Best Night Vision Goggles: Take the Right Steps During the Dark Hours
Want to see better in the dark? Here are the top picks for night vision goggles
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Night vision technology can enhance your life in many ways, be it at home or in the outdoors. While it was first introduced for the military, this innovative technology has made its impact in various fields, including hunting and wildlife observation. When used in goggles, night vision technology has the ability to amplify the available light to generate clear images. The ability to see in darkness also allows greater mobility during nighttime hours. Here are three of the best low light night vision goggles currently on the market.
Bestguarder NV-900 Digital Night Vision Binocular
The device uses a superior grade CMOS sensor that is infrared-sensitive. The 4-inch viewing screen delivers top-class image clarity. The 4.5x optical zoom and a viewing distance of 1400 feet enhance overall effectiveness.
- The unit can record images and videos with sound
- The user interface is well-designed, making it easy to use
- It can also be used during the daytime like regular binoculars
- The unit is not suitable for very close distance viewing
- The use of eight AA batteries makes it heavy
- The rubber around the periphery of the screen can be uncomfortable during prolonged use
Hike Crew Digital Infrared Night Goggles
These goggles use adjustable infrared light to bring out clear images at night and have a nighttime viewing distance of 197 feet. The large LCD screen reduces eye strain and allows for longer viewing periods.
- Soft roomy eye caps allow for comfortable viewing
- User-friendly, tripod-mountable design with three buttons. Increased daytime viewing distance
- Allows the user to adjust the brightness to suit the ambient lighting
- Short nighttime viewing distance
- Doesn’t have a large field of view
- The lens isn’t fogproof
Solomark 3.8-7.6x Night Vision Binoculars
This gadget uses 3W infrared LED technology to allow night time viewing for up to 820 feet. It can be used to capture pictures and videos, which are typically stored in a micro SD card.
- Comes with a filter cover to reduce glare
- Suitable for both day and night use
- IPX4 rated for water resistance
- Fully multi-colored for optimal light transmission
- 8GB micro SD card included
- Batteries sold separately
- The focusing knob could be sturdier
- The lens isn’t fogproof
Benefits of Night Vision Goggles
- Improved vision in the dark. One of the most obvious benefits for night vision goggles is being able to see clearly in the dark, where simply looking with the naked eye is insufficient. What you see through the night vision goggles is enhanced either through infrared or thermal imaging.
- Improved accuracy. Most people associate night vision goggles with tactical military missions. However, they’re also ideal for nighttime hunting trips where limited natural light would make safely targeting prey difficult to do.
- Enhanced safety. Night vision goggles can be a lifesaver if you’re thinking of engaging in outdoor activities after the sun goes down. A nighttime hike could turn dangerous if you can’t clearly see where you’re placing your feet. Night vision goggles will give you precision and peace of mind.
Types of Night Vision Goggles
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Infrared Night Vision Goggles
Infrared-based night vision goggles rely on the light outside of the visible spectrum range to illuminate the images you’re seeing in low light conditions. A common option is green light waves, which is why many night vision goggles rely on green phosphor. However, these types of night vision goggles cannot work in complete darkness or when it is bright outside. Without any light—even if not on the visible spectrum—it’s impossible to create an image for you to see. And bright light will damage the technology and make the goggles inoperable.
Thermal Night Vision Goggles
As opposed to infrared technology, thermal technology relies on temperature and heat detection to create an image. While the image isn’t as clear as with infrared night vision goggles, these types of visual displays don’t rely on light and can work in complete darkness — even in the absence of light outside of the visible spectrum. If you’re considering a pair of night vision goggles for hunting in total darkness, thermal-based models are the best option.
Bestguarder is a popular outdoor gear brand that focuses almost exclusively on the hunting and camping niche. Much of their gear centers around night vision goggles similar to our Best Overall selection as well as other popular items like hunting alarms.
