Best Travel Telescope 2017
The universe is a wonderful thing, vast and mysterious and unexplored. Look up at a clear sky, in an area with little light pollution, and you’ll see millions of stars and a myriad planets, other worlds that – who knows – may or may not harbour some form of life. Then there’s the moon, our very own satellite, endlessly accompanying Earth throughout her lifetime, a constant companion thousands of miles away, yet brightly visible in the clear night sky. People have watched the skies for hundreds of years, and there is plenty to explore up there.
Amateur astronomy is a popular hobby; in fact, there are many observatories across the world where you can use powerful telescopes to observe the celestial wonders. Wouldn’t it be great to have your own telescope, one you could take with you for your own, individual explorations of the stars above? You likely think that it will be ridiculously expensive! In fact, travel telescopes are surprisingly affordable, and there are many impressive, high quality models that will cost you nothing more than a couple of nights out. We took the time to have a close look at the 10 best travel telescopes available today, and produced this review for you. Before we get down to business, let’s talk about travel telescopes, what they do and how they work.
How Travel Telescopes Work
Here’s a fact that might amaze you: the very first working telescope was invented by a gentleman named Hans Lippershey, in the Netherlands in the early 1600’s! That’s 500 years ago – an astonishing fact however you look at it! Of course, today’s models are far removed from those early versions, but still follow the same basic principle. By way of clever optics, a telescope is designed to magnify the object you train it on and, depending on the magnification, give you a closer look at your chosen object.
There are two basic types of telescope: the refractor and the reflector. To keep it simple, the former uses a glass lens as its primary view, while the reflector uses a mirror. There are benefits – and downsides – to both versions, and we will cover some of these in our reviews. Travel telescopes are portable versions of the theme, and tend to be smaller, lighter and perhaps less powerful than bigger, stationery models, and we took a look at the top ten on the market right now.
We are sure there will be a travel telescope here that ticks all your boxes, so let’s down to business and have a look at the best travel telescopes you can buy.
The Top 10 Best Travel Telescopes
As you will soon see, Celestron is a name you will be seeing a lot of in this telescope review. It is the leading brand in amateur astronomy equipment, and has a range of very impressive, high quality telescopes designed for terrestrial and astronomical use. This one, the Scope 70, is a refractor model – perhaps the preferred design for portable travel scopes – and features the usual Celestron high quality optics, fully coated for optimum performance and a clear, crisp result every time. This lightweight telescope is perfect for travel use, and is highly recommended.
The package comes with a photographic-quality, very sturdy tripod, so once you have found your preferred spot you can set it up for stability. It’s easy to set up and use – there are no tools necessary – and provides more than adequate magnification from a set of eyepieces of different strengths. It’s light enough to carry around, and comes with a specially designed backpack that holds both scope and tripod for added versatility. At around £75 we reckon this is a good deal, especially as you get a CD-ROM sky map as part of the deal.
Pros: Quality brand, neat package, easy to set up
Cons: See below
Haven’t we just reviewed this one? Yes, but there’s a difference here – this is an Amazon exclusive package with a few extra accessories – let’s recap: the Scope 70, is a refractor model – perhaps the preferred design for portable travel scopes – and features the usual Celestron high quality optics, fully coated for optimum performance and a clear, crisp result every time. This lightweight telescope is perfect for travel use, and is highly recommended.
The package comes with a photographic-quality, very sturdy tripod, so once you have found your preferred spot you can set it up for stability. It’s easy to set up and use – there are no tools necessary – and provides more than adequate magnification from a set of eyepieces of different strengths. It’s light enough to carry around, and comes with a specially designed backpack that holds both scope and tripod for added versatility.
So, what’s the difference here? The price: as an Amazon exclusive, this is available for a saving of more than £10 over the above, and it’s a better package, too!
Pros: Great deal, great scope
Cons: None, but buy it quick as it’s limited stock
Such is the range available from Celestron, we could have given you ten from that one brand. However, that would not be fair, as there are others to consider with impressive telescopes to offer. Orion is another leading brand, and one that has many to choose from, and this one – another 70mm refractor – would make a fine choice. It’s a similar price to the above package, and comes with an equivalent set of accessories, and also features a finder scope for locating the features you want to look at.
