Among all of the must-have items for a camping or hiking trip, the monocular is a debatable item. Some say monoculars are incredibly necessary, while others think they won’t be of much use, but most experienced adventurers out there, ourselves included, believe that monoculars are essential items that should not be left out. If you are planning a hiking or trekking trip, then one item that we can’t recommend enough is a monocular.
There are dozens of monocular brands and models in the market, and for an inexperienced traveler, finding the best monocular can be a daunting task. But with our list of best monoculars below, we are confident that you will be able to find the right one for you.
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Quick Answer - The Best Monocular
Monoculars 2018 Reviews
Gosky Titan High Power Prism Monocular
Magnification Power: 12x50
Best for: Birdwatching, hunting, camping, capturing wildlife scenery
Features: Excellent light transmission and brightness, equipped with smartphone holder, compatible with a wide range of smartphones (iPhones 4s up to iPhone X, Samsung, LG, Sony, etc.), sturdy with shock-absorbing cover
Pros: Smartphone compatible, high magnification power, durable, waterproof, dustproof, weatherproof, adjustable eye-cups that enable vision with or without eyewear
Cons: Bulky, undesirable photo quality, difficult to attach a smartphone to monocular
Vortex Optics Solo Monocular
Magnification Power: 10x25
Best for: Backpacking, hunting, camping, surveillance
Features: Comes with a neck lanyard and soft carry case, fully rubber armored, fully multi-coated lenses, adjustable eyecups that enable vision with or without eyeglasses
Pros: Tight yet comfortable grip, waterproof, fog proof, simple to use, highly durable, easy to carry, smooth focus adjustment
Cons: Great for viewing but not for photo shooting, relatively narrow field of view, a bit pricey for the value
Xgazer Optics Monocular
Magnification power: 12x50
Best for: Hunting, fishing, camping, photoshoot, bird watching, hiking
Features: Fully Multi-coated lens plus BAK4 roof prism system, 18.6mm eye-relief that offers high definition view thanks to the twist-up eyecups, 2m close focus, rubber armor that offers a secure grip, equipped with a strap, carrying case, lens cover and microfiber cleaning cloth
Pros: Excellent image quality, user-friendly, non-slip grip, compact and easy to carry, great warranty policy, strong clarity, high-quality anti-reflective lenses, waterproof, fog proof, weatherproof, fit for a wide range of purposes, ideal option for glass wearers
Cons: The front eye cover needs to be attached to a cord or a lanyard
Wingspan Optics Explorer High Powered Monocular
Magnification power: 12x50
Best for: Birdwatching, watching wildlife and scenery
Features: Powerful handheld monocular with high powered magnification and bright range of view, focus adjustable with one hand
Pros: Great value for the price, secure and comfortable grip with a durable external cover, waterproof, fog proof, weatherproof, dustproof, clear and bright view
Cons: Not strongly waterproof and fog proof
Cosbity Monocular Telescopes
Magnification Power: 12x50
Best for: Photoshoot, hunting, bird watching
Features: Powerful dual focus monocular with phone clip and tripod for smartphones, one-hand focus wheel, rubber armor allowing the monocular to be shock absorbent and durable with a firm non-slip grip
Pros: Good quality images, more brightness and higher contrast, focus adjustable with one hand, user-friendly, solid and sturdy, large field of view
Cons: tripod not being sturdy, not very clear focus
Comparison Table - The Best Monoculars
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How To Choose The Best Monoculars
While binoculars are widely popular among adventurers and backpackers, monoculars are less common and sadly underrated, despite their versatility. A monocular is a mini low-powered telescope that allows better observation for users. When you travel outdoors, a monocular will help you get a clearer and better look at faraway objects. Unlike a set of binoculars, you can only view through the monocular with one eye. Nevertheless, a monocular is a perfect companion whether you go hunting, backpacking, trekking or bird watching.
Although there are a wide variety of monoculars on sale, only a few are capable of delivering the optimal result. If you are looking for the best monocular for backpacking, you should filter out monoculars built for other purposes. So how are you supposed to know which one is the best monoculars for your trip? We have listed our top picks for monoculars above, but it’s still important to equip yourself with essential tips to find the best monoculars for your good.
1. How monoculars work
Before we dive into the tips and tricks to select the best monoculars, let’s first learn a bit about how monoculars work. If you are already familiar with using a telescope or a pair of binoculars, then it should be easy for you to understand the working mechanism behind monoculars.
