The Best Hunting Binoculars in 2020
The right pair of binoculars, known as binos in certain circles, can improve your experience during hunting and other activities. But, the market for this gear offers so many products that finding the right pair feels like hunting itself. The following buying guide and product review should help you acquire a better pair of binoculars. We also recommend you check out our even more extensive binocular buying guide, which covers every aspect of binoculars and gives options for lots of activities, including hunting.
So far, we have discussed qualities, features and functions, and even the terms used to categorize binoculars. And, that’s all well and good. But, the best way to describe this kind of gear is through a good old-fashioned review. As discussed, binoculars built to the same measurements don’t always have the same engineering in their design. Each model undergoes a specific set of processes to meet industry standards to help you while hunting.
Upland Optics Perception
The Upland Optics Perception HD 10x42mm binoculars leads the pack in the opinion of many hunting fans. The general understanding with this model is that it has the right blend of performance and portability. But, there’s also the ED class if glass complemented by a full multicoated process. You can trust the testing process Upland Optics puts this product through in the field of Idaho.
It’s not just the size and quality material that make the Perception a pioneering product in the market. The design and manufacturing of this model makes it extraordinarily strong. That’s why the maker offers a lifetime warranty with every purchase.
As fair warning, you should know that this model doesn’t come with a chest harness. It hangs off your neck from a strap by design. You may want to consider budgeting for accessories in your initial purchase.
The Maven B1 10x42mm may not the all-around people’s choice, but it does offer features and functions like no other. The cause and effect behind this value is the production process which depends on what you want. Through the advent of online ordering, you can choose this product in a standard model, or design your very own pair.
It all depends on how much coin you have to spend. And even though it’s seems complicated, the online process actually cuts costs. Ordering digitally also saves you from needless brick and mortar building visits.
The Vortex Crossfire 8x42mm binoculars are the cost effective choice that deliver in more ways than one. There may be talk of lesser optical performance in curtain circles, but this model deserves a fair field trip. There’s a warranty that makes your purchase worry free.
For a bargain model, the Crossfire offers a lot by way of design. You may appreciate the built-in chest harness. That’s the kind of design you expect from a deluxe model.
Upland Optics Venator
The Upland Optics Venator can be described as something of a pricier model. However, many hunters find the look, feel and performance of this product well worth the money. It’s actually the crown jewell, so to speak, from the manufacturer.
The Venator provides superior light transmission which translates to visual clarity. As a “top shelf” product, this model out performs and costs less than the competition. Naturally, you can expect these pair of binoculars to stand up to harsh conditions.
The Swarovski SLC 15x56mm boasts a design and construction especially made for long-range hunting. No other pair of binoculars gives you a clearer view of images. To be honest, this is the pair of binoculars you reach for when you want to have an edge while hunting. This is one of those “higher” priced items, and you may find it not worth the expense. If that is the case, try a more humble pair of binoculars like the Vortex Vultures instead.
The Qualities to Consider Before Making Your Final Decision
When we talk about portability, the discussion tends to focus on size. This determines how much stuff you can pack with limited space. It’s subjective. But, one outdoorsman recommends 10x42mm for easy stow and go. As an added bonus, this size tends to boast the most functionality and works well for accessory compatibility.
Moving on to durability, there are a few clear factors to weigh such as material and engineering. Plastic doesn’t stand up as well as metal and alloys trump all. However, you maybe surprised to know that a simple rubber coating goes a long way in keeping your binoculars in one piece.
As far as water resistance goes, don’t take this quality for granted. You can never assume that high-quality material and a high-tech design equates to waterproof. Depending on manufacturer and product model you might have to shop around. This factor should actually be at the top of your list as a non-negotiable.
Looking into accessory compatibility takes a little more homework than the some other deciding factor. However, it’s more than worth the effort and time. Every pair of binoculars works better with accessories like lens protectors, tripods and harnesses.
Finding a product with a good warranty can feel like something of a chore, but some people swear by them. If the opportunity presents itself, be sure to make a move on purchasing a protection plan. And, make sure to ask about one before making your purchase.
By the way, don’t ignore things like the quality of glass and reputation of manufacturer. If possible, you should take advantage of any and all certifications and applicable licenses. Knowing these finer details opens the door for picking a pair of binoculars work best in specialty hunting and other situations.
