Are you going on a gorilla trek or safari in Uganda? In this post, you'll learn all about choosing the best binoculars for a safari (including 10 factors that you need to know) in our detailed buyer's guide. We also include our picks for the best binoculars for the money. These are sorted by best value, premium, and for kids.
Need a camera? Check out our other guide: How to Choose the Best Camera for Safari
Best Binoculars for the Money: Buyers Guide for Safaris and Treks
When going on a safari, few things are as important as binoculars. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know what is best for safaris unless you have been on a safari before. Even if you are an animal or bird watching pro, it can be difficult to know what will perform best in safari conditions.
This post will help you choose the best binoculars, whether you are heading out on a gorilla trek or a more traditional African safari (searching for sitatunga, golden monkeys, white rhinos or other animals).
In this post, you'll learn how to choose the best binoculars for the money. Additionally, the included buyers guide will tell you all you need to know about how to pick a good pair.
There are three mains sections to this guide:
- Top Picks (3) (jump to section)
- Buyers Guide: Best Binoculars for Safari (jump to section)
- Best Safari Binoculars for the Money (jump to section)
Going birding in Uganda? Check out our guide to the birds of Uganda (including the top birding sites).
I should mention, this is a pretty big guide. If you're just looking to buy the best pair of binoculars, I've put together this quick guide. Here are our top picks for the best value, premium and kids binoculars for the money:
Our Top Pick: Best Value Overall
These are great for safaris, gorilla trekking, and birding. They have 16mm eye relief (more on this in the Buyers Guide below). The housing is covered in non-slip rubber armor.
See more below. These are #6 on our list.
Our Top Pick: Best Premium Binoculars
Includes features usually founds in much more expensive models, including: waterproof/fog-proof, and nitrogen gas purged (prevents fogging and dust from entering binoculars). Housing is a magnesium alloy. Magnification is roof prism with phase correction.
See more below. These are #1 on our list.
Our Top Picks: Best Binoculars for Kids
This basic pair of binoculars comes with some super useful features. These include low light night vision, non-slip rubber armor, shock and waterproof.
See more below. These are #3 on our list.
What else should you bring? Don't forget anything with our Complete African Safari Packing List
Buyer’s Guide: Best Binoculars for Safari
You may be wondering whether or not you need binoculars on a safari. Isn’t the point of a safari to get close to the animals? Will binoculars be necessary? The answer is a resounding YES!
While it is true that the ultimate goal of a safari is to bring you close enough to see animals in their natural habitat, it doesn’t always go so smoothly. These are not zoo animals, and sometimes guides can only get so close. If you want to see the majority of the animals up close and personal, you must have a good pair of binoculars.
What about sharing? Some outfitters bring a pair or two to pass around. However, sharing is not recommended, because when an animal is in sight, everyone will want to see it at the same time!
Sometimes the best views are only around for a few moments. In addition, many tourist traps and even guides will sell inexpensive binoculars. Unfortunately, it usually isn’t just the price that is cheap.
On the other side of the coin, you won’t need an ultra expensive pair unless you plan on becoming a birdwatcher. The best bet is to purchase a quality pair of binoculars – usually somewhere in the middle price range.
So, how do you know what constitutes good binoculars? The following are some factors to take into account.
More reading: Travelers Guide to the Best Anti-theft Gear
Safari Binoculars Buyers Guide: 10 Factors
Here are the factors to consider when choosing a pair of binoculars for your upcoming safari.
In general, high magnification is nice to have. However, on a safari with no tripod, it greatly increases the chance that the view will be unstable. It is difficult to handhold high-powered binoculars still. Furthermore, this also means your field of view will be more narrow. Depending on your preference, you may need to balance the two.
Magnification of 8x or 10x is ideal, but anything below 8x or greater than 10x is not recommended. For nighttime viewing, prioritize moderate magnification with larger objective lenses.
Unfortunately, some inexpensive binoculars create images that become dark, blurry or even distorted at the highest magnification. That’s why you can’t judge binoculars on price alone. The best binoculars are rarely the cheapest.
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2. Field of View
The field of view (FOV) is how wide of an image you can see through the binoculars. That means the greater the width of the lenses, the greater the field of view.
