Best Hunting Binoculars in 2021 – Complete Reviews with Comparisons
A vital part of the hunting experience is standing quietly and observing. In fact, being fully aware of your surroundings is how you succeed. Hunting binoculars are a tool that allows you better oversight of the grounds and the game you’re seeking. Most hunters will tell you that hunting is impossible without a pair of reliable binoculars.
However, not all binoculars are the same; many factors dictate their quality. In this article, we’ve outlined the five best-hunting binoculars. We’ve also created a buyer’s guide and a list of frequently asked questions on the subject.
Best Hunting Binoculars Reviews
Vortex Viper HD 10x42
If you truly want the best of the best, some super high-grade hunting binoculars with all of the bells and whistles possible, and you are willing to invest a good bit of cash, the Vortex Viper HD 10x42 could be a good choice for you.
The Viper HD model uses a high-density (HG) glass, referred to as “extra-low dispersion glass.” The lenses, made from low dispersion glass, benefit from lowered chromatic aberration (color edge blurring that makes the image appear fuzzy). The HD glass also makes the Viper HD model excellent for low-light conditions.
The Vortex Viper HD frame is built of polycarbonate to avoid adding too much weight to the already heavy glass components inside. Not to worry, though, a polycarbonate build isn’t brittle – it maintains substantial levels of strength.
The Viper is lightweight (24.6 ounces) and compact. Although they may look like a short-barreled pair, these binoculars are standard. The low weight is essential to avoiding fatigue after an extended period of holding. The grip is also solidly comfortable for average-sized hands.
The Vortex Viper HD 10x42 is internally fog-proof and waterproof. Fogging may appear on the glass’s surface part, but this is easy to remove using a microfiber cloth.
The problem with many binoculars is moisture gathering inside them, which encourages fungal growth inside glass surfaces. This etches the glass coatings, thus ruining binoculars over time. Thanks to the Viper’s anti-fog capacities, the potential for fungi development is significantly reduced, if not wholly impossible.
With any Vortex product, you get their VIP Warranty, which is short for “Very Important Promise.” This is Vortex’s guarantee that they’ll fix any problem you experience with their products. The best part about this is that there aren’t any warranty cards involved. The warranty comes with the product itself, which is very important if you’re buying/selling a used Vortex product.
Quite honestly, we think that everything about these particular binoculars is good, nay, great. Folks, these are super pricey binoculars, so they better be excellent in every respect, and indeed they are.
The bad part about the Vortex Viper HD 10x42 is how expensive it is, plain and simple. The only slight downside is that for this price, we expect the field of view to be a bit better, although it’s no deal breaker either.
- Duper durable
- Great warranty
- Anti-moisture and fog
- Compact and lightweight
- HD image, even at long distance
- Very expensive
- Field of view could be better
Vortex Diamondback 10x42
If you want some really nice hunting binoculars, ones from the trusted and popular Vortex brand, but don’t want to spend a fortune, the Diamondback makes for a good choice. No, they’re not as advanced as the Viper reviewed above, but also come in at about a third of the price.
It may not sound like much, but the Diamondback’s rubber armor coating serves multiple hunting purposes. For one, the coating is there to protect the sensitive areas of the binoculars against bumps, scratches, and other damage forms.
The lens covers are sturdy and stay in place but are still easy to pop off when necessary. The rubber armor also softens the sound of various other hunting paraphernalia bumping against the binoculars while on the move.
The Vortex Diamondback 10x42 are great in low-light conditions and bring a surprising amount of detail to the image even compared to some 50mm models.
Unfortunately, the regular Diamondbacks don’t use high-density (HD) glass, so you won’t get that extra low light dispersion. The Diamondback HD models do offer this feature but are somewhat pricier than this model. Of course, if you aren’t looking for a cutting-edge piece of technology like Vortex’s HD models, you’ll find the regular Diamondbacks more than satisfactory.
As is the case with any other Vortex product, you get their impressive VIP warranty.
The good part about the Vortex Diamondback 10x42, is that although it may not be the most advanced pair of binoculars out there, they also certainly aren’t basic. While they don’t really excel greatly in any one department, they’re just all-around decent hunting binoculars that won’t cost you a fortune and still come with some pretty nice features.
