Waterproof Binoculars Explained (everything you need to know)

Waterproof Binoculars Explained (everything you need to know)

If you’re confused about the difference between “weather-Resistant”, “water Resistant” and “Waterproof” then you’ve come to the right place. There are so many sets of binoculars for sale, all with different descriptions and ratings. So let us here at Binocular Base guide you through the many variations in plain English.

It’s not just binoculars that have these issues, the same codings can be found on many items including;

  • Torches
  • Cameras
  • Mobile Telephones
  • Electrical Sockets
  • Binoculars
  • Bluetooth Speakers
  • Kitchen Fixtures
  • Bathroom Fixtures
  • Lighting Setups
  • CCTV Enclosures
  • And Many More

So to cut through the confusion around terms like water-resistant, weather-resistant and waterproof, a standard coding system was devised for simplicity. Of course, with all “simple” systems there’s a large allowance for error and misunderstanding. In many cases only the manufacturer is fully aware of what’s going on.

With that said we’ve got the whole system worked out for you so here goes.

What Do IPX Codes Mean?

The First 2 letters stand for Ingress Protection the rest either a 0 or an X followed by a number tells the customer the level of protection achieved with the particular item under test conditions. But first things first, what does Ingress Protection mean?

  • Ingress
    The word ingress means going in, or entering
  • Protection
    To protect means to keep safe from, or protect from

In this case IP followed by a number, stands for how much your binoculars are protected from water entering the casing.  The digit 0 is used where no protection is noted. The X signifies that some data has been collated but not enough to assign a protection level. If there is then a hyphen, the coding is false and the code is meaningless.

In true industry standard codings there is no hyphen after the letters, for example;

IPX-1 is worthless 

Where as;

IPX1 means there is ingress protection to the first level (which we’ll come to later)

So any coding starting with IP that is followed by a hyphen is not an accepted industry coding, the true coding values will always be missing the hyphen.

It’s worth noting that even if the binoculars are called waterproof, if they don’t have a IPX value the waterproof claim is worthless.

We now know that IPX stands for Ingress Protection – Or waterproofing to a certain level. This still doesn’t clear it up completely. Let’s look at the full coding system and then we’ll explain some of the confusing contra-indications implied by some of these codes.

IP LevelProtectionWorks AgainstSpecifics
XX =No data available to specify protection under this criteria
0No Moisture0=No protection against water penetration
IPX1Water DrippingWater falling vertically in single drops will cause no harm to the object placed in an upright position and turning at 1 RPM (revolution per minute)Test time of 10 minutes (equal to 1 mm of rainfall per minute)
IPX2Water dripping at an angle of 15 degreesWater dripping vertically will have no effect when the object is tilted at an angle of 15 degreesTest time 2.5 minutes (changing the tilt direction 4 times) Total test time 10 minutes
IPX3Spraying waterWater falling as a spray at all angles up to 60 degrees will not cause any harmful effect.
Then tested at a 90 degree angle for second half of the test (5 minutes)
Spray nozzle:Test time 1 minute per square metre for a period of 5 minutes with 10 litres of water per minute.
IPX4Water splashingSplashing water against the object from any direction will cause no harmful effectSame nozzle as IPX3Test time 10 minutes
IPX5Water jetWater sprayed from a nozzle in any direction will have no harmful effectTest time 1 minute per square metre for a minimum of 3 minutes 12.5 litres per minute at 4.4 PSi from 3 metres distance
IPX6Increased power water jetsWater projected at 12.5 mm against object from all directions will cause no harmful effectsTest time 1 minute per square metre for a minimum of 3 minutesWater volume 100 litres per minute at 15 PSi from 3 metres distance
IPX6KIncreased power water jets with increased pressureWater projected at 6.3 mm against object in all directions with increased pressure will cause no harmful effectTest time 3 minutes minimum 75 litres of water per minute at 150 PSi from 3 metres distance
IPX7Complete immersion upto 1 metre in depthNo ingress of water when the object is placed in water under controlled pressure for a set length of timeTest time 30 minutes With the lowest point of the object exactly 1 metre below the surface and the top of the object 150 mm below the surface.
IPX8Full immersion in 1 metre or more deepThe object is able to be immersed continuously for a time and depth specified by the manufacturer( but expected to be increased levels on IPX7) so as to cause no harmful effects.Test time As agreed with the manufacturer
Depth specified by the manufacturer usually agreed to be up to 3 metres
IPX9KPowerful high-temperature water jetsProtected against close range, high pressured, high temperature water spraysTest time 30 seconds per angle total test time of 2 minutes 14 to 16 litres per minute With a pressure of between 1100 PSi to 1450 PSi from a distance ranging from 0.10 to 0.15 of a metre at a temperature of 80 C 

Source wikipedia [1]

How Do These Terms Apply To Binoculars?

So now we have the basis of the code set out, we can break it down into the parts we need to understand how waterproofing works for binoculars.

What Does IPX1 Mean In Binoculars?

IPX1 stands for waterproofing from dripping water falling vertically which is equivalent to the rain falling straight down at the rate of 1 mm per minute (which is 60 mm per hour which could cause flooding if it was rainfall). But the test is only required for 10 minutes, so does that mean after 10 minutes water will ingress? Probably not, but there are no guarantees.

What Does IPX2 Mean In Binoculars?

