these the best small, but high powered compact binoculars you can buy today.
  • BRIGHT AND CLEAR - FEEL LIKE YOU'RE INCHES AWAY WITH POWERFUL 8X32 MAGNIFICATION: Want to see Feather tips fluttering in the wind? Adults or kids will marvel at the clear and bright views you get with these compact birding binoculars.
  • NON-SLIP GRIP MEANS YOU CAN GO BIRDWATCHING, OR WATCH OUTDOOR GAMES OR CONCERTS FOR HOURS WITHOUT FEAR OF DAMAGE. Use them for any outdoor activities such as birdwatching, watching games or concerts outdoors, even stargazing too.

Compact Binoculars 10×25 – SGODDE Waterproof Binoculars

These lightweight, waterproof binoculars feature multilayer coated BAK-4 lens glass for superior image quality in a variety of conditions. With a 100 yard field of view and 10x magnification, you can see small objects far in the distance and in low light conditions, extending your useable viewing hours considerably each day.

This pair of binoculars from SGODDE are easy to focus using a central knob, and their eyecups feature a rubber cover that can be rolled down to accommodate eyeglasses wearers. Plus, their anti-slip grip helps prevent damage from accidental drops when you’re out and about in the mountains.

Pros:

  • 10x magnification power
  • Quality BAK-4 lens glass
  • Multilayer lens coating for maximum light transmission
  • Anti-slip grip

Cons:

  • Porro prisms make the binoculars bulkier than necessary
Sale
Compact Binoculars 10x25 - SGODDE Waterproof Binoculars
214 Reviews
Compact Binoculars 10x25 - SGODDE Waterproof Binoculars
  • 【HIGH PROWERED FIELD & LOW NIGHT VISION 】 - 10x magnification with 25 mm objective lens,you even can get a 362 feet wide view at 1000 yards far away.You can see the stuffs clearly in weak light condition(NOT DARK).
  • 【FULLY COATED OPTICS 】 - All lenses are made from Bak-4 prisms with FMC multi-layer broadband green film, the light transmittance increases up to 99.5% for brighter and higher-contrast images.
  • 【EASY TO FOCUS】 - It equiped with a easy central focusing knob and adjustable right eyepiece to fit different view distance,even kids can use it easily.Rubber cover can be rolled down, also perfect for glasses wearer.
  • 【WATER-PROOF&ANTISKID】 - Durable rubber texture anti-slip grip against careless falling or accidental crash. It is waterproof(Grade IP4),you can use this item in different situations in your daily life.

POLDR 8×21 Small Compact Lightweight Binoculars

If you need a pair of ultra-tiny compact binoculars, look no further than this pair from POLDR. This pair of folding binoculars can be easily adjusted to fit your eyes but packs down to just a fraction of its size when not in use.

With a magnifying power of 8x, an objective lens diameter of 21mm, and a 1000 yard field of view, these easy to adjust binoculars are great for a backpacking trip where you want reliable binoculars that won’t weigh you down.

Pros:

  • Easily fit into the palm of your hand
  • Adjusts quickly to different eye shapes and sizes
  • BAK-4 glass for quality viewing
  • Roof prisms for compactness

Cons:

  • Not great for people who wear glasses
Compact Binoculars 10x25 - SGODDE Waterproof Binoculars
253 Reviews
Compact Binoculars 10x25 - SGODDE Waterproof Binoculars
  • Lightweight Small Binoculars: You can throw them into your backpack each day without hesitation. The mini pocket binoculars are totally worth the tiny amount of weight they add to your pack. They weigh less than your cell phone.
  • Compact Binoculars Clear vision: 8x21 optics binoculars with a 8X magnification and objective lens diameter of 21 mm, What's more is with the large field of view-369ft/1000 yards, you can see the entire visual field for capturing objects easily.
  • Easy on Focus: Just adjust by Smooth "center-focus knob" and right eye lens. The folding binoculars suitable for both adults and kids binoculars.
  • Compact Binoculars with BAK4 prism which can 100% reflect the light to keep a good image (while don't forget to adjust the knobs to fit different view distance),made of Mg body and hand figured polishing

Binoteck 12×42 Binoculars

These high-powered binoculars offer viewers 12x magnification power and a large 42mm objective lens diameter. Designed specifically with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, these binoculars from Binotek are durable, featuring an IP55 waterproof rating, as well as a fogproof construction.

