You don’t have to be super invested in birdwatching to recognize the advantage of a solid set of binoculars.
But the best binoculars for kayaking need to possess certain characteristics that other binoculars don’t necessarily have.
For one, a quality set of kayaking binoculars must be waterproof, at least to some degree.
While they don’t all have to be able to withstand full submersion, you don’t want to invest in a pair that’s going to break after getting just a little bit of water splashed onto them.
In this guide, we’re going to provide detailed reviews of the 10 best binoculars for kayaking and we’re going to pick our absolute favorite set from that list.
We’ll also give you some important criteria that you can use to choose the best set of binoculars for your particular needs.
So let’s get right into it!
- Best Binoculars For Kayaking
- Buying Guide
- Binocular Reviews
- Our Pick – Steiner Navigator Pro 7×50
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Best Binoculars For Kayaking
- Steiner Navigator Pro 7×50
- Bushnell H2O
- Nikon Monarch 5 10×42
- Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10×42
- Maven C1 10×42
- Zeiss Terra ED 10×42
- Celestron Outland X 8×42
- USCAMEL 10×50
- BARSKA Deep Sea 7×50
- Opticron Oregon 4 LE WP 10×25
The optics inside most binoculars may actually be a bit more complex than you think.
That’s why a good portion of this buying guide will focus on the technical specifications of these binoculars, and the rest will focus on helping you select a pair that’s best suited for kayaking!
Initially, more magnification may seem better when you need to locate and focus on distant images.
But looking through binoculars on a kayak can be tough because of the constant movement that comes along with floating on water.
That’s why most of the best binoculars for kayaking don’t offer much more than 10x magnification.
That being said, even some experts say that they have trouble keeping images still when magnified to a 10x degree.
That’s why we’d recommend looking for a pair of binoculars with 7x or 8x magnification for kayaking use.
But if you know you’ll only be paddling on the calmest and stillest of waters, you may still find a pair of 10x binoculars useful.
Objective Lens Diameter
The objective lens is where light enters the tubes of the binoculars.
From there, it is reflected and refracted around to produce the image that you see when you look through the lens at the other end.
The larger the diameter of the binocular’s objective lens, the more light it allows to enter the tubes.
And the more light that a pair of binoculars can capture, the better its imagery tends to be.
However, it’s important to look at magnification and objective lens diameter together in this respect.
That’s because you’ll actually divide the diameter of the objective lens by the amount of magnification to get a better understanding of a binocular’s true value.
For example, a set of binoculars with a 42-millimeter lens and 8x magnification would possess a light value of 5.25 and a pair with a 50-millimeter lens and 10x magnification would have a light value of 5..
As you can see, it might appear, at first, that the larger lens size would be preferred.
But when you factor in the degree of magnification, it becomes clear that the first pair of binoculars actually captures more light than the second.
Eye relief is the distance between the outer surface of the eyepiece lens and the eyepoint where the exit pupil is formed. In this case, the exit pupil is referring to the pupil of our own eye when you put it up to your binocular’s eyepieces.
For example, a set of binoculars with larger eyecups is generally going to have more eye relief because the distance between the lens and your pupil will be greater. For your practical purposes, people that wear eyeglasses usually require more eye relief than those who don’t.
When the amount of eye relief on a set of binoculars is too short, that’s when you’ll start to see dark edges around your field of view. When it’s just right, you should be able to see the entire field of view without any vignetting.
Field of View
The field of view provided by a set of binoculars is also important to consider before you finalize your purchase. This specification translates to the width of the area that you can see when you put your eyes to your binocular’s eyepieces.
Field of view is generally measured at 1,000 yards, and some manufacturers will advertise it in feet or degrees. A quality set of binoculars will offer a field of view between about 300 and 375 feet, which translates to somewhere between 6 and 7.5 degrees.
It’s rare to find a pair of binoculars with a field of view in excess of 400 feet, and this really isn’t going to be necessary for most kayaking applications.
Exit Pupil Diameter
A binocular’s exit pupil diameter is a measurement of how well it can perform in low light conditions.
Because most kayakers tend to prefer their activity during the day, it may not be the most important criteria for you to consider, but it’s worth mentioning nevertheless.
This measurement refers to the size of the stream of light that is transmitted to your eye through the binoculars.
As the exit pupil diameter of a set of binoculars increases, your eye will be able to perceive more detail because the relative brightness of the image your binoculars are producing will increase.
Generally speaking, the exit pupil diameter of binoculars will decrease as their magnification increases. This is another good reason why most of the best binoculars for kayaking don’t offer magnification above more than 10x (and it’s why we recommend 7x or 8x magnification!).
The construction of a binocular’s exterior housing should also be looked at closely when you’re comparing different models. While all of these binoculars are waterproof, not all of them are super resistant to shocks and impacts.
We hope you don’t go throwing your binoculars about when you couldn’t spot that exotic bird flying through the mangrove forest.
