Best Low Cost, All-Round Travel Binoculars

This BinoWizard question below is from Nancy who is after a low costing versatile travel binoculars that will perform in a wide range of scenarios: whale watching, cruise ships, safaris, kayaking and wildlife observation:

Have A Question For Me?Question:

First time binocular buyer. Going on a cruise – whale watching, kayaking and hope to do a safari at some point so wildlife viewing is the goal.

Budget
I would like to stay $125-200 at the very most. Trying to keep it inexpensive so if I loose them or whatever it’s not too upsetting.

I am between the Hawke Endurance Ed 8x32 and Celestron TrailSeeker 8x32. What are your thoughts? You gave a pretty strong thumbs-up for the Hawke. Celestron also has good reviews.

I wear sunglasses but not everyday glasses. What would you pick? Thanks! BTW- I love your website. Super helpful!


Answer

Hi Nancy, thanks very much for sending in your question. It looks like you have already carried out a good deal of l research and the two options that your are interested in both look great to me, so hopefully I can offer you some more advice that is useful and thus aid you in making your choice.

Mid-Sized vs Compact Binoculars for Travel

As with most things in life and for certain in the world of optics, there is always a need to compromise: A really small compact binocular (objective lenses of 28mm or less) will be easier to pack away and that travel with, but for that convenience you pay for it in terms of reduced performance as the smaller lenses just simply cant capture as much light as larger ones.

Thus it is generally my advice to travel with the largest binocular that you can pack and carry comfortably (within reason!). So for some who need to travel very lightly, backpackers or hikers for example, a good compact will most certainly be the way to go.

However for most travelers, a great compromise is a mid sized instrument (usually with objectives of between 30mm and 34mm) as you are likely to get a better performance than most compacts and only fractionally less capable than a full sized 42mm binocular. At the same time you also get a device that is at a size and weight that for most people will easily fit in with their luggage.

So I think you are spot on by considering the two mid sized (32mm) binoculars that you mentioned above and I will thus focus my advice around this area.

8x Magnification

I also notice that with the two binoculars that you are interested in, you have opted for the 8x versions, which I think is also a great choice. Whilst you may have been tempted to go for a higher power, especially for the whale watching, where distance to them I assume will be reasonably far, the fact that you will use your bins whilst kayaking (and to a lesser extent on cruise ships) means that you will sometimes be using your bins on an unstable surface. Here is is even more important than ever to have a binocular that makes it as easy as possible to keep the image as steady as possible.

I have had great success in the past with the Swarovski CL Companion 8x30 Binoculars which are up there with my all time favorite binocular to take fishing and on safaris (see image below) and whilst these high end optics are not in your price range, the configuration is very similar and thus I can highly recommend the concept based on very similar real world experiences.

Using the Swarovski CL Companion 8x30 Binoculars on the Boat

Binocular Comparisons

Ok, so now we have the a type of binocular that we are after pretty much established, when choosing between different binoculars I always find it very useful to create a comparison table containing a selection of relevant instruments that I find makes it easier to compare their relative strengths and weaknesses. Please note that this table also contains binoculars that I am not suggesting for you, but are put here to emphasise certain features or specifications and to illustrate what you might expect to find at different price points etc:



highlighted in green are the features or specifications that are of a particular strength, whilst highlighted in red are perhaps weaker aspects when compared to the others on the list. Note: this does not mean that this is bad, only that in this area which they don’t quite match the best.

My Recommendations:

Taking a look at all the suitable, all round travel friendly mid-sized binoculars that I have tested and reviewed over the last few years, I am going to totally agree with you here: Both the Celestron TrailSeeker and the Hawke Endurance ED’s do look like the best options of the bins I have used and tested in the past. and I really can’t come up with anything better for you at this price level. Indeed the only other binocular that comes close is the Celestron Granite 9x33, but that is just out of reach in terms of your budget.

The problem is which to choose as I am 100% sure that either will cover all your requirements, so a lot will come down to minor details and your personal preferences relating to these. The good news here is I really don’t feel there is a wrong choice:

Hawke Endurance ED 8x32

Hawke Endurance ED 8x32 BinocularsIn terms of physical components and overall build quality, I would say that for my money, the Hawke Endurance ED just edges out the Celestron TrailSeeker.

Highlights
To me these Hawke just exude just that little more class, the build quality is excellent as they simply look and feel far more expensive than they actually are.

On top of this, the Endurance ED has Extra Low Dispersion Glass (ED Glass) elements within the lenses which is not the case on the Celestron.

This is not to say the Hawke Endurance ED will automatically produce a superior quality image, but the potential is certainly there.

Hawke Endurance ED 8x32 Binoculars on Safari - Viewing Black Rhinos

I can also vouch for these binoculars as being a superb travel and safari binocular from personal experience as I actually took them with me on a trip to Southern Africa a few years back and in this regard I have nothing but good things to say about them.

 

Celestron TrailSeeker 8x32 Binoculars

Celestron TrailSeeker BinocularsWhilst I have not actually tested this 8x32 model, I have fully tested and reviewed the Celestron Trailseeker 10x32 Binoculars and so can be reasonably certain that in terms of the build quality and performance most will be exactly the same on this version.

Whilst these lack the ED glass that is incorporated into the Hawke Endurance ED’s above, they do have a couple of advantages over them in that they are a little more lightweight and they have a field of view that is just that bit wider.

This can make it just that bit easier to scan wide open areas which may be useful for spotting wildlife and for whale watching, but it also makes it easier to follow fast moving objects (like birds), so if this is of a particular interest to you, then this feature may be important.

However I will say that the FOV of the Hawk is also pretty good and so the difference here is really not that great and s unless you specifically need a wide FOV, I would not put too much emphasis on this when comparing the two.

 

I do hope that at least some of my advice and observations above have been of help. As I say, in my opinion either option will be great and so you simply need to decide if you prefer the slighter wider view and more lightweight Celestron, or the Hawke with it’s slightly higher specification components.

Please let me know which binoculars you do eventually settle on and I would love to know just how you get on with them during your holiday.

 

Further Reading & Related Content

 

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If you are undecided as to which type of binocular or configuration best suits your needs or budget, or if you can;t decide between two or more pairs and you can’t already find the information you need here on BBR, then please feel free to contact me and I will see if I can help: Ask the BinoWizard Here

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