12 Best Travel Telescopes in 2020 [Portable & Durable]

Usually, we don’t hear the words telescope and travel in the same sentence. This is because telescopes are big and heavy. How in the world can you take these with you? 

It is a lot easier than you may imagine. There are actually several high-quality telescopes that are reasonably priced, compact, and easy to transport. Just bring the best travel telescope with you on your next adventure.

We Recommend

Best travel telescope

Orion
StarBlast 62mm

Best budget option

Meade
Infinity 102mm

Best GoTo option

Celestron
NexStar 4 SE

Best travel telescope

1. Celestron Travel Scope 70 Portable Telescope

The Celestron Travel Scope 70 Portable Telescope carries a very low price and makes a great starter scope. 

Best of all, it is a lightweight telescope and fully portable. 

My teenage son enjoyed the travel backpack that held everything we needed and could be slung over his shoulder.

For a backpacking telescope at such a low price, it offered great views of the Moon and planets. We were able to see outlines of craters and the rings of Saturn. We can’t compare it to the Hubble telescope, but for a fun weekend hobby, we were very satisfied!

The scope features high-quality, fully-coated glass optics, a 70mm objective lens, and two eyepieces, a 20mm, and a 10mm. 

The full-size tripod is sturdy, extremely light, and folds up into the backpack. It was easy and quick to set up. Included is a free download of a top rated astronomy software program.

We were also able to use the scope to view terrestrial objects. My husband enjoyed watching the ocean line while relaxing on the beach.

What we liked

  • Low price
  • 70mm aperture for bright views
  • 2 eyepieces – 25mm and 10mm
  • Great for viewing celestial and terrestrial objects
  • Very light, best ultraportable telescope
  • Comes with quality travel backpack
  • Full size altazimuth mount fits into the bag

What we didn’t like

  • May be too simple for intermediates
  • Not motorized
  • Poor image quality

Type: Celestron Travel Telescope
Aperture: 2.75” (70mm)
Magnification: 20x 40x
Focal length: 400 mm
Mount type: Manual Altazimuth
Field of view: 2.5°
Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.5kg)
Dimensions: 18 x 7 x 14 inches
Best for: Beginners, celestial and terrestrial viewing

2. Meade Infinity 102mm Altazimuth Refractor Telescope

Meade Infinity 102mm is one of the best small telescopes, ideal for the whole family. 

It offers great views of the night skies, moon, planets, star clusters, and is perfect for land viewing. 

My wife loves ships and we were able to see fabulous detail of ocean liners passing on the horizon.

For beginner stargazers, this is a well priced outdoor telescope that will travel well on a trip away from home. It features a 102mm (4″) lens with a focal length of 600mm. The precision Altazimuth mount has precision slow motion controls. 

We were able to focus on an object and easily keep it in view as it moved across the sky. The Meade Infinity portable astronomical telescope has a 102mm aperture and comes with 3 eyepieces that give a choice of low, medium, and high powered magnification. 

It has a Red Dot Viewfinder that helps point to objects. The accessory tray stores your eyepieces for easy access while observing. Also included with this best compact telescope is an Autostar Suite Astronomy planetarium DVD.

What we liked

  • Well priced
  • 4″ (102mm) aperture for bright views
  • 3 eyepieces for low, medium and high magnification
  • Great for viewing celestial and terrestrial objects
  • Slow motion controls for ease of use
  • Easy to move around
  • Autostar Suite Astronomy planetarium DVD

What we didn’t like

  • May be too simple for professionals
  • Not motorized
  • The mount could be steadier

Type: Achromatic Refractor Telescope
Aperture: 4″ (102mm)
Magnification: 21-204x
Focal length: 600mm
Mount type: Manual Altazimuth
Field of view: 2.3°
Weight: 20.5 lbs (9.2 kg)
Dimensions: 34 x 34 x 53 inches
Best for: Beginners, celestial and terrestrial viewing

3. Orion StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Telescope

The next Orion travel telescope we reviewed was the stylish Orion StarBlast 62mm Compact Travel Refractor Telescope.

It is ideal for traveling and for viewing both celestial and terrestrial objects.

