Best Portable Telescopes
Portable telescopes come in many different shapes and sizes, and whether you're a beginner or an expert, there's something out there for you. Rather than simply listing our smallest scopes, we've asked our experts to recommend telescopes that are both portable and best in class. Our rankings take into account size, ease of use, and performance, and are broken down by proficiency level. That way, you can use our portable telescope buying guide to find what's right for you.
Best Portable Telescopes for Beginners
When trying to find the best telescope for beginners, ease of use is probably the most important factor, along with portability. Here are our portable telescope picks for amateur stargazers.
Tiny but mighty, this tabletop Dobsonian telescope features a 4.5" aperture which provides excellent wide-field views. This ultra-portable system is light and easy to set up. Made from durable materials and weighing in at just 11 pounds, it's the best telescope for beginners to take on road trips or to their next star party! Loaded with accessories, the Zhumell Z114 comes with a number of eyepieces and a finder scope, making it easier to dial in a perfect view of the night sky.
The Meade Infinity 102's refractor optical design requires zero maintenance, making it an easy-care solution for casual astronomers and advanced users alike. Don't let its small size fool you -- the Infinity 102 consistently outperforms similar-size Newtonian reflectors. The lightweight tripod system works on an intuitive up/down, left/right motion, making the telescope simple to set up, use, and travel with. The Meade Infinity 102 includes a finder scope and correct image diagonal for use during the day or night; as well as three eyepieces for low, medium and high-powered magnification -- perfect for targets like the moon, planets, and even objects on land. Make it easier to grab your telescope and go with the Meade Infinity telescope bag (sold separately).
This 5" Maksutov telescope offers a no-maintenance optical design that provides considerable aperture for crisp views of planets, galaxies, star clusters, and visual planetary nebula. The long focal length (1900mm) provides great magnification options, and the tripod is easy to use. While it isn't the most portable telescope recommended in this group, it's well worth the trade-off given the FirstLight's outstanding performance. If you're into taking pictures, note that the FirstLight MAK127 includes a smartphone camera adapter, so you can easily capture and share your celestial experiences with family and friends.
Portable Telescope Recommendations for Intermediate Users
Intermediate astronomers are ready for some more sophisticated features. If you've been watching the stars for a while, but aren't quite prepared for advanced models, these are some great portable telescope options.
With 80mm of aperture, the Meade ETX 80 provides enough detail to pull out craters on the moon, planetary details, and radiant deep-sky objects like star clusters. This refractor is supported by a computerized dual-fork arm system that uses an easy multi-star alignment procedure. After alignment, you'll be able to quickly identify and track any object you choose with the hand controller, which also features a built-in speaker that can tell you more about 30,000 celestial objects. With the included backpack, eyepieces and tripod, this is as convenient and portable as it gets for a computerized system!
The 4" Maksutov optical design of the Nexstar 4SE gives greater sharpness and contrast than traditional reflecting telescopes thanks to its smaller secondary mirror. The optical tube assembly can be removed and placed on any standard photo tripod without additional adapters, making it even more versatile and portable! The single-arm fork mount is fully computerized and includes a go-to hand controller with a very large database. Using the simple star-alignment, you'll easily be able to identify and track any object you choose.
With its 5" aperture and a 1325mm focal length, the Meade ETX 125 is the ideal Maksutov Cassegrain telescope for capturing bright deep-sky objects and achieving great lunar/planetary views. The ETX 125 offers a dual-fork mount and includes a fully computerized "go-to" hand controller with a 30,000-object database. While it isn't possible to remove the optical tube from the fork arm, this slight portability limitation is worth the trade-off for the powerful performance offered by the ETX 125. This portable telescope comes with a red-dot finder, a set of lunar and planetary filters, and a Barlow lens to maximize the included eyepieces.
The most popular computerized telescopee of its size on the market, the Celestron Nexstar 8SE telescope features a whopping 8" of aperture so you can capture a plethora of galaxies & nebulae, achieve greater planetary detail, and locate fainter deep-sky objects that you’d otherwise be unable to see with a smaller telescope. The single fork arm mount is fully computerized and includes a "go-to" hand controller with a 40,000-object database. You can quickly find and track your celestial targets with the simple star-alignment procedure, which takes about five minutes (yes, even for beginners!). The 8SE comes with multiple eyepieces, a red-dot finder, and a 1.25" star diagonal. It's also compatible with a 2" diagonal, allowing for even more eyepiece options.
Advanced Telescopes: More Features, Still Portable
If you're an experienced stargazer who is always on-the-go, you'll want an advanced portable telescope. With our choices, you can go anywhere without sacrificing the features you need!
This 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope provides considerable light-gathering power to make it easier to see deep-sky objects in greater detail. Featuring a single-fork arm mount with dual clutches and large brass gears for accurate tracking, the telescope also includes a built-in Wi-Fi system and a rechargeable lithium battery good for up to 10 hours of stargazing. It's equipped with an ergonomic handle to make transportation easier while also allowing accessories to reach close to zenith without hitting the base. Plan on setting up your telescope on uneven terrain? No problem -- the tripod includes markings to easily level it out in the field. This telescope comes loaded with accessories, including an eyepiece kit with multiple magnification options, an assortment of lunar/planetary filters, a red-dot finder and a 1.25" star diagonal so you can use your telescope right out of the box!
Looking for a similar but slightly smaller portable telescope? Check out the Celestron 6" Nexstar Evolution for all of the same advanced features in a more compact package.
With the 8" aperture utilizing Meade's advanced coma-free optics, the LX90 provides the light-gathering power and the performance needed to pull in your favorite night-sky objects. Its dual-fork arm system with clutches in altitude and azimuth make this a very stable portable telescope while also offering smooth, accurate tracking. The "go-to" star-alignment procedure built into the arm gives you access to a 30,000-object database, and built-in GPS means you'll never lose your target objects. While it's somewhat less portable than other scopes on this list, the LX90 is truly a step up from the rest.
Find a Portable Telescope at High Point Scientific
Still can't decide which new or used telescope you'd like to take on your astronomy adventures after reading our portable telescope buying guide? Connect with one of our non-commissioned product advisors at 800-266-9590 or send us an email with your questions – we're here to help! We have plenty of telescopes for sale to suit your needs and budget.