5 Best Travel Telescopes 2022 (Portable, Light and Compact)

If you are looking for a portable telescope to take on a trip then there are some great options to suit different budgets.

We recommend the five best travel telescopes along with their pros and cons and compare the alternatives in the shape of binoculars, monoculars, and spotting scopes.

See below for quick links or read on for more detail.

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Preview
Best all-round
Celestron - 80mm Travel Scope - Portable Refractor Telescope - Fully-Coated Glass Optics - Ideal Telescope for Beginners - Bonus Astronomy Software Package - Digiscoping Smartphone Adapter
Best Alternative
Orion 52596 Goscope 80mm Backpack Refractor Telescope
Ultra-Compact
Celestron – Mini MAK 70mm Angled Spotting Scope – Maksutov Spotting Scope – Great for Long Range Viewing – 25–75x Zoom Eyepiece – Multi-coated Optics – Rubber Armored – Tabletop Tripod Included
Astrophotography
Orion StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope
Computerized
Celestron - NexStar 90SLT Computerized Telescope - Compact and Portable - Maksutov-Cassegrain Optical Design - SkyAlign Technology - Computerized Hand Control - 90mm Aperture
Make & Model
Celestron Travel Scope 80
Orion GoScope 80
Celestron C70 Mini Mak
Orion StarBlast 62
Celestron Nexstar 90SLT
Type
Refractor
Refractor
Maksutov-Cassegrain
Apochromatic Refractor
Maksutov-Cassegrain
Aperture
80mm (3")
80mm (3")
70mm (2.8")
62mm (2.4")
90mm (3.5")
Tripod Included
Backpack included
Focal Length
400mm
400mm
750mm
520mm
1250mm
Weight
4.5lb (2kg)
6lb (2.7kg)
2.3lb (1kg)
3.1lb (1.4kg)
12lb (5.4kg)
Check prices at different retailers
Best all-round
Preview
Celestron - 80mm Travel Scope - Portable Refractor Telescope - Fully-Coated Glass Optics - Ideal Telescope for Beginners - Bonus Astronomy Software Package - Digiscoping Smartphone Adapter
Make & Model
Celestron Travel Scope 80
Type
Refractor
Aperture
80mm (3")
Tripod Included
Backpack included
Focal Length
400mm
Weight
4.5lb (2kg)
Check prices at different retailers
Best Alternative
Preview
Orion 52596 Goscope 80mm Backpack Refractor Telescope
Make & Model
Orion GoScope 80
Type
Refractor
Aperture
80mm (3")
Tripod Included
Backpack included
Focal Length
400mm
Weight
6lb (2.7kg)
Check prices at different retailers
Ultra-Compact
Preview
Celestron – Mini MAK 70mm Angled Spotting Scope – Maksutov Spotting Scope – Great for Long Range Viewing – 25–75x Zoom Eyepiece – Multi-coated Optics – Rubber Armored – Tabletop Tripod Included
Make & Model
Celestron C70 Mini Mak
Type
Maksutov-Cassegrain
Aperture
70mm (2.8")
Tripod Included
Backpack included
Focal Length
750mm
Weight
2.3lb (1kg)
Check prices at different retailers
Astrophotography
Preview
Orion StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope
Make & Model
Orion StarBlast 62
Type
Apochromatic Refractor
Aperture
62mm (2.4")
Tripod Included
Backpack included
Focal Length
520mm
Weight
3.1lb (1.4kg)
Check prices at different retailers
Computerized
Preview
Celestron - NexStar 90SLT Computerized Telescope - Compact and Portable - Maksutov-Cassegrain Optical Design - SkyAlign Technology - Computerized Hand Control - 90mm Aperture
Make & Model
Celestron Nexstar 90SLT
Type
Maksutov-Cassegrain
Aperture
90mm (3.5")
Tripod Included
Backpack included
Focal Length
1250mm
Weight
12lb (5.4kg)
Check prices at different retailers

Last update on 2022-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Celestron Travel Scope 80

Best Travel Telescope

celestron travel scope 80

As the name suggests, the Celestron Travel Scope 80 is specifically designed to be portable for travel and backpacking.

Weighing just 4.5 lbs it is light and perfect for taking on trips. No tools are required to quickly and easily get it set up. It comes with a backpack included with space for all the accessories, including the tripod.

As part of the package, it also comes with a smartphone adapter so that you can use it to take photos, and a Bluetooth remote so that you can shoot without having to touch your phone and shake the telescope.

