The 14 Best Binoculars for Safari & Travel Reviewed 2019 + Detailed Buyer’s Guide

The 14 Best Binoculars for Safari & Travel Reviewed 2019 + Detailed Buyer’s Guide
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One of the greatest experiences you can have in the great outdoors is spotting wildlife.

Especially if it’s something particularly exotic.

As long as it doesn’t get too close if it’s dangerous.

With that in mind, it’s essential that you pack a pair of good quality binoculars for observing such beautiful (and not so beautiful) creatures when you’re in the wilderness.

So, to help you choose, I’ve narrowed down a selection of the best binoculars for safari and travel on the market.

A detailed buyer’s guide and FAQ will follow.

Just don’t leave home without them.

TOP 14 Best Binoculars for Safari and Travel 2019

Bushnell Falcon Wide Angle Binocular

Review: First up we have these Bushnell Falcon wide angle binoculars at the super budget-friendly end of the scale.

They’re also extremely popular too, which might have something to do with the price point, but they nonetheless do very, very well in reviews.

They offer an exit pupil of five millimeters and a nine-millimeter eye relief.

Made from a tough and durable rubberized, abrasion-resistant finish, the binoculars weigh 27 ounces, and are versatile enough for a number of activities including bird watching, sports, hunting and of course – safari.

Pros

  • Outstanding price. They’re giving these away.
  • Popular model with excellent reviews.
  • Simple, no-nonsense design.

Cons

  • Images not as sharp as high-end binoculars.
  • No fog proofing to speak of.

Takeaway

Ideal for buying in bulk for students or kids, these binoculars’ major plus point is their price.

Great for entry-level enthusiasts or anyone on a budget, they’ll get the job done. Just don’t expect Swarovski clarity.

Celestron Outland X Binocular

Review: Based out of California and bringing you all things optic, Celestron offer mid-range and budget binoculars that are still top quality.

This is a great price for a 10×42 pair, with multi-coated lenses, water, and fog proofing, a durable and protective rubber covering and twist-up eye-cups for quick adjustment.

The binoculars boast Bak4 prisms, and they’re available in a variety of sizes and magnifications so you can choose the right specifications for you.

A tough carrying case is included, as well as a neck strap and lens cloth. Eye relief is a decent 14 millimeters for eyeglass wearers.

Pros

  • Great price for what you get.
  • Highly versatile.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • Not tripod compatible – although other models in this series are.

Takeaway

Another ideal option if you want quality performance without breaking the bank.

The choice of magnifications and lens sizes is excellent, but the 10×42 are just really good binoculars for safari.

Bushnell H2O Waterproof Roof Prism Binocular

Review: A significant improvement on their entry-level pair, these Bushnell waterproof and fog-proof binoculars step it up when it comes to building quality and performance.

They’re built to last, with excellent non-slip rubber armor and a soft texture feel that absorbs shock and provides an extra firm grip so they’re unlikely to ever slip out of your hands.

It offers 17 millimeters of eye relief, Bak4 prisms and multi-coated lenses offering clear, crisp vision with added light penetration.

There’s a large, centered focus knob for easy adjustments, and they come with a carrying case with belt loop for ease of transportation.

Pros

  • 100% waterproof.
  • Top-quality grip and feel.
  • Highly durable.

Cons

  • Not as bright as higher-end products.

Takeaway

A tough and durable binocular with excellent grip, they’re ideal for putting them through their paces in the great outdoors.

They might struggle in low light, however.

Nikon 8252 Aculon A211 Zoom Binocular

Review: Camera and lens market leaders Nikon also turn their hands to producing some excellent quality binoculars – and why not?

They certainly know a thing or two about optics.

The Aculon offers a lot considering its price point, designed to be as light as possible with practical ergonomics.

There’s a real bonus here of a fingertip control zoom, allowing you to jump from 10x magnification up to 22x if the situation requires.

It has turn and slide eyecups for comfortable viewing even if you’re using them for extended periods, while the chassis is built with tough and durable materials to keep those multi-coated lenses protected no matter the conditions.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use zoom function.
  • Name to trust.
  • Excellent price for a zoom Nikon.

Cons

  • Stability/clarity issues at higher magnification.

