HUNTING

Best Night Vision Gear: Pierce the Darkness

night vision featured
Shawn Harrison
Written by Shawn Harrison

If you spend a lot of time outside at night, in pitch dark, you’ve probably thought countless times how much easier whatever it is you’re doing would be if you had the ability to pierce the darkness. I need a night vision device, you said.

You may have even tried to find a decent one, but whether you’re an absolute novice or experienced user, the sheer amount of choices makes finding the right one difficult (not impossible, but not a walk in the park, either).

Well, worry not! We’ll go through eight of the best night vision monoculars, binoculars and goggles, and give an overview of each. Of course, we made sure there’s a little bit of something for everyone’s taste and pocket.

Product NameWeightPower/LensGenerationTypePrice
Wingspan Optics Explorer1.41 lbs.12x/50 mm1MonocularCheck price on Amazon
Armasight Nyx-7 Pro ID2.8 lbs.1x, 3x, 5x, 8x
/27 mm
2+GogglesCheck price on Amazon
Bial Wide Angle1.75 lbs.10x/40 mm1BinocularCheck price on Amazon
Barska NVX1001.1 lbs.3x/20 mm1MonocularCheck price on Amazon
Bushnell LYNX1.8 lbs.2.5x/40 mm1BinocularCheck price on Amazon
Bestguarder2 lbs.6x/50 mm1MonocularCheck price on Amazon
ATN PVS7-32.8 lbs.1x3GogglesCheck price on Amazon
Firefield Nightfall 21 lbs.5x/50 mm1MonocularCheck price on Amazon

Things To Consider Before Buying

Before we kick off the reviews, we should list a few of the features you’d want to pay special attention when shopping. Granted, some of you probably already know what to look out for in a quality night vision device – if that’s you, feel free to skip this section. If, however, you’d like to know more, stick around.

Generation: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Newer?

As you can probably guess, the newer the generation, the more advanced technology it uses, and the more expensive it is. That said, even if you have the means, you probably don’t have to go newer than 2ng gen for most civilian uses.

First generation’s been with us since the 1960s, and most of the devices here require the light of a full moon or an equivalent to function. On the flipside, they’re the least expensive, and more than enough for the casual user.

Second generation is only a bit younger, and it’s been here since the 1970s. They need less light for same results, but they do cost a good deal more than the first gen.

Third generation devices are the newest thing that trickled down from the army to the civilians. Dating from 1990s, the tech is quite a bit more expensive than either of its predecessors, but produces much better images.

Type: Binoculars, Monocular, Goggles, Other?

Night-vision binoculars combine the night vision with magnification, giving you true depth perception. They’re ideal for navigation and tracking, and suitable for a variety of activities, from wildlife watching to surveillance.

Monoculars, as you might guess, are much more convenient, lighter and cheaper than binoculars. On the flipside, though, you don’t have the depth perception binoculars give you, but they’re good enough for surveillance.

Goggles are the thing to go for if you need both your hands-free to grasp when hiking through the woods or wield a weapon, be it hunting or surveillance. More likely than not they won’t have any magnification and will be the most expensive of the lot.

looking through night vision goggles.JPG

Cameras and eyeglasses are also options, but both with certain disadvantages. Cameras let you make videos and photos, but at the expense of watching it real-time, while glasses don’t magnify anything, and people mostly use them as aid when driving/riding bikes.

Distance

Depending on the environment and purpose, you’ll require specific distance, which varies between devices. In general, the costlier the device, the greater the distance, so be sure to factor in the environment you’ll be spending your time, as well as the weather – anything that affects lighting levels.

Gain

Gain would be the relative light level you’ll be able to see when looking through the monocular/binoculars.

looking through monocular

As a rule of thumb, the greater lens magnification, the worse the gain will be (unless you go for more expensive tech). That said, any lens over 50mm in diameter is a waste of money for night vision.

Image Quality

This is conditioned by the two previous factors, and in turn, it impinges upon the price – the better the quality, the greater the price. In this regard, go for binoculars over monoculars, and goggles over either of these.

Infrared or No?

If a night vision device has a built-in infrared light, that means you will be able to use it in pitch black conditions. Most devices will have it, but that’ll up the price.

man with night vision infrared goggle

This ties in to another feature – photosensitivity, which relates to the minimum light level the device is able to pick up. Usually, 2nd gen gear is much better than 1st gen, but not much worse than the 3rd.

