Binoculars vs. Spotting Scopes

The question to bring one set of optics on an outdoor excursion over the other will always be tricky. It depends on the situation and the power and versatility of your optics. In this article, we’ll narrow down some areas where you should prefer one over the other. On the other hand, you might be inclined to bring both.

Spotting Scopes

On average, spotting scopes are going to have more powerful focus and longer range than your basic set of 8x42mm or 10x42mm binoculars. If you recently purchased a spotting scope or are looking to get one, here are a couple of situations you should consider:

  • Hunting-For long distance hunts where the terrain is variable. Spotting scopes will help you determine key details about the environment. When you are sitting in a location where you can observe the terrain around you for miles, the scope will be preferable to a set of binos.
  • Birding-In order to have a successful birding experience, acquiring the most intricate details of birds is the priority. It’s no surprise that two different bird species may only be separated by a small and hard to see color scheme. With powerful zoom and light transmission, the spotting scope is going to be your best friend.

The inconvenience with spotting scopes is that the larger ones (that are usually the best), require tripods for the best stabilization. Depending on where you’re going, tripods add a lot of excess weight. If you’re planning on walking long distances or going up steep terrain, you might want to think twice about bringing a spotting scope. Despite the excess weight, there are ways to bring a spotting scope and tripod and still get the job done:

  • Travel with a friend
  • Bring a larger backpack
  • Use a pack animal

There are some spotting scopes that you can freehand. This means less overall weight but smaller and less powerful lenses.

Click here for our picks for the best spotting scopes of 2018.

BinocularsNikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8x42 Binocular (Black)

While not as powerful as spotting scopes, binoculars are certainly the most widespread and versatile optics in the outdoor adventuring world. They weigh less than spotting scopes but some models do produce impressive power, focus, and light transmission.

With binos, you can place them in pouches on your body for easy access. You don’t have to take off your backpack every time you need to glass terrain. Compared to spotting scopes, they’re a whole lot more convenient.

So, where should you be using binos? Rather, the question should be where¬†shouldn’t you be using binoculars? Binos can be and are usually used in just about every outdoor excursion there is. They are also commonly used in indoor events such as opera or theater, where people sitting far away may not be able to see the stage that well.

  • The key thing to do before you purchase a new pair of binos is to check the product description carefully. This description should give you the correct measurements, and how well they hold up during low light conditions (morning and evening).

For a reliable viewing experience, binos are pretty much a necessity when venturing into the wilderness, especially when dealing with shorter ranges. You would never want to travel with just a spotting scope.

Click here to see our choices for the best binoculars of 2018.

Click here to see our picks for the best rangefinder binoculars of 2018.


There isn’t a primary set of criteria that dictates which optics are better than others. Sure, spotting scopes on average sport more powerful and longer reaching lenses. However as we’ve discovered, the most power doesn’t equate to the best experience.

In our opinion, what you should be judging binoculars and spotting scopes on is the excursion you are about to embark on.

  • What’s the terrain like?
  • What will the weather be like?
  • What time of day will you be out there and for how long?
  • Are the animals/objects are want to see well camouflaged or reclusive?

There is no set answer to each of these questions. In the end, the answer will come down to how quickly you want to spot what you’re looking for. In that case, it’ll be a good idea to bring both sets of optics on a trip so you can get the best of both worlds.

Do you have a preference for one type of optic over the other? Leave a comment and let us know!