Takeaway

Well known for their quality cameras, Nikon produce some outstanding binocular products, too. This is a great price for versatile tech from a household name.

Check out some of their other products (along with many more reputable brands) on a separate article I wrote on the best binoculars for hiking. Especially if you’re looking for more lightweight optics.

Leupold BX-1 McKenzie Binocular

Review: If you have any knowledge of hunting (or the military for that matter) you would be well aware of Leupold.

They manufacture some of the best precision scopes in the world, so naturally, they’re going to be pretty decent at binoculars, too.

This roof prism model is 100% water, fog and shockproof, ensuring you have a tough and durable set of field glasses that will take whatever you throw at it.

The fully multi-coated lens system ensures maximum brightness for clarity, contrast, and color fidelity, while it features a smooth focus for easy adjustments.

Comfortable, twist-up eyecups and generous eye relief ensure extended use is as pleasurable as possible.

Pros

  • Premium make and manufacture.
  • Smart, easy-to-use design.
  • Special tech for extra viewing time during twilight.
  • Choice of magnification available.

Cons

  • Lens caps could be a snugger fit.

Takeaway

Top-drawer optics from a company that know what they’re talking about.

Tough, durable, rugged and beautifully designed, for the price they could well be the best compact binoculars for travel out there.

Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism Binocular

Review: The Vortex Diamondback is an extremely popular binocular that is packed with excellent features that you would get on higher-end models.

They’re known for their impressive optical quality and durability, versatile enough for a variety of outdoor activities, and could well be the best lightweight binoculars for travel at this price point.

Multi-position eyecups twist up for adjustable eye relief, while a right eye diopter accommodates for focal differences between your peepers.

It offers a secure, rubberized grip with enhanced waterproof and fog-proof performance in extreme weather conditions.

Dielectric, fully multi-coated lenses transmit more light and clearer, brighter images with an excellent field of view in this class.

Pros

  • Quality build through and through.
  • Excellent price for what you get.
  • Large choice of magnification in the range.
  • Name to trust.

Cons

  • Fiddly tripod adapter.

Takeaway

A great all-rounder, Vortex have produced a really well designed product here that will be suitable for just about any situation.

Nikon 7577 Monarch 5 Binocular

Review: Another Nikon entry with their Monarch 5 model which consistently gets quality reviews and regularly turns up on such lists.

It’s easy to see why, as they’re fitted with Nikon’s premium ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) glass for a sharper, clearer and more brilliant field of view.

They’re lighter than previous versions, making them an ideal glass for travel, and it’s equipped with user-friendly features such as turn-and-slide rubber eyecups, a smooth central focus knob and flip down lens caps.

The lenses are fully multicoated, offering excellent light transmittance across the entire spectrum.

Tough, durable, built to last and made to withstand the elements, the Monarch 5 is quite possibly the best binoculars for travel around.

Pros

  • Quality name and manufacture.
  • Premium materials.
  • Stylish and practical design.
  • Easy to use.

Cons

  • Some reported issues with the lens caps.

Takeaway

Yet again Nikon bring an outstanding quality product to the table that is really hard to beat considering the premium materials and price ratio.

Minox BV Compact Roof Prism Binocular

Review: The German camera company Minox is known for its quality across the board when it comes to their range of scopes, cameras, binoculars and other optical devices and technology.

This model is made from a lightweight polycarbonate construction, with a nitrogen-filled housing for non-fogging clarity. It features twisting eyecups for comfort and eyeglass wearers, as well as a right eye diopter to adjust for the difference between the eyes.

It’s waterproof even if submerged to 16 feet – which means it’ll more than handle a rainstorm when you’re hunting game.

The binoculars boast Minox’s M-Lens coatings for ultra-bright image transfer and color rendition, while the exit pupil of 5.5 millimeters and 18.8 twilight number ensure they are among the brightest of mid-sized binoculars in low-light situations.

Pros

  • Excellent weatherproofing.
  • Low light capabilities.
  • Tough and durable.
  • Reputable name.

Cons

  • Let me know if you find any.

Takeaway

German lens technology once again wins the day with this outstanding pair of field glasses from Minox.

The superb weatherproofing is a real plus point here.