Different environments present their own challenges to your hunting and outdoor goals. Standard binoculars don’t always have what it takes. In situations requiring long-range views, you may have to go with a pair measured at 15×56 to get the best performance. You may need something other than that. Of course, there are going to be differences between products with the same measurements depending on the maker. In other words, don’t feel as if you have to be stuck with a pricier model because you like the way it works.
Which Binoculars Work Best and Which to Avoid
While picking out the right pair of binoculars remember that they can have more than one purpose. With the right specs and design, you can use a product for specialized hunting and other things like bird watching. Or, you can master the concept of dual functionality and select two different binoculars for various environment and scenarios. So, you can sport long-range summer and high-performance winter gear. You might even keep a specialized go-to pair of binoculars around for everyday use.
The compact model is a good example of form as function when it comes to selecting specialized gear. There are plenty of options to pick from among compact models on the market. For sure, full size models measure out to 10x42mm or even 8x42mm with compacts coming in smaller than that. The objective lens can measure as low 20mm. This translates to a lighter product that easily fits in the pocket.
In your search for the right compact or special hunting binoculars, you may be tempted to go for a bargain deal. This is the kind of compromise that’s most likely to bring a negative impact on your outdoor experience. Think handheld radio and that should give you some mental mapping for avoiding poor products. Going through big distributors and drop ship sites is one of the easiest ways of getting ripped off for compact or specialty gear. A lot of the cheaper stuff comes from these types of distributors. So, keep a sharp look out for that, ok?
Let’s say that you happen to have extraordinary hunting skills, but the performance level of most binoculars tend to let you down. It’s time to think outside the box, use a little innovation, and break the rules a bit. Go with some gear designed to look at the stars which let you see objects hundreds of yards down the line. It’s like holding a small telescope without going through all that squinting and trouble. To be fair, there are a couple things that you need to know before committing to the idea of stargazing gear. First of all, these are not compact models, so plan for proper packing portability. And secondly, this type of binocular is best used with a tripod or you may have steadiness issues.
Last but not least, there is one situation that you may want to address while picking out your binoculars. The kids may want a pair of their own once they get a load of their role model using gear. It’s not like they need a pair specialized for their little peepers. You only have to know the most comfortable and popular lens sizes for their little eyes and heads. Just remember that there are kids and small kids, and they have different needs. Some younglings should use 8x21mm lens while other are better off with 10×25.
Features and Functions to Look For in Binoculars
To get the best pair of binoculars, you need more than a basic understanding of the qualities found in a good product. As a stepping stone, you have to know about the different kinds of features and functionalities. Of course, there are going to be countless bells and whistles to choose from. And, you can count on certain staples throughout the market. The basic technological innovations found in binoculars run from built-in cameras to variable zoom. You can find things like night vision in between. These details deserve a closer look.
Although it might seem counterintuitive to some outdoorsmen, there are binoculars with built in cameras on the market. But, don’t knock it until you try it, as they say. Digital is the keyword to remember while you shop this feature in products on the shelves. Just remember that the overall quality of the binoculars determines how well the digital camera performs. Look for features and functions like DSLR and zoom lens capabilities. Also, try to break the systems into separate attaching components. Smashing them together is simply not a good buy, and manufacturers tend to put out products that lack luster. Do the combo thing and see much better results.
You may not be able to find a pair binoculars that can easily snap a digital image. But, there are products that do offer range finding capabilities. The technology behind range finding is based on lasers which doesn’t interfere with the binocular performance at all. The two work together nicely to enhance range of vision and provide precise information at the same time. Knowing how far your game waits to be retrieved from one piece of gear is pretty handy. Actually, it’s kind of a non-negotiable for ensuring where to find shot. Perhaps, this twofer tech is kind of a new kid on the block, but it’s growing fast with solid numbers in tow. As a word to the wise, it’s not recommended to accept substitutions when shopping range finding products. There are binocular models on the market that use reticle based technology. This really gives an estimated distance instead of an accurately measured distance. That type of misinformation can result in critical mistakes in the field.
Everyone likes to do things like a pro, and outdoorsman hunting is no different. The pros know how to send a shot and make the drop even in the dark. To make it happen, there has to be night-vision gear involved. Every outdoorsman knows this. To this end, the manufacturers of binoculars have caught up to the popular demand of night vision. It used to be that night vision belonged only to goggles. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, some people don’t like the having things strapped to their heads. In newer times, the secret is out of the box. And as a result, a new niche market has come alive. However, this growth has also given rise to a flood of knock off “products”. These can be found from big online distributors and other questionable sites. Make sure you take a close look at the fine print and details when it comes to any possible purchase. The surest way to get an authentic product is to do your homework and research the makers of this tech. That way you know who to buy from.
