Best Binoculars for Sailing

Best Binoculars for Sailing | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

A high-quality set of waterproof marine binoculars can help you navigate in all weather conditions.

In this article, we'll overview seven of the best sailing binoculars on the market today. In addition, we'll go over the qualities that set premium binoculars apart and why you should consider investing in a professional-level set of binoculars.

The best binoculars for sailing are the Steiner Navigator Pro binoculars, the Bushnell Marine 7x50 binoculars, the Hooway 7x50 Military Marine binoculars, the Changcun 20x50 binoculars, the Bostionye Ultra-Compact binoculars, the Celestron Oceana 7x50 binoculars, and the Glassowl Night Vision IR Digital binoculars.

The information provided in this article was sourced directly from binocular and optics manufacturers, along with the customers who purchased these tools.


Table of contents

Qualities of the Best Binoculars

What sets a high-quality set of binoculars apart from the rest? The first factor is overall build quality. This is important for both durability and longevity. High-quality binoculars are more weather-resistant and shock-resistant, and they last significantly longer. Additionally, the best marine binoculars are shrouded in some form of non-slip material such as coarse rubber.

Another factor that sets quality binoculars apart is lens quality. The best binoculars have glass lenses that are precisely engineered to resist scratches and produce high-quality and clear images. This is usually accomplished through various coatings, which also increase brightness and sharpness.

The last consideration is longevity. A well-made pair of binoculars can last for generations, and the quality and clarity of the magnified image will never degrade. This is especially important on tinted binoculars, as low-quality lenses tend to yellow over time.

Best Marine Binoculars

The best marine binoculars are durable, weatherproof, and produce a crisp and clear image. Based on the recommendations of sailors and reviewers, we chose ten of the best sailing binoculars available today.

1. Steiner Navigator Pro Binoculars

Here's a set of premium marine binoculars with an integral compass. The Steiner 7x50 Navigator Pro binoculars are specifically designed for marine use, and they're crafted with the highest-quality materials in Germany.

German binoculars are known for their quality, and the country produces some of the best lenses in the world. Steiner is among the best optics manufacturers around today, and the Navigator Pro binoculars are their compact example.

These binoculars are loaded with useful features, including an integrated compass that makes it easy to pinpoint the location of an object, area, or obstacle. These binoculars feature 7x50 zoom, which is sufficient for use on sailboats.

The compass itself is viewable through the lenses in a crescent-shaped display, which is out of the way and doesn't interfere with the sight picture. The lenses are coated to produce a high-contrast image, which helps reduce disorientation when bobbing around in choppy seas.

Key Features:

  • Made in Germany
  • Premium quality lenses
  • Illuminated compass
  • High-contrast lenses
  • Fully waterproof

2. Bushnell Marine 7x50 Binoculars

Bushnell has a long history of producing binoculars for the U.S. market. Over the years, this company has been a primary supplier of binoculars to the U.S. Navy, including during the second world war. As a result, they have plenty of practical experience designing marine binoculars.

The Bushnell Marine 7x50 binoculars are rugged and purpose-built for use aboard sailboats. These binoculars are completely waterproof and made of durable material that resists shock and all weather conditions. The housing is comfortable to hold and intuitive, as it resembles traditional binoculars in both length and shape.

Like the aforementioned Steiner binoculars, this Bushnell Marine model incorporates an internal analog compass, which is extremely useful for determining the direction of an object you're looking at. Additionally, these binoculars include a range finding reticle, which can help you estimate the distance of an object. Many binoculars don't include any range finding tools, which sets this Bushnell model apart.

Weatherproofing features include a fog-proof and airtight housing that's sealed with O-rings and nitrogen-purged. It also features fold-down lens caps, which keep the lenses clean and free of salt water when they're not in use. The housing is wrapped with a special rubber compound that resists slip and absorbs shock.

