The choices made when buying binoculars is a weighty decision for every hunter and outdoorsman. As we develop into more advanced hunters, we learn that high quality optics become more important. So, will we take the easy path with a pair of cheap hunting binoculars that may or may not even survive through the next season?
Or instead, do some basic research and choose something with more quality that will not only last but will vastly outperform the cheap off the shelf binoculars. Buying high quality optics should be viewed as a long term investment. Today’s best binoculars for hunting are highly engineered to provide us with brighter and clearer vision while in the field. Making a wise investment in binoculars today will benefit you with more successful hunting trips for years to come.
Getting the Best Hunting Binoculars for the Money
Like most pieces of outdoors gear, there is a broad range of binoculars with varying features and quality. The best binoculars for hunting will have distinctive features compared to birding or stargazing binoculars. It’s your task now to understand these features and how you will be using the binoculars to get the best value for your money.
The primary features to compare binoculars are prism design, magnification, field of view, lens coatings, exit pupil, total weight, and more. I won’t use too much space here covering these features; instead, you can read this in-depth explanation of binoculars specifications.
Does the adage “you get what you pay for”, apply to hunting optics? Yes, it certainly does, to an extent. If you have the cash to drop on the latest German engineered binoculars, then go for it. Those are some crazy awesome hunting optics.
While I don’t ever recommend buying anything under $100, it is not required to spend $2,000 either. Some of the best binoculars for hunting that I have ever owned have cost less than $600. To get the best optics for your money, I would look to the mid to middle-upper range of binoculars for the best blend of performance and value.
In general, you want to pick binoculars within your budget that have the best magnification for you, the widest field of view, coated lenses, waterproof, fog proof, and lightweight. That’s a lot to ask for but the rest of this article should help you narrow down your choices.
|Model:||Our Score:||Price Range:||Weight:||FOV:|
|Vortex Diamondback 8×42||(4.7 / 5)||$$$||25.2 oz||420 ft|
|Vortex Crossfire 10×42||(4.7 / 5)||$$||23.3 oz||325 ft|
|Vortex Viper HD 8×42||(4.6 / 5)||$$$$||24.2 oz||347 ft|
|Steiner Predator 10×42||(4.7 / 5)||$$$||26.5 oz||316 ft|
|Cabela’s Intensity HD 8×25||(4.8 / 5)||$$||8.3 oz||357 ft|
|Nikon Monarch 5 8×42||(4.7 / 5)||$$$||20.8 oz||330 ft|
|Vortex Fury HD 10×42||(4.5 / 5)||$$$$$||31.8 oz||314 ft|
Hunting Binoculars Compared by Price
If you have a specific price range you’re shopping for, we have separate articles comparing the best hunting binoculars in several price ranges.
Important Binocular Features
Anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors should invest in a good pair of binoculars; however, shopping for them can be a confusing experience to the uninformed. To understand how to buy binoculars for hunting, you need to understand the basics of how to read binocular specs.
Best Binoculars for Deer Hunting: Vortex Diamondback
Deer hunting presents us with a choice, because some hunters prefer hunting in the big woods, while others like to setup across open fields. That leaves deer hunters with a decision; buy the binoculars with more magnification or with the brighter and larger field of view?
8×42 binoculars are a great all-around choice for whitetail hunting. You get a good magnification with a wider field of view. Woods hunting, and bow hunters in particular, do not need the higher magnification. They need the greater field of view, and a brighter picture for the lower light environment. In this case, a quality set of 8×42 magnification binoculars are strongly recommend. On the other hand, if you hunt fields or are an avid muzzleloader, then 10×42 would be an excellent choice.
We highly recommend the Vortex Diamondbacks as the best deer hunting binoculars. They are bright, lightweight, high quality glasses that come highly rated by hunters. The best part is they can be had for around $300 or less.
Best Cheap Binoculars for Hunting: Vortex Crossfire
The entry level Crossfire may cost a fraction of the premium models, but they are anything but cheap. While they lack the fancier phase corrected prisms and fog-proof features of the Diamondback and Viper series, they have fully coated lenses and the rugged body Vortex is known for.
The 8×42 and 10×42 models weigh about the same as the other Vortex series. Their size is only slightly larger at 6.0-6.2” tall, and 5.1” wide. The Crossfires come in 4 magnifications. There is a model for most hunters, including bow and field hunting, as well as 10 and 12×50 for longer range scouting capability. Throw in the Vortex VIP warranty and Crossfires easily earn our pick for best cheap hunting binoculars.
Best 8×42 Binoculars for Hunting: Vortex Viper HD
The best 8×42 binoculars for your money, in my opinion, are the Vortex Viper HD. The Vipers have many of the features the high dollar glasses do, but at a fraction of the cost.
The lenses are made from high density, extra low dispersion glass, with phase correction and anti-reflective coatings. This design means you get bright, clean and crisp viewing with little to no glare that I always seem to get with cheaper binos.
I love that I can go from sun to shadow and still maintain a highly detailed image. I also never seem to develop a sore neck from using these for several days. They are very light weight and I don’t have to strain my eyes.
The housings are rugged and can take some abuse. They are covered with a rubberized coating that Vortex calls “ArmorTek”. The ArmorTek makes for no slip holding and absorbs the bumps and falls that inevitably happen in the field. Don’t worry about a little rain because they are also waterproof and fog proof.