Nightfox is a subsidiary brand of Laserware, a Bristol, United Kingdom-based firm that focuses on creating innovative products at a modest price point to meet a variety of needs. The Nightfox division is exclusively centered around night vision technology and prides itself on their 18-month standard warranty that’s honored on every item they create. In addition to night vision goggles, Nightfox also creates essential gear like this IR illuminator flashlight.
Sightmark is a Texas-based outdoor optical gear brand that prioritizes the manufacture of tactical, hunting, and shooting vision gear. While they make some of the best night vision goggles, this brand also focuses on riflescopes and laser sights.
Night Vision Goggles Pricing
- Up to $500: In this range, you can find a quality pair of simplified night vision goggles with limited functionality that are designed for casual observing.
- $501 to $1,000. In this range, you’ll find goggles designed for activities such as hunting, driving, or shooting.
- $1,001 and up. On the higher spectrum, you’ll find high-quality and high-performance night vision goggles, including ones that would qualify as ideal for tactical activities.
Night vision goggle generations are divided into Gen 1, Gen 2, and Gen 3. Gen 1 night vision is the cheapest with low resolution and a 75-yard visual range. Gen 2 models are median-priced and ideal for hunting, shooting, and driving with enhanced optics, light amplification, longer battery life, and 200-yard visual range. Gen 3 models are the most expensive but are similar to tactical grades used by U.S. Military special forces with the best battery life and a 300-yard long-range view.
Most people wear night vision goggles for extended periods of time, so weight is an important feature. This is especially true if you opt for a pair of goggles designed with a helmet mount or to wear them on your head. Excessive weight can cause neck strain. Ideally, look for models that are no more than 20 pounds. More intensive, tactical night vision goggles will usually feature more lenses and weigh more by default.
If you’re planning to use night vision goggles for hunting or need a clear line of sight, the size will be a key feature. Goggles that are too large will impede your ability to clearly use the sight on a rifle. But in this scenario, you should also consider night vision goggles that can be retracted when not in use so that you can safely and easily use other objects without any issues.
For those planning to use night vision goggles for use in very dark areas, the gain is an essential feature. Gain refers to a goggles’ ability to optically compensate for different light levels at night. Better gain means a better viewing experience with a clearer, more detailed picture even in minimal light. But this feature is especially useful as a manual control if you’re in an area where the light levels constantly fluctuate.
Night vision goggles are typically designed for outdoor or active use. But in this category, cheaper models tend to perform poorly. Look for models constructed of durable aluminum bodies as opposed to plastic if you’re looking for a pair of night vision goggles that will last for the long haul. Likewise, choose glass lenses over cheaper lens alternatives.
- Autogating. If there’s a chance that you might be working in variable light or exposed to sudden bursts of bright light, autogated night vision goggles should be prioritized. While pricier, these models offer automatic brightness control when exposed to bright light—helping to preserve your device.
- Integral Illuminator. If you’re concerned about the overall weight of your night vision goggles, opt for a model with an integral illuminator. This will help you even when the goggles aren’t in use so you can read the text in dark areas because it’s a separate light source.
- Weather Resistance. Whether you’re camping in wet areas or plan on hunting in marshland, a waterproof rating is a critical consideration. If you plan to work in wet areas or places with consistently bad weather, upgrading to a pricier water-resistant model is a good idea.
- Avoid Magnification. While magnification sounds great in theory, it can impair your ability to safely walk or operate other equipment. Skip this feature when shopping for night vision goggles.
- Monocular vs. Binocular. Monocular models can be ideal for hunting or scouting, whereas a binocular model is best for casual observing.
Best Night Vision Goggles Reviews & Recommendations 2021
We’ve chosen the Bestguarder NV-900 Digital Night Vision Binocular as our Best Overall because it features a superior grade CMOS sensor that is not only infrared-sensitive, but also features a convex lens and 640 x 480 screen resolution. You’ll get premium image clarity from the four-inch viewing screen and the 4.5x optical zoom gives you a maximum viewing distance of 1400 feet.