At night, the advanced 4-element, high resolution, fully multicoated optical design allowed us to enjoy stunning views of the Moon, brighter planets like Jupiter and Saturn, and star clusters. 

For day-time viewing, insert the included 45° correct-image diagonal into this best grab and go telescope. It is then perfect for scanning the ocean horizon or watching wildlife on a safari trip.

The compact telescope comes with a 62mm aperture, a smooth Crayford focuser, and 2 Plossl eyepieces, a 20mm and a 4mm. The scope comes in a hard case but, It does not come with a tripod. 

You will have to purchase one separately. It has a Vixen-style dovetail mounting block that features a 1/4″-20 threaded socket for easy attachment. 

We did find that this was a bit of a con, as we had to transport two pieces rather than one compact scope. If you buy a table mount, this will be one of the best tabletop telescopes I have reviewed.

What we liked

  • Well priced
  • 2.5″ (62mm) aperture for bright views
  • 2 eyepieces, a 20mm and a 4mm
  • Great camping telescope for viewing celestial and terrestrial objects
  • Comes in a hard carry case for transporting
  • 45° correct-image diagonal for day-time viewing
  • Crisp clear images of moon, planets and star clusters

What we didn’t like

  • May be too simple for professionals
  • Mount must be bought separately
  • Mount adds an extra component to transport

Type: Refractor Telescope
Aperture:2.5″ (62mm)
Magnification: 26x, 130x
Focal length: 520mm
Mount type: Not included
Field of view: 1.9°
Weight: 3.1 lbs (1.4 kg)
Dimensions: 14 x 4 x 4 inches
Best for: Beginners, celestial and terrestrial viewing

4. Celestron NexStar 90SLT Computerized Travel Telescope

The Celestron NexStar 90SLT Computerized Telescope offers an affordable small, powerful telescope option for an intermediate stargazer. 

We were super excited to try out the computerized mount, which automatically tracks your celestial object as it moves across the sky. 

The Celestron NexStar 90SLT comes with 2 eyepieces, a 25mm, and a 9mm. 

The mount is advanced with 9 slew speeds, SkyAlign, Auto 2-Star Align, 1-Star Align, 2-Star Align, and Solar System Align. Just pick an object and it aligns for you.

It features a 3.54” (90 mm) aperture, which gave us amazing views of the lunar surface, the phases of Venus, polar caps on Mars, the moons of Jupiter, and Saturn with its rings. It is also great for land viewing if you are a safari fan or love watching ships.

As one of the portable telescopes we reviewed, it is very transportable, weighing only 12 lbs. The setup was easy and fast, taking only minutes. The design of this tiny telescope is very impressive – it totally eliminates cord-wrap issues.

The ergonomically designed hand control allows you to remove it from the holder for remote use or leave it cradled for hands-free operation on this Celestron travel scope.

What we liked

  • Good price for exceptional features
  • 3.54” (90 mm) aperture
  • 2 eyepieces, a 20mm and a 9mm
  • Great for viewing celestial and terrestrial objects
  • Motorized altazimuth
  • Easy to transport
  • Design eliminates cord-wrap problems

What we didn’t like

  • Computerized mount may not suit all users
  • Aperture may be small for some

Type: Maksutov-Cassegrain
Aperture: 3.54″ (90mm)
Magnification: 50x, 139x
Focal length: 1250mm
Mount type: Motorized Altazimuth
Field of view: 1°
Weight: 12 lbs (5.44 kg)
Dimensions: 40 x 19 x 11 inches
Best for: Beginners to intermediates

5. Celestron NexStar 4SE Portable Telescope

This best mini telescope catches the eye with a unique bright orange tube – very trendy and fun. 

It offers a 4” aperture, which gave us stunning views of the planets, the moon, far-away galaxies, and star clusters.

It comes with a fully-automated GoTo mount and a database of more than 40,000 celestial objects. 

For beginners, this is the best travel scope, as it automatically locates and tracks objects for you.

Using the SkyAlign feature, we were able to center the eyepiece on any three bright objects, and the NexStar SE aligns with the night sky, ready to locate thousands of stars, galaxies, and more. Even the kids found it easy to do. And, we didn’t have to worry about hand controls to follow the object through the sky.

