The Best Binoculars for Hunting in 2023
Binoculars are essential for a number of outdoor hobbies and activities, such as astronomy, birding and, of course, hunting. In fact, when it comes to hunting, it could be argued that binoculars are as essential as your rifle and riflescope. Glassing with binoculars makes it easier to locate and track your target, and without them, you’re reliant on your sharp eyesight alone. But what should you look for when choosing binoculars for hunting? And which are the best hunting binoculars in 2023?
Table of contents
- Why Use Binoculars For Hunting?
- How to Choose the Best Binoculars for Hunting
- Our Top 3 Best Binoculars for Hunting
- In Conclusion
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Use Binoculars For Hunting?
The question here isn’t so much “why use binoculars for hunting?”, but rather “why wouldn’t you use binoculars for hunting?” Your eyesight might be great and you may be very adept at being able to spot your prey, but binoculars allow you to see so much further. As such, they can help you find and track your target at a greater distance.
You may have also considered a spotting scope and may be wondering which is better. There are, of course, a few key differences, with both having their pros and cons.
|Usually hand-held, but can be used with a tripod||Can be hand-held, but better used with a tripod|
|Fixed magnification, usually between 6x and 20x||Variable magnification, usually between 20x and 60x|
|Lighter than spotting scopes (around 600g)||Heavier than binoculars (around 1500g)|
|Compact and portable||Can be bulkier, but still portable|
|Apertures of between 20mm and 70mm||Apertures of between 60mm and 90mm|
|Best used to quickly locate a potential target||Best used for identifying and tracking a target|
There are a few things to keep in mind here.
Binoculars are lightweight, compact, very portable and can be used for glassing at a moment’s notice. You can attach them to a tripod, but they’re best used by holding them with just your hands. As such, you’ll find they’re ideal for both glassing and tracking targets on-the-go.
Spotting scopes can be hand-held (specifically, a straight spotter), but it’s better to use a tripod. Since they use a higher magnification, you’ll notice that the view will appear to shake more when you’re holding the scope up to your eye, so mounting the scope on a tripod will steady the view.
Spotting scopes also have a larger aperture objective lens and weigh more as a result. This makes them less portable and requires a little more time to get set up. Spotting scopes are therefore better suited to situations where you want to take the time to glass, identify and track your target before making your move.
As a side-note, spotting scopes are able to vary their magnification, thereby allowing you to zoom in and out. The magnification is also greater – often around 3x that of regular binoculars. There are binoculars with zoom capabilities on the market, but they tend to produce an inferior image compared to those with a fixed magnification.
How to Choose the Best Binoculars for Hunting
When it comes to choosing the best binoculars for hunting, there are a number of factors you should keep in mind:
- Magnification & Aperture
- Size & Weight
- The Environment
Magnification & Aperture
There are always two numbers associated with binoculars. For example, you might see binoculars listed as being 10×50, but what do those numbers mean?
The first number indicates the magnification, which, in this example, would be 10x. The second number indicates the aperture of the objective lenses. These are the large lenses that are aimed toward your target, with the aperture measured in millimeters. In the example, the binoculars have an aperture of 50mm.
To some extent, the magnification you need depends on the environment you’re in. A lower magnification is better suited to areas where you have less visibility, such as a forest or woodland. Conversely, if you’re in an open area with visibility for miles, a higher magnification would be best.
The aperture of the binoculars determines how much light the binoculars can gather. If you’re hunting during daylight (especially in bright weather) then you won’t need a lot of aperture, but if you hunt at twilight or during the night, then you may need binoculars with a larger aperture. This will allow you to see features and markings on your target and can make the target easier to identify.
It’s worth noting that using a higher magnification doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see more detail, and this is where aperture also comes into play. For instance, if you have both 10×25 binoculars and 10×50 binoculars, the size of the image will appear the same in both. However, the 10×50 binoculars will allow you to see more detail in low-light conditions.
The downside is that since larger apertures require more glass, those larger aperture binoculars tend to weigh more.
Size & Weight
Size and weight can be a big issue with binoculars, especially if you’re moving around a lot. With that in mind, manufacturers have strived to produce binoculars that are compact and lightweight, while still prpviding the quality their customers expect.
You’ll therefore find there are two types of binoculars available; the traditional porro prism and the more recent roof prism.
The traditional porro prism binoculars have barrels that are slightly offset from the binoculars, giving them the familiar W shape.
In recent years, roof prism binoculars have grown in popularity. They’re designed to be more compact and lighter, and have barrels that are in line with the eyepieces, giving them an H shape.
The biggest difference between them really comes down to aperture and, consequently, weight. Since traditional porro prism binoculars have objective lenses that are further apart, they’re able to have larger apertures. This, of course, makes it possible to see more under dark conditions, but also results in larger binoculars that weigh more.