If that wasn’t good enough they feature a durable outer body cover that consists of an environmentally-friendly leather and rubber non-slip grip, so you can keep viewing in poor conditions.

Pros:

  • 12x magnification power
  • IP55 waterproof rating
  • Fogproof
  • Coated BAK-4 lenses
  • Roof prism for slender shape

Cons:

  • Larger and heavier than most compact binoculars
Sale
Binoteck 12x42 Binoculars
277 Reviews
Binoteck 12x42 Binoculars
  • Clear Vision with high power: Our 12 x 42 high powered and HD view binoculars provide 12x power magnification with 42mm Big objective lens and a 374ft/ 1000yds field of view. Designed for optimal outdoor use, these binoculars are perfect for hunting, scenery - bird and wildlife watching, hiking, exploring, as well as concerts, large stage plays and sports.
  • Bright images with multilayer optics: boasting high quality multilayer coated optics with premium large BaK4 Prism, our binoculars for adults guarantee clear and crisp images with HD vision. The 42mm objective lens and 18mm eyepiece have fully multi-layered FMC Green film coatings which cut out Reflections, increase contrast and Improve clarity and brightness, making them perfect for twilight and weak light conditions (not complete darkness).
  • DURABLE - USE IN ANY WEATHER CONDITIONS: You can use our compact binoculars in any weather conditions with peace of mind as they are fog proof and IP55 life water resistant. The durable body cover of environmentally friendly odorless leather and rubber texture anti-slip grip feature, ensure they will remain firmly in your hands without the risk of slipping and accidentally falling.
  • Convenient carry bag & smartphone Adapter: our binoculars come complete with a smart phone adapter which is compatible with Most smartphones on the market such as iPhone X, 8plus, 8, 7plus, 7, 6, 6S, 6plus, 5, 5S, Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S5, Note, LG, htv, Sony and More. You will also receive a handy carry bag with a strap to protect and transfer your binoculars safely.

Compact Binoculars Buying Guide

Compact binoculars can be tricky to buy because there are so many different options out there in today’s market. This means that it can be really tricky to separate the higher-quality models from the low-end options. Thus, we’ll now take some time to discuss the different features that you’ll find on compact binoculars, so you can determine which pair is the best fit for your needs.

Binocular sizing

If you’ve ever spent some time perusing the binoculars section of an outdoor retail store, you’ve probably noticed that the binoculars come in a wide array of sizes. In fact, there are actually three main sizes for binoculars:

  • Full size (e.g. 8×42)
  • Mid-size (e.g. 7×35)
  • Compact (e.g. 8×25)

As you might imagine, full-size binoculars aren’t really ideal for hikers and anyone else who’ll need to carry their binoculars for hours or days on end because their large lenses mean that they’re quite heavy and delicate. Additionally, while you might be tempted by the slightly higher quality lenses in a mid-size pair of binoculars, the added weight and bulk of this size range will quickly take away any of the optical benefits as you might come to regret your decision to carry such a heavy piece of gear into the backcountry.

Unless you’re a professional ornithologist or someone else who uses binoculars for their job, a pair of compact binoculars will probably strike the perfect balance between optical quality, portability, and functionality. Thus, when you’re shopping for compact binoculars, look for a pair that’s sized to around 8×25.

Field of view

A binocular’s field of view refers to the width of the area that the lenses can cover. This is similar, in many ways, to a human’s field of view, as we can only see so far to either side of our heads before we need to turn our heads to be able to see an object.