One bad thing about these binoculars is that their light dispersion is a bit high, so while they are clear, colors can be a bit off. Moreover, although the Vortex Diamondback 10x42 binoculars are durable, they don’t perform overly well in wet conditions.
- Great price
- Good for beginners
- Fairly clear at long range
- Very durable
- Not too heavy or large
- Moisture can be a problem
- Light dispersion could be lower
Bushnell Trophy XLT 10×42
If you want high-quality hunting binoculars, but without a massive price tag, the Bushnell Trophy XLT could be good for you. It is surprising how much functionality and versatility these things have, considering that they are so far the least expensive pair on the list.
The Bushnell Trophy binocular line is widely renowned in hunter and birdwatcher circles for their field durability, quality, and resiliency.
Although Bushnell has a wide variety of quality products in their line, the Trophy XLT Roof Prism binoculars are one of their bestsellers. They offer a wide field of angular view, cover long distances, and boast a brilliant build.
The Trophy model boasts magnification with remarkable clarity and a specific focus of ruggedness for hunting expeditions and wildlife observation. The Bushnell Trophy XLT 10x42 utilizes Bak-4 optics and prisms. These are multicoated to provide brilliantly clear images with incredible attention to detail.
This product’s body is coated with armored rubber and has a soft-touch thumb grip that ensures perfect handling, regardless of how harsh the weather conditions might be.
Additionally, the XLTs are waterproof and completely fog-proof, thanks to their nitrogen-purged lens and fantastic O-ring seals. Whether you’re going hunting, backpacking, or birdwatching, and regardless of how humid/hot/cold weather conditions are at the moment, the XLTs won’t disappoint.
But where the Bushnell Trophy XLT 10x42s truly excel, despite their surprisingly clear image delivery, is when the target that you’re watching/tracking is on the move. The Bak-4 optics won’t allow your target to get lost in the commotion.
Perhaps the best part about these hunting binoculars is their extreme level of durability. This is the kind of thing that you can drop repeatedly on the ground, and even into water, without worry that they will break, and all for a really great price too.
The bad part about the Bushnell Trophy XLT 10×42 binoculars, for one, is that they are quite heavy and bulky when compared to other leading models. Moreover, the lens caps have a tendency to fall off, which is of course not ideal.
- Wide field of view
- Long range
- Good color
- Very clear
- Great price
- Superior durability
- Big and heavy
- Bad lens caps
Nikon Prostaff 7S 8x30
If you are looking for extremely durable binoculars, ones that are even waterproof, yet super lightweight as well, the very reasonably priced and relatively high-performance Nikon Prostaff 7S 8x30 binoculars could be right for you.
Even though we’re talking about an 8x30 binocular mode, the Nikon Prostaff 7S weighs a mere 14 ounces, which is exceptionally light. However, this doesn’t mean that it fails to deliver in its overall performance. The Prostaff 7S doesn’t compensate in terms of toughness, either.
It features a lightweight yet resilient polycarbonate body that is overlaid by a thick rubber overcoat. This textured rubber exterior boasts an excellent grip, in addition to additional protection.
The Prostaff 7Ss focus wheel is smooth and features no clockwise or anticlockwise backlash whatsoever. Plus, the wheel is overlaid with the same protective rubber like the rest of the binoculars, which gives it a better grip and a better feel when using gloves.
The Prostaff 7S can withstand being submerged in three feet of water for up to 10 minutes. This means it’s waterproof enough for most hunting conditions. This Nikon model is O-ring sealed, as well as nitrogen-purged for maximum corrosion and fogging protection.
The objective lenses are somewhat recessed, which protects against rain and dust and blocks out the peripheral glare that negatively impacts the image contrast.
The Nikon Prostaff 7S 8x30 is surprisingly comfortable to hold in small hands, making it a preferred choice for many people who don’t have large hands and long fingers. It’s one of the best small-hand choices on this list.
The good part about the Nikon Prostaff 7S 8x30 is that they are just all-around decent binoculars for a decent price. Considering their reasonable price, they do perform better than expected, not to mention that their impact resistance and waterproofing are both truly excellent.
