Best Night Vision Goggles of 2021 (Review and Buying Guide)
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Joe Appleton Updated on January 7, 2021.by
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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.
If you’re into the outdoors, having a set of night vision goggles will really enhance your experience. For wildlife enthusiasts, there’s nothing better than being able to watch nocturnal animals in their natural environments. For hunters, stalking prey under the cover of darkness is a difficult task, but a pair of NVGs will help to give you the edge. And for night anglers: new imaging systems like night vision and thermal optics can help you land an otherwise elusive catch.
So without further ado, here are our favorite NVGs on the market.
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.