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Choosing the Right Binoculars, Monoculars, & Scopes

When you’re exploring the great outdoors, sometimes you need to take a closer look at faraway objects or landscapes. Whether you’re hunting, hiking, or camping, it’s handy to be able to reach into your backpack and pull out binoculars or monoculars. You might need to see where the trail leads or check if there are dangerous animals in the distance.

Do I Need Binoculars or Monoculars? Or Both?

While they perform roughly the same function (giving you the ability to see distant objects more clearly), binoculars and monoculars are really very different. Binoculars are typically more powerful and versatile than monoculars. As their name suggests, binoculars have two lenses and eyepieces, as opposed to monoculars, which only have one lens and one eyepiece.

When it comes to viewing faraway objects or landscapes, binoculars are generally superior to monoculars. Because you use both eyes with binoculars, the image you see will be three-dimensional and include a real sense of depth. Binoculars are also more comfortable to use for long periods of time, since you don’t have to squint one eye closed when using them.

Monoculars are popular because of their convenience. They’re typically lightweight and small optical instrument (the size of a pen or a flashlight) and can fit easily into a pocket. This is handy when you want to quickly spot something in the distance without the hassle of taking out binoculars. For this reason, many hunters, hikers, and outdoor adventurers often bring both binoculars and monoculars with them.

What’s the Difference Between Monoculars and Spotting Scopes?

Where monoculars are prized for their convenience and portability, spotting scopes are prized for their power and performance. Spotting scopes are larger and heavier than monoculars, and typically offer even more magnification, zoom, and clarity than heavy duty binoculars. They allow you to see incredible detail over vast distances. For this reason, they’re highly popular among bird watchers. Spotting scopes with high-powered magnification and zoom are best used with a tripod, which helps keep the image steady and focused.

Should I Consider a Rangefinder Instead?

For activities like golfing and hunting, accuracy is the name of the game. Knowing how far the green is, or how far your target is, makes all the difference. Rangefinders give you a quick and easy way to hone your accuracy when you’re out in the field or hitting the links. Many models will also tell you more than just the distance to a specific object or location—some will also factor in elevation, wind speed, and more.