Portable telescopes – Buying guide & Comparison
If you want to make sure you will always be able to catch the most out of the sky wonders no matter where you travel, heavy equipment is a big no-no. Instead, you can opt for a portable telescope with a compact design, but with great magnification rates to provide you the best sky spectacle.If you are in need of such an item but you’re not really sure which one would best suit your needs, our comprehensive shopping guide will hopefully answer your questions. After reading plenty of online reviews, we believe that the Orion 10149 is the best choice because it is lightweight and extremely portable, it can be easily used without a tripod and will provide the perfect lighting so you can enjoy amazing images both during the day and at night. If the Orion 10149 is not available for purchase, you can always opt for the Celestron 21061 as the perfect alternative.
Our Top Choice
The product is both suitable for passionate astronomers and beginners. The 4-element lens system offers sharp and detailed views of celestial objects. It can be both used during the night to observe the Moon and the planets, and during the day for birdwatching or wildlife observation. The 20mm eyepiece lets you enjoy wide and panoramic views.
It doesn’t come with a tripod so, if you want to make this telescope steady, you will have to buy one separately. The price is also quite high so make sure you are a true passionate before buying it.
Thanks to its ultra lightweight design, it can be easily used anytime, anywhere. This is a convenient model that speaks to rookies and advanced users.
Celestron’s 21061 model is a highly portable telescope that comes with a permanently mounted StarPointer and that works very well for both terrestrial and astronomical use. The two 1.25” eyepieces offer good details of the observed objects, and the Starry Night software makes everything easier.
The sturdy tripod is, for some users, a bit rough when it comes to its clutch system, meaning that in certain situations it’s hard to follow a celestial object as it moves.
Given its features that ensure a very good performance and considering its portability, this model is definitely one you should keep in mind.
This telescope is perfect for beginners and provides all coated glass optical elements for clear and sharp images of the sky. The set-up is quick and easy, without requiring additional tools. It comes equipped with a tripod and both items can be easily folded and fit inside any travel bag for easy storage and traveling.
The tripod is made from a thin material meaning it is not extremely reliable or durable. The finder and focuser are made of plastic, which could mean they are more prone to breaking sooner.
For a very convenient price, you can observe the sky, the stars, and the planets easily, thanks to this lightweight and portable telescope.
A portable telescope can provide you with just as much power as a heavier, full size model, and you have the added advantage of being able to take it with you for use almost anywhere. Having a portable telescope allows you to enjoy different views of the sky, along with the surrounding scenery. There are several portable telescopes to choose from and not all perform the same. To help you find the best portable refractor telescope we have highlighted the main aspects you should be aware of in this buying guide.
According to the best portable telescope reviews one of the first aspects to consider is your budget. Even though these telescopes are smaller in size, they can still be priced as high as some of the stationary models. Unless you are a professional astronomer or really want to be able to clearly see features on Mars, you probably don’t need to buy the most expensive portable telescope on the market. It is also important to note that the price of the telescope does not always reflect its power.
The price is also determined by the quality of the materials used to construct the lens, viewing tube and even stand, along with the type of mount that it comes with. Once you have a set spending limit in mind it will be easier for you to narrow down your choices and find a portable telescope that fits your needs and budget.
Size and weight
It is important to remember that size and weight really does matter when you are looking for a portable telescope. The last thing you want to do is lug a heavy telescope around when you are traveling. All portable telescopes are smaller in size, so this is rarely an issue. Simply make sure that the product description specifically states that the telescope is designed to be portable.
The weight can and does vary according to the materials used to construct the telescope, though on average most portable models weigh less than six pounds. It is also important that you check the weight of the tripod, since chances are you will be taking it with you. Tripods constructed from aluminum are typically recommended since this material is lightweight and durable. While you don’t want the tripod to add a lot of additional weight, you do want it to be sturdy enough to support the telescope.
Ease of use
Even professional astronomers and experienced users appreciate a portable telescope that is convenient and easy to use. This is especially true for beginners who often start off with a portable model since its shorter length can make it easier to control when you are scanning the horizon. While the telescope’s power will determine how far you can see, the eyepiece and the focal length will affect how bright and clear the objects appear. This is true whether you are gazing at the constellations or using the telescope for birdwatching.
The best portable telescope for beginners will come with an eyepiece that is easy to adjust. Some come with small hooks so you can make the necessary adjustments without taking your eyes off of the object. As a rule, portable telescopes that come with longer focal lengths are easier to use. They also have the added advantage of being a great choice if you happen to wear glasses. You also want to pay attention to the type of mount, since this will also affect how easy it is to use.