In the world of binoculars, field of view is either expressed as an angle (e.g. 8°) or as the width of the image in feet, yards, or meters (e.g. 1000 yards). A field of view of 1000 yards is considered the gold standard for most compact binoculars, though you’ll occasionally find models with smaller or larger ratings in this metric.

Generally speaking, a wider field of view is best when you’re looking for a small object on the move in a large space, such as a bird flying through the landscape. A narrow field of view, on the other hand, is best for looking at a stationary object in high detail.

That being said, a binocular’s field of view rating will always require some degree of a tradeoff. This is because while a narrow field of view allows one to see objects in high detail, it makes it harder to find a small object in a vast landscape. Binoculars with wider fields of view provide panoramic views but are less focused on the details. Thus, the field of view you want in your binoculars really comes down to what you’ll be using the binoculars for.

Magnification power rating

The main reason we use binoculars is to magnify our field of vision so we can see objects that are way too far away for our normal eyesight to see. Thus, when we buy compact binoculars, it’s essential that they have a high-enough overall magnification power to let us clearly see objects in the distance.

All binoculars come with a magnification power rating, which is actually a set of two numbers. In fact, these are the very same numbers that tell us what size the binoculars are (e.g. 8×25). This rating might seem confusing, but when you break it down, it actually makes quite a bit of sense.

The first number in the rating, in this case, 8 for most compact binoculars, refers to the overall magnification power of the lenses. This means that binoculars with a rating of 8×25 have a magnification power of 8-times.

The second number refers to the diameter of the objective, or outer, lens in millimeters. Thus, binoculars with a rating of 8×25 have a 25 mm lens that magnifies objects eight times.

The diameter of a binocular’s lens is actually quite important when we talk about magnification. This is because a larger lens can capture more light and allow you to see brighter and clearer objects in low light conditions. However, larger lenses increase the weight, bulk, and fragility of your binoculars, so it’s best to stick with a compact pair for most outdoor pursuits.

Lens coating

Many binoculars now sport some sort of coating on their lenses. These coatings can sound very complicated, but really they are just a thin chemical coating that reduces the amount of light that gets reflected off of the surface of the lens. By reducing the amount of reflected light, the lens coating improves light transmission through the binocular for a better quality image for your eye.

Lens coatings are actually quite important as each lens in a binocular can reflect off up to 5 percent of the light that attempts to pass through it. Since binoculars have multiple layers of lenses, this could mean a loss of up to 35% of light for a lower-quality pair. High-quality lenses with multiple coatings can reduce this light loss down to only tenths of a percent.

That being said, there are many different kinds of lens coatings. Here are a few:

Coated

Lenses described as “coated” have a thin layer of anti-reflective coating on one or more of the lens surfaces. This coating is often made of magnesium fluorite.

Fully coated

Fully coated lenses have a thin layer of anti-reflective coating on both sides of the outer (objective) lens. They also have a thin layer of coating on both sides of the ocular lens and the long side of the prism.

Multi-coated

Lenses labeled as “multi-coated” have multiple layers of anti-reflective coating on one or multiple lens surfaces. That being said, many really high-quality binoculars only have a single layer of anti-reflective coating on the outside lens.

Fully multi-coated

These lenses have multiple coatings on all of their lens surfaces. This is often found in high-quality binoculars; however, just because something is fully multi-coated doesn’t mean it produces the best quality image. That being said, fully multi-coated lenses do indicate that the manufacturer has put a significant amount of care and detail into creating these binoculars.

Weather resistance

Although there aren’t any electronics inside most binoculars, if you spend a lot of time backpacking, you’ll still want to have a pair of binoculars that are at least somewhat water resistant. This is because when rain, moisture, and water vapor get inside a pair of binoculars, they can condense and cause fog to form on the inside of your lenses.

