How to choose binoculars for outdoor activities


how to choose binoculars for outdoor activities

When we look on the internet and see how many types and models of binoculars are, it can be a bit confusing to choose binoculars for outdoor activities, therefore, in this post I want you to understand clearly on how to choose the right one for you in this case.

To choose the right binoculars for outdoor activities, we must take into consideration the following key points:

  • Right Magnification (8x to 10x)
  • Binoculars weight (lightweight)
  • Image Quality, Resolution and prism types
  • Objective lens diameter (30mm to 50mm)
  • Waterproof and weatherproof
  • Eye relief and comfort
  • Image stabilisation (not required)

It may be a bit confusing to take so many factors into consideration when you are going to pick the right type of binoculars for your outdoor activities, but I assure you this is not the case. What I want you to understand from this post is that making the right choice has never been easier.

Key points to choose the binoculars for outdoor activities.

The above stated key points are just a few important ones when you are aiming to buy a pair of binoculars for the outdoors, but what do we understand by those outdoor activities?

It can be anything like birdwatching, nature observing, landscapes, general observations, scouting, hiking and camping etc.

The right magnification for outdoor binocular observations

Magnification appears to be one of the main key points when choosing a pair of binoculars for any of the outdoor activities. You definitely don’t need something more than 10x as you may need a tripod to be able to perform any kind of observations, therefore, for the handheld observations an 8x or maximum of a 10x magnification may be more than enough

Although there is a slight difference between 8x and 10x, let’s take two factors into consideration at this point:

  • How steady are your hands (coffee drinkers tend to have a bit shakier hands (such as myself)
  • What are you observing, do you need a larger or narrow field of view?

For people who may not have perfect steady hands, for general outdoor activities I would recommend an 8x magnification for your binoculars, but take in consideration also the field of view: Because 8x is less magnification than 10x, the field of view is a bit larger, therefore, this would be great for observing a flock of birds, where, at 10x you may see only parts of it (but not always).

The same goes for general nature observations, scouting and hiking, you probably won’t need a 10x magnification, therefore an 8x would be more than enough.

If somehow you are observing more like birds, deers and different wildlife, a 10x may come in handy because of the extra 2x magnification. This can make a difference when we focus on observing small wildlife animals like squirrels, small birds etc.

Binoculars weight for outdoor activities

I want you to put two words together: outdoor activities – which means, you will be on the go, carrying a different amount of supplies and gear with you, therefore, you do not need extra weight to carry around.

Strongly recommended, for any outdoor activities and binocular observations, I would strongly recommend to go for a lightweight pair of binoculars, in special if you go hiking. This is pretty much crucial, as you don’t want to carry a couple of extra kilograms with you, right?

There are many pair of binoculars lightweight enough to carry them around in your handbag or backpack.

Image quality and the resolution of a pair of binoculars for outdoor activities

This is an obvious point, as for me and any other professional who may recommend you to buy a pair of binoculars, would say to go for high-quality glass and resolution, but there is more than that to consider:

  • Prism type: it is important to know what type of prism your binoculars may have: is it porro prism or roof prism? Have a read on this article for more information about both prism types (external link, birdwatching.com)
  • The quality glass – Does your glass elements have an anti-coating reflection, and this is a strong point I have to recommend to look into.
  • Image resolution – This is the ability of the binoculars to render details. As any electronic devices with a screen, in optics, the term applies the same: higher resolution – more fine details to observe through your binoculars.

Pointing back on the prism types, my recommendation is to go for a pair of binoculars with Porro prisms. They are the most common and exceeding in quality at reasonable prices.

Objective lens diameter for a pair of binoculars used in outdoor activities

The lens diameters play a very important role when is about resolution and low light performance. Higher the objective lens diameter is better resolution and low light performances for sure.

But the negative side is the extra weight it adds and size.

For any outdoor observations, my guess is that they are performed under daylight conditions. In this case, you do not need a large aperture pair of binoculars, as 30mm to 50mm is a perfect balance between quality, resolution and weight.

As an instance, an 8x42mm would be a perfect choice for any outdoor extremist.

Waterproof and weatherproof binoculars.

In the past decade, the quality of binoculars evolved a lot. Nowadays, most of the binoculars are waterproof and weatherproof. How would you know that?

When you are going to buy your binoculars, it is important to look over those factors. As an outdoor type of person, you may often find yourself in rainy situations, fog and moisture being a problem also.

There are many types of binoculars water and weather sealed. Those binoculars usually have the inside filled in with nitrogen gas. This gas doesn’t only offer an extra layer of protection against inside condensation but for long term usability as fungus or mould is not formed inside.

Not only, but they are resistant in extreme weather condition (it may be 45*C or -20*C, those pair of binoculars may work flawlessly).

Eye relief and comfort of outdoor observations through a pair of binoculars.

Nowadays, most of the binoculars have eyecups that can aid people who are wearing glasses and people who don’t by creating the right distance between your eyes and the binocular oculars.

If you are wearing glasses in special, I would recommend having a look at this function of binoculars having eye relief eyecups, which may be often met by the high standards some manufacturers are producing.

Some sources say that 13-15mm eye relief cups are the recommended ones, some other says that 11mm should be just fine. Have a look somewhere on this range, but most binoculars with eye relief cups may meet those preferences.

Image stabilisation binoculars for outdoor activities.

I am going to be honest with you, you may not need a pair of binoculars with image stabilisation. Think about they may be five times more expensive than the normal ones. You better invest in the quality of binoculars meeting the above key points rather than image stabilisation.

Unless you specifically need a 15x+ magnification for outdoor observations, do not buy them (extra weight, extra glass, far more expensive, run on batteries etc)

Some other key points to take into consideration:

  • Neck relief straps – You may want to buy a custom 3rd party straps for your binoculars for better comfort and neck relief.
  • Cleaning kits – Do not use your t-shirt (like myself) to clean your eyepiece or front lenses, have a good cleaning kit instead.
  • Good grip – some binoculars may have a terrible grip. Those are usually the cheap ones.
  • Diopter adjustment range – About all the binoculars may have good diopter adjustment range, but it is good to check before you buy if you may need extra diopter if you may have any visual impairments.
  • Carrying case – this is just an optional basic, but also most of the sellers may provide you with an original carrying case for your binoculars. It is a good practice you carry in a case rather than not.

Also check

Check our other related article – how to choose binoculars for birdwatching

Recommended binoculars

Below, I will link to a couple of binoculars which I recommend for outdoor activities observations found on Amazon. Keep in mind that I am not directly selling any of those but they are affiliate products to meet the above criteria.

Nikon Prostaff 7s 10×42

I own the Nikon Prostaff 7s 10×42 binoculars and this is my absolute first recommendation when is about general outdoor observations and birdwatching. I kinda heavily use them and the image quality is absolutely stunning, not only but meeting all the above key points I talked about in this post and even more.


Nikon Prostaff 7s 8×30

This is the alternative I recommend for the above option, for better portability and field of view. If you are hiking and camping a lot, this I would recommend for you. It does meet all the above key points and more.


Olympus 8×40

This pair of Olympus binoculars I recommend for a more accessible price and a larger field of view. As it may not meet all the key points spoken above, still, this appears to be an amazing piece of binoculars and very highly rated on Amazon.

Gabriel Mihalcea

Passionate about binoculars, photography and blogging with years experience behind, I love to split my time and observe the beauty of this world with different eyes.

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