This best small telescope features a 1325mm focal length. It comes with a camera control feature and a shutter release cable. This allowed us to remotely take a series of exposures using a digital SLR camera.

What we liked

  • Good price for exceptional features
  • Attractive bright orange tube
  • 4” aperture with great light-collection ability
  • Great views of the moon, planets and star clusters
  • Fully-automated GoTo mount
  • Great travel scope – easy to transport
  • FREE download of top rated astronomy software program

What we didn’t like

  • Computerized mount may not suit all users
  • Colour may not suit all tastes!

Type: Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope
Aperture: 4″ (102mm)
Magnification: 53x
Focal length: 1325mm
Mount type: Fully-automated GoTo mount
Field of view: 1°
Weight: 12 lbs (5.4 kg)
Dimensions: 32.4 x 27.2 x 13.4 inches
Best for: Beginners to intermediates

6. Sky Watcher Evostar 72 APO Refractor Travel Telescope

The Sky Watcher Evostar 72 APO Refractor Telescope is an APO telescope which we learned indicates that it has an Apochromatic lens as opposed to an Achromatic lens. 

The APO lens brings three wavelengths of light, red, green, and blue, into focus in the same plane. 

Achromatic lenses bring two wavelengths into focus in the same plane. APO lenses offer super, crisp and bright images, certainly a win for viewers.

The portable reflectors telescope has a focal length of 420mm and a 2″ (72mm) dual speed Crayford focuser. It is very lightweight at only 4.3 lbs and comes with a hard case. 

It does not have a mount, so you would need to purchase one separately, or use an existing one. For those who need tech-info, it has a Tube-ring attachment hardware with a V-style dovetail plate.

Using this mini telescope for stargazing, we saw amazing views of craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, and the red tinge of Mars. It is a great telescope for the whole family and we are now sold on stargazing as a hobby.

What we liked

  • Good price for exceptional quality
  • 2″ (72mm) dual speed Crayford focuser
  • Lightweight, best compact telescope for transporting
  • Crisp clear images with APO technology
  • Matched lens assembly with one ED element
  • Comes with aluminum case
  • Great for astrophotography

What we didn’t like

  • Does not come with a mount, must be purchased separately
  • Mount adds an additional component to transport

Type: Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope
Aperture: 2″ (72mm)
Magnification: 142x
Focal length: 420mm
Mount type: N/A
Field of view: 0.3°
Weight: 4.3 lbs ( 1.95 kg)
Dimensions: 9.10 x 9.10 x 9.10 inches
Best for: Beginners to intermediates

7. Celestron NexStar Evolution 6 Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope

Celestron NexStar 6 is one of the more expensive telescopes we reviewed and is definitely more suited to intermediate astro travelers rather than beginners. 

But, we had a blast learning how to operate it and see the most sensational views of the night sky.

The Celestron NexStar Evolution 6 Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope features a large 6” aperture for crisp, clear close ups of planets, the moon, nebula, star clusters, and deep sky objects. 

We then got ambitious and captured images of the Orion Nebula by attaching a DSLR camera. It has a compact shape, designed for portability. 

The optic tube is top quality with StarBright XLT optical coatings. The scope comes with a Computerized GoTo mount with high-performance worm gears and motors for improved tracking accuracy. It has 10 hours of continuous viewing time, using the rechargeable battery. 

It also includes two 1.25″ Plossl eyepieces, a 1.25″ star diagonal, a StarPointer finderscope, and an AC adapter. If you want to invest in a life-time telescope, this is one of the best portable telescopes that I would recommend.

What we liked

  • 6″ (150mm) aperture
  • Compact and easily portable
  • Computerized GoTo mount
  • High-performance worm gears for improved tracking accuracy
  • 10 hours continuous viewing time
  • Optic tube with StarBright XLT optics
  • 2 Plossl eyepieces, 13mm and 40mm

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price
  • Heavier than others
  • Computerized scope may not suit all users

Type: Schmidt-Cassegrain
Aperture: 6″ (150mm)
Magnification: 38x, 115x
Focal length: 1500mm
Mount type: Computerized Altazimuth GoTo mount
Field of view: 1.3°
Weight: 35.4 lbs ( 16 kg)
Dimensions: 35 x 28 x 15 inches
Best for: Beginners to intermediates

8. Orion 10022 StarMax 90mm TableTop Maksutov-Cassegrain Telescope

This travel telescope has a compact design that is ideal for traveling. Weighing only 6.5 lbs, it is light enough to pack up and go. 

