Best Hiking Binoculars under 100?

Why I bought the Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars:

In this article and in the video below, I reveal my thoughts and reasons as to why I chose to buy the Vortex Vanquish 10x26 binoculars for my camping trip and why I think they are one of the best hiking binoculars if your budget is under $100 (£/Euros).

BBR YouTube Version of this Night Hero Binoculars Review

Because of what I do and in terms of binoculars, I am in the rather fortunate position in that because I get a lot of samples in for testing and reviews, I almost never need to spend my own hard earned money on a pair. 

And this got me thinking. Would I change anything if I had to pay?

This thought coincided with a camping and hiking trip I was planning with my family and thus as always for me, an important part of our gear choices is always which binoculars to take. 

Now ordinarily I would just take along a couple of binoculars that I already have in for testing and use those. 

But this time I decided to get my own pair and in this guide I am going to explain my thought process behind the decisions I made, why I ultimately settled on these Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars and thus why I believe they could be one of, if not the best hiking binoculars under $100 currently on the market. 

Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars
Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars

Size of Binocular

We would be driving to our campsite and so I could easily transport any size of binocular I wanted. However, it made sense for me to choose a compact over larger sized alternatives as during the day we would be leaving the base and going out on a number of hiking trails.

Now, if I was just walking and not carrying any other gear, I may have opted for a mid-sized or even a full-size binocular instead. But as I would be carrying my camera as well as a backpack, a compact binocular was definitely the right choice. 

Note, unless you specifically need a high low light performance, I would say that a compact would also be the right choice for most hikers and backpackers.

Budget

I wanted to get a reasonable level of performance, so very cheap binoculars would not be considered, but at the same time, I wanted to avoid having to splash out too much of my own hard earned cash. 

I also knew that I didn’t want very expensive binoculars that would make me too precious about having them laying about a campsite and always worrying about their whereabouts. 

So I settled on a maximum budget of $100. 

In a way, I also chose this under $100 budget as a kind of a challenge to myself as I know at this level there’s a lot of rubbish, but if you are prepared to put in some work and do some research you can unearth some real gems which in my opinion makes the purchase even more satisfying.

Design

Best Budget Compact Binoculars – Roof or Porro Prism?

So now I had chosen the size of binocular I needed and my budget, my next decision was to get a little more specific in regards to the type and design:

When money is not the major concern, I believe that the Best Compact Pocket Binoculars in terms of their all-round function are ones that have the double-hinged design as they can fold up into a very small shape and thus makes them true pocket-sized binoculars.

However, to create a binocular with this twin hinge design, it needs to use the more compact roof prisms inside of them to rectify the inverted image.

Whilst these prisms are great in many ways and indeed most modern binoculars now use them, the problem they have is if you want them to offer the same or better level of performance as a Porro prism, they require a number of expensive coatings added to them, which at the budget price levels is simply not possible.

Therefore, in general, and especially the case with compacts where the smaller lenses are also a limiting factor, if you want good optical performance with bright, high-quality views at the budget and especially at the cheap end of the market, a Porro prism binocular is most often the better option: Cheap Binoculars – Is a Roof or Porro Prism Best?

Therefore, by opting for this design, I did have to accept that whilst still small, my binocular was not going to be quite as compact as an equivalent roof prism model, especially when folded up and not in use.

I was happy with my choice of design as for me it was important to get the best optical performance I could from a low-cost compact, and so whilst it would have been nice, I did not necessarily need a true pocket-sized binocular.

10x26 Configuration

6x21, 7x28, 8x25, 9x28, 10x26, 12x25, compact come in a wide range of configurations, so my next decision and the final one before looking at specific models was to choose what magnification and size of lenses to go for. 

Note, if you are uncertain take a look at my guide to what the numbers mean on a binocular.

Here, I just needed to have an overall idea of what I was looking for and not be too specific as I wanted to give myself a good range of options when it came to choosing the actual binocular.

No Extremes
To start with I decided against the extremes, be that the very low 6x or 7x or the very high 12x magnifications and likewise with the size of lenses as these types of binoculars tend to work best for only a few small niches uses and I was looking for a good all-rounder that I could use for general wildlife and birding observation as well as getting a better view of the  terrain in front of us. 

Here common and usually the ideal choice for a general use compact would be to have an 8x or 10 power with 25 or 26mm lenses.

Why a 10x Magnification
Whilst most models come with both 8x and 10x options, I eventually chose a 10x power as I knew that we were going to be hiking in a more wide open terrain in the hills where I wanted a little more reach and as I would mostly be using my binoculars during the day and in good light and the smaller exit pupil and resultant drop in low light performance that you get with a higher powered binocular was not going to be an issue for me. 

8x would be better if…
Note, if I knew that I was going to be hiking in thickly forested areas where light levels are not ideal and where the observation distances tend to be lower,  or if I was going to be hiking before dawn or after dark, I would have opted for an 8x compact. This is where having a basic understanding of the kinds of places and times you will mostly be using your binoculars is important. If in doubt, my advice here is to go with the 8x option as this will suit a wider range of uses. 

Online Searches & Comparisons

So there you have it, I now knew I was looking for a Porro prism compact with a 10x power and with roughly 25 or 26mm lenses on sale for under $100 / £100, but more than $60.

So what I did next was to perform a couple of searches at my favorite online binocular retailers:

Note, I don’t advise using Amazon for this type of research as their internal search engine is pretty rubbish and almost always brings back all sorts of irrelevant results which really annoys me!

Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars
Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars

Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars

After filtering the results to take my budget into account, the Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars kept on jumping out at me… even on Amazon!.

With an MSRP of $129.99, but currently retailing for around $99 / £96 they were perfect in terms of my budget.

Reputation
Vortex also has a very good reputation for producing great value for money binoculars and even though many others do as well, I was drawn to them because I have had good experiences with their products before in terms of optical performance.

So after looking very closely at their main features specifications, and then comparing these against a few others on my shortlist, I decided to take the plunge and buy them.

Full Review

At the time of writing this article, I have not yet gone on my hiking holiday (that’s next month), but I have already used and fully tested them and on the whole, I am very pleased with my choice. 

For more details be sure to read my full, in-depth, hands-on and 100% honest review of these Vortex binoculars that also includes comparisons to other similar binoculars that I considered.

So there you have it, that is how and why I chose the Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars for my next camping and hiking trip. 

I hope this insight into my thought process behind my choice is helpful and hopefully is a good process for you to follow when choosing your ideal binoculars.

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