What sets this model apart from competitors is that this pair of night vision goggles is designed to not just let you view what’s in front of you, but to also record videos with sound. You’ll like the easy-to-use user interface, comfortable textured grips, and built-in side straps. But another great feature is that these goggles are dual-purpose and can be used like traditional binoculars during the daytime.
A major issue we found with this model is that the unit isn’t ideal for very close distance viewing because of the built-in zoom feature. Likewise, this requires a substantial number of batteries. With eight AA batteries, this device becomes extremely heavy. And while the rubber grip is ideal for initial use, for prolonged periods of time it can be uncomfortable.
For beginners, it’s always advisable to select an affordable yet functional gadget before you advance to complicated military-grade glasses. This is why we believe that our Best Value pick can provide you with the visibility you need in low light conditions as you improve on your nature watching skills. It comes with a large LCD screen that gives clear and sharp images, and comfortable eye caps that are large enough to accommodate eyeglasses
You can switch from normal viewing to magnifying or zooming in on the image with the help of the 2x digital magnification and digital zoom control respectively. When it comes to nighttime viewing, the goggles are equipped with an infrared sensor with seven adjustable brightness levels. You can adjust the brightness for clearer viewing depending on the ambient lighting on the scenery. Three switches on the goggles will help to switch effortlessly between magnification, adjusting the infrared brightness, and focus.
However, we did note a few drawbacks with this budget-friendly model. Its nighttime viewing distance is less than 200 feet, which is short in comparison to professional-grade night vision goggles. The same goes for its field of view since it only has a single viewing lens at the front. The lens also tends to fog up easily.
We chose to include the Solomark Night Vision Binoculars on our list for a number of reasons. First, it has a wide LCD screen that allows for comfortable viewing. The lens is coated with multilayers of MultiGuard FMC coating with anti-reflective compounds, which reduce glare while ensuring high light transmission to get the truest colors from the images you capture. As with all Solomark binoculars, it's powered with a 3W infrared LED sensor that allows you to see up to 820 feet in full darkness.
You will appreciate the versatility offered from the built-in camcorder featuring a 640-pixel video and a 5-megapixel camera. It has an SD card slot too so you can save the images and videos you take, and transfer them to your computer with the USB cable provided. For better viewing, the unit has a 2x digital zoom feature and provides up to seven times magnification.
While it may be a solid device, there are a few issues that have plagued many of its users. One is that you have to buy the four AA batteries separately from the gadget. Additionally, the lens tends to fog up in humid conditions, which can affect the image quality if left unsupervised on video-mode. The focusing knob is also a bit flimsy.
Take clear photos and videos of objects at night with this Nightfox camera that comes equipped with a 1.5-watt infrared LED. They provide 7x magnification and 2x digital zoom so you can capture images that are up to 495 feet away. It records both photos and videos on a microSD card (maximum 32GB), and you can transfer them to your computer via the USB provided.
Six, large buttons at the top panel will help you adjust the viewing settings, and you can set it to show the time stamp on photos and videos. The comfortable wide-screen lets you use the binoculars even with glasses on. Extra features include a helmet mount so you can attach it on a tactical helmet, a filter cover for the infrared lens, and a carrying case. What’s more, they are backed with an 18-month warranty, which serves as a guarantee of their quality.
You can attach it on a tactical helmet with the helmet mount provided though it may be a bit wobbly. Also, it requires four AA batteries but they don’t come with the package. Another drawback is, the multiple buttons may need some getting used to.
Identify your target easily at night with these night vision binoculars that are designed with built-in infrared illuminators that produce clear and bright images. You can use them to see objects within a range of 200 feet. By adjusting the focusing wheel, you can get up to 5x magnification on the image.
They are built to provide a comfortable viewing experience with a smooth rubberized finish that provides a firm grip even in humid or wet conditions and a padded neck strap. They are also fitted with an impact-resistant thermoplastic lens so they can survive accidental drops.