Steiner 210 Military-Marine Tactical Binocular

Review: Another German optics company utilizing the “vorsprung durch technik,” Steiner make high-end outdoor sports gear heavily leaning towards binoculars and rifle scopes.

This military-style 10×50 magnification model is built like a tank, with a super durable rubberized armor that can stand 11 G’s of impact. The large depth of field is ideal for spotting game or just looking at the nice animals on your safari.

It’s ideal for both open terrain and hilly country, making it a real winner on those vast African plains. They perform exceptionally well in low light conditions, too, while the 17-millimeter eye relief is ideal for anyone who wears specs.

Pros

  • Extremely hard wearing, tough and durable.
  • Military-grade and use developed for civilians.
  • Excellent depth of field.

Cons

  • Not the most attractive bins out there.
  • Might be a little on the large side for travel.

Takeaway

More German technology raising the bar with binocular optics, Steiner is one of the best in the business and it shows here.

Not the best small binoculars for travel, but they more than make up for that with their durability and performance.

Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binocular

Review: Offering 10×50 magnification encased within a durable chassis with rubberized grip and perfectly placed thumb indents, the Vortex Viper is an excellent safari option.

A high-density optical system delivers exceptional resolution and edge to edge clarity across the lens, so you don’t have to suffer the dreaded chromatic aberration.

A locking, right-eye diopter helps to focus both eye barrels, while the smooth, center focus wheel provides excellent control and quick sharp views.

Twist-up eyecups rest comfortably against the face and provide customized eye-relief – especially ideal if you’re wearing eyeglasses.

Argon purging and o-ring seals provide a lifetime of waterproof and fog-proof performance.

Ultra-hard, scratch-resistant armortek protects the exterior lenses from scratches, oil, and dirt. It’s basically as tough as an old nail.

Pros

  • Top-quality make and manufacture.
  • Durable.
  • Very comfortable to use.
  • High-performance optics.
  • Chest harness included.

Cons

  • Could be better in low light conditions.

Takeaway

As far as mid-range binos go, you could do a lot worse than the Vortex Viper.

Plenty of features and practical design ensure there’s a lot to like here for wildlife enthusiasts everywhere.

Steiner Optics HX Series Binocular

Review: Steiner are at it again with these water and shockproof binoculars that offer HD optics for an unparalleled visual experience.

The central focusing wheel allows you to pull a fast close focus in moments for excellent precision from up close to infinity.

The chassis seals 14-psi pressurized dry nitrogen inside the optic for fog proof clarity in any conditions – from arctic cold to desert heat, so wherever you’re stalking beasts you’ll have the optic quality to do so without fogging up.

They also boast a wider field of view, so you can spot your quarry in double quick time and hone in.

The ergonomic eyecups are comfortable and protect your eyes against peripheral light and drafts, while the non-slip grip isn’t tacky or spongy as other bins can be.

Pros

  • Excellent weatherproofing.
  • Durable and rugged.
  • Easy-to-use fast focus.

Cons

  • Eyecups not suitable for eyeglass wearers.

Takeaway

Although clearly marketed at hunters (who don’t wear spectacles) these Steiner binoculars are just as at home when you’re admiring the animals and not shooting them.

Top-quality performance no matter the conditions.

Canon L IS WP Image Stabilized Binocular

Review: A constant complaint and issue with binoculars is that – unless you have a tripod – higher magnification is always going to produce a lot of shake.

The electronic image stabilizing binoculars are built to counteract that, significantly improving the stability of your target and your whole viewing experience.

Canon, of course, make outstanding cameras, and now they make an outstanding binocular.

Waterproof and fog proof, they offer ultra-low dispersion with lead-free glass, multi-coated lenses, and boast a wide field of view so you can take in as much of the surrounding environment as possible when you’re tracking the beasts.

They might be pricey, but you’ll certainly notice the difference when focused in tight at some distance.

Pros

  • Electronic image stabilization.
  • Quality company.
  • Built to last.
  • Super sharp images.

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • Requires batteries.

Takeaway

As we move into the high-end bins, these Canon image stabilizers wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond film. If you love your gadgets, these could be for you.

Probably not the best compact binoculars for safari, though.