On a safari, a wider FOV will allow you to see more without moving the binoculars and readjusting. Typically, the field of view is expressed in degrees or a certain number of feet per yards. A good FOV to aim for is 315 feet at 1,000 yards.
When given the choice between two different brands or models, always choose the one with a greater field of view. Why? The landscape has bushes, trees, and undergrowth to hide the animals you want to see. Sometimes, finding a cheetah can be like finding Waldo. The more you can see at once, the easier it is to spot movement.
3. Objective Lens Size
Full-sized binoculars feature an objective lens size of 42mm or larger. These will produce the highest quality images. However, they are often large and heavy. If you are on a walking safari, this option is not for everyone.
Instead, compact binoculars might just be the best binoculars for the money on a walking tour. These typically have lenses between 21mm and 28mm. Mid-sized binoculars have objective lenses between 32mm and 36mm. The numbers may vary a couple mm, but overall these are spot on.
4. Exit Pupil Size
Many times, animals on a safari are most active at dusk and dawn. So, chances are high you will find yourself using your binoculars in lower light.
If this is the case, choose a product with a large outer diameter and exit pupil size. These features allow your binoculars to collect more light. The exit pupil itself is the size of the image you will see through your lenses.
What is Exit Pupil Size? This is the lens size divided by magnification, and the size you want depends on your pupil and time of day. A good exit pupil size for most users is 5.25mm or greater.
However, keep in mind daylight pupil sizes are 2mm or 3mm. At night, they can get as large as 7mm.
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5. Prisms and Coatings
When choosing the best binoculars for the money, pick the best quality prisms and optical coatings for lower light reflection. This allows for a better view of your once-in-a-lifetime trip. The surfaces should be fully multi-coated, and a reliable prism is BAK-4.
- Roof-prism models, which have straight barrels, are slightly more expensive and produce somewhat dimmer views.
- Porro-prism models feature zigzag prisms that create brighter pictures with a heavier feel.
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6. Overall Weight
The lighter and smaller the binoculars, the more comfortable they will be to carry around the whole day. They are also easier to hold, and better for scenes that require a quick look. Not only that, but some safaris have weight limits to take into consideration.
However, weight must be balanced with lens size and magnification. Therefore, we recommend a nice middle size of 8×32, 8×42, or 10×42. These options are a good compromise for most safari-goers and stay under 2 pounds.
7. Ease of Handling
Whether it is your 1st or 500th time with binoculars, they can be awkward to handle. Add in safari conditions, and your binoculars need to be easy to use.
However, the smallest isn’t the best, because their size typically comes from compromises you won’t like. Many of the tiniest, most comfortable to hold binoculars don’t have enough magnification.
On the other hand, many of the most awkward binoculars are the best.
Many safari vehicles have an open-top, and some treks are straight through the jungle – so there’s a good chance you will experience some weather. This could be anything from humidity to rain or to dust.
Waterproofing will protect your binoculars from dust and other debris. On a walking safari, you will definitely be out in the open. You may even cross a river! In all of these situations, waterproof binoculars will come in handy.
Since many safari tours are in a Jeep or similar vehicle, you and your binoculars should be prepared! When riding the rough roads or tundra, you will be bouncing around. This means your gear will be taking the hits as well. In fact, they may even get dropped.
Choosing a product that includes shockproofing will increase the chances your new binoculars make it out alive. However, shockproof usually means bulkier so they are harder to hold. This feature can even make them large and uncomfortable. So, if you think this option is right for you, choose wisely!
10. Long Eye Relief
This means you can still see when you hold the binoculars further away from your eyes.
If you plan on wearing glasses or sunglasses, look for a product with this feature. Although it may add on extra expense, it will be worth it in the blazing safari sun.
Besides, sometimes holding these products on your face the whole time is annoying. It can also be painful since safaris are known for their bumpy ride. We recommend an eye relief of 18 or higher.
We recommend picking up a travel insurance policy before traveling to Africa. It can cover surprise visits to a medical clinic and protect your belongings should they get lost or damaged.
The 10 Best Binoculars for the Money
1. Eyeskey HD Waterproof Binoculars: 10×42
Not only will this produce a great image, but they will also be relatively good in low light circumstances. Binoculars that are 10×42 are easy to hold and aren’t too heavy and bulky. In fact, the Eyeskey weighs less than a pound!
