Even with modern navigational electronics that give your position to within a few metres, you’d still be wise to keep a good pair of marine binoculars on board. We pick out 8 of the best options...
Whether for identifying a tricky harbour entrance, taking a closer look at an approaching ship or even looking for the breeze, a decent pair of marine binoculars will repay their purchase price many times over in peace of mind and as a useful aid to pilotage.
What to look for in a good pair of marine binoculars
Binoculars are available in many different guises online, in varying degrees of magnification, weight, size and waterproofing.
At first glance you might assume that the greater the magnification the better, but on a moving boat, it’s long been accepted that 7x is the best compromise between making objects appear larger and keeping them still enough to see.
The trusty pair of 7×50 marine binoculars narrows down the search somewhat, but you’re also looking for light weight (to avoid tired arms), an adjustable eyepiece (to suit any eyesight, glasses and contact lenses), and ideally, they will be filled with nitrogen to keep moisture at bay.
Weight-wise, marine binoculars seem to fall into two camps – the cheaper ones, minus the bells and whistles come in at around 6-700g, and the better quality ones at around 1kg. Read our other article about three premium marine binoculars tested by Bruce Jacobs.
You can buy models with internal compasses, floating bodies and even image stabilisation: luckily there are binoculars for every boat and budget out there, so we rounded up 7 of the best deals.
Best marine binoculars available right now
Silva waterproof 7×50
These binoculars have been tried and tested for a good few years now. They’ve stood up well to the general slinging around and rough stowage that most marine binoculars are subjected to.
These were branded as Nexus, but they’re now found in the shops branded as Silva.
What they lack in sophistication they make up for in robustness and no nonsense fit for purpose aesthetics.
The antiglare coating works well on the water.
The model tested doesn’t include a built in compass, but newer models offer this option which I would recommend over models without.
Reasons to buy
Robust, fit for purpose, great antiglare properties
Reasons to avoid
Long barrels can be harder to to hold steady, a little pricey.
Price: £186 without compass, £211 with compass
Plastimo Marine 7×50 Autofocus binoculars
Best entry-level marine binoculars
These entry-level marine binoculars from Plastimo are lightweight and will autofocus.
They are ‘splashproof’, so no nitrogen filling, and won’t appreciate a dip in the sea, but they do boastfully coated lenses for protection against scratches and damage.
They don’t have an adjustable eyepiece but have rubberised cases on the handles for impact resistance.
- Great entry-level option
- Lightweight and autofocus
- Fully coated lenses
- Not waterproof
- No adjustable eyepiece
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Steiner Navigator Pro binoculars
Best overall marine binoculars
READ OUR 5* LONGTERM TESTED REVIEW OF THE Steiner Navigator Pro Binoculars with build in compass
Steiner is one of the oldest names in optics and their Navigator Pro model, available with and without a compass, is designed for sailors.
The Navigator Pro is nitrogen-filled, waterproof up to 10m depth, and has a nano-coating on the lenses to enhance visibility and reduce glare.
At 1.05kg they are comparable to the Minox binoculars in weight. A rubberised coating should protect them in case of impact.
Steiner has a good reputation for quality and reviews of these marine binoculars are particularly favourable.
- Nitrogen filled and waterproof to 10m
- Great brand reputation
- Nano coated lenses
- Premium price
RRP: £362.99 / $299.99
Force 4 Floating Waterproof compass binoculars
Best all-round marine binoculars
These waterproof, floating binoculars from well-known chandlery Force 4 are a good all-rounder at a decent price: they float, have an internal, illuminated compass, and are nitrogen-filled to keep moisture at bay.
With adjustment on both lenses, they will suit most types of eyesight, and a rubber case should keep damage from knocks to a minimum.
The lenses are coated to reduce glare and increase visibility and brightness.
- Nitrogen filled and waterproof
- Adjustable lenses
- Lack the premium feel and features of more expensive options
Waveline Autofocus 7X50 binoculars
Best budget marine binoculars
These 7×50 binoculars are available from a number of marine outlets.
They are about as basic as they come: autofocus, splashproof and impact-resistant, they won’t float and aren’t nitrogen-filled, so aren’t likely to survive a trip overboard either.
However, for occasional use and if stored down below in their supplied carry case they are likely to prove perfectly adequate for boaters on a budget.
- Great of occasional use
- Basic, lacking features
- Won’t survive a trip overboard
Minox BN 7×50 C binoculars
Best marine binoculars for glasses-wearers
A good rival to the Steiner Navigator Pro, fellow German brand Minox can trace its origins to Cold War spy cameras.
These good quality binoculars have an integrated analogue compass and boast extra large eye-pieces, which will help glasses-wearers, who often struggle to use standard binoculars.
They are nitrogen-filled, and have a single eyepiece adjuster to correct for the user’s vision.
Weighing 1.1kg, they aren’t the lightest of those we’ve looked at, but the build quality of Minox marine binoculars is impressive.
- Nitrogen filled
- Extra-large eye-pieces
- Premium price
Bynolyt Searanger II binoculars
Best marine binoculars for compass accuracy
These compass binoculars are waterproof and shockproof and are filled with nitrogen. They’ve also been chosen by the RNLI for use on their lifeboats since 1999.
The compass has a stated accuracy of 1 degree and is illuminated. Weight is comparable with the Minox and Steiner marine binoculars, and these float with the aid of a neck strap.
The Non-slip rubber body will ensure they stay put when you put them down in the cockpit.
- Nitrogen filled
- Waterproof and shockproof
- A mainstay for the RNLI
Bushnell Marine 7×50 Waterproof binoculars
Best multipurpose marine binoculars
These well-specced marine binoculars from US outdoors firm Bushnell are waterproof, non-slip, rubber-covered and nitrogen filled.
While relatively unknown in the marine market, they have long been associated with hunting and outdoor sports.
These binoculars have coated optics for increased light transmission and brightness. A single eyepiece is adjustable to suit your eyesight, and the eye caps can fold down to suit glasses-wearers.
- Nitrogen filled
- Waterproof and nonslip
- Coated optics
- Relatively unknown in the marine market
Further reading across our titles…
If you want more binoculars with built in compasses, you can read more about those in our other dedicated article on sister title Practical Boat Owner
If you want to know how binoculars actually work and what the numbers mean, you can read about that at our sister title, Yachting Monthly
You can read about night pilotage: how to enter unfamiliar harbours at our sister title Yachting Monthly
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