There are two types of mounts, equatorial and altazimuth. While equatorial mounts are often used by professionals, most beginners and amateur astronomers prefer the altazimuth since it is extremely easy to operate. Since the mount can move in two motions, vertical and horizontal you can easily scan the ground, horizon and track objects in the sky.
The best small portable telescope will come with everything you need to get started, and this includes a convenient carrying case. Hard cases are a little heavier and can be bulky, but they are a good choice for travelers since they are able to protect the sensitive components from damage. If you plan on hiking with the telescope you will probably want to choose one that comes with a soft case. This way it is still protected, but the lighter case is significantly easier to carry when you are hiking to the perfect viewing spot. For added convenience you can find backpack styled cases so you can carry the telescope and leave your hands free for other things.
9 Best Portable Telescopes (Reviews) in 2020
A portable telescope is a great choice whether you are star gazing, bird watching or simply want to see a stunning view of the city lights. While we can’t choose the right model for you we can help you make an informed decision, which is why we have the best portable telescopes in 2020 showcased below.
- 1. Orion 10149 StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope
- 2. Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope
- 3. Celestron 21035 Travel Scope 70 Telescope
- 4. Orion 10016 StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector Telescope
- 5. Orion Observer 80ST 80mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope
- 6. Gskyer 60mm AZ Refractor
- 7. White TwinStar AstroMark 80mm 16-40x Portable
- 8. Celestron PowerSeeker 70EQ
- 9. Meade Instruments Infinity 209001
Even though this portable telescope doesn’t come with a tripod, its lightweight construction and small size ensures that you can easily use it with or without one. If you do want the convenience and support of a tripod, it can be easily mounted with the necessary hardware.
This 62mm refractor telescope makes the perfect addition to any serious astronomer’s collection. It is also a great starter for anyone just getting interested in astronomy. The lens system is designed to provide you with bright and clear images of distant objects, whether you are using the telescope during the day or night.
If you want to scan the horizon during the day or distant wildlife simple insert the 45 degree correct image diagonal. The included 20mm eyepiece allows you to enjoy wide, panoramic views which is great when you want to scan your surroundings or track an object as it is moving.
Beginners and experienced users will also appreciate how easy it is to bring a distant image into sharp focus. With the included protective hard case that even has room for the eyepiece and diagonal it has never been so easy to take your telescope with you wherever you go.
This is an extremely portable and lightweight telescope that you can easily carry around and enjoy everywhere you go, without too much trouble or harsh mounting.
The small-sized construction allows for easy packing and carrying in your backpack.
The 4-element lens systems allow for a sharp and detailed view of the Moon, the surrounding planets, as well as plenty of bright sky objects. You can also use this telescope during the day for bird watching, hunting or simply observing the wildlife.
The product is suitable both for beginners and for experimented astronomists.
It doesn’t come with a tripod, meaning it will be quite difficult to carry it around with you all day long without causing fatigue or hurting your hands.
Those who are merely beginners may find the price of this scope quite challenging. If you don’t plan on sticking to this hobby on the long term, we suggest opting for cheaper devices.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($399.99)
2. Celestron 21061 AstroMaster 70AZ Refractor Telescope
If what you are looking for is a highly portable telescope that allows you to get clear images of celestial objects, then Celestron’s 21061 model might be exactly what you need. The device comes with a permanently mounted StarPointer and given the erect image optics, it’s ideal for terrestrial and astronomical use.
In case you are looking for a telescope that was designed for beginners in terms of ease of use but also offers excellent performance, then it’s a good thing that this model includes the AstroMaster 70AZ refractor which offers sharp, detailed views of Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons, and many more.
With the help of the 210161, you discover one of the simplest ways to explore the night sky, even if you don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to astronomy and celestial objects. Also in terms of usability, the model is very easy and quick to set up, requiring no additional tools, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
The manual Alt-Azimuth Mount is an intuitive functionality that includes a panning handle and that makes locating celestial objects a breeze.
The telescope also features a sturdy and full-height adjustable steel tripod.
In terms of optics, the two 1.25 inches eyepieces (20mm and 10mm) offer good details of the objects you are observing.
The telescope also comes with a finderscope and a free Starry Night astronomy software to assist you in your newly found passion.
The optical tube has a length of 36 inches while the lens diameter stands at 2.6”.
For some users, the tripod is fairly sturdy but the clutch system makes it sometimes hard to follow a celestial object as it moves. If you deal with this situation, you can either try to adjust the tripod or use another one in case you already have it.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($149.95)
Even first time stargazers will feel like a professional with this portable telescope by Celestron. Its sleek black design and included aluminum tripod look professional, while still being easy to use. Since the tripod is constructed from aluminum it is lightweight and durable so it is capable of supporting the 70mm telescope, and also easy to carry.