The tripod can stand up to 52 inches (132 cm) tall and there is what is known as an Alt-Azimuth mount – this means that it is easy to operate with a handle and so you just point and look at what you want to see.

The 80mm aperture (the best measure of a telescope’s power) is enough to give you bright views of objects in the night sky.

Here is a quick video overview of the slightly lower spec 70mm version of this telescope (see below for more info on how the various Celestron Travel Scopes differ):

Pros:

  • All in one package including backpack and tripod
  • Easily set up with no tools and easily packed up into the supplied backpack
  • Enough power for great viewing
  • Capacity to take photos with your smartphone and adapter included
  • Relatively inexpensive

Cons:

  • Manual mount (as opposed to more advanced GOTO mount – see Celestron Nexstar 90SLT below)

Celestron has really tried to think of everything with this so that you can just buy in one and have confidence that you can throw it in the car and have all you need to get going quickly when traveling.

We regard it as the best travel telescope as it is the most powerful of the Celestron Travel Scope range, gives you all you need in one, and is great value for the price it retails at.

Key specifications

  • Type: Refractor
  • Aperture: 80 mm (3.1 inches)
  • Focal Length: 400 mm (16 inches)
  • Focal Ratio: F/5
  • Weight: 4.5 lb (2 kg)
  • Accessories: Backpack, Tripod, Smartphone Adapter & Bluetooth Remote, Finderscope, Erect Image Diagonal, 2 Eyepieces, 3x Barlow Lens, Moon Filter

Other Celestron Travel Scopes

There are a number of different models within the Celestron Travel Scope range. These are all identical apart from having a different aperture.

Aperture is the measurement of how wide the lens of the telescope is – the higher the number, the better the views you will have.

The telescope outlined above has an 80mm aperture and this is the most powerful in the range.

The others are available with smaller 50mm, 60mm, or 70mm apertures.

The upside is that they are generally cheaper – with the 50mm being the cheapest, but least powerful, and the 80mm the most expensive, but most powerful.

It’s always worth checking live prices and availability though as these can fluctuate and you may find a bargain. You can check a number of different retailers with the links here:

Celestron Travel Scope DX range

There is also a Celestron Travel Scope DX range. These are exactly the same telescopes as those above but just with a new color scheme.

It, therefore, makes little difference if you buy a DX version or not. Just check the price and what’s included in the accessories as this may vary.

Orion GoScope 80

Best Travel Telescope for Beginners

Orion 52596 Goscope 80mm Backpack Refractor Telescope

The Orion GoScope 80 is virtually identical to the Celestron Travel Scope 80 model above and so makes a great alternative.

Like Celestron, Orion is one of the top telescope brands out there and provides high-quality gear with good customer support.

You can watch a quick overview of this telescope in the video here:

Pros:

  • All in one package including backpack and tripod
  • Easily set up with no tools and easily packed up into the supplied backpack
  • Enough power for great viewing

Cons:

  • No smartphone adapter included
  • Manual mount

This is a great travel telescope that gives you all in one including a tripod and backpack, so you know you can buy this and just take it out on trips without having to worry if you have everything you need.

It does lack some of the extras that come with the Celestron model above and so that puts it just behind that one, but check the live prices as they are virtually the same telescope and so if the deal is there you can always buy this one and then add a cheap smartphone adapter.

Key specifications

  • Type: Refractor
  • Aperture: 80 mm (3.1 inches)
  • Focal Length: 400 mm (16 inches)
  • Focal Ratio: F/5
  • Weight: 6 lb (2.7 kg)
  • Accessories: Backpack, Tripod, Red Dot Finderscope, Erect Image Diagonal, 2 Eyepieces, Moon Filter, Moon Map, Red Light Flashlight

Orion GoScope 80 vs Orion GoScope III 70

As well as the model above, there is also the Orion GoScope III 70mm version.

Orion GoScope III 70mm Refractor Travel Telescope

As you can probably guess from the name, this model has a smaller 70mm aperture but is virtually identical in every other way.

It, therefore, makes for a good budget alternative, where the views you get through it won’t be as good, but is cheaper.

Celestron C70 Mini Mak

Best Small Travel Telescope

Celestron – Mini MAK 70mm Angled Spotting Scope – Maksutov Spotting Scope – Great for Long Range Viewing – 25–75x Zoom Eyepiece – Multi-coated Optics – Rubber Armored – Tabletop Tripod Included

The Celestron C70 Mini Mak is a great mini telescope that is ultra-compact and lightweight.

