When you travel, having a good pair of binoculars can help you enjoy beautiful sights you might otherwise have missed. However, choosing the right pair can be tricky because ‘travel’ is such a broad term and there are many aspects to factor in.
It’s easier to suggest which ones to buy if you have a specific purpose in mind, such as stargazing or watching sports.
When I’m asked to recommend a pair, I’ll ask what they are going to be used for. Some might answer, “We are going to the Louvre Museum.” Others might say, “We are going on safari.”
I’ve concluded that people should choose general use binoculars for traveling. If you are not sure which ones to get, I‘ll give you some tips for finding a good pair for your next trip.
What is important in choosing binoculars for travel?
You may think that lightweight, compact binoculars would be the best recommendation because your suitcase is already full. Unfortunately, just being lightweight does not always meet the requirements for travel binoculars.
Let’s say, for example, you have a plan to enjoy whale watching and visit some museums. While compact binoculars are useful in museums, they are not powerful enough for whale watching. You may also want to consider a water-proof pair for marine use.
Taking these things into consideration, I think lightweight, waterproof 6×30 binoculars are best for general use. A 30mm aperture is a good entry point to good binoculars.
Also, weight is an important factor. Some 30mm binoculars only weigh a pound, which will not weigh you or your bag down.
Porro Prism or Roof Prism?
Roof Prisms may be better for traveling as the body is slimmer and lighter. However, the price of Roof Prism binoculars is much higher than that of Porro Prisms. If both prices are the same, it‘s likely that the Porro Prism binoculars will produce a better image.
If you’re not sure which ones to choose, compare the weight. If the Porro Prism binoculars weigh around a pound, you should buy the Porro Prism pair instead of the Roof Prism.
Standard binoculars are generally thought to be 8×30, so 6× might seem insufficient.
The reason why I recommend 6× as the right magnification for general use is because of the brighter and less shaky image. It may not be the best magnification for all purposes and situations, but it is the best compromise for general use.
6×30 is often used in the military. Some binocular enthusiasts may remember the brand name Katsuma, which regrettably went bankrupt, and their famous 6×30 configuration model.
Another good thing about 6× is the wide field of view, about 8.0 degrees, which makes finding objects easy, even for beginners.
Water-proof & water-repellant coatings
Besides their optical ability, waterproofing can be essential. On a cruise to Alaska, whale watching, or on safari, binoculars have to be protected from seawater or a sudden shower.
Waterproof binoculars are filled with nitrogen gas, which also prevents the lenses from fogging up internally. It’s worth the extra cost.
Water-repellant coatings are important when traveling because we may not always have cleaning kits handy. Usually, coatings play an important role in raising light transmittance, but water-repellant coatings also protect the lenses and make them less likely to get stained.
The worst thing you can do is to wipe the lenses with a handkerchief or tissue paper!
Traveling by air
When you pack your suitcase, save space by wrapping binoculars in with your clothes. This works well as a shock absorber (see below).
I always bring my binoculars in my carry-on bag, just in case my suitcase gets damaged. If you have to put your pair in your check-in baggage, wrap them so they won’t be jolted around.
Usually, you won’t get stopped at security just because you have binoculars. I was asked to open my bag only once when I had a giant pair for a solar eclipse at Teheran Airport in Iran.
I understand wanting to minimize your baggage when you travel, but it is still worthwhile to take your binoculars.
If you want to buy a pair you can share with the whole family, 6×30 is the best choice. This pair is sure to give you more impressive travel experience.
There is no good reason not to take binoculars.
Choosing the right pair of travel binoculars can be tricky because there are many aspects to factor in. Some might want to get a closer view of paintings in an art museum while others might want to go whale watching.
The solution is to buy a pair for general use. I think the best configuration for general use is 6×30. The aperture (30mm) is a good entry point to good binoculars.
6× is the best for beginners. With 6×, you can get a bright image and less shake. It also produces a wide field of view (about 8 degrees), which enables you to find objects quickly.
To protect your binoculars from seawater and rain, I recommend ones with waterproofing and water-repellant coatings. These are very useful as you may not have your lens-cleaning kit handy during travel.
Just one pair for the whole family makes it possible for everyone to have much better travel experience.