To ensure that the telescope and tripod are protected during travel they both fit inside the included carrying case. You will also appreciate the case’s “backpack” design for hands free carrying when you are navigating busy airports or hiking to the ideal viewing spot.
The glass optics are fully coated so objects appear crisp and clean through the lens. The telescope also comes with a diagonal which is perfect for birdwatching or getting a closer view of your surroundings. To ensure you can easily scan the horizon and follow objects vertically this telescope also comes with a user friendly altazimuth mount.
For those who want to find specific constellations and track and identify objects in the night sky, you will appreciate the astronomy software that comes with your purchase.
The glass optics of this telescope are fully coated, ensuring a clear vision for all observing elements. Thus, the images will appear clear and crisp.
It features an erect image diagonal for views that are perfectly oriented and an overall easy experience, even for beginners.
The product is extremely easy to set up, without requiring additional tools or too much time.
It comes with a custom-made backpack that will help perfectly store both the telescope and the included tripod. This way your product is perfectly packed for traveling and easy storage anytime, anywhere.
It also offers an astronomy software equipped with a 10,000 object database and 75 enhanced images.
Some customers were not pleased with the overall quality of this product, claiming they can barely see the Moon with it and nothing else.
The tripod is not of superior quality either, and can easily break after only a couple of uses.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($66.9)
4. Orion 10016 StarBlast 6 Astro Reflector Telescope
Orion’s 10016 StarBlast 4.5 Astro Beginner is one of those telescopes that was designed for beginners in terms of ease of use, but that can be easily enjoyed by experienced observers, as it comes with many cool features that ensure very good performance.
The model is designed to be compact, offer a wide-field and be user-friendly, at the same time including functionalities that allows it to boast a 73% more light-gathering area than the smaller models, ensuring clear and bright images with good details. The scope is also highly portable, as it weighs only 23.5 lbs.
The neat part about it is that is comes fully assembled right in the box, so you don’t need to worry that you’ll have to start a complicated process of putting small pieces together that you are not even sure are correctly placed.
The 6” aperture reflector optics reveal the planets and other deep-sky gems in very good detail. The wide field of view provided means that finding and tracking objects around the sky is way easier than with longer focal-length models. This is one of the features that make this model an excellent one for beginners of all ages.
Another good thing is the non-stick bearings and adjustable altitude tension on the base that ensures the smooth maneuvering of the StarBlast 6.
Plus, the two handle cutouts included in the base allow an easy lift and transportation of the device.
This model comes with the Starry Night software, as well as with the EZ Finder II aiming device, for an enhanced overall user experience that ensures the desired results in terms of observations.
In some cases, when the EZ Finder is used extensively, it might drain the battery. Therefore, if you know you are planning a longer use, you might want to find a backup solution.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($339.99)
5. Orion Observer 80ST 80mm Equatorial Refractor Telescope
Who said you need a big and bulky telescope to enjoy beautiful images of the night sky? With Orion’s Observer, a short focal length refractor model, you can get similar results but with a compact and hassle-free device. You can take it outside and set it up right away, whenever you feel like watching celestial objects.
With the versatile objective lens which features an 80mm aperture, you get a short focal length of 400mm, meaning that the Observer 80ST is extremely portable and compact, but also ensures a very good performance.
Given its fast f/5 focal ratio, the device’s strong points are the bright, wide-field views of the stars and of the deep-space objects. So if there’s one in particular, you are interested in, this telescope might prove to be the right partner to observe it closely, even if you are on-the-go, given its portable design.
You can easily track celestial objects while viewing them, as the smooth and stable EQ-18 equatorial mount and tripod come equipped with dual slow motion controls that ensure a smooth maneuvering of the telescope.
The device also comes with a reflex sight, 90 degrees diagonal (1.25”) and 10mm and 25mm Kellner 1.25” telescope eyepieces that also feature an anti-reflection coating.
Additionally, the refractor also includes the useful MoonMap 260 that can help you identify interesting lunar features you might not be aware of, but that you can see in the telescope.
Therefore, if you are all about exploring the Moon and get wide views of bright planets and other closeby moons, nebulas, galaxies, or other star clusters, this nifty telescope will be your partner, even if you don’t have that much experience in this field.