It is actually sold as a spotting scope but is actually a very small Maksutov-Cassegrain catadioptric telescope.

This light and portable package comes with a mini tabletop tripod included.

It has a built-in zoom eyepiece so that you can adjust it from 25x up to 75x. This is interchangeable with other eyepieces using the included adapter.

You can watch an overview of this telescope here (along with two larger models in the same Celestron range):

Pros:

  • Ultra-light at just 1kg
  • Small and compact for easy travel
  • Built-in zoom eyepiece allowing up to 75x magnification (and can be used with other eyepieces)
  • Mini-tripod and carry bag included
  • Cheap and good budget option

Cons:

  • Lower aperture than the models above and so the views will not be as good
  • No smartphone adapter included
  • You’ll need to be somewhere with a table or similar height object to rest it on to use with the included tripod (although it can also be used with a regular photography tripod if you have one).

Overall, this is a great option if you want something ultra-portable to take out on hikes or trips. It is definitely the smallest and lightest on this list yet is of high quality design.

Key specifications

  • Type: Maksutov-Cassegrain
  • Aperture: 70 mm (2.8 inches)
  • Focal Length: 750 mm (30 inches)
  • Focal Ratio: F/11
  • Weight: 2.3 lb (1 kg)
  • Accessories: Table-top tripod, interchangeable eyepiece adapter, soft-side carry case.

Orion StarBlast 62

Best Travel Telescope for Astrophotography

Orion 10149 StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope (Black)

The Orion StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Telescope is a quadruplet apochromatic refractor, which is specialized for astrophotography.

The lower (62mm) aperture is not a problem for imaging because you will be taking long exposures with your camera which will capture enough light. For this reason, though, it is not ideal for just looking through, as the aperture will not be high enough to provide good views.

Watch this video for a quick overview of what to expect from this portable telescope:

Pros:

  • High-quality quadruplet apochromatic refractor optics for great astrophotography
  • Comes with a hard carry case for the telescope and all accessories

Cons:

  • No tripod or mount included
  • No smartphone adapter, but does have a t-adapter for attaching a DSLR or mirrorless camera

This is a more specialized travel telescope for astrophotography. The compact size and hard case make this great for travel for those looking to get out under dark skies and image deep sky objects.

Note though, you will need a separate tripod and mount to get the most from this and so is not an all-in-one package.

Key specifications

  • Type: Quadruplet Apochromatic Refractor
  • Aperture: 62 mm (2.4 inch)
  • Focal Length: 520 mm (20.5 inch)
  • Focal Ratio: F/8.4
  • Weight: 3.1 lb (1.4 kg)
  • Accessories: Two eyepieces, Erect Image Diagonal, Hard Shell Carry Case, T-Adapter to mount camera

Celestron Nexstar 90SLT

Best Computerized Travel Telescope

Celestron - NexStar 90SLT Computerized Telescope - Compact and Portable - Maksutov-Cassegrain Optical Design - SkyAlign Technology - Computerized Hand Control - 90mm Aperture

Something different from the above telescopes, the Celestron NexStar 90SLT telescope is computerized (also known as GOTO).

The SLT in the name stands for Star Locating Telescope. This means that it is electronic and finds objects from a database of 40,000 in space for you at the press of a button from a hand controller.

Needless to say this is pretty awesome, but it is more expensive than regular manual telescopes.

Like the models above, it is small and portable and comes with nearly everything you need in one (minus the bag or backpack for carrying).

It can be set up easily and quickly although does require a power source – either 8 AA batteries or using an external power source (like a power tank).

You can watch a video here from Celestron that gives a brief overview of the SLT range and the GOTO technology:

Pros:

  • Powerful 3.5-inch aperture for great viewing
  • Computerized GOTO mount to automatically locate objects in the night sky for you
  • 50-inch (127 cm) tripod included
  • Easy set up with no tools
  • Capacity to take photos with a smartphone or camera

Cons:

  • More expensive than a manual (non-computerized) telescope
  • Needs a power source – either batteries or a power tank
  • No backpack included, so you’ll need to source a bag able to safely pack it up (something like this)
  • You’ll need to buy a separate smartphone adapter to take pictures
  • Heavier than the other models

There are three other telescopes in Celestron’s SLT range, but this is the most suitable as it is the most compact.