Zeiss Conquest HD Binocular

Review: Our third and final German optics company today is Zeiss, who actually date back to 1846. They’ve had plenty of time to get their products right, and so you will usually find them at the high-end of the spectrum when it comes to binoculars and other optics.

This conquest model is no exception, a beautifully designed and built product that has Lotutec water-shedding outer coatings for all-weather use (water just rolls off the lenses), nitrogen filled for fog proofing, and it can function in a huge range of temperatures.

The HD lenses are an outstanding quality that offer unrivalled color and vibrancy in the image for this class. They also offer excellent low light capabilities for those twilight safari adventures.

Pros

  • World class make and manufacture.
  • Premium materials.
  • Ability to work in any weather conditions.
  • Comfortable, ergonomic design.
  • Choice of magnifications.

Cons

  • High price point.

Takeaway

There aren’t many field glasses out there that could come close to bettering a product from Zeiss.

You’re going to pay through the nose for it though – but for real wildlife enthusiasts, this is a lifetime investment for the quality.

Swarovski EL Binocular

Review: Just when you thought it might not get any more expensive – Swarovski will always enter the fray.

Regarded as the finest makers of optics in the world, they really are at the high-end of binocular technology thanks to their premium quality and precision craftsmanship.

With an ergonomic design that is as smart as it is practical, an excellent 20 millimeters of eye relief, totally waterproof and fog proof, and multi-coated lenses, this Swarovski binocular shares a lot in common with cheaper models in the review.

But it’s what’s inside the chassis here that sets it apart, and you don’t get much better than the internal optics here for unrivaled clarity and color.

The price will make your eyes water so much you might not be able to look through them.

Pros

  • Unmatched optic quality.
  • Beautifully designed.
  • Excellent ergonomics.

Cons

  • Outlandishly expensive.

Takeaway

The best travel binoculars of 2019? Quite possibly. If you’re happy to part with a silly amount of money to get them though.

Swarovski are market leaders when it comes to binocular optics – so this would be a serious investment for the future and should last a lifetime.

How to Choose the Best Binoculars for Safari and Travel?

You might have noticed there’s a lot of jargon that comes with binocular speak, so I aim to shed a little light on everything in my buyer’s guide below.

It’ll be particularly handy if you thought that choosing a pair of binoculars was as simple as picking the one that brings stuff the closest.

This is what to look for. A detailed FAQ will follow.

two giraffe standing on hill in safari

Magnification

Arguably the most important aspect of choosing the best binoculars for safari and travel is the magnification.

This is where those little numbers come in – the first of which represents the magnification.

The higher that number, the closer your target will appear to you.

8x will be eight times closer, 10x will be ten times closer – and so on.

What you have to remember, is that closer magnification isn’t always a good thing. You can lose having a wide field of vision – which isn’t ideal if you’re scanning the landscape to locate whatever you happen to be looking for.

The closer you zoom in, the more likely you are to increase shake – thus having an image which is blurry and unsteady. (Unless of course, you’re using image stabilizing binoculars.)

For safari, I would recommend around 10x magnification – but it really is up to you.

For more on this subject, take a look at the informative video below.

Aperture

The larger number following the magnification represents the aperture or the lens size.

It’s relatively simple to figure this one out – the larger the lens, the more light it’s going to let in.

However, the trade-off is obviously the size of the binoculars. A binoculars size has nothing to do with how powerful its magnification is, but everything to do with the size of the aperture.

With travel binoculars, you want something compact and portable that’s easy to transport and isn’t going to weigh you down.

However, for many safaris, you might also be viewing animals in low light conditions – so you most certainly want a happy medium here.

Therefore, I would recommend anything between a 32-millimeter to a 50-millimeter lens size.

Consider how you’re transporting your binoculars – most safaris will be in vehicles, so you can probably pack something larger for maximum light capabilities.

If you’re on foot anywhere, hiking in the trails back home, for example, opt for something a little smaller.

Thankfully, most of the binos I included in this review have a choice of sizes to make things really easy.

three man with binoculars

Weatherproofing

Any decent pair of binoculars worth their salt should have – at the very least – some passable weatherproofing.

Fog and water are the two most common elements that can potentially ruin your viewing experience.