In terms of the image quality, these HD Waterproof Binoculars really deliver. They are multi-coated with BAK-4 and have dielectric coatings. This type of coating is specially used to produce clear, vivid, accurate images by increasing the diffusion of light.
These binoculars are of the roof-prism model. However, the dielectric coating works to counter the lower light produced by straight prisms. And that’s not all. Eyeskey also included phase correctional coatings for greater contrast.
The binoculars themselves are housed in magnesium-aluminum alloy, making them lightweight and durable. Additionally, the focus wheel is smooth and can be adjusted with one hand. Furthermore, these Eyeskey’s are waterproof and fog proof. They use an o-ring seal to prevent moisture and dust from penetrating your view.
Includes a handy carrying case, neck strap, lens covers, eyepiece covers, and instruction manual.
2. Windsport HD Binoculars: 10×50
Remember, the larger the aperture the higher the image quality. The only downside of a larger lens is weight, and Holisouse takes care of that! The Windsport actually weighs less than 2 pounds, and the size is only 7 in x 7.2 in.
The prism type is the porro system, and it can be seen in the image quality. The optics themselves are BAK-4, and the lenses are coated with FMC blue films for a higher resolution picture. Additionally, the field of view is fantastic: 168ft per 1000yds! You will be able to enjoy more of the scenery with a clearer picture.
In terms of water and fog, the Windsport HD Binoculars will be safe! An o-ring serves to keep out debris, dust, dirt, and moisture. Furthermore, this product is coated with rubber to add a shockproof element. It also helps the user grip and prevents slip.
Also included are a carrying bag, hand strap, eye and lens covers, a cleaning cloth, and a packing case.
3. Occer Compact Binoculars: 12×25
As the name states, they are compact. These Occers weigh little more than half a pound and are 4 in x 4.5 in x 1.9 in.
For how small they are, these Occer binoculars are quite powerful. The magnification level is 12x, and the objective lens is 25mm. These two numbers combine to form a clear view. Speaking of view, these compact binoculars have a not-so-compact field of view: 273ft per 1,000yds.
In terms of image quality, these binoculars are amazing. They are coated with BAK-4 prisms, and the objective lenses use FMC broadband green film. The eyepieces use blue FMC broadband coating, and when combined with the green produce realistic colors. The eyepieces themselves are 15mm, to create a more vivid picture in all light. Even low light safari goers will benefit from these features.
For more comfort, the Occer features rubber eyepieces that move to fit even glasses wearers. This will also block any peripheral distractions so you can focus on the safari! Even better, these binoculars can be mastered with just one hand. This leaves you with a free hand in case you need a drink but can’t pull yourself away from the sights. It also makes your Occers even easier to carry.
These binoculars are made of ABS plastic to keep them ultralight, yet strong. Adding to the durability is the non-slip rubber armor. This makes your extra pair of eyes shockproof, secure to hold, and even water resistant!
Includes a carrying bag, skid-proof neck strap, and a cleaning cloth.
4. Livebetter Mini Binoculars (For Kids): 7-9×21
If you are looking for decent binoculars for the money for your kids, look no farther than Livebetter Mini Binoculars. On a safari, your kids may want to have a pair of their own. However, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on something they may not take very good care of, kids will be kids after all. Furthermore, these are the lightest, most compact binoculars on this list. The magnification is rated 7-9x and the objective lens is 21mm. The Livebetter Minis also offer a wide field of view at 131m/ 1000m. This gives whoever is using these binoculars the ability to enjoy a wide view at a long-range.
At .55 lbs and 4.33 in x 4.53 in x 1.38 in, even toddlers will be able to hold on tight! For an even better grip, this Livebetter product features non-slip, anti-skid technology.
For strength, this product was made from all metal, even though the rubber coating makes it feel more like high-grade leather. This rubber also acts as miniature shockproofing, and the binoculars themselves are fog-resistant and water-resistant.
In terms of viewing quality, the prism is high-definition BAK-4. This guarantees a bright and transparent picture. These binoculars also feature a multi-layer FMC broadband green film on the objective lens and a blue high-definition eyepiece. The result is a sharp image and less eye fatigue.