If you are the type of hunting outdoorsman who likes to stay on the cutting edge, check out image stabilization. It’s a digital advance that spins off the engineering put into digital cameras for binoculars. The whole idea behind it is to make holding the gear easier and to compensate for those people who may not have the steadiest of hands. Some models even have zoom capability. From a performance point of view, this feature comes off as a little decadent. And, it doesn’t have to be there. Honestly, cost is the only real deterrent, or else it’d be nice to have a steady image to work from. Go for it, big spender!
Any good digital visual technology should be able to offer the ability to zoom back and forth. And, binoculars are no different. This technology once belonged to Cadillac products such as telescopes and similar tech. But now, binocular products offer zoom optics that matches any alternative on the market today.
There is one kind of feature that can be counted as a class all by itself. When we talk about marine binoculars we mean a specific set of features and functions designed to be spot-on correct. This high level of capability also comes with water resistance and built-in compass power. You have to get things right out on the high seas, and working with this kind of gear helps to make it all possible.
The Smart Talk Behind the Scenes
Sure, you know the qualities, features and functions to look for. But, do you know the terminologies behind the scenes where all the science happens. Well, you should have a basic understanding of what it takes to make the world of binoculars worthwhile. Some of these terms are simple and easy to figure out while others have subtle nuances involved. So, pay attention and let’s get started, shall we?
Do you remember those numbers 8 or 10x42mm that we talked about earlier in this buying guide. Yes? Of course, you do. The first number in that set, 8x or 10x, represents the amount of magnification to expect. It’s how much closer the object you’re looking at appears to the naked eye. For many outdoorsmen, 10x does a good enough job to spot game for miles away with a clear visual of the shot and drop. There’s no need to use more magnification than specifically needed, because it can cause steadiness issues. As always, accessories like tripods make sporting easier.
The second number in 8 or 10x42mm stands for the objective lens size, which determines how well you can see through them. The bigger the lens the more light flows through. Bigger lens allow for a clearer sighting even in low light situations. As a fair warning, the more lens in the binoculars means more weight in the overall product significantly.
Another binocular metric that you want to pay attention is glass dispersion which you want to be as low as possible. Dispersion happens no matter what, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. The ED in your binoculars makes it happen. Markings on the lenses let you know what to expect from them. The most common of these is ED which stands for Extra-low Dispersion. There are others like LD (low dispersion), SLD (special low dispersion), ELD (extraordinary low dispersion), and ULD (ultra-low dispersion).
You may come across the term High Definition while looking over binoculars on the shelves. But, the truth is that high definition is in the details when it comes to binoculars. The number of pixels used in display determines whether it is HD, and there’s no way to say for sure how many of these are in a particular model. HD for binoculars is more of a estimate given by the maker. You can’t necessarily trust it.
Field of view is one of those features that needs a little more explaining than others. The field of view is a measurement that tells you how many meters you can see from any certain distance. For example, an fov can look like 113m at 1000m means you see 113 meters of territory at 1000 meters away at any given time. This boils down to you seeing 67 meters from the center of anything you spot using binoculars. The fov and magnification of your lenses go hand in hand. Basically, you want to go with power 10.
The different prism types are terms and concepts that you should easily understand. There are only two categories to learn. These are porro and roof. This is basically a difference in design, which means roof prism have a sleeker look. Roof prism gives that sleek and smooth straight look that some people like.
When it comes to lens coating, thee are a few level that you need to know. These categories are fully Multi-coated, multi coated, fully coated and coated. The major differences between these coats is the number of layers applied. It’s between one to three.
Close focus distance refers to the minimum distance that binoculars can give a clear image. This is one of those numbers that you want to have a sweet spot depending on the kind of hunting that you do. You can find a Close Focus Distance of 100 percent.
One of the easiest terms and concepts Light Transmission Percentage because it has two simple conditions to master. First off, you want your LTP to be as high as possible to see more things. Secondly, it is not possible to achieve 100 percent LTP through the lenses of your binoculars. Pick a winner.