Monoculars are created to assist those with vision in only one eye or those who are visually impaired in one eye. Technically speaking, a monocular is a miniature telescope consisting of lenses and prisms. The light will pass through a group of lenses to produce two-dimensional images.
Monoculars are usually lightweight and easier to carry. Thus, they are usually preferred over binoculars when it comes to backpacking. A monocular is also preferred as a magnifier when people need to have a closer look at small details.
2. Check the magnification power
A monocular works by magnifying objects or making a faraway object appear larger and clearer. As a matter of fact, one key feature of any monocular is its magnification power, which roughly means the ability to determine how far and how detailed you can see the object. The farther you want to look, the higher magnification power you should look for. But higher magnification power does not necessarily mean a better monocular.
Think about it the same way as how you are going to purchase your camera, for instance. All cameras have a zoom-in and zoom out feature, and the more you zoom in, the closer you are to the object. But once you reach the zooming limit, your image quality start going down. The same goes for a monocular.
Most monoculars have a magnification power of 5x and up, and some are as powerful as 12x, but beware about the image quality at that point, as higher magnification power will make it more difficult to focus and capture small movements. So the rule of thumb is that the higher the magnification power, the narrower the field of view and vice versa. Consider what you’d want more from a monocular and decide.
3. Check the lens size
The second thing for you to consider is the lens size because a bigger lens size will allow a wider view and a brighter image. Common lens size ranges from 25mm and up. Some high-quality monoculars possess a lens size of 50mm, which enables a fantastic view and much better images.
A monocular with a bigger lens size is usually more expensive. However, some of the best budget monoculars offer a decent lens size with equally beautiful images.
What can be the downside of a big lens size? When you opt for a big lens, your monocular will be less compact and more difficult to carry than a monocular with a small lens. Again, it all comes down to what matters more to you.
You may notice that most monoculars come with specifications of their magnification power and lens size in combination, such as 12x50, which can be translated as a magnification power of 12 times and a lens size of 50mm. You are encouraged to try out different monoculars with different magnification power and lens size settings to feel the difference.
4. Check the external coating of the lens
The coating on the lens can have a great impact on the image brightness and your view through the monocular, therefore, remember to check whether the lens has any anti-glare coating on it. The fact that a lens is fully multi-coated is usually a good sign indicating that the monocular has a good quality. Fully multi-coated lens are often more expensive though.
There are still some other options, including coated, fully coated, and multi-coated (which means lenses are put on multiple layers of anti-glare coats). These options are cheaper, but the quality will be less desirable. Our advice is to go for the fully multi-coated option for the optimal image quality.
5. Check the close focus feature of the monocular
Another important characteristic of a monocular is the close focus capability. To put it simply, a higher close focus will allow you to look at objects at a distance in greater details. Depending on the purpose of your trip, you can choose to look for monoculars with a really high close focus or only a decent one. Remember to test the close focus of any monocular you intend to buy.
6. Check the eye relief distance
The eye relief distance can play a key role in determining your comfort level with the monocular. Eye relief is actually the space between your eye and the eyecup of the monocular and it is measured in millimeters. The good news is, newer models of monoculars are customized to fit the need of those who wear glasses to increase the comfort while enhancing their vision.
The tip is that if you wear glasses, be it eyeglasses or sunglasses, the eye relief on the monocular should be at least 14mm. If you do not wear glasses, the eye relief distance can be shorter.
7. Check the sturdiness of the monocular
Since you are going out in the open and probably to places with unfavorable weather conditions, you would not want a monocular that cannot withstand the harsh conditions, would you? A good monocular should be able to resist the shock, water, and fog.
A good monocular also offers non-slip and secure grips to help users use the monocular with ease. Try testing the monocular by holding it and adjusting the focus with one hand to see if you are comfortable with the grip. Many monoculars are advertised to be completely waterproof or fog proof, but make sure you double check the monocular for its sturdiness before you buy.
A monocular if properly used can be an awesome assistant to your adventure, whether you plan to go backpacking or trekking or even hunting. We hope that with our guide above, you will be able to find the best monocular for your next trip. There are many other gears that are also highly recommended for a backpacking trip, such as a good sleeping bag, a tent and some fantastic gears to stay warm in a tent, so make sure you check them all out.