Nocs Binoculars Review: Affordable Travel-Friendly Compact Binoculars

The budget and travel-friendly binoculars for hiking, surf-spotting and wildlife viewing.

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This Nocs binoculars review covers the key features of Nocs Provisions Standard Issue Binoculars, including what makes these compact binoculars different from others on the market, and whether they stand up to our testing in the wild.

We also summarize the pros and cons to bear in mind if you’re thinking these may be the best compact binoculars for your needs, or if you’re considering buying a pair as a gift for a friend or loved one who may enjoy using a pair of binoculars for activities such as bird watching, wildlife viewing (whether at home or when traveling), stargazing, checking the surf, or plotting a trail or ski line in the backcountry.


Nocs Binoculars Review – Table of Contents

Nocs Provisions Review - Trail and Kale
Nocs Binoculars Review

About Nocs Provisions Standard Issue binoculars

Nocs is a San Francisco-based company founded in 2019 and inspired by outdoor adventures and California’s land and sea-scapes.

They’re focused on driving innovation in affordable yet high-quality optics products, including their flagship Standard Issue 8 x 25 binoculars. These binos are designed to be compact, rugged and waterproof – suitable for travel and using pretty much anywhere, at that sweet-spot across price, portability and quality – as well as style.

Getting to know our local wildlife better | Nocs Binoculars Review
Getting to know our local wildlife better | Nocs Binoculars Review

The fact that they are compact means is that they are light and small, making them easy to carry around with you wherever you take them. As binoculars tend to get rather heavy the larger they are (due mainly to the larger amount of glass that is necessary to make them), the added weight, as well as the size, can make large binoculars significantly less portable and therefore less suited to activities such as watersports, hiking and backpacking, for example.

The ‘rugged’ features include a grippy, textured housing, and a waterproof, fog-free design. If you’re planning to use your new binoculars anywhere with water or humidity in the environment, then making sure your binos will not fog up (like your glasses might) and that if they get wet they won’t be damaged, is, of course, very important.

Nocs Binoculars Review - Ribbed detailing for grip and style
Nocs Binoculars Review – Ribbed detailing for grip and style

If you’re anything like me then you’ll want these features for peace of mind more than anything, so you can feel more confident that you can take a relatively expensive piece of outdoor adventure gear on those outdoor adventures, without worrying too much about breaking it (and wondering whether you should have left it at home).

The ‘official’ product name is the Standard Issue 8 x 25 Waterproof Binoculars. 8 x 25 binoculars are a popular specification for compact binoculars designed with portability in mind.

The ‘8’ essentially means they offer you a magnification of 8x, putting you 8 times closer to the object or scene you are viewing. The ’25’ relates to the size of the binos’ ‘objective lens’ in millimeters – and the bigger the number, the larger the lens. For compact binoculars, this number is generally going to be under 30, reflecting their smaller size compared to larger models which will have larger lenses.


Key features and specs

Ok, so I’ve explained a bit about these binoculars and the headline features. But to get more granular here’s a quick list of some specifics that are important to know:

  • Weight – 11.85oz (336g)
  • Size – 4.53 x 4.25 inches (115 x 108mm)
  • Waterproof and fog-proof – constructed using medical-grade O-rings, the Nocs are submersible for 30 minutes in up to 3 feet of water, meeting IPX7 waterproof criteria
  • Quality optics with scratch-resistant lenses and a wide field of view – it’s clear a lot of care and diligence has gone into selecting quality materials to offer clear and functional viewing – which is, of course, critical, for a pair of binoculars to be enjoyable and useful! There’s more technical detail on Nocs’ website if you’re looking for the specifics
  • Twist-up eye cups – this feature means that they are compatible with glasses, so if you wear glasses, you can adjust the eye cups to get a good fit and focus while keeping your glasses on to use the binoculars
Nocs Binoculars Review Trail and Kale web wm 13
Nocs Review | Main focal adjustment wheel

These are specifically designed to be quality, compact and waterproof binoculars, intended for travel and taking anywhere (as they’re small, relatively lightweight, and rugged). They’re not ‘cheap’ binoculars, nor are they really fancy Swiss-made – they sit in the middle.

On first look, the features that stand out include the very grippy housing, which has ridges reminiscent of BMX bike handlebars, and the fact that they are available in a range of bright colors, inspired by the landscapes of California, such as Poppy Orange, Seafoam Green and Marigold Yellow – as well as more muted black, grey and blue binocular color options. The Nocs featured in this review are Cypress Green.

