Whether you need some tactical equipment for a night shooting competition, gear for hunting or you just want to feel like you’re part of SEAL Team Six, night vision goggles are an incredibly valuable piece of gear to have in your arsenal. Here’s what you should know about night vision goggles before you make a move to purchase:
- How night vision goggles work
- What generation 1-4 means
- Monocular vs binoculars
- How much night vision goggles cost
Night vision goggles amplify the light that is basically invisible to the naked eye. The light goes into image intensifying tubes that make the light visible to our eyes. Night vision goggles do need some light to function properly. Moon and starlight will help your image look brighter.
Generation to Generation
As you explore night vision goggles, you’ll notice different generations of goggles. This refers to the technology used in the model. In a nutshell, the higher the number, the better night vision image quality you are going to get. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect from each:
- Low resolution
- Short battery life
- Least expensive
- Good for hunting, shooting
- Roughly 200-yard range
- Distortion control
- Medium battery life
- Roughly 300-yard range
- Long battery life
- Tactical military-grade
- Sharp image detail
- Daylight will not damage tubes
- Most expensive
Finding Night Vision Goggles That Are Right For You
Don’t think that two is better than one. Monoculars are lightweight and easier to stow away when not in use. And it can be a good thing to leave an eye open to receive natural night light. But binoculars are often more comfortable. Which style of goggle you pick really comes down to personal preference and how much you’re willing to spend.
Speaking of spending, night vision goggles are not cheap. They range anywhere from $100 to tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, we left the ones out that Zero Dark Thirty rocks, but expect to spend a bit of coin if you want extremely high-quality goggles.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, check out our recommendations for the best night vision goggles available below:
1. Superior Tactical PVS-7
For military-grade night vision capabilities, the Superior Tactical PVS-7 is a prime choice. It’s lightweight and waterproof and works well under extreme weather conditions. It doesn’t come with headgear but can attach to it. It sports about 50-hour battery life and has a low battery indicator when it comes time to charge. If it’s good enough for the military, it’ll more than likely fulfill your needs.
2. Bushnell Night Vision Equinox Z2 Monocular
Using WiFi, the Equinox can live stream footage from the monocular to your smartphone. This essentially turns your smart device into a display for your monocular. By doing this, two people can track and see wildlife at night. Beyond that nifty feature, it also has incredible 6x zooming capabilities to magnify objects over 1,000 feet away.
3. ATN PS31-3W
For rugged night vision goggles that can see in pitch-black darkness, look no further than the PS31-3W. The 50-degree field of view helps you see more area at night, and the built-in IR illuminator helps brighten the picture so you can see more clearly. It comes with a helmet strap to comfortably fasten these goggles to your head, so you can focus on tracking through the night instead of adjusting your night vision goggles.
4. SiOnyx Aurora Sport
This is a nifty tool for recording action videos at night. It has a CMOS sensor that records 720p color video at night. You read that right — color video at night. It can even record three feet underwater for 30 minutes without any issues. But if you’re looking to just see what lurks in the night, it has a 3x digital zoom and can see objects in near pitch-black up to 492 feet away.
5. FLIR Thermosight
This night vision scope uses body heat to illuminate objects during the day or night. Yep, this scope isn’t exclusive to the night. You can be out in the wild all day tracking wildlife, and after the sun sets, this scope becomes your dedicated nighttime monocular. Large buttons allow you to control the zoom easily even with gloves on. Speaking of zoom, you can zoom up to 16x. That’s money well spent.
6. Hawke Sport Optics Nite-Eye 2000
This budget-friendly night vision camera can capture stills and record up to 10 minutes of video. The video quality isn’t the greatest — VGA resolution at best — which isn’t too big of a deal if you’re using this to find wildlife in the night. And with the built-in infrared sensor combined with the 650-foot range and 5x zooming capabilities, you’ll be able to find plenty.
7. TKKOK D80
These night vision goggles have great zooming capabilities. It’s best around 656 feet, but can go all out to 1640 feet, although the clarity gets real iffy at max magnification. It has the capabilities to not only help you see in the night but also take pictures and videos as well. Plus, with six hours of battery life, you can go into the wee hours of the night without worrying about the battery crapping out.
8. Nightfox Swift Night Vision Goggles
These night vision goggles come with a head strap, so you can get to prowling in the night from the jump. You can squeeze just over three hours of use before they need a recharge (depending on the illumination setting). It only has a 10-degree field of view and the screen isn’t very high resolution, but it’s an affordable way to see what wildlife is around at night.
9. Creative XP Digital Night Vision Binoculars
The Creative XP binoculars are great for spotting wildlife in the middle of the night. The 7x optical zoom combined with the 850 IR illuminator helps you see clearly even on moonless nights. It comes with an adapter to quickly connect a smartphone or other smart device and download videos and photos from the XP. It’s not only rugged but smart, too.
10. AGM PVS-7 3NL1 Gen 3+ Level 3 Autogated Night Vision Goggle
Modeled on the NV system used by our US Armed Forces, these all-weather resistant, crystal clear night vision goggles brighten up darkened spots with no problem. Lightness control is adjusted automatically, so the ability to use in various conditions of brightness is more than possible. The overall lightweight construction makes it easy to use and clip on your favorite helmet all while being able to handle the most extreme of situations.
11. ATN Nightvision PS15-3P
Providing a clear night vision image and a wide field of view, the binocular style Nightvision PS15-3P are worth the splurge. When you’re out scoping the scene at night, you’re backed up by a lengthy 60 hours of battery life. And the built-in illuminator helps you see images clearly at close range. They are an expensive headset, but worth it for the extra performance.
12. ATN BinoX 4K Smart Day/Night Binoculars
More than just night vision goggles, the ATN BinoX 4K Binoculars have plenty of tricks up their sleeve. For starters, a built-in laser range finder helps you determine the exact distance of your target. And IR illuminators help bring clarity to otherwise unclear objects at close range. Plus you can even record 4K video using the binoculars and using the Laser Ballistics app. These are impressive for a sub $1,000 price tag.
13. GTHunder Night Vision Goggles
Great for camping, birdwatching and casual outdoor use, the GTHunder Night Vision Goggles are an inexpensive way to get night-vision capabilities to go along with your outdoor equipment. The goggles can take pictures, video, playback video and can even export photos and video using the USB SD output. You get about six hours of battery life when video recording and 17 hours of regular use. Not a bad investment at only $260.
14. Firefield Nightfall Night Vision Monocular
This night vision monocular is lightweight and portable. It provides 5x magnification so you can see objects far off in the distance. The infrared illuminator helps you to see clearly what lurks in the night. It weighs less than a pound so adding it to your camping bag is no biggie. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable ways to get night vision capabilities.
15. Solomark Night Vision Monocular
For an inexpensive way to be able to view wildlife in the dark, and also take photos and record, this night vision monocular is a solid choice. You can see objects in the dark up to 328 ft away. It also features several different levels of IR illumination to get the brightness you need during the night. Keep in mind, it can only mount to a tripod (no headgear) and it does take four AA batteries to power, which is not ideal.