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Selecting the best night vision goggles on the market is no easy task. Prices range from $150 right the up to over $10,000! These devices have very different capabilities and depending on your expectations, they all have the ability to impress you or disappoint you. That’s why we’ve decided to put together this list of our favorites, with a short buying guide to help you make the best buying decision.
At the budget end of the spectrum, we have these night vision binoculars from CooLife. If you want to be able to see at night, with decent quality, and without spending your life savings, these are worthy of your investment.
These binoculars feature a three-watt infrared LED night vision system, with selectable intensity levels. Working in full power mode, users can see up to 300 meters away in ideal conditions. The images are displayed on a sharp 2.31 inch TFT display.
Each set of binoculars ships with an SD card that can be used to shoot photos and videos, allowing you to capture what you see when you’re out at night.
These goggles don’t come equipped with a head strap, however, they do feature attachment points that can accommodate aftermarket straps.
These night vision binoculars from Nightfox are a great budget choice for users looking for an entry-level piece of night vision gear without any fancy bells and whistles. They’re cheap, but they do the job admirably.
Like the CooLife model listed above, these binoculars feature selectable infrared levels to create different brightness levels. In good conditions, users can expect good visibility of up to 100 yards. The goggles have two zoom levels, 6 hours of maximum battery life, and an 18-month manufacturer’s warranty.
These goggles are cheap but you quite a lot for your money. However, they do fail in certain areas. The battery life depletes very quickly when IR is required. The zoom function isn’t particularly good either. Lastly, the field of vision is quite limited. Still, it’s hard to argue with the product considering the attractive price tag.
Though these are quite pricey compared to the models listed before, these still night vision goggles still class as a budget model. They are more expensive than other budget options, but they’re great for those who want decent night vision and a more serious package, but still don’t feel like investing thousands of dollars.
The Nightstar 1×20 goggles are by no means the best on the market, but you get a decent return for your investment. They are compact and easy to use, with simple lens adjustment and focus range. The Nightstar comes with a built-in IR illuminator, allowing users to see well in difficult conditions.
It’s a good introductory night vision gadget, but if you’re looking for professional quality, you’ll have to spend more money. Still, if you can overlook a few shortcomings, such as the cheap lens caps and limited field of vision, then these will serve you well.
These smart binoculars from Yukon Advanced Optics are great for those looking for quality night vision at an affordable price point.
Featuring GEN 1 NVG technology, it’s easy to dismiss these goggles and think they’re not good enough for the job. In reality, they’re more than capable. These binoculars are equipped with a powerful high-resolution intensifier and a strong infrared illuminator. This allows for good visibility in a variety of conditions.
The actual binoculars feature adjustable optics, easy focusing, rubber cup comfort pads, and secure lens caps. A head mount comes as standard. Unfortunately, it doesn’t ship with a battery. You’ll have to source your own!
GThunder’s night vision goggles are smart, affordable, and easy to use. Also known as Owl Night Vision Binoculars, these digital goggles can help you scope out your prey in dark conditions, from a distance of up to 986 feet, with ease.
Fitted with an infrared illuminator, 4x digital zoom, and a 3-inch TFT screen, these goggles are great for new users who want to dip their toes in the world of night vision without breaking the bank, but without sacrificing quality.
One of the coolest features is the integrated recording and image capture function, which can shoot in HD, direct to an SD card. Other features from these inexpensive goggles include durable rubber protective elements, a sturdy carry case, and a neck strap. Unfortunately, a head strap isn’t included.
Sightmark has a number of products in its Ghost Hunter Series, but our top choice would have the Ghost Hunter 1×24. Of course, if you need the zoom, the 2×24 or 4×50 may be better for you. Still, any of the three are solid choices.
In terms of performance, these night vision goggles operate in a very similar way to others on this list. There’s an infrared illuminator, and other standard gear. However, what sets this apart and elevates it from the others is its ability to create a clear picture using standard ambient light. That, and the battery life.
Using two AAA batteries, the Sightmark Ghost Hunter 1×24 boasts up to 70 hours of continuous battery life. If you use the infrared function, that figure will drastically drop down to around 20 hours. However, thanks to the quality of the night vision tech, IR use should be reserved for only the darkest of nights.
Despite the cool looking image here, these goggles don’t come with the head strap system as standard. That needs to be purchased separately. Still, for powerful night vision with good magnification and an impressive battery life, who cares about the head strap?
For those with deep pockets that want to enjoy the same quality of night vision that law enforcement, homeland security, the FBI, and the US military use, these are the top choice. As the title suggests, these GEN 3 night vision goggles make a sharp and clear picture, even in the darkest of situations.
These goggles can be handheld, helmet, head, or tripod mounted to give users a reliable view of their surroundings. The secret to their night vision prowess is their infrared illuminator which has multiple use modes, including continuous or switching. The result allows for top-of-the-range night vision, contained within a 40-degree field of vision.
The ATN PVS-7P model requires AA batteries for operation. In ideal conditions, they can enjoy up to 40 hours of runtime. Extra features included a carry case, demist shield, shoulder strap, head mount, and a collection of pads and maintenance products.
If money is truly no-object and you want the best night vision goggles that a civilian can buy, then we’d recommend the PRG Defense Apache Night Vision Goggles. These are military-grade units that will be overkill for most of your tasks, but if you want the best, this is it.
The goggles feature high contrast image intensifier tubes, including a standard P-43 green, with a white phosphor P-45 for extra clarity. Each lens has Class A or B filer coatings, broad eyepieces with adjustable diopters, that can be used with corrective lenses.
Unlike most cheaper models, these top-grade units don’t use infrared radiation to create night vision. Instead, they use clever technology that sends signals that ping against sensors on certain light wavelengths to make a clear picture. And that’s what makes them significantly more expensive.
