Binoculars, Scopes, Tripods & More
Optics We Use and Recommend


Vortex Diamondback Binoculars Vortex Diamondback Binoculars (Read our Review): I bought the 10×42 Vortex Diamondback binoculars which are inexpensive, but still are good enough quality for hunting or birding in low light. I have used binoculars as part of my outdoor field work for over 30 years, so I know what qualities are needed in a good binocular. The Vortex Binoculars are easily comparable in quality to the Nikon Monarchs, which are the mid-priced standard (I bought many Nikon Monarchs or field techs).  In addition, Vortex offers their VIP Warranty (Very Important Promise) – Vortex Optics will fix any problem – No questions asked.

Checkout the Vortex Diamondbacks at Amazon

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Field Spotting Scope

nikon prostaff spotting scope Nikon ProStaff Compact Spotting Scope (Read our Review): I needed a waterproof spotting scope that was light weight and compact but with very bright and clear images. No 65 mm objective will ever gather as much light as an 88 mm  objective, but the Nikon Prostaff cost less than $400 and I can easily pack it around. The compact size fits perfectly into an exterior pocket of my day pack or easily fits inside the pack for extra protection when I’m packing light. I chose the Nikon Prostaff after comparing to 19 other compact spotting scopes in the $200-$500 price range. I still use my version of theProstaff scope, but it is no longer available. The closest versions are now Nikon Prostaff 5 or the Nikon Fieldscope ED 50.
If I needed a new spotting scope, I would be tempted by the Vortex Viper HD.

Read my Comparison of 43 Spotting Scopes Priced between $200 – $500

Rifle Scopes

Nikon Buckmasters 1×20 rifle scope (muzzleloader) Nikon Buckmasters 3-9×40 rifle scope (7 mm Rem. Mag.). Mounted with Weaver style scope mounting base and mounting rings. Rugged quality Nikon optics that don’t break the bank.

Simmons 8-point Rifle Scope – (see one here) Also mounted with Weaver base and rings. I bought one for my muzzleloader after the state changed the rules and allowed us to hunt with magnified scopes. This is a great scope for about $40 and it proved to be tough when I fell crossing a creek.

I am happy with my current scopes, but I have been tempted by the Vortex Scopes…

Field Tripod

vanguard tripod review mak 233Vanguard MAK 203 Tripod (Read our Review): A spotting scope requires either a rifle mount or a tripod.  I am happy with the Vanguard tripod because it is lightweight (2.4 lbs), compact (23.5 inches folded), so it fits into side pocket of my day pack. The tripod extends high enough so I can use it while standing. It is sturdy enough for a steady view of the target and has a quick shoe release for fast attachment and release of scope, camera or trail cam. The Tripod also doubles as a shooting stick. I have shot at least 3 elk using the tripod as support. I am still using this tripod, but it is no longer available. I think the closest model is the Vanguard Vesta

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  1. John Cornell says

    I need an affordable spotting scope for hunting desert mulies. I have to spot at long ranges and pack in a long ways. Here’s a comparison on scopes and current pricing: Vanguard High Plains 60×60 $150, Bushnell XLT Trophy 60×65 $210, Leupold SX-1 Ventana 45×60 $259, Vortex Nomad 60×60 $329 and the Nikon Prostaff 48×65 $353. For the money what is the best choice for my needs? Thanks.

    • Yes, affordable, long range scoping and pack a long way. Unfortunately, these three things don’t always go together in a spotting scope.
      Obviously, if you were looking at a hillside from the comfort of your truck or lawn chair, there is nothing that can compare to a full-sized 80mm (full priced) scope.

      I used a Kowa 884 for many years doing wildlife surveys and it was great. But it is not a scope for packing. Also, at highest power, even the good quality full sized scope start to distort the image. High power is for zooming in and checking on things that may or may not be antlers poking out from behind a bush, not for continuous scanning. Another thing, you better have a good tripod when scanning for deer or elk. If not, the images will be to shaky to spot much and your eyes will get extremely tired.

      After looking at your short list of spotting scopes, did you read this post? It covers basically what you are asking. The post is about my decision making process as I checked out different scopes. I looked at many of the same scope you are considering.

      As for your list, The Bushnell Trophy, Vortex Nomad and the Vanguard High Plains were all considerably heavier than the Nikon ProStaff and the Bushnell Trophy, the SX-1 Ventana and the Vortex are at least two inches longer than the Nikon.

      The optics of these scopes are comparable and none convinced me not to choose the Nikon Prostaff. I was never able to find a store that had a Vanguard to actually look through.

      Also for packing, consider a monocular. Vortex makes a 15X (here) and one version has built in range finder. Bushnell also makes a 10x monocular, I don’t have one, but it’s on my wish list. I been able to look through one at the shooting range and liked it. Easy to pack and tripod not needed, but you will need to steady your hand on a tree or shooting stick.

      Good luck and maybe Santa will be good to you this year…

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