Whenever you are kayaking out in the sea, there is a sense of freedom and peace of mind that can only come from regarding nature. And the best way to enjoy such a view might be using a nice pair of binoculars for kayaking, or perhaps a monocular.
But just what are the best binoculars for kayaking/canoeing? In general terms the best binoculars for kayaking are a pair of waterproof, fog proof, 7-8x50s.
However, also keep in mind that you need to consider certain features and specifications, as well as your budget. If you’re not a pro and only looking for an occasional trip, you may find cheaper options that will still provide great views. But if you’re looking for something in particular, you may need a more expensive pair.
In this guide, you’ll find all the information and tips you need to find out what are the binoculars you are looking for!
The best binoculars for kayaking: buying guide
So, you already know many features come into account when choosing your lenses. Let’s see them closer and find the characteristics that suit your needs the most!
Are the binocular openings hermetically sealed, or do they leak? The sealing is done by a series of well-fitted O-rings that keep elements such as oxygen, dust, and moisture from getting inside its body.
The best binoculars for kayaking must prevent water leaking at all costs. So it’s a good thing that almost all mid and high-range binoculars offer good quality O-ring sealing, thus making them both air and watertight.
You should be careful if you are on a budget, as companies often advertise their less-expensive products as being water-resistant or weatherproof.
This term might sound similar to water proof, but it probably means they are only splash-proof or may only withstand moderate rain. But, when exposed to bad weather for a length of time, they will eventually leak.
- Fog proofing
Most waterproof binoculars are also filled with either dry nitrogen or argon at a higher-than-atmospheric pressure. This avoids interior moisture condensation and prevents the binoculars from misting up on the inside.
Sure, on very cold or humid days, moisture will still condense on your binoculars’ lenses, but only on the outside, where you can wipe it away.
Also, the absence of oxygen inside fog-proof binoculars prevents mould and fungus growth, which provides extra protection when paddling around in humid rainforest weather.
- Image Magnification
Binoculars work by magnifying multiple times the image perceived by the viewing scopes, according to the size of the lenses placed within each tube.
Binoculars are often referred to as, let’s say “7×50” – which are the best price/value relation -.
- The first number makes reference to how many times the image will be magnified – in this case, 7 times -. In other words, think about it as if you have gotten 7 times closer to the subject just by looking through the binoculars.
- The second number denotes the objective lens width -expressed in millimetres-. These are where the light gets inside the binoculars and is then reflected and refracted.
This way, we may conclude that the larger the objective lenses, the more light it will capture, and so, the resulting image will be flawless.
But these values present us with another problem because nothing can be perfect! Every movement of the kayak will also be amplified by our binoculars’ magnification ratio. And let us tell you something, unstable binoculars are not the best binoculars for kayaking!
Lack of stabilisation makes it incredibly hard to maintain the image still enough – even on calm waters -. That’s why the most popular marine binoculars have a magnification power of 8x or less. That, in turn, takes us to…
As said before, the kayak’s movement – also known as bobbing – is inevitable. So the best way to get a steady image is to rely on binoculars with a built-in image stabilising feature.
- Most modern image stabilisation binoculars are digital, meaning they have electronic components inside, thus making the need for waterproofing even more vital.
- There’s also the price factor! Good quality binoculars like the Canon 8×20 and 10×30 from their IS series cost around $450 – $600 respectively, but these are neither weather nor waterproof. While higher-end image stabilisation binoculars such as the Fujinon TECHNO-STABI TS-X 1440, featuring waterproofing as well as fog proofing, will cost you some $1300.
- Another disadvantage is that they run on batteries, so once these are drained, that’s it for the day! You might still find some without electronics, but these are not very common nowadays.
So, perhaps the best option for your kayaking binoculars is disposing a bit of image resolution – you can still get wildly clear sightings – and compensate with stabilisation.
Size and Weight
The size and weight are directly related to how much glass was used in their construction, as well as in its external casing materials.
One might be inclined to carry a pair of somewhat heavy binoculars due to these being easier to hold steady while on a bobbing kayak.
But in reality, this represents a literal pain – to your neck and shoulders, that is -, as having a two-pound item hanging from your neck all day will take its toll. Take the advice from some experienced adventures here!
However, this could be mitigated by using a longer-stretchable strap that acts as a shock absorber while standing. And also allows your binoculars to rest on your kayak spray skirt while paddling.
