(I may earn a small commission on the products mentioned in this post.)
Binoculars are essential for every sailboat. A good pair of binoculars can help the crew see the coast, anticipate rocks, scope out other boats and ships, and view the stars at night (star-gazing on a sailboat at sea is hard to beat).
But there are a lot of hazards associated with having binoculars on a sailboat.
- Water damage
- Moisture and humidity
These are just a few things that must be considered when sailing. A compact pair of binoculars that stores well is important. It’s also important the sailing binoculars are waterproof too. These are few things I look for and I bet you’re looking for the same.
In this article, I’ll share the 5 best sailing binoculars. I’ll also share what characteristics you should look for in a quality pair of binoculars (e.g. magnification, lens diameter, eye relief).
Let’s get started.
What To Know: Best Binoculars For Sailing
When you’re looking for binoculars you’ll notice a few things. 1) 2 numbers with an X in the middle. It’s important to know what this means so you can purchase the correct binocular for your needs.
The first number tells us the magnification power. The second is a length measurement of the lens (ex: 50). You should understand the following:
- Objective Lens (Diameter)
- Eye Relief
- Waterproof or Fog-proof
There are many more criteria to assess binoculars. In this article I keep it basic.
Magnification power of your binoculars is the most important. What good are binoculars if they don’t “zoom” in on objects? Quality binoculars use between 5-10x magnification.
This means the binocular zooms between 5 and 10 times closer. Imagine if you’re using a binocular with magnification 5x, it will bring the object much closer. If you’re using a binocular with 10x it will get your sight twice as close as the 5x.
Be careful when choosing your magnification. There are some perks to a magnification that is less. If you have a 5x magnification the picture will be more stable and easier to control.
If you’re using a 10x magnification you’ll be able to see farther but might be too difficult to control and is certain to have more shake or bounce. If you’re uncertain, a 7x or 8x offers a middle ground..
Objective Lens Diameter
Lens diameter comes 2nd (example 7 x 50). A 50 lens diameter is 50mm in diameter.
The larger the diameter, the more light captured by the binoculars and the better it will be to see in low light circumstance.
When sailing, a large diameter lens will do better around dawn and dusk and will be great for star gazing.
The larger the lens, the heavier the binoculars will be. Finding a mid-range binocular with 35-55mm lens will help limit size and be sufficient for dawn and dusk. I larger lens will capture the moonlight and provide better viewing at night.
Eye Relief = Quality
Eye relief is a term you should know. Eye relief is the distance between your eyes and the binoculars.
Long eye relief is more comfortable because you can hold binoculars away from your eyes and eyelashes.
Eye relief is important especially if you wear glasses. If you wear glasses consider an eye relief of 11mm or more
Waterproof and Fog-proof
If you’re sailing, you should consider purchasing waterproof and fog-proof binoculars. More-so because binoculars can be a large investment.
Waterproof binoculars refer to the inside of the lens. If water penetrates the lens it could problems, specifically blurry and foggy.
Once inside the lens, water will be difficult to remove and can ruin the binocular. Waterproof lenses use an O-ring that seals the edges of the lens. Some of them can be dropped in the water and they float.
Fogproof binoculars have nitrogen inserted into the lens and don’t fog from humidity or temperature changes. This is important to have in the best binoculars for sailing. The fog proof quality won’t protect against the outside of the lens (you can just wipe off).
All decent binoculars have a focus adjustment and most people know how to use this. Once you’re looking in the binoculars, use the focus to adjust lens for your eyes. This is done on an individual basis.
5 Best Binoculars For Sailing
#1 Nikon 16026 7×50 OceanPro Binoculars
I recommend Nikon binoculars because they’re a brand I know and trust. Yes, I own a pair of the Nikon Aculon and I love them. High quality, great for viewing at day, dust, and night.
This pair of Nikon is the perfect option for sailing because it offers the marine features with a quick central focus, durable rubber outer layer, long eye relief, and a nylon strap included.
- Great company
- Sleek design and durable rubber outer layer
- Global compass
- 100% waterproof and fog proof
- Long eye relief
- 50mm lens for viewing at darker times of day
Eye relief is the single best indicator of quality when it comes to binoculars. This pair has 22.7mm of eye relief which is great.
Though it’s not bulky, the binoculars weigh 3.8 lbs which give it some durability. The lens diameter provides a wide view at sea, which is important for use on an unsteady boat (check Nikon OceanPro binoculars on Amazon).
These sailing binoculars come with a padded fabric case and a floating neck strap. Customers like the optics, and state that the compass reads clearly and is illuminated for viewing at night.
Nikon offers great quality at a price that is reasonable. I’m happy with my pair and I know these would be the perfect binoculars for sailing.
#2 Bushnell Marine 7×50 Binocular For Sailing
Bushnell is another reputable binocular company that should be considered. The company is most-known for hunting but they make beautiful marine binocular too.
This option is the same size and the Nikon mentioned above and 100% waterproof and fogproof lens (check Bushnell Marine binoculars on Amazon).
