It doesn’t matter if you’re hunting, hiking, or just exploring your backyard. Few things are more crucial than having a proper way to maintain vision.
While we have covered countless flashlights and headlamps on this site, these solutions are not always ideal for every situation. Rather, some situations call for a more subtle and stealth approach. For these cases, night vision goggles are an ideal solution.
Here are some of the best night vision goggles and how to select a pair for yourself.
Last update on 2020-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
- 1 Best Night Vision Goggles Reviewed
- 2 Bestguarder NV-900 4.5X40mm Digital Night Vision Binocular
- 3 Nightfox 110R Widescreen Night Vision Binocular
- 4 Bushnell Equinox 260150 6×50 Equinox Z
- 5 ATN PVS14-3 Night Vision Monocular
- 6 ESSLNB Night Vision Binocular
- 7 What To Look For in Night Vision Goggles
- 8 Conclusion
Best Night Vision Goggles Reviewed
It almost seems unfair to start with the Bestgaurder NV-900, as almost all models will seem lacking in comparison. There aren’t many features on the market that the NV-900 doesn’t have. Let’s start with the basics. First, this model features a full three watts of infrared light output. That makes this one of the most powerful models on the market, so you will never find yourself limited by the range of the LED drivers. In moderate conditions, this powerhouse can light up complete darkness for over 1,300 feet.
Beyond the sheer power of this model, it has a lot of luxuries to sweeten the deal. The primary display for this set is a 4″ TFT full-color display. While you still look through this unit as a standard set of binoculars, the screen creates a compelling illusion that you are looking at nothing at all. Further, the color vibrancy is supreme. Having color at all is a rarity among night-vision systems, so having such a comprehensive unit is impressive.
Finally, the NV-900 has full-fledged recording capabilities. Not only can this model record in real-time to an included 32GB SD card, but it also includes a time-lapse function. When mounted to a tripod using the 1/4-20 adapter, this unit can record stunning time-lapses day or night. The one drawback to this model is the price. While one cannot question the functionality, the steep entry point may cool some shopper’s enthusiasm.
- Extremely powerful
- Great recording functionality
- Beautiful screen
- Somewhat bulky
- Fairly expensive
If I were to recommend the best all-around night vision system, I would have a difficult time not selecting the Nightfox 100R. Mind you, it is not the most full-featured set available. But in terms of function, value, and ease-of-use, it does a lot right.
Starting with the infrared system, the Nightfox 100R has a very respectable 1.5 watt LED array. In moderate conditions, this allows the unit to illuminate total darkness for up to 500 feet. Certainly, there are more powerful units on the market. Yet, for the vast majority of use cases, this is more than ample.
The 110R also succeeds in its form factor. Many night vision units become bulky, heavy, and complicated to use. The 110R is a beautifully streamlined unit that can practically disappear until needed. Further, the controls are refreshingly simple. Although this unit can still record video like the higher-end models, it does not feel burdened by unnecessary tech.
Finally, the price is a huge selling point here. At less than half the price of some competing models, the 110R manages to deliver an impressive value for a very capable unit.
- Sleek design
- Very nice optics
- Excellent range
- Zoom has limited options
- Illumination is good but not the best
Comparing the Bushnell Equinox 260150 to the above models requires a disclaimer. While the units we have reviewed so far are binocular form-factor units, this is a scope. Thus, it is smaller, has fewer functions, and serves a wholly different purpose. While binocular-style night vision systems are typically multi-taskers, a night vision scope has its sights set on a much narrower purpose.
Given this, the Bushnell does not have a color approximation feature. It doesn’t have recording capabilities. But what it does have is stunningly well-made optics. Bushnell is one of the most well-known brands in binoculars and scopes, so expertise is no surprise. In our testing, this was an extremely bright and easy-to-use scope that made finding the target a breeze even in complete darkness.
For its limited purpose, there is not much to complain about with the Bushnell 260150. However, given its smaller size and limited set of features, the price may come as a surprise. This is a case of paying for quality and name recognition, not merely features.
- Excellent optics
- Strong illumination
- Easy to use
- No recording capabilities
- Single-use device
Just a decade ago, night vision systems were extremely complex technology. Typically, night vision was limited to military use, and any civilian systems were prohibitively expensive. Thankfully, the prices have come down and the functionality has increased. Yet, there are still dinosaurs that walk the land. The ATN PVS14-3 is just such an anachronistic device.
Certainly, the optical clarity and manufacturing precision of the ATN are top-notch. However, the night vision functionality is outdated and weak compared to many modern systems. As scopes go, it is not a bad device. But there is one fatal flaw. The price is staggering. For the price of this scope, you could buy a fairly nice used car. While this was the cost of entry years ago, it is simply no longer the case.
- Optics are excellent
- Great build quality
- Outdated electronics
- Outdated price
For anyone looking for a highly featured but comparatively affordable night vision system, there is a lot to like about the ESSLNB. The features compare favorably to the Bestgaurder NV-900 above, with the only notable omission being the lack of a time-lapse camera. Beyond that oversite, the ESSLNB features a powerful 3-watt illumination system and allows for 1300 ft of night-vision range. For the price, it is an impressive showing.
However, in our testing, we noticed that the optics of the ESSLNB were not quite on par with the slightly more expensive models. It did not greatly impact clarity, but it was nonetheless clear that some corners had been cut. Finally, the build quality was not the most impressive. While there were no immediate concerns, there is some question as to how long this unit may last.
Overall, this is a great option for an entry-level model with high-end features. Yet, if the quality is a priority, spending a little extra may be justified.
