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Recommendation for the best binoculars for hiking

Hi,

I am looking to purchase a pair of binoculars for my brother and am deciding on a pair. I do not know whether to do 8x zoom or 10x zoom. He likes to hike and I thought it would be a cool gift to get him so he can take it on his hikes. Thank you.

-Paul

6 Replies

Hi @paulhenry3443 , thank you for reaching out! Binoculars sound like a great gift for your brother. Since the primary use of the binoculars will be for hiking, weight should be a key consideration. You could easily go with either 8x or 10x magnification but if you're having trouble choosing between the two, I'd go with the lighter pair. Also, if he does any birding, an 8x magnification will have a wider field of view. 

Thanks again for reaching out! 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@paulhenry3443 What a cool gift idea!

@REI-MichelleW  got you started with some good info! I'll dive in a little deeper with my answer.

Generally, people tend to want more zoom in the binoculars to allow them to capture more detail at a greater distance. The key to capturing that detail in a pair of binoculars is not only the magnification of the zoom, but the width of the objective lens (the furthest one from your eye). This is why most binoculars have two numbers listed, i.e. 8X42 or 10x25, for example. The first number is the zoom and the second number is the width of the objective lens. A wider objective lens means a larger field of view, which allows more light to get through to your eye, creating more stability (less shake) when looking through the binoculars. You can find a lot of helpful information in this Expert Advice article on How to Choose Binoculars if you'd like to check it out.

The trick with taking binoculars hiking is determining what fits your needs the best while still being small enough to be easily packed. If you are purchasing the binoculars for general use (not specifically for birding, as an example) while hiking an 8x zoom should meet your brother's needs. Personally, I find that my pair of 8x25 compact binoculars works great for hiking and is small enough to always find a place in my pack.

Hope this helps, thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@paulhenry3443 - My experience with birdwatching has taught me that holding 10x binos steady on  a windy day can be difficult when looking at birds.  I would suggest the 8x.  I think 8x42 offer the best in terms of looking for birds.  The rule of thumb is to spend as much as you have in your budget. A lot of the more expensive binos help you see in low light (dawn or dusk).  One factor is the "eye relief", if your brother wears glasses you will want a longer eye relief so he can use them with his glasses on.    Another factor is the "close focus", how close can you get to the object you are look at.  A shorter close focus is helpful when looking at butterflies, bees, and invertebrates.  I hope this helps. 

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I suggest these..

https://www.rei.com/product/744595/nikon-trailblazer-atb-waterproof-8-x-25-binoculars

The Trailblazers are compact light and waterproof and fairly inexpensive for quality optics.  Ideal for throwing in a backpack and always having along.

10X's are hard to use without a tripod and have a smaller field of view making it harder to find the thing you want to see.  Zoom just adds weight and is generally a gimmick in binoculars.

I have been a bird watcher since the late 1980s and always carry some version of optics with me. I have had three pairs of binoculars and four monoculars. I currently own one pair of binoculars and two monoculars.

My monoculars are 8x25, and my binoculars are 10x42. I use the 10 power primarily for distance bird watching, for example along the coast. Any magnification greater than seven can make it difficult to find birds in foliage. Eight is somewhat of a compromise.

I also carry my monocular for scouting cross country and climbing routes. I have not found it necessary to have a 10 power for this. It's completely unnecessary to have a zoom on a pair of binoculars - it makes them heavier and less effective.

The reason I carry a monocular hiking is that it weighs less than half of a pair of compact binoculars. The reason I have two is that whichever monocular you carry with you hiking is going to get salted up. The other one I keep in my truck very handy. It will become my primary hiking one once the hiking one gets salted up.

If you choose to get monoculars for a hiker, I would recommend 8x35 or 8x25. 7x is also a good option, particularly for a birdwatcher.

Choose a somewhat reputable brand instead of paying extra for a zoom that is unnecessary. This is a great gift idea for a lot of hikers, so you're on target. 

I purchased a pair of Diamondback 8x42 to use when hiking. They may not be the lightest weight around but they are waterproof and backed by a 100% guarantee replacement from any damage for any reason. I let my 8yr old grandchild use them😁

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