But we do think there’s a greater-than-zero percent chance that you drop your binoculars from some significant height over their lifetime.
While all of the best binoculars for kayaking are water-resistant, not all of them will fare well if accidentally dropped. So, in our opinion, you should look for a model that’s encased with impact-resistant housing if you want to get the most bang for your buck.
While it wouldn’t be a factor that we prioritize over some others, you should also account for the weight of any set of binoculars you buy for kayaking.
As you start to plan longer and longer kayak expeditions, you’ll probably seek to minimize the weight you carry as much as possible.
The good news is that it’s not like you have to carry your binoculars around your neck or in a backpack like you would when hiking long distances.
Still, there can be a big difference between a set of eight-ounce binoculars and a pair of 30-ounce binoculars when it comes to your overall efficiency on a long paddle trip.
The Steiner Navigator Pro binoculars offer high contrast optics and include a floating prism system that provides up to 7x magnification.
They offer a 370-foot field of view at a distance of 1,000 yards and they feature an objective lens diameter of 50 millimeters.
To rattle off a few more important specifications that you can use to compare these binoculars to others, they provide a 6.7° field of view, a minimum focus distance of 66 feet, and an exit pupil diameter of 7.1 millimeters.
Inside the optics on these binoculars, 14 PSI pressurized dry nitrogen is sealed to provide fogproof clarity at extreme temperatures.
The sports autofocus feature delivers clear images from 20 yards and beyond so you don’t have to keep refocusing as you shift your attention.
These binoculars are also impact-resistant so you don’t have to worry if they accidentally slip out of your hands over a hard surface.
In fact, the durable polycarbonate armoring that encases the binocular’s more sensitive components is tested to withstand up to 11 Gs of impact force.
2. Bushnell H2O
The waterproof capabilities of these binoculars are advertised right there in their name. The Bushnell H2O binoculars are fully encased in a waterproof housing that also prevents dust, dirt, and any other floating or flying debris from getting inside.
The binoculars boast 10x magnification, a 42-millimeter objective lens diameter, and 17 millimeters of eye relief. They also focus at distances as close as 12 feet and offer a 305-foot field of view at a distance of 1,000 yards.
Additional specifications include a 4.2-millimeter exit pupil diameter and an overall weight of 25 ounces. The Roof prism system used in these binoculars includes multi-coated optics for excellent light transmission and clear imagery.
On top of these binoculars, you’ll find a large central knob that makes focus adjustments super easy. And the non-slip rubber armor provides a soft, stable grip when you’re just using these binoculars with one hand.
The Nikon Monarch 5 binoculars feature 10x magnification and 42-millimeter objective lens diameter. They include fully multi-coated eco-glass lenses that deliver high light transmittance across the entire spectrum of visible light.
The dimensions of these binoculars measure 5.7” by 5.1” and they weigh a total of 21.6 ounces. Additional specifications include a 288-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, 18.4 millimeters of eye relief, and a 4.2-millimeter exit pupil diameter.
These binoculars deliver images with real, vivid colors and they are specifically designed to reduce color degradation at the fringes of your field of view.
This is done by using extra-low dispersion glass lenses that correct chromatic aberrations and maintain realistic contrast and resolution.
These binoculars also come with a number of handy accessories that make using (and maintaining) them easier. That includes a Lumintrail cleaning cloth, Nikon lens pen, lens caps, a neck strap, and a binocular carrying case.
The Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD binoculars also offer 10x magnification and an objective lens diameter measuring 42 millimeters. They are 100% waterproof, fogproof, and shockproof for extreme outdoor use.
To touch on a number of important specifications for these binoculars, they are rated for a 326-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, an angular field of view of 6.2 degrees, 16 millimeters of eye relief, and an exit pupil diameter measuring 4.2 millimeters.
These binoculars also weigh 24 ounces and include a large center diopter adjustment for manual focus. That center diopter can also be locked in place if you want to maintain focus on a distant object or landmass that you’re tracking for a longer time.
The BX-4 Pro Guide binoculars utilize Bak 4 prisms to deliver a perfectly round exit pupil with minimal edge distortion.
This eliminates that frustrating waste of time when you can’t quite seem to get your eyes lined up to your binocular’s lenses to see a clear image.
The Maven C1 is another great set of binoculars with 10x magnification and an objective lens diameter of 42 millimeters. it also offers 16 millimeters of eye relief and it weighs a total of just 24.5 ounces.
The fully multi-coated lenses in these binoculars provide high-contrast imagery with exceptional color reproduction and the coatings on the lenses make them waterproof, fogproof, and scratch-resistant.
Perhaps the best part about these binoculars is that all Maven optics are backed by an unconditional lifetime warranty.
Maven will repair or replace any damage or defects that aren’t the result of deliberate negligence on the part of the owner.
The Zeiss Terra binoculars provide 10x magnification and 42-millimeter objective lenses. They also provide a 330-foot field of view at 1,000 yards and offer an exit pupil diameter of 4.2 millimeters.