The obvious downsides in contrast to the manual telescopes above are the price and the need for a source of power.

But if you have the budget then this would be a great piece of gear to travel with as you can press a button and ask it to locate Saturn or anything else available to you in the sky above where you are.

Key specifications

  • Type: Computerized (GOTO) Maksutov-Cassegrain
  • Aperture: 90 mm (3.5 inches)
  • Focal Length: 1250 mm (49 inches)
  • Focal Ratio: F/14
  • Weight: 12 lbs (5.4 kg)
  • Accessories: Tripod, Finderscope, Erect Image Diagonal, 2 Eyepieces

Travel Telescopes vs Binoculars, Monoculars & Spotting Scopes

When looking at portable telescopes it’s worth considering whether they are actually the best thing for you or whether or not you could consider looking at binoculars, monoculars, or spotting scopes.

All of these boast the features you are looking for in a travel telescope:

  • Portability
  • Ease-of-use
  • Good astronomy viewing capabilities

In addition, it can be quite hard to find the telescope model you want in stock due to recent supply chain disruption and increased demand for telescopes with more people looking for hobbies to do at home. So opening up your options might make sense.

Below we outline why you might want to consider one of these alternatives and recommend the best options.

Astronomy Binoculars vs Travel Telescopes

travel astronomy binoculars
Celestron SkyMaster Binoculars

Astronomy binoculars are a great alternative to travel telescopes. They are:

  • Compact, portable and durable, and so easy to travel with
  • Can be used handheld without a tripod and other accessories
  • Quick and easy to use
  • Similar price range to budget portable telescopes

You can get very big astronomy binoculars that need tripods and if you intend to do photography you will need a tripod anyway (plus a smartphone adapter), so please note that.

See our article on the Best Astronomy Binoculars.

Monoculars vs Travel Telescopes

Monoculars are the best budget option if you want something cheap and easy to fit in your bag or pocket.

They are very small, weatherproof and durable and so make for great alternatives to travel telescopes or binoculars.

For recommendations on the best models, see the Best Monoculars for Stargazing.

Spotting Scopes vs Travel Telescopes

Lastly, for a different option you could consider a spotting scope. These have higher quality optics than monoculars.

They are more designed for bird watching or other daytime activities, but they will definitely give you great views of the moon and other objects in the night sky.

The reason why they might work in place of a travel telescope is that they are lightweight and portable and comes with a carry bag, tabletop tripod, and smartphone adapter for photography.

They are bigger than monoculars and binoculars and you can even buy a separate adapter to attach a DSLR camera directly to the spotting scope (as you also can with a telescope).

They can have a similar aperture to the travel telescopes above and many models allow you to use astronomy eyepieces.

They are made to be durable and weatherproof as well though, which can be a big positive over the telescopes that need to be handled with a little more care.

Downsides to consider are:

  • Not specifically for astronomy and might limit your viewing beyond the moon (apart from the Celestron model above)
  • Tabletop tripods mean you need to put it on something or be sitting/lying down, which may not be convenient for night sky viewing

For a detailed overview, see:


What to Look for in a Portable Telescope for Travel & Backpacking

Factors worth considering when buying a travel telescope are:

  1. Size: How bulky is it?
  2. Weight: How much does it weigh?
  3. Portability: Does it easily pack up in a bag, case or backpack?
  4. Durability: Will it be ok being transported and potentially taking some small knocks?
  5. Weather resistance: Will it be ok if it the cold, hot, dry, or wet?
  6. Usability: How easy is it to set up and use when you are out traveling?

All three of the telescopes listed above should meet all these criteria, although the other options of binoculars/monoculars/spotting scopes may win on durability and weather resistance.

Travel Telescope Specifications

All telescopes are also characterized by certain specifications and types. This can be fairly confusing and you are often faced with more information than you know what to do with when you just want a good portable telescope.