Includes a neck lanyard, carrying bag, cleaning cloth, instructions, color box, and a 1-year warranty.
5. G4Free Compact Binoculars: 12×25
Another great pair of binoculars for the money is the G4Free Compact Binoculars. These extended eyes have 12x magnification with a 25mm objective lens. Even though such a large magnification level is usually difficult to balance, the G4Free’s small size negates those effects.
In fact, this product only weighs in at .9 pounds with the following dimensions: 4.33in x 4.33 in x 1.97 in. These compact binoculars are about the same size as the other two smaller products on the list. However, the field of view is much further. The G4Free has a range of 273 feet per 1,000 yards.
If you are looking for low light compact binoculars, these may be what you are searching for. The glass lens features green film to help with dawn and dusk conditions.
Meanwhile, the objective lens is blue to create a realistic image. The G4Free features a BAK-4 prism to reflect all of the light possible back to your eyes. However, the exit pupil diameter is only 2.08mm.
Made of magnesium with hand figured polishing, these binoculars look and feel good in the hands. They are also easy to hold onto when the ride gets rough.
The G4Free Compact Binoculars are water-resistant to rain and droplets, but not fit for submerging in water. You can even maneuver this product with only one hand!
Also included is a carrying pouch, hand strap, and cleaning cloth.
6. Avantek Binoculars: 10×50
The magnification is at 10x, while the objective lens diameter is a whopping 50mm. This means brighter, clearer images. Technically, the bigger aperture puts the Avantek in the large binocular category. However, you wouldn’t know by the l.5 lb weight. Furthermore, the dimensions are only 7.09 in x 7.09 in x 2.36 in. This is hardly what would be considered too large for a safari.
The field of view on these Avantek binoculars is an impressive 367 feet per 1,000 yards. The fantastic imaging can be credited to the high-index BAK-4 prisms. All optics are fully multi-coated to deliver a sharp, crisp, clear viewing experience. For an even sharper picture, Avantek included FMC coating on the objective lens. The exit pupil is a decent 5mm.
The Avantek’s ergonomic design is easy on the hands, even throughout long days on the open top Jeep. This is due in part to the non-slip rubber grip. This shell not only provides a firm grip while on the grasslands, it also acts as a shock absorber.
For even more user comfort, these binoculars have a whole 16mm of eye relief. Even the adjustment ring is easy to use for all ages. It moves smoothly and doesn’t rough up the fingers. Finally, these binoculars are as anti-fog as they come.
Includes a carrying case, cleaning cloth, eyepiece caps, neck strap, and user manual.
7. Cosbity Binoculars: 10×32
There is also an extremely wide field of view at 430ft per 1,000 yards. All together these 3 factors form a trifecta of image excellence! Usually, binoculars this good are much larger and heavier. Surprisingly, this pair only weighs .85 pounds and measures 2.05 in x 4.61 in x 2.95 in.
In terms of image quality, the Cosbity has a lot going for it. The multi-coated optics promise HD clarity imagery and the prisms are BAK-4. These features minimize light distortion and maximize light reflection. This results in greater color contrast, brightness, and overall viewing quality.
Both dustproof and waterproof, Cosbity has you completely covered in terms of safari weather conditions. They also took the rough ride into consideration by including rubber armor to prevent shock should you drop your binoculars.
Not only that, but the rubber makes the grip much more comfortable. One unique quality of these binoculars is the adjustable phone holder. This technology can hold any phone up to 3.3 inches wide.
Includes a cleaning cloth, carrying case, wrist strap, instruction manual, 1-year replacement warranty, and a 100% lifetime guarantee.
8. Bebang Huctact Binoculars: 10×42
The lines of anything in the Huctact’s view are clear, contrasting, and bright. Not to mention the incredible field of view for the size of this product. The visual field is a whole 303ft per 1,000 yards! That is impressive, considering the Huctact weighs 1.43 lbs and measures 2.28 in x 4.96 in x 5.59 in.
In terms of image quality, there is no denying the Bebang Huctact is a great pair of binoculars for the money. The objective lens is FMC coated, and the exit pupil diameter is 4.1mm. In terms of the prism, this Bebang product has the new industry standard BAK-4.