Look for binoculars that are splash proof as a minimum – but you can get some pairs that can be submerged to 16 feet and still function perfectly.

Again, consider when and where you’re going to be using them.

Also, keep a sharp eye out for those bins that are fog-resistant. The best of these are usually filled with nitrogen gas to prevent fogging up in any conditions.

And if you’re going to be really putting them through their paces (or you’re just very clumsy) it might be a good idea to make sure they’re shockproof, too.

sunrise in Serengeti

Prisms

Explaining the intricacies of binocular prisms would take a long and detailed science lesson, so I’m just going to point you in the direction of the rather splendid video below that takes you through it far better than I ever could.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is a number that represents the distance your eyes will be from the eyepiece of the binoculars.

This is so you get a clearer field of view while simultaneously combating eye strain.

And if you’re a wearer of eyeglasses, you’re going to need to look for a pair of binoculars with a larger eye relief so you can see without any issues.

Again, refer to the video below which explains it in more detail.

Lens Coating

Lens coating is all about reducing flare and reflection on the lenses.

If you just had bare glass, totally untreated, you would barely see a thing because of the reflection of light through the lenses.

Lens coatings come in at various levels – and the more a lens is coated, the more expensive it’s going to be.

Quality lens coatings will also offer you sharper images, excellent clarity, and vibrant colors.

They’ll also last much longer if they’ve been well treated.

It’s just up to you how much you value that and how much you want to spend.

Cost

Which brings us nicely onto the price points.

As you can see the cost of binoculars varies enormously. In writing this review, I saw some models that were going for under $10.

You don’t necessarily need to pay a king’s ransom to pick up a decent pair that will get the job done – especially as most people only manage one or possibly two safaris in their lifetime.

But you really do get what you pay for here, and it’s well worth investing if you’re going to get a lot of use out of them.

Most binoculars function in exactly the same way, a budget 10×50 pair will still offer you the same aperture size and magnification as a $2000 model.

But it’s the inner workings and the quality of the prisms and lenses that make the difference here. And what a difference they make to the clarity, sharpness, field of vision and color vibrancy.

Bottom line – how much can you afford and how often are you going to use them?

Figure those two questions out and it will stand you in good stead for choosing the right pair.

female tourist looking through binoculars on African safari

FAQ

What’s the Best Binocular Brand?

This is almost impossible to answer as everyone will have their own personal preferences.

To be perfectly honest, they’re all six of one and half a dozen of the other – but that only really relates to the high-end brands.

Obviously, the more budget-friendly manufacturers can’t really compete with the quality of the likes of Nikon, Zeiss, Steiner, and Swarovski (to name just a few).

Go with your gut – and your budget.

Do I Need Binoculars on Safari? Don’t the Animals Just Come Up to the Car?

This is a common misconception. You might have visited a free-roaming zoo where the animals do approach your vehicle and get up close, but that’s because they’ve been more or less domesticated.

In the wild, many creatures will keep their distance, and if you spot a pride of lions far away, you’re going to want to see them up close.

Binoculars are an essential piece of kit if you’re going on safari – you simply won’t have the same experience without them.

What’s the Best Size of Binoculars for a Safari?

As mentioned above, I would lean towards a nice balance of low light capabilities and weight.

Remember, a safari will often leave early in the morning at dawn, or late into the twilight. It can often be too hot otherwise. As such, low light is going to be unavoidable.

I think the aperture should be anywhere between 32-50 millimeters.

For magnification, choose either an 8x or 10x. Any more than that and you’re going to introduce a lot of shake – which isn’t good unless you have a tripod or image stabilizer.

What Else Should I Bring with Me on Safari?

Several articles could (and have) been written about such a subject, but I would like to refer you to the excellent video below by a safari specialist for what you need to pack.

However, I will say that possibly the best item (apart from binoculars) that you should invest in is a really good quality pair of summer hiking boots. So, follow that link to find the best friend for your feet.

Summary

Hopefully, my review of the best binoculars for safari has made things a little clearer and pulled everything sharply into focus.

For somewhere to enjoy using your new toy, why not have a look at these best places to travel alone? And don’t forget to download my eBook on solo travel safety so you can really enjoy your experience by yourself.

Happy binocular-ing everyone!

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