It is perfect for an amateur astronomer and offers a great price to value ratio.

The scope features a 90mm aperture and a 1250mm focal length. It comes with two eyepieces of 25mm and 10mm. The telescope has a secure heavy-duty base

Simply stand on a table and you are set. If you prefer to use a tripod, it will easily attach to a field tripod with a 3/8″ or 1/4″-20 threaded post. Also included in the package is an EZ finder II reflex sight and a 90-degree mirror diagonal.

We used this telescope to see powerful images of the Moon and the brighter planets like Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. It was also great to view brighter deep sky objects like nebulas and globular clusters.

What we liked

  • Lightweight for transporting
  • Great price to value ratio
  • Includes two 1.25” lenses
  • Easily table set-up
  • Secure heavy-duty base

What we didn’t like

  • No carry case included
  • No tripod included

Magnification: 50x and 125x
Lens: 90mm (3.5”)
Field of view: 1°
Weight: 6.5 lbs
Dimensions: 19.5 x 10.5 x 10.5 inches

9. Meade Instruments LightBridge Mini 114 Telescope

Meade LightBridge Mini 114 is one of the cheapest telescopes we reviewed. We really enjoyed the removable optical tube, which made it extremely easy to transport

Weighing in at only 10.8 lbs, it is no trouble to pack into a case and place on the back seat while traveling.

The Lightbridge Mini features a 114mm aperture. It comes with two eyepieces, a 26mm, which offers 17x magnification, and a 9mm, which offers 50x magnification. 

It has a sturdy 360-degree swivel mount for easy standing on a table. You do not need tools for assembly, a great perk for us non-technical types.

This is the perfect starter telescope. It has a simple point-and-look design that soon had us viewing incredible sights of the Moon and brighter planets. 

We also enjoyed observing star clusters and nebulas. The Red Dot Viewfinder helps to aim the telescope and the included Autostar Suite Astronomy planetarium DVD has over 10,000 celestial objects to tempt you.

What we liked

  • Sleek, compact design
  • Lightweight for travel
  • Removable optical tube
  • Includes 2 eyepieces
  • 360-degree swivel mount

What we didn’t like

  • Less sophisticated for experts
  • Not easy to attach a tripod

Magnification: 17x and 50x
Lens: 114mm (4.5”)
Field of view: 2.9°
Weight: 10.8 lbs
Dimensions: 12.2 x 12.2 x 24 inches

10. Orion 8945 SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian Telescope

The Orion SkyQuest XT8 is a more expensive model, ideal for a serious amateur astronomer looking for a lifetime investment

Weighing in at 29.3 lbs, it is better suited for packing into a car, rather than into a carry backpack. 

Despite its weight, we found it to be extremely easy to set-up. It has a very stable Dobsonian base, which keeps the optical tube well balanced. 

This design allows you to simply move the telescope left and right, up and down. It is ideal for beginners and doesn’t require complicated aligning. 

Simply point-and-look and you are enjoying amazing sights of the night sky. The 8” aperture lets you view close-ups of the Moon and planets. It also offers great views of the fainter nebulas and star clusters.

Included in the box is a 2″ Crayford focuser that holds 1.25″ and 2″ eyepieces. There is also an EZ Finder II reflex sight and a 25mm Sirius Plössl eyepiece.

What we liked

  • Wide aperture
  • Easy set-up Dobsonian base
  • Great close up detail
  • 2″ Crayford focuser
  • EZ Finder II reflex sight

What we didn’t like

  • Heavier than others

Magnification: 48x
Lens: 203mm (8”)
Field of view: 1.0°
Weight: 29.3 lbs
Dimensions: 50.2 x 17.5 x 15.5 inches (package)

11. SkyWatcher S11510 Maksutov-Cassegrain 102mm Portable Telescope

The next telescope we reviewed was the SkyWatcher S11510. We loved the compact and lightweight design, perfect for taking along on a family evening picnic or a weekend trip.