One other feature I really like the locking diopter. The diopter lets you adjust the glasses to account for the slight differences between your two eyes. If the diopter didn’t lock, it would make for a long day of refocusing and tired eyes.
When you take all those great features and performance, then throw in the Vortex Lifetime Warranty, you have one heck of a pair of hunting binoculars. If I haven’t convinced you how awesome the Viper HD are you can read more reviews here.
Best 10×42 Binoculars for Hunting: Steiner Predator
Steiner is a German company, with precision and quality optics being something that country is well known for. The Predators are made directly in Germany, and come with the Steiner Heritage Lifetime Warranty. This model is highly rated by users, and can be had for less than $500–600.
10×42 binoculars are strong enough for good downrange scouting, perfect for the open fields and vast farmlands of North America. The Predator binoculars are equipped with Color Adjusted Transmission lens coatings that help brighten up the low light dawn and dusk periods. All things considered, if you stalk big turkey, or rifle and bow hunt for deer, the Predator 10×42 are a top option to consider.
Best Compact Hunting Binoculars: Cabela’s Intensity HD 8×25
Check Price on: Cabela’s
If hunting light and fast is your thing, you may consider compact binoculars. Optics are considered compact when the objective lens are 28 or smaller. The most common sizes being 8×25, 8×28, or 10×25. The bodies are much smaller, and the tradeoff is the amount of light transmitted to your eyes.
To achieve the compact design, the lenses are smaller in diameter (25mm objective) to achieve the tubular shape. To achieve the same magnification as the larger models, these smaller lenses provide a substantially less bright image. To get a brighter view you’ll need to move down in magnification to 6x or lower. If you are an active hunter or you like to travel light, compact hunting binoculars can be a great option.
The Intensity HD are true compact binoculars. The tubes are nearly straight and can fold underneath the bridge for storage. Cabela’s has packed in a ton of good stuff into a small package. The Intensity HD are water and nitrogen purged fog proof. For the lenses you get both sides of the lenses fully multi-coated, and the prisms are phase coated to bring out more light intensity.
Compacts have a bad rap as being the cheapest binoculars produced, but Cabela’s has put together some of the best compact hunting binoculars for the money. Not only are the glasses good, but you get a soft sided carry case with strap, and a microfiber cleaning cloth. If you need good optics in a compact and lightweight size, look at the Intensity HD.
Best Binoculars for Bowhunting: Nikon Monarch 5 8×42
An 8×42 set of binoculars are perhaps the smartest choice for bow hunting. The 8x magnification is powerful enough to pick out details in thick cover, yet small enough to be easy to carry into a tree stand. Choose a model with an objective of 42 or less and you’ll have optics than are versatile enough for most types of hunting.
Some bow hunters might turn their nose up at the need for binoculars when they can only shoot an animal 25 yards away. I would argue that binoculars can help you pattern those animal’s movements, indicating you might need to move your tree stand. You can also use them to track the animal after a shot. I’ve used my binoculars to in the past to follow the deer until I see them die, making for a much easier tracking of the animal.
The Nikon Monarch series are well known for optical clarity and ease of use. The Monarch 5’s focus easily and the ED glass provide bright images. The Monarch 5 are also some of the lightest binoculars in their respective sizes, sometimes weighting up to 5 ounces less than the competition.
Best Rangefinder Binoculars for Hunting: Vortex Fury HD
Have you seen these marvelous creations on the TV hunting shows yet? These binoculars go the extra mile and have a built in laser range finder. Rangefinder binoculars use lasers to measure the distance to a target. They use sophisticated technology to measure the reflection return of the laser back to the binoculars, and then displaying a target range reading.
Vortex has come out with the new Fury HD Rangefinder binoculars. They are expensive, no doubt, but compared to the competition not bad at all. The optics are equivalent to the Viper HD, and the construction is typical Vortex stout and balanced.
The rangefinder is controlled with two large, easy to toggle buttons on the right side of the bridge. Users have reported the rangefinder function to be fast and accurate, if a little washed out with lower light backdrops. If you want an alternative to the expensive Swarovski and Leica ranging binos, the new Vortex Fury HD deserves consideration.
Which Magnification is best for Hunting, 8×42 or 10×42?
8×42 and 10×42 are the most popular sizes of binoculars for hunting. They have a good combination of power and light gathering capability, which is perfect for low light hunting conditions. Those 2 numbers are important and you need to think about how you hunt and your personal vision abilities to determine which is best for your hunting trips.
The first number is magnification, as in you will be seeing an object “8 times” or “10 times” closer than with an unaided eye. That’s sounds great and all, but higher magnification also means you will potentially experience a magnified unsteadiness in the eyepiece. Having a sweet pair of 10×42 lenses doesn’t do much good if have the coffee shakes out in the field!
If you hunt mostly in the woods where visibility is limited in the first place, then 8×42 binoculars will be a fine choice. My female hunter friends also like 8×42 binoculars for their lighter weights.
Alternately, 10×42 is better for hunting in open fields, and if you have excellent vision and steady hands. 10×42 binoculars are almost always heavier, and if you tend to scout with your optics for long stretches of time, your hands and arms may get tired. For those hunting in the western US, you could benefit from even higher magnifications, but you may need a mono-pod or binocular harness to steady your view.