One of the only bad parts about these particular hunting binoculars is that they don’t perform all that well in low light conditions, so they aren’t ideal for nighttime hunting or for use on dark and rainy days.
- Very durable
- Good field of view
- Can reach quite far
- Super lightweight and compact
- Reasonable price
- Image is quite clear
- Don’t perform well in low light conditions
Vanguard Endeavor ED 10x42
Switching gears a bit for the final product on the list today, here we have one of the more expensive and higher end pairs of hunting binoculars out there. You know what they say, you get what you pay for, and here you get pure quality.
At 27.5 ounces, the Endeavor ED 10x42s is a bit on the heavy side. Fortunately, this doesn’t make much of a difference compared to the first few models on this list. The Vanguards have O-rings that provide a tight seal and nitrogen-purged glass, bringing fog-proof and waterproof qualities to the table.
Two hinges hold the two optics together, with enough space for two, maybe three fingers in between them. This may not seem like much, but it makes it easy to hold the binoculars steady.
Unlike most modern binoculars, the Endeavor ED series features a faux-leather surface, which looks nice and traditional. However, the point here is its crinkliness and nubbiness, which provides a comfortable, secure grip. All in all, the Vanguard Endeavor ED 10x42 is among the most comfortable hunting binoculars on this list.
Thanks to the phase-coated Bak-4 prisms, anti-reflection AR coating, and V-Max silver coating for contrast increase properties, the Endeavor EDs help the user see brilliantly crisp clear images. All these glass features are the reason behind the binocular’s somewhat substantial weight, but it’s more than worth it – the image they provide is absolutely brilliant.
If you need a wide field of view, you need to see far, you need to see in low-light conditions, and you need to be able to track a target with ease, all with a secure grip and a really high level of durability, the Vanguard Endeavor ED 10x42 are rather perfect.
Besides the big price tag attached to these things, the only real downside to the Vanguard Endeavor ED 10x42 binoculars is that they are quite heavy.
- Super durable
- Fogproof and waterproof
- Long range
- Wide field of view
- Overall fantastic performance
Although we’ve presented you with various properties and specs of the five binocular models, you shouldn’t just go out and purchase the model you seem to like the most. You should give each one a go and see which one truly performs the best.
To know what to look at when testing a pair of binoculars, you should pay attention to a few crucial factors. These include magnification, objective size, field of view, focus, and eye relief.
In the following section, we’re going to outline each of the five mentioned properties and show you what to pay attention to when trying any pair of binoculars available out there, including the five models from the list above.
Seeing how binoculars’ primary objective is distance magnification, let’s talk about what to look for in a pair of binoculars in these terms.
As a layman, no one would blame you for aligning yourself with the “the more, the better” mentality regarding a binocular’s magnification.
Magnification is the first number in a binoculars’ designation (10x42, 8x40, etc.) You might be tempted to get a 12x or higher magnification, but as you can see, none of the models from the list above are higher than 10x. This is because extra magnification actually lowers the image steadiness, which is definitely not something you want to deal with after a few miles of hiking to the hunting grounds.
It’s not that the high-magnification binoculars don’t have any application; it’s just that they aren’t exactly suited for hunting. Typically, they are used with a tripod and a more regular field pair of binoculars used for birdwatching.
Then you have the zoom binoculars, which aren’t always water-resistant, let alone waterproof. Plus, they tend to be fragile and susceptible to damage.
Even in the 7x-10x range, no magnification option can be deemed “the best choice.” At the end of the day, it all depends on your personal preference. You should just keep in mind that the higher the magnification, the more effort you’re going to have to put into stabilizing the binoculars.
The size of the objective is the second number in a binoculars’ designation. While the magnification of a pair of binoculars isn’t necessarily better because it’s higher, the objective size is much more direct in these terms. Larger objectives mean more detail. However, they also mean a heftier price tag. For instance, 40mm binoculars are usually considerably cheaper than those with a 50mm lens.
The difference in the objective size is notable in almost any condition. However, the main reason people get larger-objective binoculars is for nighttime hunting.
But seeing as how hunting any game at night is generally illegal, a 40mm-42mm pair will work for you. However, you can hunt non-game animals at night in every U.S. state but three: Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Alabama. Nighttime raccoon hunting is legal in all states except for Alabama.