The scope features a 102mm aperture with a 1300mm focal length. It is capable of producing great images both inside the solar system and out. 

The system gives high contrast views, allowing us to see mountains and craters on the Moon and even surface details of Mars.

Included in the set are two 1.25 inch eyepieces. The first is a 25mm Plössl providing 52x. The second is a 10mm Plössl providing 130x for close-up views. 

The Red Dot Finder makes it quick and easy to point the telescope to the object you want to view. This is a well-priced choice for a beginner or a family wanting to explore the night skies as a hobby.

What we liked

  • Compact design
  • Well priced for value
  • Lightweight for transporting
  • 2 Plössl eyepieces
  • Sharp, high contrast images

What we didn’t like

  • No carry case

Magnification: 52x and 130x
Lens: 102mm (4”)
Field of view: 0.96°
Weight: 9.8 lbs
Dimensions: 22 x 10 x 11 inches

12. Orion 9005 AstroView 120ST Equatorial Refractor Telescope

For the serious amateur astronomer, this scope will thrill you. Orion Astroview is quite pricey compared to others we reviewed, but offers a lifetime of stargazing.

The scope features a 120mm aperture and a 600mm focal length. It is heavy at 36.3 lbs, but we placed it on the back seat of the car with no trouble. 

It comes with a sturdy adjustable tripod. It also has an equatorial mount for slow motion celestial tracking – a perk once you become an expert.

The package includes two Sirius Plossl 1.25″ eyepieces, 25mm and 10mm. Also included is a 6×30 finder scope, a smooth 2″ rack & pinion focuser, a 90-degree mirror star diagonal and fabulous Starry Night astronomy software.

This is an exceptional telescope that gave us breathtaking views of star clusters, deep-sky objects, and galaxies. If you want to invest a little more, we suggest this as a top choice.

What we liked

  • 120mm aperture for great views
  • Sturdy adjustable-height tripod
  • Equatorial mount for slow-motion tracking
  • 2 Sirius Plössl eyepieces
  • Finder scope and pinion focuser

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price
  • Requires more than entry-level skills

Magnification: 24x and 60x
Lens: 120mm (4.7”)
Field of view: 2.1°
Weight: 36.3 lbs
Dimensions: 37.8 x 16.8 x 11.8 inches (Package)

Also read:

How to travel with a telescope?

Being a sensitive gadget, traveling with a telescope, does require planning. If you are driving, you will have boot space and possibly space on the back seat. This will allow for a larger, heavier scope.

  • If you are camping out or hiking with all your essentials in a backpack, you need a smaller and lighter telescope. You have seriously limited luggage space and you don’t want to be too exhausted at the end of the hike to look at the stars.
  • Telescopes with a large range of accessories are great for a home where you have dedicated storage space. When traveling, you don’t want to worry about extra bits and pieces that can go missing.
  • Ease of set-up is a must. We reviewed models that stand on a tabletop. They are super easy to use. Simply point-and-view and you are a stargazer.

Like most travel-friendly gadgets, you may have to forsake some features for the perk of portability. In the case of telescopes, it is usually the size of the aperture or lens. Portable scopes have smaller lenses and offer more limited views. In our search for the best travel telescope, we focused on crisp, clear views vs. portability to give you the best of both. 

Also read5 Best Telescopes for Viewing Planets in 2020 [Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, etc.]

Is telescope resistant to different weather conditions?

Intrepid travelers are quite comfortable braving storms, icy winds, and searing heat. Others, like my family and I, prefer the comfort of a lodge or holiday home! Wherever you are heading, your telescope will have to brave the weather with you.

Telescopes designed for travel often have refractors’ tubes filled with an inert gas like Nitrogen. The gas creates a natural barrier that prevents a build-up of moisture inside the tube and stops fogging. Some devices have extra seals to prevent moisture from seeping inside. Water protection does not mean that the scope can take a dunking. Keep it away from the swimming pool, fish pond, seaside waves, or scenic waterfalls.

For rugged conditions, telescopes with rubber armoring are a win. This prevents damage from abrasions, scratches, or bashes if accidentally dropped or knocked when moving. The armoring also helps to retain the set-up or collimation of the scope, so you don’t have to go through the process again.

