binoculars for kayaking

Does anyone have recommendations on waterproof binoculars for bird, seal, etc. watching from a kayak? What power and objective lens diameter? I notice that smaller/lighter units like the Nikon Prostaff ATB tend to be 7 or 8X and 25-30 mm but the 40+ mm units are brighter so there are many tradeoffs.

Binocs are tough to pick out

– Last Updated: Mar-07-08 12:03 AM EST –

I went through the shopping process recently...but it actually began something like 20 yrs ago, LOL.

There are so many of them for so many purposes and "fit" to you that for your final stage you really need to go to some good stores and physically try them on. Going by specs alone is risky.

The great news is that there are lots of good binocs now, at reasonable prices (unlike 20 yrs ago).

Weed out the nonwaterproof ones first. That still leaves you with a lot of models. If you have a price range you absolutely must stick with, weed out the ones above your maximum price.

For paddling, you probably (a) want a fairly wide Field of View, and (b) don't need really close focus capability. These two numbers you can get from the online charts or manufacturer brochures. As far as whether to get objectives in the 30-35mm range or 40-50mm range--try them out yourself to find your prefs. Brightness is determined by other factors as well.

There are ergonomic factors, too. For some models, it makes a difference whether or not you wear eyeglasses. Or how well you can grip the binocs one-handed. Or how heavy they are around your neck (a chest harness is more comfortable than a neck strap, but I myself do not want to wear a chest harness on the water).

Do some googling on the subject before you go to the stores. I found a great site geared towards birdwatching binocs, for example:

Good luck!

(I chose Vortex Razor 8x42 binocs, after trying on binocs ranging from $120 to $1900, "street price". Don't pay MSRP--the shops pretty much meet Internet or mail-order prices.)

I’ve been very happy
with my Eagle Optics Ranger binoculars, 8x32, which are also close focus (3 ft) for looking at butterflies. They are relatively light weight, and waterproof.

Good websites
Both websites mentioned above are packed with information and good places to start. If you are planning on using your binos while in your boat, 8 power is about as strong as you should get. Sometimes I try to use my 10’s (I also have 7’s), but they are much more difficult to hold steady in a boat.

Some people say that an 8X32 binocular is the perfect all-around glass.

For the record, I have Zeiss Victory FL 10X32 (hawk watching binos, incredibly bright for a 3.2mm exit pupil) and Leica Ultravid 7X42, both purchased before the dollar tanked.

Good luck with your decision - let us kow what you get.


Need to try them
I agree you really need to physically try them to find the right fit for you. I found many that just didnt feel right and now have on order a Nikon trailblazer ATB 8x25 which felt and looked great to me and are waterproof and reasonably priced. The internet can help price compare for the best price once you know what you want!

rating binoculars

– Last Updated: Mar-07-08 8:43 AM EST –

the cornell bird lab rates binoculars. go to and look for the link to take you to their most recent survey. may help to narrow your selection. then, as others have posted, try several models out. binoculars are very personal, and what works for one may not work for you. my personal glasses are leupold pinnacles in 8x42. good all around glasses for wildlife/birding. good luck.


where to stow your binoculars
I’m a birder and do counts and eagle nest monitoring from my kayak. You’ll figure out what to buy after you try some binoculars out. I want to suggest a way to carry what you buy: deck bag. On land I wear my heavy 10x binoculars using a harness with stretchy straps. But in a kayak, with my short torso, the binoculars wind up sitting in a pool of water on top of my sprayskirt in my lap. Even for waterproof binoculars this is not good. So I keep them in a deck bag in front of me. In a canoe I put my binoculars in a little thwart bag, just so they don’t drag on me while I paddle. Works great. One important thing, though. In any boat, if the binoculars are not attached to your person, then you need to tie them to the boat or the bag with a cord. If you drop them overboard you’ll be glad to fish them out again – and miserable if you lose them. Voice of experience.


Another option
While I’m not a die hard birder but have often wanted to get closer up or to see just what that thing is waaayyyy over there I’ve found the Brunton Eterna or the Vortex SGR-828 monoculars simply work easier for me on the water than having the bulk and fit issues of the two ocular binocs. They’re both immersible and have held up to my wear and tear. Not tripod mountable, directly at least but when on the move in mixed conditions they’re certainly easy to use. Now if they just made a telescoping hand held telescope then that’d be great to complete the outfit for Talk Like a Pirate Day. Till then my Fischer Price version will have to do. I think I digress, a lot. :wink:

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

When we joined the Audoban (sp?) society, we got a binocular-price reduction greater than the cost of membership. Just a thought.

I’m a fan of 6x32s
I tried 7 and 8 power glasses but did not like the “jitteryness” of them when combined with the slight rocking of the kayak.

About 5 years ago I bought a set of Eagle Optics 6x32 Rangers and have been quite happy with them ever since. Great eye relief and light gathering for a compact set of glasses. And the close-focus of 6 feet is great for butterflies and wildflowers. Six-power makes you feel rock-steady as well.

The afore-mentioned test by Cornell mentioned a set of Leopolds, also 6x32 that appear to be comparable to the Eagles in all areas, including price.

One last caveat: Invest in or make your own floating strap for security. Even if you spend “only” $300 on glasses it is well worth the investment for peace of mind.


Brunton 6x30 Eterna monocular

For less that glassy waters anyway.

Waterproof, fog proof, good magnification for moving platform, fits PFD pockets, one hand free to hold paddle, one eye free to see that that fast approaching boat…

I like these
I don’t take the old non-waterproof Zeiss’s in the kayak, but have had good luck with my Bushnell Legend 8x26 Compacts. For $80, they are surprisingly good - waterproof and they work well for glasses wearers. They are light enough to wear around my neck and stow compactly in the day hatch or deck bag. Amazon and other places will list these.

Cheers, Alan

Thanks to all for the very comprehensive and helpful info. I’ll keep you posted as I sort through all of this and zero in on a selection. Thanks again.


Brunton has a new WATERPROOF monocular out for $27.00. I’ve ordered one but it hasn’t come yet. You can order direct from them. Whatever you get go waterproof. VF

Brunton eterna monocular
I also recently purchased the 6x30 brunton eterna monocular for barely over $100 for kayaking also so we will have the nikon trailblazers under $100 that are pretty compact and the monocular which is not very large either and both waterproof. I wanted compact ones so you must sacrifice field of view to get small but for my purposes, that’s ok. The Brunton is also very good quality for the money - now to get rid of this snow!

What is the weight of Brunton’s new monocular?

2 oz. Can’t get much lighter than that. VF

Thanks again for the inputs. The more I investigate this, the more I think that a monocular might be the best compromise for my kayaking. Besides just bird and seal watching I am constantly struggling to make out boats or other objects in the distance so I would like the device to be readily available at all times. A monocular in my PFD sounds very convenient. I do a lot of rolling so true waterproof VS resistant is essential. The Brunton Eterna 6X30 looks great and I will probably end up buying it but I would prefer more than 6X (I think). I couldn’t find the new Brunton that was mentioned for $27 - any leads on that model? Any leads on 7 or 8 X 30 models? Also, I would prefer to try the unit before ordering but none of the local suppliers (Jersey Shore) handle Brunton so I may end up ordering based on recommendations.


Cabelas website has much information

Nikon Trail Blazer
8X25 Just bought a one at Campmor today. My wife is at a Figure skating show tonight and wanted a pair of binocs. Had to be small and light weight and waterproof. We agreed to share in it’s use. It was the best of the bunch we looked at.

I used to use a large 10X50 marine binocs, but since I started taking a DLSR camera along, didn’t bother with the binocs.