There are few things as disappointing in hunting as looking through a poor pair of binoculars when scanning the land for game. Whether the image is very dark, the details are fuzzy, or the zoom just is not enough, the experience will be negative all the same! It is of crucial importance, then, to find a pair of hunting binoculars that are of high quality. A failure to do so may not only result in frustration, but possibly something even worse — a fruitless hunt.
We have used lots of hunting binoculars, and have a few things we always look for (as well as a handful of pet peeves). As a result, we have developed a shortlist of our favorite hunting optics and binocs.
What goes for hunting binoculars generally applies to other activities, too. These are great for hiking, birdwatching, road trips, and everything else.
What to Look for In Binoculars
What should you look for in a good pair of hunting binoculars? There are a few key traits to seek out:
A Clear Picture
Though this one seems obvious, it actually is often overlooked due to the fact that most people assume binoculars made for hunting inherently have a clear picture. Not the case! Cheap and/or poorly-made binoculars will often have junky plastic lenses that are too thick to capture good details and fog up easily from cold and condensation. It is very important to find high-quality binoculars made with clear glass lenses.
A Reasonable Zoom
One struggle we have run into a few times while hunting some of those longer-range animals (elk being a good example) is looking at them with binoculars that just don’t zoom enough. My advice is to always buy binoculars that seem like they may zoom a bit more than you need, and if you don’t really have a distance in mind, I would recommend 10x binoculars.
Our reasoning for the “more-than-you-need” mindset is that you probably have a distance at which you seek out animals (most hunters do). However, there will almost undoubtedly come a time when there is some trophy out ahead that happens to be a bit out of that comfortable range. This is when binoculars with a strong zoom will save the day!
The zoom is just as valuable for monitoring and looking animals as it is for actually hunting them. Unless you are hunting with a super long-range firearm, you shouldn’t need crazy powerful optics for much of the hunting part. And for bowhunters, most types of bows are intended for most of the action to be from quite near.
A Comfortable Weight
Because you will most likely be carrying both a weapon and a pack of some kind, it is often wise to pick out a pair of binoculars that will not add on to the burden of weight. A heavy one hanging on a strap around your neck will become quite fatiguing after a couple hours in the field — we know from experience.
Look for binocs that will be easy to adjust, zoom, and focus when you are in the field. Remember that when you need them most, you likely will be in a hurry and perhaps a little preoccupied with looking at that deer, the bird, or the incredible sight. Or perhaps it will be 10 degrees and you don’t exactly have the dexterity you normally would. The last thing you want at that moment is to have a complicated zoom or focus feature to try to figure out.
3 Best Hunting Binoculars for 2022
You know what to look for, but if you’re struggling to find a pair that fits all the criteria, we listed some of our favorites below.
These are great for die-hard hunters who want the latest tech. The Vortex Diamondback binoculars certainly raise eyebrows, and for all of the right reasons. These binoculars are some of the best low-light binoculars on the market, causing them to be ideal for those dawn and dusk hunts that are so common while hunting game like deer. The clear-cut maximum-detail glass lenses on the Diamondbacks allow a hunter to not only easily identify the type of animal you are looking at from impressive distances, but they’ll even allow you to check out the finer details and condition of the game.
Vortex Diamondback binoculars are made of reliable, durable material that always perform the way you need them to under the toughest of conditions. The Vortex binocs weight just 21 ounces, making them great for long hauls or even backpacking. With hardly a bad rating in sight, it is easy to understand why these binoculars are so loved.
- Outstanding in low-light conditions
- Compact, great for situations like overland hunting or backpacking
- Impressive picture crispness, especially when you need to zoom-in quickly
These are binoculars that you will pass down to the next generation. Leupold is a revered name in the hunting world, and for good reason. Founded in 1907, Leupold is a mainstay of the Portland, Oregon area. A brand known for decades as top-standard in the hunting optics category, Leupold’s McKenzie binoculars are no exception.
Crafted after Leupold’s popular line of scopes, they perform very well in the field. The binoculars are excellent for longer-range hunting of game such as elk due to the precision that is present in the zoom-focus system. Able to adjust down to the smallest detail differently for each eye, these binoculars are ideal for any hunter who is getting to a more seasoned age (we all must at some point)!
The McKenzie binoculars are also excellent in regards to focus in that the anti-fog lenses have been crafted in such a way that they zoom in on animals with extreme ease and do not get caught on to small objects such as individual blades of grass or tree branches. That kind of focus is nice when you are in the heat of the moment, trying to figure out exactly what you are dealing with 200 yards away without causing too much commotion.