Nocs have also designed them so that you can use them as a zoom lens for taking photos with your smartphone. You can either do this by holding your phone up to the viewing lens and snapping a shot, or buying their specially-designed photo rig to allow you to more easily mount the two together to take photos (or videos) of everything from the moon to an animal or a surfer cresting a wave on the horizon.

It’s also good to know that they come with a lifetime guarantee. In their own words, it’s a ‘No-Matter-What Lifetime Warranty. Seriously, no matter what, we want you to get them dirty, get out there, and see some rad stuff.’ This offers some nice reassurance that you can take these on your adventures and the company will help sort you out if you do accidentally damage them in the process.


How to use these compact binoculars

I’ve found the Nocs to be ergonomic and simple to use. They are small and light enough to hold with one hand, and with the grippy design, I haven’t been concerned with them slipping out of my hand, even when wet, and they fit in your palm to carry easily.

Nocs Review - focal adjustment wheel
Nocs Review | right eye focal adjustment wheel

The focus is easy to adjust – and if you haven’t used binoculars before, they come with some instructions. Essentially, you close your right eye and use the main focus wheel on the top of the binoculars to get a good focus for your left eye, then open your right eye (and close your left) and adjust the right eye’s focus using the other wheel that’s located on the right.

My tip for getting a good focus is don’t settle for something good but slightly blurry! Keep adjusting and play around with the settings, as you can often get a much clearer image of objects in the distance if you take the time to dial it in.

I’ve found these binoculars work best for ‘everyday’, all-round use – to spot lines and wildlife while out on hiking trails, and to magnify distant mountains, huts and landscapes, for example. While you can use them to look at the moon and for stargazing, you will get a better experience with a larger pair of binoculars (for example, I use a pair of these Nikon 8 x 42 binos for stargazing mini-adventures).

As Nocs are waterproof binoculars you can also take them in places you may not bring others, such as out on a boat, whale watching, sightseeing near waterfalls, or kayaking… or even just out closer to home on a rainy day. While they are waterproof and are designed not to fog up when exposed to moisture, do bear in mind though that they will sink if dropped in water, so you may want to attach a flotation device to them if you plan to take them out over water.

Nocs Binoculars Review Trail and Kale web wm 10

A microfiber cloth and thin neck strap are included with the binoculars when you order them. You can also buy thicker, designed woven tapestry-style straps as extra accessories on Nocs’ website. I don’t have the thicker woven strap yet but it looks more comfortable than the thin strap if you plan to wear them around your neck for longer periods – and the designs look cool!

They come in a drawstring soft fabric storage bag, which is useful for light protection from dust, etc, but it won’t really protect the binoculars from being knocked or dropped. This means that it’s worth considering getting (or perhaps you already own) a more padded and/or structured gadget storage pouch or bag that you can keep them in, especially if you’re going to be putting them loose in a larger bag with other gear that may get banged around while you’re hiking or traveling.


Are these the best budget binoculars under $100?

Nocs Binoculars Review Trail and Kale web wm 17
Best beginner binoculars for those who want lightweight, attractive binoculars on their hikes

Well, I can’t say for certain that these are the best because I haven’t tested all the compact binoculars you can buy! But with that said, these are an excellent quality pair of adventure-ready binoculars that not only work perfectly well, but they also look and feel great, and so for $100 we consider these to be a very good deal if you’re looking for compact, beginner or entry-level binoculars that you can use pretty much anywhere.

I also love how ergonomic they are to use, and that, as well as a black version you can buy them in a range of cool colors so they don’t get lost amidst your other stuff like a black or grey color (this means they’re always jumping out at us screaming ‘take me, I’m small and light’ when packing for adventures).

In my opinion, they’d also make a great gift for anyone who has an interest in nature and the outdoors, from the family member who likes to keep track of animals and birds in their backyard and would enjoy having them close at hand, to that mountain climbing / surfing / backcountry-loving adventurer in your life who needs to spot lines or distant trails.


Where to buy

Nocs Standard Issue binoculars currently retail at $95 and you can check the prices and buy them from any of the following stores below:


Review summary

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this Nocs binoculars review and this has helped you decided whether their Standard Issue binos are the right ones for you. If you have any questions for me about my experience of using the Nocs, drop them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you!

Alastair
Alastairhttps://www.trailandkale.com
As the founder of Trail & Kale, and seasoned marathoner & ultrarunner, Alastair loves bringing our readers independent running shoe reviews and gear insights to help you run your best. Learn more about Trail & Kale here.

2 COMMENTS

    • This is true – I clocked a near focal distance of around 18ft in a test with the NOCS. You’ll need a more expensive pair of binoculars for a focal range that has a closer focal distance for activities like birding.

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