- Highly featured
- Powerful illumination
- Excellent value
- Optics slightly sub-par
- Lower build quality
What To Look For in Night Vision Goggles
As you can see, there is a vast variety of night vision headsets available. While it is nice to have options, the wealth of choices can also make it difficult to know what to prioritize. Here are the main things to look for when shopping for the best night vision goggles.
At their most basic, night vision systems are no different than a flashlight. However, rather than using LEDs that emit light in the visible spectrum, night vision cameras use LEDs that emit light in the infrared spectrum.
These are the same LEDs that are at the end of your television remote, only more powerful. Thus, just as in flashlights, the more powerful the LED’s, the farther you will be able to see. Therefore, it is important to consider output power when shopping for night vision binoculars.
Generally, the power output will range from half a watt up to three watts. The more powerful the output, the more distance you will be able to see at night. Further, higher power outputs result in a clearer overall night vision experience. Your power needs will depend upon how you plan to use the binoculars.
If you only need your night vision goggles for short-range or non-critical tasks, then a lower rating may suffice. However, more intensive users may find that higher wattage is necessary.
Technology has advanced significantly in recent years. Previously, night vision equipment consisted of little more than a camera and some infrared LEDs. However, the capabilities have expanded greatly.
One of the most useful features is the ability to record video. Many higher-end models can record the image that you see and save it to an on-board memory card. Thus, the goggles can not only assist your vision but serve as a video camera as well. Although this feature may not be absolutely necessary, it is a nice addition.
This utility is especially popular with hunters who wish to later show off the thrill of their hunt.
In this context, dual functionality refers to the ability to use the goggles both as night vision equipment and as standard binoculars. When you are in the field, having to carry extra equipment can be a difficult and expensive ordeal. Thus, whenever a piece of gear can serve two purposes, that is a humongous bonus.
The best night vision binoculars not only serve as a visual aid at night but also allow the user to disable the infrared LEDs and use them as traditional binoculars during the day. It is one less piece of gear to carry, charge, and worry about.
Adjustable Focus and Zoom Functions
While the maximum zoom distance is often the priority when shopping for night vision equipment, it is a mistake to focus only on the strength of the zoom. Rather, an optimal pair of night vision aids offer functionality.
If you are trying to find a set of night vision binoculars that offer you an advantage in several situations, look for a set with adjustable zoom and focus levels. Adjustable zoom allows the goggles to “see” at varying distances.
Thus, if you simply need to see around a dark campsite, often no zoom is needed. Yet, if you need to hone in on a deer across the forest, you should be able to. Focus is equally important.
Focus refers not to how far the binoculars can see, but how they compensate to your eyes. This is especially important for glasses wearers. By finding a model with adjustable focus, you can ensure that you always get a crisp and clear image so that you can complete the goal you set out to achieve.
Dust and Moisture Proof Rating
There are few things more frustrating than having an expensive piece of equipment disabled due to dust or moisture. It is not only a costly mistake, but it means you have to suffice without the gear until a replacement can be sourced.
But let’s be honest. Whether you’re hiking, hunting, or camping, nature can be a grueling place. Trying to maintain a perfectly dry and clean environment is simply not a realistic goal for most situations. Thus, it is important to find affordable nightvision that can withstand some abuse. Bear in mind that “resistant” and “proof” mean very different things in the context of moisture and dust prevention.
If the equipment is listed as merely moisture and dust “resistant”, then it is only guaranteed to withstand occasional and light exposure. However, water and dustproof equipment should be able to survive extremely dirty conditions and fully submerged use. This may not be necessary for all users, but make sure you get the product that offers the solution you need.
By its nature, infrared night vision technology is only capable of displaying in monotone scales. This is because the “light” source is infrared and then scaled to a visual light spectrum that we can see with our naked eye.
However, higher-end models have created creative workarounds for this technology. The most expensive night vision goggles use algorithmic extrapolation to ascertain color patterns and infuse a night vision image with a color pallet.
Admittedly, this technology is not entirely perfect. However, for many contexts, these systems allow for a significantly more vivid and engaging night vision image. If you are only satisfied if you have the best technology available, then make sure to source a color system.
Of course, the height of technology is only one aspect of a piece of equipment. While it is undoubtedly nice to have a fully-featured night-vision system, the ultimate bevy of bells and whistles does not come cheap.
Therefore, it is important to always remember value when shopping for the best affordable night vision goggles. Sometimes you will have a much more fulfilling user experience if you purchase a product you can more easily afford, rather than stretching to attain the best.
The technology has come a long way, and even the budget night vision systems are stunningly capable.
It is an excellent time to be in the market for night vision. Never have more fully-featured models been available at more approachable prices. Reading night vision reviews can make the process seem complicated, but it does not need to be.
There is a multitude of high-quality units for any situation. Based on our night vision goggle review, the best night vision all-around model is the Nightfox 110R. While it did not have the most gadgets, it won our hearts by combining a slim design, great optics, and a fantastically reasonable price.
Yet, whatever your demands, there is a model for you.
Night vision is a huge advantage in so many activities, you are bound to regret delaying taking the plunge.
- The powerful 1.5W infrared beam means the 110R has a range over 165yd. 7x optical zoom (fixed) and 2x digital zoom (optional).
- The devil’s in the details: protective rubber casing, large buttons that are easy to use with gloves or at night, dedicated screen brightness buttons
- Requires only 4 AA batteries - so you can use 4 in the unit while another set are on charge. The device has 2 hours battery life on constant full infrared, or 5 hours battery life with lower infrared usage.
- Record photos and videos on the 110R, then play back files on the device - or transfer them to your computer by USB (micro SD memory card required, not included, maximum size 32GB).
- Comes with a Nightfox 18 month warranty as standard,. For night vision, trust Nightfox.
Last update on 2020-06-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API