The telescope doesn’t come with a backpack, bag or case for transporting it, so if you want to take it somewhere outside your home, you’ll need to find a solution.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($119.97)
6. Gskyer 60mm AZ Refractor
Another accessible, well-equipped model is the Gskyer Telescope, 60mm AZ Refractor Telescope. Specially designed for the novice in the field of astronomy, this unit comes outfitted with a wide 6 mm aperture, a focal length of 350 mm and a focal ratio of f/5.8.
What is more, the device has a high magnification eyepiece of no less than 10mm, reason why, by settling for this model you’ll be able to capture clear, bright images.
As a plus, all the optical components that this product contains are made from a glass that has been coated so that the image’s brightness and overall quality is enhanced.
Furthermore, the product has a body made out of an aluminum alloy that makes it durable but still lightweight. Hence, the model can be effortlessly be transported whenever you want to go on a stargazing trip.
This entry-level alternative has a 60mm aperture and a 350mm focal length. Besides, the device features a rack-and-pinion focuser as well as a low and a high eyepiece that you can use to see clearer images.
According to the users, this model is suitable to be used by travelers because it has a sturdy aluminum construction. Moreover, this item is light in weight and very portable.
The 3x Barlow lens included in the design of the model is said to double the magnification power of each eyepiece so that the user is provided with a high-quality viewing experience.
Furthermore, the unit includes an altazimuth mount that has a slow-motion control.
Some have remarked that this unit does not come fitted with a special software that can help beginners to find certain celestial objects.
When compared to other devices, this unit is a tad expensive. Still, most of its buyers were happy with its price.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($74.52)
7. White TwinStar AstroMark 80mm 16-40x Portable
If you are willing to go over your budget and invest in a model that is a bit more expensive, we recommend that you check out the White TwinStar AstroMark 80mm 16-40x Portable Telescope.
With an 80mm fully coated achromatic objective lens and 400mm focal length, this device is capable of catering to an astronomer’s needs. Additionally, the unit has a brightness ratio of f/5.0 F that makes it apable to deliver crystal clear, detailed images.
Even more to this point, this telescope also features one medium power 25mm Kellner eyepiece, one high-powered 10mm Kellner eyepiece as well as a 6×26 finding scope. Each eyepiece has its own special container for depositing.
If you are worried about transporting the model, you should know that this product comes shipped with a probable, easy to use mini-tripod as well as with a practical carrying bag. Yet, the telescope is said to fit any standard full-size photographic tripod.
This option has an 80mm fully coated achromatic objective lens as well as a focal length of measures 400mm.
To make this telescope easy to use no matter the environment, the seller has supplied it with a portable mini-tripod and a carry bag.
The item can provide you with clear and bright images as it has a f/5.0 F-ratio that most previous users spoke highly of.
Moreover, this unit comes with two Kellner 1.25″ diameter eyepieces that measure 25mm and 10mm.
A 6×26 finding scope is also included in the price of the model. So, you will find it effortless to locate various objects.
It has been claimed that this option was manufactured from cheap materials. Because of this, it won’t stand the test of time.
One user noted that the images provided by this device are not clear. Not many other users agreed with this statement.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($84.99)
Last but not least, we couldn’t have ended this top without mentioning the Celestron PowerSeeker 70EQ Telescope. Although some might consider it a bit expensive, this model has a series of top-notch features that might interest you.
For instance, the unit comes equipped with a 70-mm aperture and has a focal length of 700mm. Also, its focal ratio is 10 while its focal length of eyepiece ½ varies between 20mm/4mm. Besides, with a star diagonal of 1.25 inch, this unit erects the image diagonally and has a German equatorial mount type.
A favorite among beginners, this telescope includes a finder scope attachment that makes centering it in order to locate an object effortless. Moreover, in order to mount this model one does not require any tools.
According to current users, the telescope is user-friendly and very intuitive. Therefore, all beginners will find it not difficult to operate.
This choice is easy to set up as the person doing so does not have to use any type of specialized tools.
Because it comes supplied with slow-motion controls, this model allows for a smooth tracking of celestial objects.
This item features erect image optics. Therefore, it can be regarded as ideal for both terrestrial and astronomical use.
Furthermore, this telescope comes equipped with an astronomy software that has a database that includes no less than 10,000 objects and numerous sky maps that you can use.
Users have remarked that the collimation process on this scope is rather challenging. Because of this, the owner has to show a lot of patience while using it.
Putting the model together can be difficult if one does not follow the steps from the instruction manual given by the seller. Yet, keep in mind that many did so easily without needing extra help.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($98.4)
9. Meade Instruments Infinity 209001
Engineered for novice astronomers, the Meade Instruments Infinity 209001 allows users to view the planets, the Moon and spectacular meteor showers.