This neat scope is specially designed for travel use, and is also widely used by birdwatchers, and comes as the above with a neatly designed backpack that takes the scope itself and the tripod, and you also get a moon map with details of the features on the lunar surface. You get two eyepieces for varied magnification, and it’s suitably light and compact for travel use. We can’t fault it, really, and it is worth adding to a shortlist whether you want a scope for terrestrial or astronomical use. Have a closer look at this one, at a sensible price of a little less than £70.
Pros: Excellent design, special backpack, accessories pack
Cons: Difficult to find any
We like this one for several reasons: it’s a quality travel telescope with many fine features, and one that is made to the highest standards with high quality optics and fully coated glass. It comes with a full equipment pack including a number of accessories and eyepieces, a high-quality tripod which is very sturdy, and a special backpack into which everything fits. It’s a similar price to those above, and is an equally high-quality item that is popular with astronomers and birdwatchers.
Where it wins is in one particular item in the accessory pack: this is the Seben smartphone holder, and it really is a major reason to consider this model. It allows you to attach a phone or camera to a specially adapted holder, which you can then use to take photos through the telescope. You can buy the adapter separately, but as it comes as part of this package as standard, we can’t help making this one to consider very strongly indeed. At around £64, this has to be one of the best so far.
Pros: Camera holder, quality item, extensive accessory pack
Cons: Difficult to find any
Another 70mm refractor scope, this one is from the renowned BTM brand, another of the major players in the telescope world. It comes with the usual accessories pack, a decent tripod, and is a neatly designed scope with a multi-function mount. All the optics are good quality and fully coated for the best results, and a full range of eyepieces for various levels of magnification. It’s a good package, and also comes complete with special backpack into which the scope, stand and all accessories can be packed.
If there is a downside, it’s that it simply doesn’t feel as high quality as, say, a Celestron. Having said that, this would be the perfect travel telescope for a beginner, and would make an excellent model for birdwatching and other terrestrial use. It’s great for those on a budget, too, as you can have this one for a whisker less than £40, a big saving on the others. It’s worth a look if you’re new to the game, but we can’t help advising that for a few quid extra, you can have a model that feels better than this one.
Pros: Affordable, good accessories package
Cons: Not a Celestron!
This one is the little brother to the first Celestron we reviewed, and is a 50mm scope rather than a 70mm version. It carries with it all the quality aspects of the brand, and is beautifully made with top quality optics and other materials. The stand is a very sturdy tripod that features a clever, adjustable mount, and the scope comes with a spotting scope for added versatility. You get the usual set of eyepieces and lenses, and it can’t be faulted for quality of results.
We’ve said it before, but Celestron is the leading name in this field, and there are good reasons why. Their products are consistently of a high quality, reliable and fit for the purpose, and they provide everything you need in a telescope, whether for astronomical or terrestrial use. If this one has a flaw – and its less than 50 quid so that would be difficult – it’s that it’s only 50mm; for a little extra outlay you could have the 70mm version, and never feel the need to trade up as you likely will with this model. Perfect for beginners, though.
Pros: Celestron quality, excellent accessories package
Cons: Only 50mm if that concerns you
This one is not strictly a travel scope, but we have to include it because it is a very impressive telescope in every possible way. It’s not as compact as any of the above, and is a refractor like the rest here; it’s a longer and thinner design that the above travel scopes, but it still serves a purpose. You get the usual accessory pack and eyepieces, plus the spotter scope and a pre-assembled tripod. The handle is a specially designed one with azimuth control, so you get a smooth movement when panning.
We won’t pretend that this scope will be easy to move from place to place – it’s design is intended for siting perhaps in a chosen room in the home for constant use – but we do like it, and it features the usual first-class quality optics that are associated with Celestron, as well as the best selection of eyepieces. There’s no backpack with this one, and at around £85 it is more expensive than most, but if you want a scope that is bordering on professional quality, this one fits the bill.