In any case, you aren’t likely going to need a bigger objective than 42mm. This helps narrow the choice down and filter out the big-time expensive 50+mm binoculars.
Field of View
One would think that binocular magnification capabilities and objective size are enough to make it the ideal choice. Unfortunately, the fact that you’re looking for a 10x42 pair doesn’t mean that every model will suit your needs.
Field of view (FOV) is a commonly understated and easily ignored factor by beginner hunters. FOV is expressed in feet by 1,000 yards.
For instance, a pair of binoculars can have an FOV of 340 feet/1000 yards. This indicates the width of the area you’ll see when looking at an object that’s 1,000 yards away. So, the higher the FOV, the better, right? Technically. But high-FOV models tend to be more expensive.
If you’re tracking a fast-moving game, you may need a solid FOV. If not, you don’t need to worry about it too much.
Binoculars come with two main focus types: individual eyepiece focus (IF) or center-focus (CF). Individual focus binoculars are great for medium and long distances. The more you decrease the distance, the better off you are with a center-focus model.
If you plan on tracking game beyond 30-40 yards, you’re looking for IF binoculars – they may not need any focusing whatsoever. IF binoculars don’t have any external parts and are easy to waterproof, which adds points to the durability column.
CF binoculars work better at 30 yards and closer. At distances under 30-40 yards, IF models start getting a bit slow.
Eye relief is measured in millimeters and indicates the distance at which you can hold the binoculars away from your eyes and still see the whole image. This is particularly important for people who wear eyeglasses or sunglasses during their hunting sessions.
To be safe, get a pair with eye relief of somewhere around 14mm-15mm. Always keep in mind that the lack of eye relief reduces the field of view.
addition to those with more reasonable magnification.
You really don’t need to go above 10x with regular hunting binoculars. That’s the ideal number.
Which are Better 10x50 Binoculars vs. 10x42 Binoculars?
Sometimes, 50mm lenses can bring too much information to the table, cluttering your view. They also offer more brightness, which isn’t ideal for all conditions. However, the moment there is less light flooding the area, the 50mm lenses start to shine.
Overall, getting a 10x50 set is preferable to a 10x42 model, mainly because they truly work wonders in dimmer or overcast conditions. However, bear in mind that binoculars with 50mm lenses are somewhat more expensive than the 42mm.
What Power Binoculars for Elk Hunting?
Trying to find something inside a forest can be very difficult, even with your bare eyes. Imagine using a pair of binoculars when trying to spot an elk that perfectly blends with the wood surroundings. There is a type of binoculars that can work to your advantage here.
For elk and other larger forest game, you’re looking for a lower magnification power and a bigger FOV, to assist with spotting. Even a magnification as low as 6x can work in these conditions. A magnification of 8x is pretty much ideal here, though. The Nikon Prostaff 7S 8x30 from the above list works particularly well in forests and offers a wide field of view.
How to Clean Binoculars?
All binoculars from our above list are fog- and water-resistant, thanks to nitrogen purging and tight rubber O-rings. So, you can expect the inside of the binoculars to remain clean altogether. However, maintenance is still required.
For starters, you can expect a lot of dirt on the lenses – you’ll be using the binoculars outdoors, in various weather conditions, while hunting game. So, to get things started, brush/blow away all the loose dirt. Use compressed air or a soft brush for this.
Then, you’re going to need to get an isopropyl alcohol-based cleaning solution. Don’t spray the binoculars themselves. Instead, spray the isopropyl solution onto a microfiber cloth. Then, gently clean the binocular lenses.
The rest of the binoculars is easily cleaned, either with an isopropyl solution or another stain/dirt remover. Gently work the entire model with a microfiber cloth. It’s really as simple as that.
We hope that we’ve helped you find the perfect pair of hunting binoculars. If not, we at least hope that our buyer’s guide will help you trek through the world of binoculars and assist you in making the right choice.
And now, the editor’s choice award for the best hunting binoculars. Although all mentioned models are great in their own respect, the Vortex Viper HD 10x42 truly takes the prize.
In addition to the HD (high-density) glass, lower-dispersion lenses, light weight, and compactness, you also get a VIP warranty that comes with every pair of Vortex binoculars. That is a fantastic feature.