- Great company
- Nitrogen purged (waterproof and fogproof)
- Porro prisms and multi-colored optics for clear images
- Built-in compass
- Lightweight – 37 ounces
- Floats – durable outer rubber
- 18mm eye relief
Bushnell offers a limited lifetime warranty for all marine binoculars. I like these binoculars for the good price and quality.
Many of the characterizes line up well with the Nikon binoculars but the eye relief is much different. If you’re a big Bushnell fan or on a strict budget, these are great. I’d still go with Nikon.
#3 Steiner Navigator Pro 7×50 with Compass
Steiner binoculars are German engineered so the quality and precision go’s without saying. You know you’re getting quality, but you also know you’ll pay for it.
These sailing binoculars are no different and offer a compact option for tracking boats, buoys, and wildlife while sailing.
- Quality engineering
- Fogproof and waterproof
- Compact yet thick to withstand 11 G’s of impact
- Floating prism to easily absorb sudden impact
- Rubber armor and lightweight
- 6 ounces
I think the look of these leaves a little to be desired, however, these are made for performance and durability, not for style. If you’re out at sea you need binoculars that will last under tough conditions, provide crisp views and a compass that works (check Steiner Navigator Pro binoculars on Amazon).
The price of these binoculars come at a premium, but it’s because you’re getting a top-of-the-line pair. If not for the price, these would likely be my best binocular for sailing.
#4 Bushnell H20 Waterproof and Fogproof Prism
Bushnell makes the list for a second time with this more compact option of sailing binoculars. If you need something a little smaller, not too fancy, that does the job well then this pair should be on your radar.
They look great, have most of the same durable and waterproof features, and come at a great price.
- Durable and waterproof/fogproof
- Non-slip rubber armor with good grips
- 17mm eye relief
- Limited lifetime warranty
This pair of binoculars does not have a compass, nor does it have the wide lens found on the other options. The magnification is higher at (8x) but the lens diameter is slightly less (42mm).
Important: more magnification and smaller lens diameter means your view will be shaky in rough waters (check Bushnell Marine binoculars on Amazon).
If you weight the pros and cons of these binoculars, it’s still a great option. Compact waterproof binoculars at a good price. It’s one of the best-reviewed binoculars, which are expected from a company like Bushnell.
#5 Steiner Marine 7×50 Binoculars for Sailing
Yep, I’ve returned to Steiner too. Sure you can find other brands of binoculars but why risk it with an unknown company. I prefer to buy quality products from the best companies because I get what I pay for (you probably feel the same way).
The warranties and customer service are usually better too.
This Steiner binocular comes at a better price than the higher rated option and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. However, you still get the same German engineering that will last a lifetime (check Steiner Marine binoculars on Amazon).
- Made or sailing (including auto-focus)
- 20mm eye relief
- Measures 8.1 x 3 x 5.5 inches
- Weighs 36.3 ounces
Steiner says these are made for the toughest conditions on the planet and will withstand moisture, heavy glare, cold temperatures, rock slams, and grit storms.
You may worry about dropping a pair of our other brands, but these will survive just about anything and probably last forever.
As you’d imagine the reviews for Steiner are almost perfect. I actually prefer these to the more expensive option, but you won’t be getting the compass.
At around 100 dollars these are reasonably-priced binoculars from a best-in-class company.
In Addition To Your Binoculars For Sailing
Binocular Harness – Eyeskey Strap
The Eyeskey harness is great for sailors who use their binoculars a lot. It’s adjustable and securely fits around both shoulders.
It evenly distributes the weight throughout the back and chest – so it’s not all on your neck like other straps.
The straps use nylon and lycra as their material. The harness will work with other products too (cameras etc.).
Altura Photo Professional Cleaning Kit
Using binoculars while sailing can lead to sand, moisture and dirt getting on your binoculars. Altura is my preferred binocular cleaning kit. They use a solution that helps remove dust, dirt, sand, and fingerprints from your lens.
A microfiber cloth is included. There is also 50 sheets of cleaning paper. It has a 3-month guarantee so don’t worry about your purchase (return if you’re not happy with it).
The cleaning kit is affordable and in my opinion, it’s a great addition to someone who sails and wants to take good care of their binoculars.
Don’t Forget: Clean Your Binoculars
Binoculars don’t need to be cleaned often. When clean them, however, make sure to do it correctly.
Follow These Steps To Clean Your Binoculars Properly
- Read your manual
- Gently blow dust away
- Use a microfiber cloth for fingerprints
- A lens-cleaning pen helps with most optics products.
If you sail, having high-performing binoculars is essential. Binoculars will be your eyes on the high seas and expand your vision on the horizon.
While sailing, you’ll use your binoculars to view marine life, view ships passing by, keep an eye on the coastline and look out for rocks and other dangers.
In this article, I shared the best binoculars for sailing and a few things to look for when buying binoculars. Magnification, lens diameter, eye relief are all important to understand so you buy the correct binoculars. Of course, they should be waterproof and fog proof too.
You’ll notice that I only listed well-known and well-respected binocular brands. Don’t be fooled by imitations and knock-offs. In the long run, the quality (and warranty) will matter and that’s what you get from Nikon, Bushnell, and Steiner.
Thank for reading another Beach Life article. Let me know what binoculars you chose and be sure to visit us again for more beach-related articles.