5 reasons why these stylish binoculars are my new favorite hiking accessory

Nocs Standard Issue Binoculars.
(Image credit: Dan Bracaglia/Future)

Hiking is a blast. And though you don't need to spend much to enjoy it, trail-ready essentials like the best high-tech hiking boots and trail running sneakers, refillable water bottles, hydration packs, adventure smartwatches and weather protection are admittedly a lot of fun to shop for.

While I own more Gorpcore than I care to admit, one outdoor accessory that has alluded me up until now is a decent pair of lightweight binoculars. That changed when I got to test the Nocs Provisions Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars while enjoying a lovely urban hike. 

Priced at a manageable $95, Nocs come in a wide range of fun styles, are completely waterproof and fog-resistant, super-grippy to handle, and optically decent quality. They also have a lifetime warranty to boot. 

Here are five reasons why these funky binoculars are my new favorite hiking accessory. 

1. They're light and compact

Nocs Standard Issue Binoculars.

Nocs are lightweight and palm-sized.  (Image credit: Dan Bracaglia/Future)

Weighing just 12 ounces and palm-sized, these little binoculars are not going to hold you back or weigh you down. They're noticeably lighter than the understated Fujifilm X100 mirrorless camera I tend to bring on adventures. And like said camera, they shouldn't leave you with an achy neck. 

Nocs come with a microfiber carrying case, a cleaning cloth and a basic nylon neck strap. The latter is not a particularly fancy accessory for such a chic-looking pair of binoculars but it gets the job done. More importantly, the strap allows you to rock the Nocs hands-free. They also easily fit in a jacket pocket, if that's more your speed.

2. The build quality impresses

For 95 smackeroos, the build quality impresses. The entire body of the binoculars is wrapped in a ridged rubber material that's super-grippy and comfortable to hold. Beyond that, they're IPX7-rated for water resistance, which means they can be submerged for up to 30 minutes without issue (but also, like, definitely avoid that). 

Nocs Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars: $95 @ REI

Nocs Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars: $95 @ REI
These lightweight, compact binoculars are available in a ton of fun styles, are totally waterproof, come wrapped in grippy, ridged rubber and provide 8x magnification. Use them to check out wildlife, far-away peaks, tasty waves, incoming weather patterns and more... all for less than a Benjamin. 

A medical-grade O-ring not only keeps water out but also helps keep the Nocs from fogging. For added fog-proofing, the optical assembly is injected with inert Nitrogen gas. Additionally, the optics are well-recessed within the housing to keep them protected from scratches and impact.

3. Solid optics and compatible with smartphone cameras

While there are plenty of higher-performing binoculars available, the optics on the Nocs Standard Issue 8x25 are more than solid enough for casual users. Better yet, they're quite flexible, fitting a wide range of face sizes, and with 10mm of adjustable eye relief — a twist of either eye cup allows you to set it to your liking. 

As a glasses wearer, I had no issue dialing in the diopter and various adjustments. Getting everything nicely in focus took no more than a few minutes of fiddling. 

The optical construction consists of six multi-coated glass elements arranged in four groups each. That coating helps cut down on optical uglies like lens flare and weird ghosting anomalies while increasing overall contrast. 

A photo of the Space Needle in Seattle at night, shot through a pair of Nocs.

I snapped this photo using my iPhone 12 Mini through the Nocs. The Space Needle is roughly 1.5 miles from where the image was shot. (Image credit: Dan Bracaglia/Future)

Nocs are designed so that you can hold your phone's camera up to either eyecup and snap a telephoto shot. It took a little practice to get things lined up and in focus but the above image of the Space Needle in Seattle was snapped from roughly 1.5 miles away. And if you look closely, you can clearly see the silhouettes of folks on its observation deck. 

In addition to scoping the Seattle skyline, I also used the Nocs on my hike through the city's Volunteer Park to search for bald eagles, but mainly only spotted crows. That said, I did catch a few glimpses of America's finest feathered friend.

The Nocs sample I tested delivers eight times zoom which is roughly equivalent to using a 400mm camera lens. But if you want even more reach, check out the 10x25 pair. They go for the same price. 

4. They look seriously awesome

Nocs Standard Issue Binoculars.

Nocs come in a wide array of funky styles and colors. (Image credit: Dan Bracaglia/Future)

Maybe I'm just a predictable Millenial but I find the funky design and colorways of Nocs to be quite aesthetically pleasing. And even though that has zero impact on their ability to bring far-away things into focus, it does mean that I'm much more likely to grab them and bring them along on outings. 

By the way, I tested the Cypress II style, which frankly, might be my favorite. (Glacial Blue also looks pretty sweet). 

5. The price is right

I've long considered picking up a pair of binoculars for the further enjoyment of the great outdoors but resisted, mostly because I assumed they were A. pricey and B. clunky/ugly. But Nocs are neither of these things. 

And while $95 is still a pretty penny, the inclusion of a lifetime warranty gives me serious peace of mind that this investment will keep kicking for years to come. 

Ultimately, I've yet to find another pair of binoculars that are as easy to carry, fantastic looking and well-performing. What more could you want from a piece of tech that's nearly 200 years old? 

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Dan Bracaglia
Senior Writer, Fitness & Wearables

Dan Bracaglia covers fitness and consumer technology with an emphasis on wearables for Tom's Guide. Based in the US Pacific Northwest, Dan is an avid outdoor adventurer who dabbles in everything from kayaking to snowboarding, but he most enjoys exploring the cities and mountains with his small pup, Belvedere. Dan is currently training to climb some of Washington State's tallest peaks. He's also a big photography nerd.