The lenses are multicoated, which increases brightness when necessary and reduces visual distortion. Bushnell's BaK-4 Porro prisms also contribute to even brightness and crisp picture reproduction, which means you won't lose detail no matter how far you zoom in. And with a 350-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, that extra detail comes in handy.

Key Features:

  • 7x magnification
  • 50mm objective lens diameter
  • Fully waterproof
  • Illuminated analog compass
  • Multicoated fog-proof lenses
  • Range-finding reticle

3. Hooway 7x50 Waterproof Military Marine Binoculars

If you're looking for the features of the previous Bushnell binoculars in a smaller package, then consider the Hooway 7x50 Waterproof Military Marine binoculars. These binoculars share several desirable features with competing models, and they're highly affordable as well.

Essentially, the Hooway marine binoculars do the exact same thing as the aforementioned Bushnell binoculars. Like the Bushnell unit, these Hooway binoculars have a magnification power of 7x, an internal analog compass, and a range finding reticle to determine the distance of an object.

The primary difference between the two competing models is build quality, which doesn't actually differ much between the models. Like the Bushnell unit, Hooway constructed the housing of these binoculars with a durable and waterproof rubber, which makes them easy to grip and hold onto. Additionally, these binoculars are fog-resistant and nitrogen purged, which helps keep the multicoated lenses clear from the inside.

The shape of the Hooway marine binoculars is wide and compact, which some people prefer to the traditional long-lens binocular style. Additionally, it stores well in compact areas due to its reduced length. These binoculars feature a handy range decoding system on the objective lens housing, which helps users focus the binoculars and determine the range of an object.

Overall, the Hooway marine binoculars are a comparable alternative to other units on the market. What sets it apart is its affordability and rugged design, as the entire unit is covered in a thick layer of durable non-slip material. This model comes with a carrying case and tripod adapter, which is useful for sightseeing and other stationary activities.

Key Features:

  • Compact design
  • Fully weatherproof construction
  • 7x magnification from 50mm lenses
  • Durable anti-slip housing construction
  • Excellent value

4. Changcun 20x50 Waterproof Binoculars

Here's a surprisingly high-quality pair of budget binoculars that work well for sailing. The Changcun 20x50 binoculars are styled off of traditional full-size naval binoculars, and they're completely waterproof. Plus, 20x magnification gives the user an impressive sighting range.

As far as features are concerned, the Changcun 20x50 binoculars are somewhat bare. This isn't an issue if you're just looking for an affordable pair of binoculars to use aboard your boat. But when it counts, the Changcun 20x50 binoculars are designed and built properly.

These binoculars are completely sealed and nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging. Additionally, the lenses are coated to produce a sharp and bright image in a wide range of light conditions. These binoculars feature FMC BAK4 Prism lenses, which are known for producing high-quality images. These features alone aren't always guaranteed in the sub-$100 price range, so we're impressed with what these binoculars have to offer.

The housing is slip-resistant and large, which makes these binoculars easy to hold. Due to the lack of advanced features, these Changcun waterproof binoculars are highly intuitive and easy to use. This is beneficial in stressful situations when quick actions are necessary.

Overall, the Changcun 20x50 waterproof binoculars are the best long-range budget optics available to sailors. They make a great backup when the typical 7x magnification isn't enough, and they'd serve well as a primary set of binoculars for your sailboat.

Key Features:

  • 20x magnification
  • 50mm objective lens diameter
  • Fully waterproof
  • Nitrogen-sealed housing
  • Intuitive operation

5. Bostionye 12x25 Ultra-Compact Binoculars

Bostionye manufactures unique and highly compact marine binoculars with some interesting features. Bostionye waterproof binoculars are well-designed and ideal for use in coastal cruising, regattas, and sightseeing.

Bostionye designed these binoculars with sightseers in mind, though they didn't sacrifice quality or durability. These compact binoculars are about half the size of a traditional set, and they fit easily into a work jacket pocket or handbag. They're also lightweight, making them ideal for travel.