We found the glass on the Leupold to be extremely clear, and the field-of-vision is great for hunting situations where you are trying to scan the field. In fact, the overall field of view was a pleasant surprise — better than we expected it to be. Perfect if you are scanning a wide open meadow or field.
Leupold offers one of the better lifetime guarantees that we see in the industry, so they believe in their own products. These durable binoculars are definitely a go-to for any dedicated hunter.
- Great for long range, with the zoom up to 10x
- Wider field of view than several others
- Very good in low light
- Easy to zoom and focus in the field
Adorrgon Roof Prism
These are a recommended option if you’re buying on a budget. We are always a little leery of recommending any brand that is China-based and sells mainly on Amazon, but Adorrgon has built quite a following and pumps out good products.
If you are looking for a quite versatile pair of binoculars, Adorrgon binoculars are the ones for you. They are renowned for their quick image acquisition and crystal-clear image. What is more is that these specific binoculars are built with a special low-light lens that will make it much easier to spot game in the low-light hours of the day. The reason we say that these binoculars are so versatile is because of the loose design of the image acquisition. Adorrgon binoculars can be used in any situation, ranging from wildlife sightseeing to a baseball game. These are truly the binoculars that you will carry around anywhere you may need them, as they are essentially the universal pair of binoculars.
You aren’t going to get the time-tested brand or the lifetime warranty that you will in the Luepolds, but if you aren’t expect heavy use and just need to save a few bucks, these are worth considering.
- Much better than we expected in low-light conditions
- Performs well for birdwatching
Hunting Binocular FAQs:
Q: What do the numbers mean on binoculars?
A: We could spend an entire article discussing the numbers behind binocular specifications. 9×42, 10×50, and so on.
The first number, the lower one, is the magnification. Higher is more. It is basically how many times the image is magnified for you, through the binoculars. So a 12 will have better magnification from a long ways away than an 8. If you are western hunting where you might be looking at game from a mile or more away, more magnification will be useful.
The second number, the higher one, is something called the objective lens. It is how much light is gathered through the lens. More light – a higher number – will make the image brighter (nice on low light days or at dawn or dusk) and will also give the image better resolution.
The classic all-purpose binocular is probably a 10×42, just to provide a reference point.
Q: Why wouldn’t you just buy the biggest numbers (magnification and objective lens) that you can?
A: You might be curious why in the world someone would not just go for big, big numbers. There are two reasons. The first is cost — as you add magnification or objective lens, you increase the price of the binocs (and sometimes by a lot). The second is weight. More zoom or a crisper image usually means a heavier and bulkier binoculars. If you have ever walked around for a day with binocs around your neck, you know the downside of heavy binoculars.
Q: Should you have different pairs of binoculars for different forms of hunting?
A: In most cases, no. A good pair of hunting binoculars will be able to be used in a variety of hunting situations, allowing the hunter to utilize them in any landscape on any form of game. The only exception would be if you had an extremely high-zoom pair for big game hunting. In that case, it would be wise to get a more mild pair of binoculars for more common sorts of hunts, and save your high-powered binoculars (which likely will be a bit heavier and more complex) for the bigger hunts. A spotting scope is also a good option for those situations where you know you will need significant range.
Q: Do I need to worry about my binoculars rusting?
A: This very largely depends on how old your binoculars are, but chances are that your binoculars will remain fine through any circumstances you use them in. Older binoculars that are made with metals that oxidize (rust) easily will, of course, be more prone to rusting after use in rainy or wet environments, but aside from those, the vast majority of binoculars made today consist of materials that are highly resistant to any form of damage resulting from moisture.
Q: What can moisture do to my binoculars?
A: Rust is the main concern, but it of course is actually relatively uncommon. You will most often notice moisture affecting your binoculars in the form of slowed or gunked-up joints in the binoculars, causing it to be harder to adjust or focus the zoom. This can be easily treated by brushing the crevices of your binoculars with any sort of mechanical oil, such as WD-40 or gun oil. In extreme cases, moisture can make its way inside of the binoculars’ lenses, which means that a part may be loose or broken.
As for the lens, most good binoculars (such as the ones recommended above) have seals to prevent moisture or condensation from getting inside the lenses. However, on cheaper binoculars, it can be a concern. Condensation inside the line-of-sight is the death knell for binocs — you might be able to temporarily get rid of it by keeping the binoculars in very dry conditions, but the next time you are around rain or humidity it will return.
Much like with your other hunting gear — such as your hunting boots or your outerwear — it is a good idea to get optics that are as waterproof as possible so you don’t spend your day worrying about things getting wet.