Best Portable & Travel Telescopes (2021)

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

Here we recommend the three best travel telescopes for different budgets, as well as three alternatives in the shape of binoculars, monoculars, and spotting scopes.

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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 Budget
Meade Instruments 222000 60mm Adventure Scope
Make & Model
Celestron Travel Scope 80
Meade Adventure Scope 60
Aperture
80 mm (3-inch)
60 mm (2.4-inch)
Amazon price
$89.99
$74.55
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
Aperture
80 mm (3-inch)
Amazon price
$89.99
Check prices at different retailers
Best Budget
Preview
Meade Instruments 222000 60mm Adventure Scope
Make & Model
Meade Adventure Scope 60
Aperture
60 mm (2.4-inch)
Amazon price
$74.55
Check prices at different retailers

Last update on 2021-09-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Best Travel Telescopes

We recommend three different travel telescope options for different budgets. All are suitable for beginners and are easily portable and quick to set up.

Celestron Travel Scope 80

Best Travel Telescope

celestron travel scope 80

As the name suggests, the Celestron Travel Scope 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 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
  • Easily packed up and carried
  • Easily set up with no tools
  • Enough magnification for great viewing
  • Capacity to take photos with your smartphone
  • Relatively inexpensive

Cons:

  • Manual mount (as opposed to more advanced GOTO mount – see Celestron Nexstar 102SLT below)
  • 80mm aperture is good for viewing, but don’t expect too much from this budget package

Celestron have 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 both the Celestron Travel Scope and Meade Adventure Scope (below) range and gives you all you need in one.

Key specifications

  • Type: Refractor
  • Mount: Alt-Azimuth
  • Aperture: 80 mm (3.1-inch)
  • Focal Length: 400 mm (16-inch)
  • Weight: 4.5 lb (2 kg)
  • Tripod Height: 52-inch (132 cm)
  • Accessories: Backpack, Tripod, Smartphone Adapter & Bluetooth Remote, Finderscope, Erect Image Diagonal, 2 Eyepieces, 3x Barlow Lens, Moon Filter

Other Celestron Travel Scopes

There are actually a number of different telescopes 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 weakest, and the 80mm the most expensive, but strongest.

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 new 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 what’s included in the accessories but it should always be pretty much the same package.

Meade Adventure Scope 60

Best Budget Travel Telescope

meade adventure scope 60

Similar to the Celestron Travel Scope above, the Meade Adventure Scope is an all-in-one travel telescope complete with backpack.

It has similar qualities to the Celestron model – everything you need to get going comes in one package and can be easily packed up and transported. No tools are needed to get it set up and get viewing the night sky.

You can watch a brief overview of this range of travel telescopes from Meade Instruments here:

Pros:

  • All in one package
  • Easily packed up and carried
  • Easy set up with no tools

Cons:

  • Slightly lower aperture (60mm) and this will reduce the brightness and clarity of what you can see, but it is a good budget, portable telescope.
  • The telescope is relatively short and not that sturdy. You can swap it out and use it with other tripods though.
  • Manual mount (as opposed to Computerized/GOTO mount)
  • No smartphone adapter included

This is a great budget travel telescope that is very similar to the Celestron model above. This gives you the freedom to shop around and find the best deal for your budget from the telescopes in these ranges.

There is also a larger 80mm Meade Adventure Scope, but it can be quite hard to find in stock in 2021.

Key specifications

  • Type: Refractor
  • Mount: Alt-Azimuth
  • Aperture: 60 mm (2.4-inch)
  • Focal Length: 360 mm (14.2-inch)
  • Weight: 2.8 lb (1.3 kg)
  • Tripod Height: 43-inch (109 cm)
  • Accessories: Backpack, Tripod, Finderscope, Erect Image Diagonal, 2 Eyepieces, Focuser

Celestron Nexstar 102SLT

Best Computerized Travel Telescope

celestron nexstar 102slt

Something different from the above two telescopes, the Celestron NexStar 102SLT 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 is a refractor telescope which is the simplest telescope type to operate and requires no calibration.