The lenses feature six individual coatings which help produce a sharp image in multiple lighting conditions. They're also resistant to scratches and dirt, which improves image quality over the long term. These coated lenses are also easy to clean, which makes them ideal for use in salty spray conditions.

 These Bostionye binoculars don't feature a compass or rangefinder. Instead, these binoculars include a separate kit designed to work with smartphone cameras. This is especially useful when photographing regattas, events, and sights along the way. The set includes a 5-in-1 lens kit, which makes it easy to zoom in with your iPhone without sacrificing image quality.

The entire set is highly affordable. And while it's not ideal as a primary sailing optic, this set of binoculars is an excellent addition to your sailing supplies. It doesn't take up much space, and it'll work for situations where you don't want to lug around a full-size set of binoculars. Plus, its 12x magnification is more than enough for navigating in most conditions.

Key Features:

  • 12x magnification
  • Fully waterproof
  • Rubberized non-slip housing
  • Ultra-compact design
  • Multi-layer coated lenses
  • Includes 5-in-one lens kit for iPhone

6. Celestron Oceana 7x50 Binoculars

Marine binoculars come in a wide range of sizes and styles, even if the basic features remain similar to most of the optics on the market. The Celestron Oceana is an example of a high-quality variant of the classic 7x50 marine binocular setup. This set of binoculars features everything you'd expect in a compact and durable package.

The housing of the Celestron Oceana unit is made from durable rubber-coated material, which is completely waterproof and anti-slip. The inside of the housing is nitrogen-purged, which reduces fogging and increases the useful life of the binoculars.

The lenses themselves are multicoated to improve sharpness and clarity. The coating also increases brightness when necessary, such as in twilight conditions. Coated lenses also have a positive effect on bright days, reducing glare and improving detail.

These binoculars also include a compass, which is illuminated for easy reading in all light conditions. If the battery runs out, you can still read heading under the right lighting conditions. Additionally, these Celestron binoculars include a range finding reticle for estimating distance.

The eye relief is 22mm, which is larger than average and ideal for people with glasses. Overall, Celestron's Oceana binoculars are an excellent medium-range choice for sailors. It's high quality and includes all the features you need for marine use.

Key Features:

  • 7x magnification
  • Weatherproof housing
  • Rubber-coated anti-slip material
  • Mid-sized binoculars
  • Multi-layer coated lenses
  • Illuminated compass
  • Range finding reticle

7. Glassowl Night Vision IR Digital Binoculars

The Glassowl Night Vision IR Digital Binoculars are a radical departure from traditional marine binoculars. While designed primarily for hunting, sailors have found that a well-made pair of night vision binoculars can be an extremely useful tool aboard a boat.

Unlike all of the other binoculars on our list, the Glassowl IR binoculars allow you to see clear and crisp images in complete darkness. That includes the kind of darkness you find on the open ocean on a cloudy night. And while these binoculars don't eliminate the need for a searchlight, they can help you see clearly without using lights.

These binoculars are compact, and they come with a digital viewing screen. These binoculars can zoom up to 4x digitally and 3x optically, making them ideal for short and medium-range night spotting. Glassowl uses multicoated 25mm lenses and a rubberized body for clear images and a firm grip.

The range of these binoculars is 1,000 feet, which is rather remarkable for such a small set of digital binoculars. This is due to Glassowl's new LED infrared illuminators, which are effective at longer ranges than older models.

The Glassowl night vision binoculars can also take photos, which can be viewed on a separate 4-inch screen. A 32GB memory card is included, along with a cleaning cloth for the lenses and screens. The binoculars run on six AA batteries, which is ideal for quick battery changes while underway.

Key Features:

  • Full night vision
  • Rubberized housing
  • Multicoated lenses for image clarity
  • Includes viewing screen
  • Takes photographs
  • 1,000-foot range
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 4x digital zoom
  • Tripod compatible
  • Uses disposable AA batteries
Best Binoculars for Sailing
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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