Just watch out saltwater doesn’t pool up on your skirt or spray on the lenses, as it may scratch and damage them. Remember to use the lens covers when the binoculars are not in use.
One Eye Only
We have already addressed the issue of size and weight and, while you can opt for mid-size binoculars, in certain situations, a monocular could be an even better choice. Actually, in most cases for enthusiasts, a monocular can prove more cost-effective, as you’re paying for only one lens. Among its advantages, you can find:
- Monoculars provide the same top-quality, bright, and sharp images through an instrument that is both lightweight and easy to handle.
- Due to its single-barrel shape, monoculars are easy to keep away in one of your PFD pockets.
- For the same size and weight as a pair of mid-size binoculars, you get a larger objective lens, meaning it captures light more efficiently. This becomes especially relevant at dawn or dusk when there is a less amount of sunlight available.
- Monoculars are cheaper to produce – Remember? Because it’s just one lens! -. A high-end monocular will cost significantly less than a binocular. Even with a slightly less-quality binocular.
After-Use Cleaning and Storage
Just like any other piece of equipment, binoculars need some love too! Doesn’t matter if you buy the top-best binocular for kayaking, if you don’t take proper care of it! And given the fact that their maintenance is easy enough, the more reasons to keep them in top shape!
- Clean all external body parts of your binoculars thoroughly by using a soft brush and a damp cloth (not wet). It’s vital to keep your lens covers in place during this process to avoid damage.
- Once you are finished cleaning the outer casing, proceed to remove the lens covers and clean them using a damp cloth to remove any remaining saltwater particles.
- After any salt, dust, or dirt residues are removed, use some lens cleaner on a cotton ball and gently wipe the lenses using circular movements from the centre outwards.
- Never use a paper tissue to clean your binocular lenses, to avoid scratching them. You could also use a microfiber cloth, but make sure it will only be used for this purpose only and nothing more.
Store your binoculars by placing them in an airtight container or plastic bag. Just make sure to put a desiccant inside it.
Above all, please try to avoid storing them in places with dust, high temperatures, or humidity. If you want to invest in other storage options like padded hard cases or pouches there are many options available. Remember it’s a significant investment; you won’t want your binoculars to get scratched anytime soon!
So, having reviewed all technical aspects and compared the convenience of both binoculars and monoculars, why not go out and test them?
In this section, we will number some of the best locations for kayaking and wildlife viewing around the globe, so you may start planning your next paddling expedition.
Everglades National Park, Florida:
One word, Alligators! It is Florida, after all! But while giant lizards might be the main attraction, Florida’s waterways are also filled with rich avian wildlife.
Great Egrets, Brown Pelicans, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, all these beautiful birds, and many more are permanent residents of the Everglades.
When kayaking around the Galapagos, you will not be spending countless hours hunting through your binoculars for a close view of its wildlife.
Pelicans, albatross, marine iguanas, sea lions, cormorants, and many more! All these fascinating birds put on a splendid display for the enjoyment of the lucky excursionist – we mean you! -.
Named “the world’s aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau and with good reason, while kayaking on Baja’s electric blue waters, you will enjoy sea wildlife aplenty. Not many places in the world can offer a marine view like this!
Baja’s coastline is filled with sea lions, whale sharks; there is also a sea turtle conservation project… And with luck, you might even see a flock of migrating gray whales! So bring your best kayaking binoculars and get ready for the water wildlife!
Princess Royal Island, British Columbia:
This remote area in the heart of British Columbia is home to the white Kermode Bear, the spirit animal of the B.C. And while it is highly elusive, it also usually has a gentle behaviour when met.
The vast wildlife present on the island also includes grizzly bears, wolves, eagles, and sea life such as porpoises, seals, orcas, and a variety of salmon species. And you’ll be able to enjoy it all thanks to your newly acquired best kayaking binoculars!
Skagit River, Washington:
If you’re fond of kayaking and bird-watching, this is a spot you can’t miss! Thanks to the immense variety of species that make their home in the Skagit Valley, this area is famous for its birding.
Birds of prey like the Peregrine Falcon, Red-tailed Hawk, Prairie Falcon, the majestic Bald Eagle, and birds like the Great Blue Heron, the Bufflehead Duck, and the Trumpeter Swan all make part of this rich ecosystem.
So there you have it, all you need to know about choosing the best binoculars for kayaking, and where you can go for the first time! Paddle hard, paddle far, but more essential, paddle safe!