The metal inner structure of the Huctact is extremely durable. Furthermore, these binoculars boast fog resistance, water-resistant, and dust resistance. There is no need to worry about the effect of nature during your safari! How does Bebang accomplish this? They fill their binoculars with nitrogen and fit them with a waterproof ring.
Includes a strap, carrying case, color box, user manual, eyepiece cap, lens covers, cleaning cloth, and a limited lifetime warranty.
9. Fayogoo Compact Binoculars: 10×25
This is typical for compact binoculars, and they would work well for any children on the safari. In fact, the product weighs only a little more than half a pound. However, even adults will love the field of view: 362 ft per 1,000 yards.
The Fayogoo Compact Binoculars work well in low-light conditions such as sunrise and sunset. Note that they will not work in complete darkness. However, in conditions where light is present these binoculars really prove themselves. The lens coating is fully multi-coating for a crisp color.
The body is made of quality metal, wrapped in environmentally friendly rubber armor. This shell also serves the purposes of making the grip easier and more comfortable for the user. Furthermore, the Fayogoo Compact Binoculars are designed to be ergonomic so long days looking for animals won’t take their toll.
For extras, this product features an easy-to-use focus wheel that feels good on the fingers. Fayogoo even made the binoculars adjustable for users wearing glasses or sunglasses. Additionally, this product is shockproof, waterproof, and dustproof.
Includes strap, carrying bag, instruction manual, cleaning cloth, eyepiece cover, and package bag.
10. Cosbity Monocular Telescope: 12×50
Just for fun, here is the Cosbity Monocular Telescope. As the name indicates, this is a binocular minus one of the oculars. Due to its unique features and low cost, it makes the list as one of the best binoculars for the money!
The magnification is a whopping 12x, and the objective lens is a high-powered 50mm. With a combination like that, the natural assumption would be that this product is heavy and awkward to use. Not so! The Cosbity Monocular weighs less than a pound, with dimensions of 7.1 in x 4 in x 2.6 in. Even with most cell phones connected, the device will weigh less than the suggested 2.5 pounds.
What makes the Monocular Telescope so unique is the Cosbity cell phone adapter. It even features a wireless camera shutter remote control for your phone! This product can be used with the iPhone, Samsung, LG, Sony, and almost all other cell phones currently on the market. Now, you have the ability to take pictures of what you see magnified through the viewfinder!
There is now no need to purchase an expensive, high-powered camera to take with you on the safari. Not only that, but Cosbity has created the cell phone adaptor for user comfort in mind. They made it so your cell phone helps hold up the monocular so you can enjoy a hands-free experience with or without your phone.
To make the user experience even easier with one hand, Cosbity included a larger focus wheel. They also include adjustable eyecap twists on these incredible “binoculars” for the money. This reduces eyestrain and allows the user to twist up or down, depending on whether or not they wear glasses. This feature even adjusts to fit sunglasses! If fogginess is a worry, you can stop right now! Not only is this product fog-proof, it was also manufactured to be dustproof and waterproof. This gives the user a greater range of conditions in which they can take advantage of the monocular. However, be sure to purchase a waterproof and shockproof cell phone case if you plan on using your phone to take pictures in less than optimal conditions.
In terms of image quality, the Cosbity Monocular Telescope does a fantastic job. First of all, the field of view is huge for such a handy product: 289 feet per 1,000 yards. In fact, this field of view is better than some compact binoculars.
However, that comes as no surprise when inspecting the quality of this Monocular Telescope inner workings. All optics are coated with FMC multi-layer broadband green film, and the prisms are coated in BAK-4. Impressively, the amount of high light transmittance is 99.5%.
Includes wireless camera shutter remote, quick photo adapter mount, instruction manual, lens covers, hand strap, cloth carrying bag, and cleaning cloth.
The Best Safari Binoculars for the Money: One Last Word
Hopefully, this buyers guide has helped you figure out your personal best binoculars for the money. There are lots of great options – many under $75. This is a small price to pay to be able to see all the animals on your upcoming trip.
Where are you going to be using your new binoculars? Which pair do you have your eye on? Join me in the comments!