Binoculars Buying Guide

When you go camping, chances are, you'll want to partake in other fun activities such as sightseeing, birdwatching, and observing the wildlife. Enter in, binoculars, the ultimate tool for viewing far away objects up close. It's not an easy decision, since there are several types, and the prices are all over the place. Here's a quick guide to help you buy a good pair to fit your budget.

What to Look for

When buying binoculars, look for a lighweight pair with a powerful, clear view and comfortable strap. The more compact they are, the easier they are to carry on the trail. Compact ones are all-purpose and not usually as powerful as standard-sized ones, which are better for viewing intricate details and colors. Some models have a digital camera built right in for taking pictures and recording video. Whether or not you'll need a tripod depends on how often you'll be moving about and if you'll want to "park" the binoculars for extended periods of time, allowing you to move about and free up your hands.


How much you should spend depends on what you'll be viewing and how often you will use them. Not only are they good for camping and hiking, they're very useful for sporting events such as football and car racing. First, you'll need to determine what you'll use them for. You can find all-purpose binoculars often for a discount, but that's not necessarily the best choice.

Consider this: at a sporting event, your focus will not always be on one object. It will be on the "big picture," the subjects and surroundings of the action. Binoculars are supplemental to your experience and you won't always be using them. If you partake in wildlife and birdwatching, your subject is more focused and you'll need a more powerful lens.

Costs range from a cheap $20 on up into the thousands. The most popular brands for both sports and birding are Nikon, Canon, Minolta, and Simmons, who offer quality binoculars with extra features. If you plan to use them frequently, splurge and invest in a good pair that will last for years. If you get a chance, try out different models to find a preference in size, distance and comfort.


Minoculars have a single eye piece, compared to two telescopes in binoculars. They're ideal for viewing still subjects. They're much smaller and easier to carry than binoculars, making them a popular choice for vacations and general viewing. Children love them.

Spotting Scopes

A favorite of professional birdwatchers, spotting scopes are perfect for setting up on a tripod and photographing birds and their surroundings. Manufactures compete for your business and are constantly producing new designs that increase performance. Look for a durable scope that has clear images and easy focus.

Special Features

Most binoculars fold up so they take up less room in your backpack. If you buy a tripod, make sure it folds up easily as well. Most of the time binoculars will come with a carrying case but others are sold separately. Those that have them included are convenient as you don't have to go through the hassle of choosing the right size for your new pair.

Padded straps vary. A quality pair of binoculars will have a wider strap that's comfortable when you have it around you neck for extended periods of time. If you're hiking or birdwatching, a comfy strap is a must. Also look for a weather-resistant, waterproof pair that can survive downpours and inclement weather. Binoculars should only be cleaned with a soft cloth and it's nice when this is also included. Store the cloth inside of the case so it's available at all times and less likely to be lost. As always with any camping gear and equipment, check out the warranties for every brand and buy only if it meets your specifications.

“A great many people, and more all the time, live their entire lives without ever once sleeping out under the stars.” - Alan S. Kesselheim