3 Trail-Tested Binoculars for Hikers

Bring the world into focus with these backcountry-ready optics.

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A good set of binoculars is the perfect item to have in your pack when out on the trail. They can help you scout out trail conditions ahead, give you an up-close view of the wildlife and wilderness surrounding you, and pull the cosmos closer at night. Buying binoculars can be perplexing, so to help make things easier, we suggest focusing on getting a set of optics that have at least an 8X magnification—that will bring something 400 yards away to 50 yards. For an objective lens, shoot for at least 40mm—the larger the lens the wider your field of vision and the brighter an object will be. Besides that, you want something that is durable, weather proof, and has a lens coating to protect them from accidental scrapes. Here are three reasonably-priced sets that we love.

Nikon Aculon A211 10 X 50 

Nikon Aculon

These binoculars from Nikon (they don’t just make cameras), are the perfect item for someone looking for high performance optics, but not an accompanying high price tag. Encased in a shock-resistant rubber body with a multilayered coating on the lenses, they can take a beating in your bag but perform beautifully when needed. Their 50mm lens items are bright and clear when you zoom in with the easy to use finger-tip zoom control. They come with a tripod adaptor for more sedate purists, who enjoy activities like star gazing and bird watching. A bit larger, they are not the best for small day packs. Buy the Nikon Aculon now for $98.56

Bushnell Engage DX 10 X 42

Bushnell Engage

From one of the industry leaders, Bushnell, these compact binoculars are a dream on the trail. They come with both a soft-shell case and protective bag so you can choose how you want to pack them along. With a sub-frame composed of magnesium wrapped in a rubberized coating they are a lightweight 23.5oz and felt great in our testers’ hands. They have a locking diopter that allows you to set them up to your vision needs and a simple to use zoom control. The extra-low dispersion lens glass is coated for protection and offers crisp and clear images. Best of all they come with a 20-year warranty so they could be the last pair you will ever need. Buy the Bushnell Engage binoculars now for $157.48.

Celestron Nature DX ED 8 X 42


The Nature DX series from Celestron packs a lot of bang for the buck, delivering higher end features, which new-to-intermediate users would appreciate. Made with a sealed housing, they are fully waterproof and also have anti-fog features that mean no misty views on cold mornings. The extra-low dispersion (hence the ED in the title) lenses provide images that are crystal clear while delivering bright light to highlight whatever you are looking at. Another nice feature is the high level of eye relief you get when you bring them up to look, in other words you can easily use them with glasses or sunglasses. Lastly, the body is wrapped in dark green armor…easy to hold and will help withstand potential damage. Buy the Celestron Nature binocular now for $151.

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