The lenses in these binoculars are filled with nitrogen gas to keep them from fogging up if you’re using them in particularly hot or cold climates and the durable exterior housing keeps water from entering and compromising the binocular’s more sensitive components.
The large central knob between the two eyecups on these binoculars allows you to make easy, steady focus adjustments.
The special grip area on the outside sections of these binoculars keeps them from slipping out of your hands when wet as well.
The Terra binoculars also weigh just 12 ounces and come with a bunch of useful binocular accessories. That includes a neck strap, tethered objective lens covers, a rain guard, and a compact carrying case.
These waterproof and fogproof binoculars also feature 8x magnification and 42-millimeter objective lens diameter. Celestron’s Outland X model also boasts fully multi-coated optics for high contrast and high-resolution imagery.
The prisms inside these binoculars are made with Bak-4 glass, which provides better color fidelity than other prism glass types and the lenses have been sealed with nitrogen to prevent the buildup of fog in extreme climates.
To touch on some of the other important specifications of these binoculars, they provide a 357-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, 18 millimeters of eye relief, and a 6.8° angle of view. They also weigh just 22 ounces and boast an exit pupil diameter of 5.3 millimeters.
These binoculars allow you to focus on objects as close as 13 feet away from your kayak and they also come with tripod threads on the bottom for dry land use.
When you buy them, you’ll also receive a wide binocular strap, a lens cleaning cloth, lens and eyecup covers, and a soft protective carrying pouch.
These waterproof binoculars from USCAMEL are one of the more budget-friendly binocular sets on our list.
They also have the added benefit of floating if you happen to drop them in the water without having their strap secured around your neck or to a hard point on your kayak.
They feature 10x magnification, 50-millimeter objective lens diameter, and a 396-foot field of view at 1,000 yards. The eyecups also include individual focusing rings that allow more precise micro-adjustments for left and right viewing.
On the left lens, you’ll also have the added benefit of an additional objective focusing ring. The Bak-4 glass used in the Porro prism system inside these binoculars delivers clear images even in low light conditions.
The USCAMEL binoculars also include a built-in compass and internal rangefinder for added function and versatility.
These additions are specific to the left eyepiece and allow you to pinpoint the direction and distance of larger objects on the horizon.
These extra features make these binoculars particularly useful for anyone going on a multi-day trip in one of the best sea kayaks.
These binoculars also come with a carrying case, lens cloth, neck strap, and even batteries to keep the light on the compass lit during night paddles.
If extra eye relief is important to you, these BARSKA Deep Sea binoculars provide up to 23 millimeters of it, which is more than any other set of binoculars on our list. They also provide 7x magnification and an objective lens diameter that measures 50 millimeters.
Like the last model on our list, these binoculars won’t break the bank and they also come with a few useful features for night paddles or longer expeditions.
This includes a built-in compass and internal rangefinder to help you keep your heading and estimate distances of far-off landmarks.
These binoculars also won’t sink if you accidentally drop them overboard and they are built with durable rubber armor. This armor protects the binoculars’ internal components and also provides a textured, non-slip grip for your hands.
The Deep Sea binoculars also offer a 395-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, a close focus distance of 22.3 feet, and a weight of 38.8 ounces. They rely on a Porro Prism system made with Bak-4 glass to deliver their great image quality and solid contrast.
The Opticron Oregon 4 binoculars feature 10x magnification and 25-millimeter objective lens diameter. These binoculars are identifying smaller critters because they allow you to focus at distances as close as just 6.6 feet.
They boast a field of view of about 357 feet at a distance of 1,000 yards and 16 millimeters of eye relief. They are also an extremely lightweight option with a total weight of just 8.4 ounces.
Multi-coated optics help to deliver clear images when viewing through these binoculars and nitrogen gas-filled lenses provide clarity in all temperatures and weather conditions.
The exterior is also fully-armored so you don’t have to worry about water entering and compromising the viewing quality.
These binoculars also feature a compact, single-hinge Roof prism system, which allows you to easily operate them with just a single hand. This is particularly useful for kayaking because it frees your other hand up to remain on one of the best kayak paddles under $150.
The Steiner Navigator Pro binoculars are our choice for the best binoculars for kayaking because they offer excellent performance at a reasonable price. You’ll find some binoculars to be extremely expensive for kayak use, but these represent an excellent value.
One of the features that we think you’ll especially love when using these binoculars for kayaking is the sports autofocus feature.
This eliminates the need to manually refocus the lenses when you move between different objects near, far, to the left, to the right, or even behind your kayak.
It’s hard to find a more durable housing than the Makrolon material used to protect the internal components in these binoculars. This housing is resistant to water, oils, acid, and all forms of weathering, including UV radiation.
Finally, Steiner is known for having one of the best warranty policies of any binocular manufacturer. According to their Heritage Warranty, they’ll cover repairs or replacement of defective products at no charge for the lifetime of the product!