Conversely, roof prism binoculars have barrels that are closer together, and therefore must have smaller apertures. So while roof prism binoculars are smaller and weigh less, they’re not able to gather as much light.
Traditional porro prism binoculars have apertures that typically max out at around 70mm, whereas roof prism binoculars are usually no larger than around 50mm.
Lastly, due to the internal configuration of the optics, you typically get a better quality image with traditional porro prisms, but this will also depend upon the quality of the prisms themselves and the type of coating used on the optics (see FAQs below.)
In practice, this might not make a lot of difference, but these guidelines might be useful:
- For daytime use, roof prism binoculars with smaller apertures are fine
- For daytime/twilight use, roof prism binoculars with larger apertures (50mm, for example) are preferable
- For twilight/night use, traditional porro prism binoculars will allow you to see more
Let’s be honest – the weather doesn’t care about your plans, and it can turn on you in a heartbeat. You might also find yourself close to rivers and streams, and the last thing you want is to have your binoculars ruined by weather.
That’s why it’s a good idea to consider waterproof binoculars with anti-fogging coatings. While not absolutely necessary, both these features will protect your binoculars from water damage and help to prevent mist, and even mold, from forming on the internal optics.
Our Top 3 Best Binoculars for Hunting
Taking into account all the considerations mentioned above, here are our top 3 binocular choices for hunting:
- Best Overall: Vortex Diamondback HD 10×42
- Best Lightweight: Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×26
- Best Budget Option: Celestron Outland X 10×25
Best Overall: Vortex Diamondback HD 10x42
Vortex is an American, family-owned business that has specialized in producing quality hunting gear since 1986. In all, they currently have nine binocular lines, but for our money, the popular Diamondback HD 10×42 is the best. The Diamondback is available in several combinations of magnification and aperture, but the 10×42 roof prism binoculars are perfect for both daytime and nighttime use.
They’re waterproof, fog-proof and have a rugged, shockproof armor, so you needn’t worry about the environment. The optics are also fully multi-coated with an anti-reflective coating for the best image quality. The downside? At 604g, they’re not the lightest binoculars on our list, but this shouldn’t prove to be too much.
Best Lightweight Option: Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10x26
If you’re looking for lightweight binoculars for daytime use, you won’t find any much better than the Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×26 roof prism binoculars. Weighing just 297g, these are a little less than half the weight of the Vortex Diamondback binoculars outlined above. Like the Diamondback, the Safari UltraSharp is both waterproof and fog-proof, and you’ll find the magnification of 10x to be perfect for most situations.
The tradeoff here is with the aperture of the binoculars. The reason they’re lightweight is because the aperture is 26mm, so while they have roughly half the weight of the Diamondbacks, they also have half the aperture. This shouldn’t be an issue if you intend to use them during the day, but might be more of a problem if you want to hunt during the night.
Best Budget Option: Celestron Outland X 10x25
Celestron, like Vortex, are a US company with decades of experience. They specialize in all kinds of optical equipment, from microscopes and binoculars to spotting scopes and full-sized telescopes. They also have a decent range of accessories, such as hand warmers and flashlights. Their goal is to produce quality equipment at a price that almost everyone can afford, and their popular Outland X binoculars are a great example of this philosophy.
Like the Steiner Safari UltraSharp, these roof prism binoculars have a smaller aperture, so you’ll find they’re best suited to daytime use. Similarly, the optics are multi-coated, rather than fully multi-coated, which will have a minor effect on image quality, but this shouldn’t prove to be too much of a hindrance. However, on the plus side, they’re waterproof and fogproof, and at a little more than 300g, are very lightweight too.
Binoculars are a must-have accessory for hunters. Nothing else can provide the close-up views you need and the right combination of functionality and portability. Regardless of whether you’re hunting by day or by night, the right binoculars will allow you to scan your surroundings, locate your target and then successfully track it.
Frequently Asked Questions
To some extent, this depends on where and what you’re hunting. If you’re in a wide open area, where your target could be miles away, then obviously higher magnification binoculars would be better. If, however, you’re in woodland or you know your target will be relatively close-by, then a lower magnification will be just fine.
Binocular optics are layered with anti-reflective coatings to improve the quality of the image. Generally speaking, there are three levels of coatings: coated, multi-coated and fully multi-coated. Coated means that at least one of the glass optics has had at least one layer of coating to at least one surface. Multi-coated means that at least one glass optic has had multiple layers of coating applied to at least one surface. Lastly, fully multi-coated means all the glass lenses have had multiple coatings applied to both surfaces. While fully multi-coated is always preferred, multi-coated should be fine in the majority of circumstances.
It really depends on how you hunt and what your needs are. If you’re on the move a lot, you’ll want something compact, lightweight and usable in a hurry, and binoculars are ideal in that respect. If, however, you’re likely to remain in one area and/or you intend to hunt at twilight or during the night, you might find the larger aperture of a spotting scope is better suited to your needs.
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