We found a few telescopes that come with a handy, sturdy carry case. Unfortunately, most do not. Invest in a strong, waterproof bag, preferably with soft internal padding. The better protected your telescope is, the longer it will last.

Also read5 Best Star Trackers for DSLR in 2020 [Buyer’s Guide]

Don’t forget a mount or tripod

As a beginner, you are probably super excited about your new telescope and ready to start viewing the Moon. However, you don’t want a nasty surprise. Not all telescopes come with a tripod or mount.

The first prize is a telescope that has a table mount. These are ideal for travel, portability, and ease-of-use. You don’t need to worry about mounts or tripods. Simply stand on a table, point and view. Many telescopes with table mounts also offer the option of attaching them to a separate tripod. This is ideal for use at home when you don’t have to move or disassemble your scope. You then have the best of both worlds – portability for travel and a permanent set-up for home use.

If the telescope comes with a tripod, make sure that it is lightweight and folds up. You don’t want to double your weight or carry an impossible long tripod onto a plane. Altazimuth tripods tend to be cheaper, easier to use, and extremely portable. They also offer horizontal and vertical movement allowing you to follow objects as the Earth rotates.

Equatorial mountings, or EQs, are not portable at all. So, avoid these. EQs are usually set-up permanently in your observation area where they remain untouched. AZ’s or altitude-azimuth mountings, are simpler but are less portable than tabletops. 

Also read5 Best Tripods for Binoculars (Astronomy) in 2020

How to choose the right portable telescope?

Here are some key points to consider when choosing the best portable telescope.

Weight – Whether you are traveling by car, plane, or on foot, packing light is key. The telescopes we reviewed range from 6 lbs to 36 lbs. The lighter models are ideal for camping and hiking. Heavier models are best suited for a car trip. If you are flying, ensure that you do not exceed the carry-on weight allowed.

Size – With limited luggage space, size is vital. Most portable telescopes are designed to be compact. Some even have removable tubes, reducing the overall size.

Aperture – As with most travel gadgets, you may have to forsake some high-end technology. The models we reviewed offer great sky views with apertures ranging from 90mm to 200mm.

Mounting – Tabletop mounted telescopes win hands down as they require no additional mounting devices. If you need a tripod, choose a model that is lightweight and folds up.

Ease of set-up – Spending hours aligning your telescope is not something you want to do on vacation. Point-and-view models are simple, fun, and get you stargazing in no time.

Accessories – Extra accessories are great if you are in one place. Traveling with loads of extra gadgets is probably not a great idea.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best travel telescope for astrophotography?

A great telescope travel for astrophotography at a very reasonable price is the Sky Watcher Evostar 72 APO Refractor Telescope. If you can invest more, the Celestron NexStar Evolution 6 Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope will last a lifetime.

What is the best travel telescope?

For a family wanting to travel away from the city lights, the Celestron Travel Scope 70 Portable Telescope is a great travel telescope and is well priced.

What is the best portable telescope?

As a best portable telescope, we recommend the Celestron Travel Scope 70 Portable Telescope. It is the smallest telescope and comes with a handy travel backpack, ideal for outdoor trips.

What is the best small telescope?

The Meade Infinity 102mm Altazimuth Refractor Telescope is a great small telescope, offering a choice of 3 eyepieces, for low, medium, and high magnification.

How do you travel with a telescope?

Most quality best travel telescopes come with their own, padded travel cases. Place them into the luggage compartment or store your telescope on the rear seat.

Can I bring a telescope on a plane?

Yes, you can, provided it is easily portable. It is best to carry it on board and stow it away in the overhead luggage compartment. A small handheld telescope, or a compact handheld telescope will easily stash under your seat.

What is the best Celestron travel telescope?

The Celestron NexStar 90SLT Computerized Telescope is a great travel scope with the added perk of a computerized mount. Setup is fast and easy and it weighs only 12 lbs.

What is the best handheld telescope?

The Wingspan Optics Titan 12X50 is a best handheld telescope. It has a 12x magnification and offers sharp, bright views. It is also waterproof and fogproof.

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