At 2.2 pounds, these binoculars are a bit on the heavy side so you have to bear the weight on your hands or neck since they can’t be mounted on a tripod. Also, the focusing wheel is inconveniently positioned at the centre of the binoculars, which makes it a bit challenging to adjust for people with small hands. Lastly, it requires three lithium batteries but they aren’t included with the package.
The Nightfox Swift Night Vision Goggles are very well-rounded, starting with a generous 75-yard viewing range and 1x fixed magnification/2x adjustable digital magnification. Digital sensor resolution is solid (640 by 480). It can be mounted in two ways: using an included head strap or to a helmet with a GoPro-style mounting point on top. Battery life with the Nightfox Swift Night Vision Goggles is also on point, lasting three hours using a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Our only knock is that Nightfox has a so-so warranty (18 months). There are much longer ones on the market.
The GTHUNDER Digital Night Vision Goggles works excellent for all types of outdoor activities from hiking to bird watching with 3x optical magnification and an infrared illuminator. This makes them good for capturing objects as far as 1000 feet away in total darkness. It also includes a 32 GB memory card.
The GTHUNDER Digital Night Vision Goggles is easy for beginners to use. The rugged rubber housing protects it while in harsh environments. It is comfortable to hold and easy to view photos on the 3-inch screen.
Our only knock on the GTHUNDER Digital Night Vision Goggles is its viewfinder. At only 3 inches, there are night vision goggles with much larger screens (such as 4 inches).
The BOOVV Night Vision Binoculars simply excels, leading with 4x digital zoom and 3x optical zoom. This translates to a long-distance range of up to 984 feet. All of this is possible using an infrared-sensitive CMOS sensor, which captures high definition images (1280x960P, VGA 640×480) and video (VGA 640×480@30FPS) with stunning detail. Night viewing performs spectacularly with a 250 to 300-meter range.
Another strength is its seven-level IR adjustment, which adjusts the infrared intensity with a quick short press of IR+ and IR- buttons. Infrared intensity goes up the farther the target is out for better clarity. It also includes a 32GB memory card.Charging time is respectable, with up to eight hours of daytime run time and four hours of nighttime use with infrared.
However, its screen is on the smallish side, at just 2.31 inches.
The Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars is known for its ruggedness. 28mm objective lenses and 10x magnification are trumped by a fortress-like build for rough terrain aficionados, starting with multi-coated, anti-reflective coated lenses, an additional Armortek coating for scratch-resistance, and a rubberized construction for a sturdy grip.
Its eyecups are fully adjustable and adhere to your eye’s contours, helping to reduce eye fatigue. The rugged construction resists impacts.
While highly rated, some users have experienced distortion while viewing images.
- Each pair of night vision goggles has a specific device gain that refers to the light levels that reach the viewer’s eyes. A device with a higher gain will be a good choice.
- If you are looking for higher image resolution, choose a Generation 2 night vision device. These offer better light amplification and image clarity.
- Bright light sources can act adversely against night vision goggles. To prolong the life of your equipment and prevent any damage, do not expose it to such light sources.
Q: What are the categories of night vision goggles?
A: Night vision goggles are categorized into three generations: 1, 2, and 3. The overall technical features, image quality, and the ability to perform in lower light conditions increase with each generation. However, generation 3 devices are too expensive for general use.
Q: How far will a night vision device allow me to see?
A: The range of a night vision device depends on its design and technical parameters. It also depends on the type of object being viewed, as each object has its own detection and recognition range. The clarity and the brightness of the night sky will also affect the performance of the device.
Q: Do night vision goggles come with thermal imaging?
A: Some do. Night vision goggles with thermal imaging use specialized optics to detect infrared light emitted by an object. However, low- and medium-range thermal devices do not offer good image clarity or resolution. Most image-enhancing devices offer better performance than units with thermal imaging, at the same price range.
With good optical clarity and smart design, the Bestguarder NV-900 Digital Night Vision Binocular is our top choice for night vision goggles.
The Hike Crew Digital Infrared Night Goggles is a pocket-friendly option that has the right range of features to suit a first-time buyer.