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 4-inch aperture for great viewing
  • Computerized GOTO mount to automatically locate objects in the night sky for you
  • 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

There are three other telescopes in Celestron’s SLT range, but this refractor is the most suitable to travel since the other models are either reflectors (too big and require collimating – a kind of calibration when setting up) or are catadioptrics (small but more delicate and also require collimation).

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: Refractor
  • Mount: Computerized (GOTO) Alt-Azimuth
  • Aperture: 102 mm (4-inch)
  • Focal Length: 660 mm (26-inch)
  • Weight: 14 lb (6.4 kg)
  • Tripod Height: 50-inch (127 cm)
  • Accessories: Tripod, Finderscope, Erect Image Diagonal, 2 Eyepieces

Travel Telescope Alternatives – Binocular, 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 in 2021 due to the impact of the COVID pandemic on supply chains and the 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

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 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 smartphone adapter), so please note that.

See our article on the Best Astronomy Binoculars or check out the Celestron SkyMaster 25×70 here for one of the most popular models:

No products found.

Monoculars vs travel telescopes

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

See the Best Monoculars for Stargazing.

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

This model below comes with a tripod and smartphone adapter included. The lens diameter is 50mm, which is only slightly smaller than the Meade Travel Telescope outlined above and you will be able to get some good views of the night sky as well as daytime use:

Pankoo 12x50 Monocular Telescope
437 Reviews
Pankoo 12x50 Monocular Telescope
With Smartphone Holder & Tripod

Last update on 2021-09-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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.

We recommend considering this Gosky Spotting Scope.

The reason why it might work in place of a travel telescope is that it is 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).

It effectively has an 80 mm aperture, which is similar to the travel telescopes above and the eyepieces enable you to zoom from 20x to 60x magnification.

It is 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
  • Tabletop tripod means you need to put it on something or be sitting/lying down, which may not be convenient for night sky viewing
Sale
Gosky 20-60x80 Spotting Scope with Tripod, Carrying Bag and Smartphone Adapter
2,458 Reviews

Last update on 2021-09-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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 in the cold, hot, dry or wet?
  6. Usability: How easy is it to set up and use when you are out travelling?

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 travelling.

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.

Portable Telescope FAQs

What is the best travel telescope for beginners?

The Celestron Travel Scope 80 or the Meade Adventure Scope 60 are perfect travel telescopes for beginners.

What is the best intermediate travel telescope

The Celestron NexStar 102SLT computerized telescope is the best intermediate travel telescope.

What is the best travel telescope for astrophotography?

The Celestron NexStar 102SLT is a great travel telescope for astrophotography but note you will need to buy a separate smartphone or camera adapter.

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

If you just want a portable telescope for astrophotography and not viewing then you could consider putting together a setup of:

This is more work and a lot more cost than buying one of the telescope packages recommended here though.

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.

What is the best telescope for camping?

The best telescopes for camping are the Celestron Travel Scope 80 and Meade Adventure Scope 60. They come with backpack that includes all that you need, including tripod.

How do you travel with a telescope?

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.

Can I bring a telescope on a plane?

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.

What is the best Celestron travel telescope?

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

What is the best Meade travel telescope?

The Meade Adventure Scope 60 is the best Meade Instruments telescope for travel that you can buy in 2021.

What is the best portable telescope for deep space?

The Celestron NexStar 102SLT with a 4-inch aperture would work for deep space viewing in dark skies.

See also small apochromatic refractors like the William Optics RedCat for portable deep space astrophotography telescopes – see the Best Telescopes for Astrophotography.

What is the best handheld telescope?

A high-powered monocular like the Pankoo 40×60 is a great handheld telescope. See more options on our article on the Best Monoculars for Stargazing.


Overall – The Best Travel Telescope

Overall then, we recommend:

  1. The Celestron Travel Scope 80 as the best all round travel telescope. It is suitable for beginners but has good viewing capacity.
  2. The Meade Adventure Scope 60 is a good budget alternative.
  3. The Celestron Nexstar 102SLT is best if you have the budget for a GOTO telescope.
  4. If you have a much bigger budget, you can 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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