They’re lightweight, compatible with standard AA batteries, and come with a host of accessories, including a helmet mount, neck strap, and more.
Lightweight 650g goggles
Powered by standard batteries
Carry case and accessories included
Buying The Best Night Vision Goggles: A Buying Guide
Now that you’ve seen our selection of top night vision devices, there are a few things you need to know before you commit to buying one of them. Night vision is a very useful tool, and it comes in varying levels of ability, with different kinds of technology. Here, we’re going to go over some of the basics of night vision goggles, and cover some important things to consider before buying a device.
How Do Night Vision Goggles Work?
Night vision is possible thanks to clever light amplification technology. Even at night, there’s plenty of light around, it’s just that the human eye can’t see it. Night vision goggles take in this unseen light and amplify it. This light, often from the moon and stars, can be boosted with infrared technology in very low-light level situations to create accurate and clear pictures of the world at night. For this reason, night vision works best when the moon and stars are particularly bright.
Goggles and binoculars create superior pictures to monocular models since they have two imaging tubes to double the amount of light taken in.
Digital night vision is another way of producing clear pictures at night. Instead of intensifying light through a tube, it uses digital signals and a sensor to intensify an image. This method of night vision is much cheaper to manufacture, and thusly, much cheaper. However, it’s far more limited than traditional light amplification.
The Different Generations
You may have seen night vision goggles described by different generations, such as Gen 1, Gen 2, and so on. They range between Gen 1 and Gen 4, though Gen 4 is generally accepted to be only marginally better than Gen 3. While Gen 4 models certainly do exist, we consider them to be more like a Gen 3+! So, for that reason, we don’t really recognize Gen 4 as a thing yet.
With each new generation, the quality of the night vision improves. It might be tempting to assume that Gen 3 is the best, and technologically it will be, but don’t discount Gen 1 and 2! A Gen 1 unit from 1960 isn’t comparable to a Gen 1 unit from the 2010s. Still, there’s a noticeable difference in image sharpness and clarity between the generations.
What You Need Them For?
Deciding on a generation isn’t easy. However, it’s worth considering what you’re planning on doing with your night vision goggles. For example, hunters shooting game from a distance will require superior imaging technology to the casual user who wants to watch the wildlife plundering the trash cans in their yard! Here are some popular uses for NVGs that aren’t military-related.
Hunters can benefit from night vision. Being able to see prey from a distance at night is a great advantage. Hunters may prefer to select a night vision device with multiple zoom levels to help get a more accurate shot. Some goggles are compatible with rifle scopes too.
Night fishermen are a different kind of hunter, but their needs are the same. However, investing in night vision with expensive zoom settings and long-range may not be that useful. If you’re sitting on the water’s edge or in a boat, being able to see over great distance isn’t going to be that important.
Many people buy NVGs to simply watch animals in their natural environments. Depending on what you’re looking out for, different options are available. For casual backyard viewing, a pair of cheap goggles will do just fine. However, if you’re tracking down an elusive animal in the wild, a more advanced pair will be more beneficial. Goggles with image capture features are really useful for wildlife watchers.
When it comes to selecting the best set of NVGs, the price is arguably the most important factor. Night vision isn’t cheap, and prices can range from a couple of hundred dollars to over ten thousand. At the cheaper end of the spectrum, there’s not too much that differentiates the models available aside from the number of extra features or comfort options. At the business end of the spectrum, the differences can be huge, with specialist models available to cater to military operations and professional wildlife photography.
For most beginners and casual users, spending more than $1000 may not be worth it.
Weight & Size
The weight of the goggles should be an important buying consideration. If you’re planning on wearing these mounted on your head or on a helmet, having something heavy will be uncomfortable. The lighter, the better. Most quality goggles weigh under 2 lbs, however, heavier weight can be acceptable if the goggles include heavier accessories.
Size should also be taken into account. Unwieldy goggles may make shooting, casting, or general usage completely impractical!
As we mentioned above, goggles can be worn in a number of ways. However, for the true Seal Team 6 authentic experience, they should be mounted on your head. This is absolutely not necessary, but it having them mounted on your head leaves your hands free for other tasks.
HALO mounts, or regular head mounts, are often comprised of elasticated webbing that holds the goggles in place over your eyes. They’re strong and secure, but not that comfortable. Helmet mounts do the same job and are more comfortable, but you need to wear a helmet to enjoy that comfort. If you don’t mind wearing a helmet while you’re out fishing, then go for it. It’s going to be night time anyway, so who’s going to see you?
Lastly, consider the overall durability of a product. Since NVG units are mainly used in outdoor environments, by anglers, hunters, and wildlife enthusiasts, they’re going to be exposed to the elements. And since they feature glass lenses and electronic equipment, they are quite vulnerable to damage. If you want something that’s going to last, invest in a pair of night vision goggles with strong casings, rubber protection, and toughened lenses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are night vision goggles illegal?
Not at all. In the USA, there’s nothing stopping you from owning and using night vision goggles legally. All night vision equipment is legal. However, there are certain laws in some states that prohibit their use when hunting at night. For the best answer, check your local state laws regarding night hunting and the use of night vision devices.
What does the military use for night vision?
Generally, the United States Armed Forces and most NATO allies use the AN/PVS-14 Monocular Night Vision Device (MNVD). However, different situations require different equipment, and other devices can be used.
Who makes the best night vision goggles?
Litton Industries is the manufacturer of the military-grade AN/PVS-14 night vision device. However, other top manufacturers include PRG Defense and Yukon. There are many different manufacturers making products for a wide range of night vision purposes.
Joe Appleton is an outdoor enthusiast who loves everything from bushcraft and hiking to wild camping and boating. If he’s not out in the woods, you’ll find him out on the water.