The height-adjustable manual altazimuth mount enables you to raise and lower the viewing platform using slow-motion controls that also enable precise tracking of viewed objects. This model ships with three eyepieces that provide 30x, 50x, and 150x magnifications, which can also be doubled using the supplied 2x Barlow lens. This enables you to make the most of a wide range of viewing possibilities.
Looking through the instrument is easy and comfortable thanks to the 90° erect-image diagonal that comes in the package. This inclusion makes it easy to aim the scope toward the zenith.
The prism of the diagonal provides horizontal and vertical image correction to enable use of the instrument for terrestrial viewing too. The built-in dew shield helps protect the external surface of the objective lens from condensation while serving to block excess peripheral light from making celestial viewing more difficult.
Pointing this telescope in the direction of the celestial object you want to observe is easy because of the altazimuth mount.
You get three eyepieces with varying magnifications to provide the exact level of viewing you need from low (20mm) to medium (12mm) to high (4mm). What is even more incredible is the supplied 2X Barlow lens that amplifies the magnification of each eyepiece twice so you can see greater detail and have more clarity in images.
The included Astronomical Software and Instructional DVD provide useful information for the various objects you are bound to see in the night sky at any given time of the year.
The 5X24 ViewFinder simplifies the search for your favorite celestial object and also works for targets on land. No need for guesswork or intensive research.
The accessory tray on the mount allows you to store other eyepieces you might have, keeping them handy and within easy reach.
The thumbwheel that holds the scope to the mount tends to come loose from time to time so it is imperative that it gets checked regularly for tightness.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($39.32)
Kids, families and amateur astronomers will love using this portable telescope by Orion. It is designed specifically for travel, and comes with a lightweight and durable construction. Since it only weighs 3.5 pounds it is even light enough for most kids to safely carry.
Even the tripod is constructed with weight in mind. The aluminum tripod folds down for convenient storage, and it won’t add any noticeable weight when you are carrying the telescope. It also comes with a backstyle carrying case, so you can easily take the telescope with you on hiking and camping trips.
On of the reasons this is considered the best refractor portable telescope is due to the included accessories that ensures you have everything you need for day and night viewing.
The 70mm telescope has a 400mm focal length that ensures objects are bright and clear. There are also two eyepieces that are easy to change out as needed, and the 5×24 finder scope makes it easy to aim in on a particular object. Beginners will also appreciate the included map of the moon so you can easily identify prominent features on its surface.
This refractor telescope is perfect both for day and night traveling and seeing. The lightweight design makes it extremely portable and convenient to transport on all your trips.
It comes equipped with two sets of eyepieces, 25mm and 10mm for 16x and 40x magnification rate to see your favorite items as close as possible.
The product is suitable for a wide array of outdoor activities, from birdwatching to viewing wildlife, observing the Moon or the nearby bright planets.
By purchasing this item you will receive a handful of useful accessories, including a rugged tripod for easy watching without your hands.
One of the available accessories, the Orion Moon Map is available only for an additional purchase if you want to learn more about the Moon.
Some customers say that this telescope is hard to focus and cheaply constructed, meaning it resembles more a large binocular than a true telescope.
This portable telescope comes with everything kids or adults need to get started watching the nighttime. This refraction telescope is also ideal for terrestrial viewing, and is a favorite among bird and wildlife watchers. The telescope and included tripod are designed to be lightweight and durable.
This ensures that they are easy to take with you when you travel, and are rugged enough to survive the trip. It should be noted that this telescope and tripod combo do not come with a convenient carrying case, but one can be purchased separately for a small fee.
What really sets this portable telescope apart is its power, along with the fact that it is easy to focus and use. The 1.5x erecting eyepiece allows you to zoom in on objects so every detail is crisp and clear, and all you have to do is to attach it to the telescope. It also comes with a 20mm and 6mm eyepiece for added clarity on mid and long distance views.
For added ease of use this portable telescope also comes with a smooth performing altazimuth mount so you can scan horizontally and vertically without any problems.
This product is extremely portable and lightweight, making it a suitable alternative for those who are passionate about stargazing but cannot afford a highly expensive product just yet.
It can be easily used both by adults and kids and is one of the favorite items amongst wildlife watchers too. In other words, you can enjoy its benefits during the day or at night, depending on your preferences.
It also comes with a sturdy tripod which will not only help you see better but will also survive even the bumpiest trips.
The item is powerful and very easy to focus and utilize.
As you would expect for a telescope at this price, the overall quality is not great.
Some customers said they were unable to focus, while others simply said that the product is extremely hard to use to by kids. We suggest investing in higher-quality equipment for stargazing.