This fog can even form whenever you go from a cool environment, such as a car or house that’s air-conditioned into a warm, moist locale, such as the outdoors in the summer. While this fog will hopefully clear up before too long, this process will often take hours, so your day of birding or animal spotting in the backcountry will be ruined before it even gets started.

Thus, it’s in your best interest to ensure that your compact binoculars are waterproof. Such binoculars are ready to handle rapidly changing weather conditions (like what you’d find in the mountains) because the insides are protected from both dust and water vapor.

Most waterproof binoculars are actually sealed and filled with a dry (e.g. water vapor-free) and inert gas, such as nitrogen, so it’s impossible for condensation to form inside the lenses. Therefore, when shopping for waterproof compact binoculars, you’ll want to keep your eye out for the words “nitrogen purged” or “nitrogen filled” as this generally refers to a waterproof model.

Another method that companies use to discuss waterproofing is the IPX standard for waterproofing. This system is somewhat complicated to describe, but basically, all binoculars using this system will be given a rating between IPX0 and IPX8 with the lower number denoting a product that’s not at all waterproof and the higher number designating a product that can be submerged in 3 feet of water. For our purposes, anything rated above IPX4 will do for waterproofing on binoculars.

Prism types

A prism is a piece of glass that is cut into a particular shape with precisely defined angles and faces. They are useful for reflecting light and analyzing it. In fact, you probably played with prisms as a kid in school and found that they can separate white light into all of the colors of the visible light spectrum.

In binoculars, prisms correct the image orientation that is produced by the objective (outside lens). This is necessary because the objective lenses of binoculars actually form images that are upside down. Since we humans don’t really like looking at an upside down image, we can use prisms to turn an image upright inside binoculars.

Prisms also reduce the overall length of binoculars by changing the light path. By bending the path of light within the binoculars as the light travels from the outside lens to our eye, the prisms allow binoculars to be much smaller than they could otherwise be. This is especially great for those of us who love compact binoculars.

There are two main types of prisms in modern binoculars: Porro and Roof. Porro prisms used to be the standard design in binoculars and are easy to identify due to their wide, bulky shape. These days, Porro prisms are more commonly found on cheaper binoculars where size and weight are less of an issue.

This is not to say, however, that they don’t work well, but rather that their size and bulk can be a hindrance to the light and fast backpacker. Although the Porro prism has faded from popularity, they are still a good option for people on a budget.

The other prism option for binoculars is the roof prism. The roof prism was created by Zeiss and is designed to be more streamlined and compact. This means that roof prisms are ideal for compact binoculars as they can be less bulky than their Porro prism counterparts. However, roof prism binoculars tend to be a bit more expensive than other alternatives, though this is changing as they become more popular.

Lens glass

Much of the value of a pair of binoculars comes from the quality of the lenses and the lens glass itself. That being said, there are many different kinds of lens glass out there, so we can’t possibly list them all here. However, here are some of the more commonly known types of lens glasses on the market today:

  • BK7 Glass: This kind of glass is generally considered to be low quality and is found mainly on cheap binoculars. The main problem with this kind of glass is that it often has an issue known as chromatic aberration, wherein an image looks fuzzy, even when in focus.
  • BAK-4 Glass: One of the most commonly used glasses for binoculars, it is of medium to high-quality thanks to its low refractive index and resistance to chemical and environmental damage.
  • ED Glass: ED stands for “extra-low dispersion,” which is a process that helps reduce the issue of chromatic aberration. This kind of glass is popular in high-end binoculars because it can provide crisp images at higher magnification.

Conclusion

Buying compact binoculars is a test of compromise. Although we want our compact binoculars to be small, lightweight, waterproof, affordable, and provide fantastic images, it can be difficult to find a pair that can meet all of our needs.

Thus, we recommend making a list of the top features that you want to have in your binoculars and rank them in order of importance. This will help you decide between similar pairs of binoculars so you can find the set that’s right for you. Happy trails!

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