Whether you’re hunting at night, deeply involved in the airsoft game, or simply want to see some critters in your backyard, night vision goggles are an incredible piece of technology to have on your gear list. The following list of NVG’s range from military-grade night vision goggles down to recreational monoculars.
First, a brief intro about Night Vision “Generations”:
There are many types of goggles or monoculars that allow you to “see” in the dark, and generally you should expect to spend a decent sum of money in order to see the results you’re most likely expecting. Most night-vision glasses use an Image Intensifier Tube (IIT), which effectively amplifies the imperceptible ambient light. For the average person, there are three “Generations” of ITTs that are available – 1, 2, and 3.
Gen 1 Goggles/Monoculars are the older of all the technologies, and the least expensive. You will not get perfect 20/20 clarity with these, and should expect some fuzziness. They tend to work better with existing ambient light (like a moon present), and closer ranges.
However, a Gen 1 nightvision device with a built-in Infrared illuminator will have much better results.
Every “step up” in Generation is an exponential increase in quality, lifespan, performance.. and price. A 2nd generation night vision goggle setup will enable you to see a much sharper image in low-to-no light situations, even without an IR illuminator.
A Gen 2 experience is closer in likeness to a Gen 3 than it is to a Gen 1.
Here we go – Gen III is among the highest-tier options available to civilians, and are commonly used by military and police forces. The lifespan of these is up to 3X as long as the Generation 2 models, at around 8,000–10,000 working hours.
A Gen III device will perform best under very low light surroundings without the help of an illuminator (not necessary). You’ll also generally receive features that allow you to fine tune your visual settings – like gain and light intensity.
Best night vision goggle options:
1. Armasight Nyx-7 Pro ID Gen 2+
Viewable Range: 170+ yards
Magnification: 1X – 8X
Notable feature: Generation 2
The price tag may not suit the casual night explorer, but these military-grade NVG goggles are the most powerful and advanced on the list. And as far as Amazon night vision goggles go, they’re the best available. The comfortable head mount system is adjustable to work with and without a helmet, and 3X, 5X, and 8X magnification lenses are included in the kit. In addition to the long-range Infrared Illuminators that allow you to see detail up to 300 yds using ambient light, these NVGs also include a built-in IR light for short range applications like reading a map or working with your hands.
If you’re in the market for a truly rugged pair of night vision goggles that are completely hands-free, these water/shock resistant Armasight goggles will not let you down.
2. Yukon NVMT 1×24 Head Mount Kit
Viewable Range: ~70 yards
Magnification: 1X (no magnification)
Notable feature: 60 hour battery life
If you want the hands-free capabilities and tactical “look” of the night vision goggles above, but aren’t ready to spend as much, these Gen 1 Yukon Night Goggles are a great alternative. Typically, Generation 1 NVGs pick up slightly less IR illumination and detail as the newer/advanced models, but will still clearly show people/animals/objects within 70 yds in pitch darkness. This is optimal for use in medium-range airsoft games or hunting in moderate density forests.
After having tried both, even though the clarity and power is less than the Armasight, we prefer a hands-free monocular over binoculars. It allows your “free” eye to still remain adjusted to the darkness, and eliminates the need to flip up the goggles if needed. We should note – due to the design of the headmount, the monocular must be used with the right eye, and cannot be shifted to the left. At a fraction of the price of the Armasight, it’s hard to beat this quality, yet cheap, night vision goggle.
3. Solomark Night Vision Scope 640x480p
Viewable Range: 400 yards
Magnification: Adjustable 2X – 7X
Notable feature: 4 inch digital viewing screen
Not everyone needs to have their night vision goggles attached to their face, especially if they’ll be stationary (like in a hunting tree stand). This handheld unit from Solomark is very impressive, and uses a clear 4 inch screen on the back to show the details of the darkness in front of you up to 400 meters. It’s also one of the few Amazon night vision goggles on the list that allows you to record both video or still images at 640×480 resolution. (The Bestguarder below can also record, but is not a binocular)
The IR reach is really what stuck with us as being impressive, and the multiple modes offer lots to play with in order to get the crispest image to match your surroundings.
4. Bestguarder 6x50mm HD Digital Night Vision Monocular
Viewable Range: 350 yards
Notable feature: High resolution camera, sturdy build
Similar to the Solomarks above, this night vision monocular packs a powerful, quality infrared beam – allowing you to see up to 350 yards with excellent clarity. The video and imaging resolution is even better than the above, at 1280x720p, and magnifies 6X optically.
What we like is the look, feel, and size of this unit. It’s compact – fitting in the palm of your hand, and makes for a great night vision monocular for night hikes and hunts. We prefer goggles that you don’t have to treat like a fragile piece of equipment, and these feel very sturdy and indestructible. If there’s one downside, it’s the fact that it’s not hands-free. If you’re up hunting in a tree stand, with your fast crossbow at the ready, you don’t want to be fumbling around with a handheld device. In fact, if this sounds like you, you might consider looking specifically at night vision scopes for your rifle or crossbow.
5. Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Night Vision Monocular
Viewable Range: 225 yards
Magnification: 3X, 4.5X and 6X models available
Notable feature: Picatinny rail mount
Just because they’re #5 on the list doesn’t mean this Bushnell Night Vision Monocular isn’t a great, affordable product. Bushnell makes quality optics, and these are no exception. They are the only model on the list that mount on a Picatinny rail, such as on a rifle. Because of the somewhat narrow field of view, we recommend the 3X magnification model to be able to quickly lock on to targets or viewpoints without them “getting lost in the zoom”.
The one notable drawback to this night vision monocular is the focus length. Farsighted people will have to wear glasses/contacts in order to see clearly through the lens, as it does not adjust enough to accomodate.