Pros: Superb quality, powerful scope
Cons: Not a travel scope
National Geographic is a huge name in the world of publishing, but did you know they also have branded products, including a range of telescopes? This 50mm refractor is a neat and tidy design, and one with the requisite quality coated optics, and we reckon that at the price – less than £40 – it is a perfect choice for a beginner. National Geographic would not risk putting its name to something of a less than excellent quality, and this telescope does not disappoint.
It comes with all the usual features, has an azimuth control bar and sturdy tripod, and is well designed with a neat body that is compact and easy to handle. It’s light enough to carry around – although you don’t get a backpack in the price – and comes compete with a full set of accessories and eyepieces, and we can’t fault it for value for money. If you are new to the game and want to find out if you enjoy astronomy or birdwatching, and don’t want to spend too much, this could be the choice for you.
Pros: Known brand, price, accessories
Cons: No backpack
This is something a little different, but we thought it worthy of inclusion. It’s not an astronomical telescope – it really doesn’t have the power to observe celestial objects in any clarity – but it would make a useful accessory for birdwatchers or watching sports. It’s a small, handy item with quality optics on board, so returns good results every time, and would be extremely handy for taking pictures with a requisite mount for your camera or smartphone.
This device is handy for carrying around when out camping or walking, and allows you to watch things up close. It’s also handy for concerts or other events where you may be some distance from the stage. It comes with a strap so you can hang it around your neck, and it also has a fitment so it can be added to just about any standard tripod mount for added stability. If terrestrial, occasional viewing is what you are indulging in, then this small, cheap device – it’s less than £20 – could be the item you are looking for.
Pros: Handy, cheap, great for birdwatching
Cons: No good for viewing stars
Before we go on, let’s make it clear this is by no means a travel scope, so perhaps we shouldn’t have included it. However, we thought it right to show you just what you get when you spend a bit more on what is a professional standard telescope, with some amazing features. To start with, this is a 130mm reflector telescope, so you will get stunning results all the time. It also has a motor drive, so when moving it you can do so smoothly and without effort. It is a fully equipped, stunningly made telescope, and comes with a full set of eyepieces and other accessories.
This quite brilliant telescope is able to see such as the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter, in full clarity, and is great for those who want to scan deep space and see the wonders of the universe. You get software that allows you to see where you should look and for what, and it really is an amazing experience. This is a telescope for the discerning user, for serious night sky watching or for terrestrial use, and at less than £140, is an example of what you can get if you are ready to take that extra step into the world of telescopes and astronomy.
Pros: Top quality, wonderful features
Cons: Not for travel use
So, that’s 12 telescopes reviewed for you, each of which is a good buy for its own reasons, and we hope that we have helped you come to a decision about the type and model of telescope you need. Let’s recap some important points before we sum up.
Important Features to Consider
If it’s astronomy you’re interested in or birdwatching, a telescope is a great investment, and for not much money you can have a genuinely great quality model that will serve your needs. There are certain considerations to take note of if you are to make the right decision, so let’s look at some of the more important factors to think about:
- Refractor or Reflector – we’ll keep this brief, as only one of our chosen ten is a reflector, and it’s the non-travel version at the end. As it is, refractor is the way to go for portability.
- Aperture Size – if stargazing is your intention, we recommend the wider aperture the better; 70mm is the optimal size to allow for clear viewing and portability, and most of the above reviewed are of this size.
- The Package – check what you get with the package; some of these come complete with a backpack and there are various accessory packs to consider, so have a careful look at what is included in each before making your decision.
- Price – we’ve included several prices in this review, including some cheaper than others. With complex technical items such as telescopes, however, it is always best to pay the most you can afford for the best model, and we believe the several in the £60-plus range to be the best ones here.
There you go, that’s your lot! All that needs to happen now is to wrap this up.
Let’s wrap it up!
Buying a telescope is not a decision to be taken lightly, and as you have seen here there are some considerations to be made. This is one area where it is not worth skimping on the investment, as the more you pay, the better quality telescope you are going to have. We can’t find fault with any of these, but we do recommend you consider the full range from Celestron, a leading brand with an excellent choice. They are famed for high quality, fully coated optics and excellent engineering, so you can’t go wrong. Choose carefully and you will enjoy many hours of exploring the stars and planets or birdwatching, so have fun with your new telescope, and we’re pleased to have been of help!