IPX2 represents the amount of waterproofing from water dripping at an angle of 15 degrees for 10 minutes with the equivalent rainfall of 180 mm per hour which would be serious rain! But once again it’s only for a total of 10 minutes.

What Does IPX3 Mean In Binoculars?

IPX3 accounts for waterproofing binoculars if water was to be sprayed with water falling from above, up to a 60 degree angle for 5 minutes with a water volume of 10 litres per minute. So they sound pretty good in the waterproofing front.

What Does IPX4 Mean In Binoculars?

IPX4 is all about water splashing on the binoculars with a spray nozzle the same as the one used in IPX3 so these binoculars will probably be suitable for whale watching or something similar.

What Does IPX5 Mean In Binoculars?

IPX5 is about how waterproof the binoculars would be having a jet of water sprayed against them. With a PSi of 4.4 pressure and a volume of 12.5 litres per minute from 3 metres away.

What Does IPX6 Mean In Binoculars?

IPX6 is about more powerful water jets with 15 PSi of pressure and 100 litres of water per minute and still with the binoculars remaining waterproof.

What Does IPX7 Mean In Binoculars?

IPX7 is about fully immersing the binoculars in water up to 1 metre deep for 30 minutes. This level of waterproofing sounds just the ticket if you are planning on kayaking and taking your binoculars with you.

What Does IPX8 Mean In Binoculars?

IPX8 refers to immersing the binoculars in deeper water for longer periods of time. However, the time duration and depth are specified by the manufacturer which unless clearly stated on the actual binoculars is not much help. With that said, it is generally accepted that IPX8 binoculars have a more resilient waterproofing that will last longer, and be able to be submerged deeper than IPX7.

Something Worth Considering

When it comes to these IPX values, 1 to 6 are about rainfall or water spray and pressurised water. 7 and upwards is all about immersion, binoculars sunk, underwater. So are binoculars with a IPX value of 7 going to be waterproof during a rainstorm, or just when dropped over the side of a boat in exactly one metre of water? Plus IPX8 is at the discretion of the manufacturer, so that doesn’t tell us too much.

 In our opinion any pair of binoculars that can be submerged in a metre of water for half an hour without taking any water inside, are going to be suitable for most activities that the majority of us are going to need. So IPX7 will do the job most of the time. There is as always a “but” with this…

Up to IPX6 are going to be perfect for bird watching, stargazing, and many other activities due to the fact that most of us won’t be standing out for too long in rainstorms with as much as 100 litres of water a minute being thrown at us. Whereas IPX7 only stipulates an immersion value and not a waterflow value. 

If you decide to get IPX7 or 8 it will probably be a good idea to buy a floating strap. These will prevent you from losing your binoculars in water. These straps fit over the existing strap and keep the strap and the subsequent binoculars from sinking.

O-Ring Seals

The way top quality binoculars keep out water, dust and other small debris is by using an O-ring  which is a type of washer. These seals are airtight and watertight and form an imperturbable barrier between the lens, focusing mechanism and the body of the binoculars. 

Why Do We Need Waterproof Binoculars?

Having got this far, and after reading about the various IPX numbers it would be easy to wonder if you need waterproof binoculars at all. We here at Binocular Base believe that waterproof binoculars are a must have, and we’ll tell you why. 

4 Reasons Why You Need Waterproof Binoculars

  1. Waterproof binoculars keep more than moisture out
    The waterproofing technology used in binoculars not only keeps out water. It prevents dust and minute particles that are floating through the air out too. This is particularly useful on dusty trails, beaches or even in storage cupboards.
  2. British weather can change in an instant
    It might be a fine sunny day when you set off on your expedition but here in Great Britain we can experience all 4 seasons in one day. So you might go out dry, but you and your equipment plus binoculars could be soaked by the time you return home.
  3. Prevent mould growth
    If old monoculars or telescopes are found in second-hand or antique shops they often have a mouldy fungus type substance growing on the inner surfaces of the lenses. Having a fully sealed pair of binoculars makes this growth impossible.
  4. Anti-fogging lenses
    As well as waterproofing, fully sealed binoculars have no air inside the tubes, instead they are filled with nitrogen or argon. As nitrogen and argon has no moisture content, it cannot react due to rapid temperature changes. This means the lenses will not fog up on the inside.

To keep the air out and the gas in, the seal has to be complete so when searching for the right pair of binoculars check for anti-fogging too. But remember waterproof doesn’t necessarily mean fogproof because the binoculars can be sealed and waterproofed with oxygen trapped inside the lenses. So look for fully sealed, waterproof, fogproof and at least a IXP6 coding.

Alternatives To Nitrogen And Argon Gas

There are some makes of binoculars that use a blend of argon and krypton gas. They claim this has even greater anti-fogging capabilities because it eradicates the effects of thermal shock entirely. 

Just as a footnote, you might see the phrase “hermetically sealed” ; this is just another way of saying that the seal is considered to be airtight.

P.S: Check out our Thermal Monoculars too!

Frequently Asked Questions

What does hermetically sealed mean on binoculars?

Hermetically sealed is another way of saying airtight on binoculars.

Are IPX7 better than IPX6 in binoculars?

IPX7 designates waterproof to a depth of 1 metre for 30 minutes, IPX6 designates water-jet proof at 100 litres of water per minute at a pressure of 15 PSi. For regular usage IPX6 are perfect, but if you intend kayaking and are accidental, IPX7 will probably suit you better.