Here’s a quick rundown of the key specifications and what they mean:

  1. Aperture: The measure of the width of the lens and the best measure of a telescope’s viewing capabilities. The higher the better as this means brighter views.
  2. Focal length: This indicates how zoomed in your view will be. Higher focal lengths are good for viewing the moon and planets of our solar system.
  3. Telescope type: There are three main telescope types: reflectors, refractors, and compound/catadioptrics. For travel telescopes, refractors are best as they require no calibration and are usually fairly durable, as well as being small and light. Reflectors are far too heavy and bulky and require collimation. A GOTO catadioptric could work but is not as durable and also requires collimation.
  4. Mount type: There are two telescope mount types: Alt-Azimuth and Equatorial. For portable telescopes, Alt-Azimuth is best as they are much lighter and simpler to set up and use. Equatorial mounts are better for astrophotography but are heavy, bulky, and harder to set up and operate.
  5. Computerized/GOTO: A GOTO mount can scan the sky, tell you what is above you and find it at your control from a hand controller or smartphone app. These are great but more expensive and require a power source when traveling.

Travel Telescope Accessories

You will also see a number of different accessories listed with each telescope. Here’s a quick run-through of what each is, but don’t worry too much as these telescope packages are designed to come with exactly what you need to get the most from them:

  1. Finderscopes: A piece of equipment that attaches to the side of the telescope that you can look through to help point the tube where you want it to look.
  2. Eyepieces: Different eyepieces can be used to give you a different field of view, i.e. wider for more sky, or higher magnification to zoom in on specific objects.
  3. Barlow Lenses: These can sit behind the eyepiece and multiply the magnification of your view.
  4. Tripods: What the telescope sits upon and is fairly important. It’s worth checking the height of the tripods included if you are tall. The tripods with the telescope packages recommended here are “good enough” without being super sturdy. You can swap these out for other tripods though if you have one.
  5. Smartphone/DSLR camera adapters: These enable you to attach your phone or camera to the telescope so that you can take pictures through it. This is known as digiscoping or afocal photography, where the camera is hovering above the eyepiece.
  6. Erect Image Diagonal: These sit on the eyepiece and allow you to look through at a more convenient angle.

FAQs: Best Travel Telescopes

What is the best travel telescope for beginners?

The Celestron Travel Scope 80, Orion GoScope 80, and Celestron C70 Mini Mak are perfect travel telescopes for beginners since they are good quality, easy to use, and include all you need in one package.

What is the best travel telescope for astrophotography?

The Orion StarBlast 62mm is the best travel telescope for astrophotography. As a quadruplet refractor it excels for this. The downside is that it is less good for observing and does not come with the tripod or mount included.

The Celestron Travel Scope 80 will also work well for basic astrophotography and has a smartphone adapter included.

Another option is a smart telescope like the Stellina, Evscope or Equinox. These are amazing but much more expensive. They have cameras built-in, can be carried by backpack, and are operated by your smartphone – see the Best Smart Telescopes.

See the Best Telescopes for Astrophotography if you want to read more on this.

What is the best telescope for camping?

The best telescopes for camping are the Celestron Travel Scope 80, Orion GoScope 80, and Celestron C70 Mini Mak.

They come with a backpack that includes all that you need, including a tripod.

What is the best Celestron travel telescope?

The Celestron Travel Scope 80 is the best Celestron telescope specifically for travel and backpacking.

What’s the best budget travel telescope?

The best budget travel telescopes are the lower aperture models like the Celestron Travel Scope 50 and Celestron Travel Scope 60.

What is the best handheld telescope?

A high-powered monocular like the Celestron 10x50mm Outland is a great handheld telescope.

See more options in our article on the Best Monoculars for Stargazing.

How do you travel with a telescope? Can I bring a telescope on a plane?

It depends on how you are traveling but you should have a bag or case that can protect the telescope when put in a car with other luggage.

If traveling on a plane you should be able to take one of these telescopes in carry-on luggage if you can fit it. This also means you can take better care of it yourself.

You could also put it in your checked luggage but then it is essential that it is safely stored in a case that will protect it from being thrown around with other bags.


Overall – The Best Portable Telescopes

Overall, we recommend:

  1. The Celestron Travel Scope 80 is the best all round travel telescope. It is suitable for beginners, has a good viewing capacity, and is great value for the price.
  2. The Orion GoScope 80 is a very similar alternative to the Celestron Travel Scope that is worth checking for deals on.
  3. The Celestron C70 Mini Mak is the smallest and is an ultra-compact telescope that is great for hiking and camping.
  4. Orion StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Telescope is the best travel telescope for astrophotography but you will need a separate tripod and mount.
  5. The Celestron Nexstar 90SLT is great if you have the budget for a GOTO telescope.

If you have a much bigger budget, you can also consider a smart telescope.

We hope you found what you are looking for for your camping trip or hiking holiday. Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions.

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