Astronomy & Camping Binoculars

camping-under-the-stars

Someone recently asked wanted to know what binoculars they should get for taking camping and for viewing the stars:

Have A Question For Me?Question:

I’m looking to buy a pair of binoculars. My budget would be roughly $150 (£150) at the most. It would be for amateur astronomy and camping. What should I look for in terms of specs?


Answer

With optics there are always compromises to be made, but in your case the are two main ones relating to the size and power of the binocular:

Magnification

Whilst it may seem obvious to most people that you need a very high magnification to view objects far away (like stars), a high powered device has a few downsides. This includes making the image harder to keep still if you are hand holding the bins and making the width of the view that you see through them narrower.

It is for these reasons that most serious bins specifically designed for terrestrial use tend to have magnifications of around 8x or 10x.

However an 8x or 10x magnification can also be very useful for astronomy and most serious astronomers will not only have a telescope which they use to get detailed views of objects in the sky, but will also have a pair of bins that they use for scanning the sky, because they have a much wider field of view.

Having said that however most specifically designed astronomy binoculars tend to have magnifications of between 15x and 30x, this gets you a little more image detail, but with most you will need a tripod to keep them still enough to view a shake free image.

However keep in mind that most of these bar a few of the the lower powered astronomy binoculars will be far from ideal for viewing wildlife and birds during the day, which will be important to most people camping.

Objective Lens Size

Because there is far less light available at night than during the day, it is preferable to have a binocular with large objective lenses as they can capture more light.

Specifically designed astronomy binoculars can have objectives up to 100mm in diameter, but these are very large and heavy and will definitely require a tripod to use them effectively.

So my advice is: If you are only going to be looking at the stars when camping, invest in a specifically designed astronomy binocular, Celestron make some pretty decent ones that come within your budget (see below).

However if you want a binocular for general use, for example viewing birds, wildlife AND then for occasionally scanning the heavens at night, I would opt for a 8x42 or 10x42 configuration.

Recommended Camping & Astronomy Binoculars

Below are a few binoculars under $150/£150 that I have reviewed and would recommend to you. For more choices, take a look at my section on the best binoculars for under $200 / £200.

Celestron SkyMaster 25x70 BinocularsCelestron SkyMaster 25x70 Binoculars

These high powered binoculars can be used for long distance terrestrial observation as well as astronomy and come within your budget.

Whilst I was just able to hand hold them when viewing objects during the day, if you want to get a really steady view of the stars, I would highly recommend getting a tripod, that can easily be attached to the included tripod adapter.

Main Highlights:

  • Powerful 25x Magnification
  • Large 70mm Objective Lenses For Terrestrial & Astronomical use
  • Multi-Coated Optics
  • BaK-4 Porro Prisms
  • Field of view – 141ft @ 1000yds
  • 13mm Eye-Relief
  • Included Tripod Adapter
 

Celestron Nature DX 8x42 BinocularsCelestron Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars

Costing a lot less than $150/£150 these Celestron binoculars are a great low cost 8x42 binocular and whilst they may not match high end optics blow for blow, in my opinion
they punch well above their price tag.

Highlights Include:

  • Lightweight Body
  • Waterproof & Fogproof
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • BaK-4 Roof Prisms
  • Phase Correction Coatings on Prisms
  • Wide field of view – 388ft @ 1000yds
  • Long eye relief – 17.5mm
 

Vanguard 10x42 Spirit XF BinocularsVanguard 10x42 Spirit XF Binoculars

Like the Celestron’s above, I think these Vanguard Spirit XF’s are a good choice within your budget if you would rather opt for a slightly higher powered 10x42 binocular, and have a slightly narrower field of view.

Main Features & Highlights

  • Comfortable Open Bridge Body Design
  • Fairly Lightweight: 23.5oz (665g)
  • Water & Fog Proof
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • BAK-4 Prisms
  • Eye Relief: 16mm Field
  • View at 1000yds: 332ft
 

Further Reading:

I hope that at least some of this advice is useful and if you have any further or related questions please feel free to ask – comments section below:

Have A Question For Me?Need Binocular Advice?

If you have an optics or binocular related question, that I have not already covered on BBR, I would love to hear from you. Ask your question here.

Photo Credit: Zach Dischner

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