Weight

Seeing as you’ll probably spend a lot of time lugging these things around with you, you’ll want them to weigh as little as possible. Of course, the lighter they are, the less advance the technology, and the cheaper they are – if you’re willing to accept this trade-off, you can find decent gear for less than a couple of Benjamins.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Here you can read our reviews of the top night vision devices available on the market at the moment. As we mentioned earlier, we made sure to find a little bit of something for everyone’s needs and pockets, so feel free to peruse at leisure.

Wingspan Optics Explorer

Wingspan Optics Explorer

Price: Approximately $280

Weight: 1.41 pounds

Dimensions: 7.7 x 4.4 x 3.3 inches

Specific features: 12x magnification, 50 mm lens, durable external armor, tripod mount, waterproof and fog-proof, non-slip grip

Best use: Bird-watching, wildlife and scenery watching

The Wingspan Optics Explorer  is not a night-vision monocular, though it does perform rather well in poor lighting and visibility conditions, as well as twilight conditions (yes, it’s applicable to both dusk and dawn).

As you can guess, with its 12x magnification and 40mm lens, the Explorer is fairly powerful, with a matching field of view and a range of about 1,000 yards. The lens is well-built, and should provide you with a clear and bright view without needing any viewing enhancement on top of the monocular.

The eye relief is short-ish, and you’ll probably to get real up close and personal with the eyepiece if you want to get the full field of view, as you would with binoculars.

Obviously, as a monocular, this is primarily a handheld device, though you can always use the tripod (comes with the purchase) if you prefer to use your hands for something else and/or have a stable platform.

The tripod is especially useful if you have company and would like to show them whatever it is you found without teaching them how to find it. Granted, the tripod you get with the purchase is a small one and works best if you place it on a hard and flat surface

Still, look at it this way – it’s a throw-in item, so you can’t really expect a top-of-the-line tripod. On the flipside, you can always use your own tripod (if you have one lying around), or invest in a better one.

As we mentioned earlier, this is not a true night-vision piece, but it works just fine when you’re watching lighted targets at night, or if you use it for stargazing.

On the flipside, if you’re getting it for watching birds, you can rest assured that you’ll be able to see every bit of detail – beaks, colors and individual feathers.

PROS:

  • Fairly powerful
  • Bright and clear view
  • Durable housing
  • Non-slip grip
  • Comes with a tripod

CONS:

  • Not actually intended for night-time use
  • Short eyepiece (about an inch or so)

Related: For hikers and bird-watchers on the go, there’s the Wingspan Optics Scout 6X32 Compact Wide View Monocular, and the Wingspan Optics ProBirder Ultra HD 8X32 Compact Binoculars for those who prefer to watch the birds using both eyes.

Check the price on Amazon

Armasight Nyx-7 Pro ID

Armasight Nyx-7 Pro ID

Price: Approximately $2,000

Weight: 2.8 pounds

Dimensions: 6.5 x 4.5 x 2.9 inches

Specific features: Lightweight, compact, rugged, handheld, helmet-mounted or head-mounted, wide-angle infrared illuminator, multi-coated all-glass optics, auto-brightness control, bright light cut-off

Best use: Night-time hunting

The Armasight Nyx-7 Pro ID are a great choice for anyone not restricted by the budget. Yes, they cost a pretty penny, but that’s to be expected of a pair of II generation night-vision goggles and the technology that went into making it.

Now, an important thing to note right out of the gate is that this product cannot be exported out of the US, seeing as it’s used by the US military and police personnel.

Speaking of users, the goggles are definitely available for civilians, and can be used for a variety of activities, from night-time surveillance and bird-watching, to observing wildlife, hunting and general outdoor recreation.

The goggles are rugged and sturdy enough to take a beating, and they are waterproof, so they won’t fog up.

You can mount them either on a helmet or directly on your head, though the straps aren’t the most comfortable out there, and you might want to make adjustments or replace them outright.

On a particularly good side, the goggles perform admirably – on a crescent-moon night, you’ll be able to enjoy crystal-clear view with good chance of making personal ID.

On that note, the goggles do feature an infrared illuminator, battery-operated, so the possibility of making a personal ID up to 100 feet becomes highly probable. Also, with the illuminator, you’ll be able to operate in complete darkness with no issues whatsoever.

Moreover, there’s also an automatic brightness control feature with a matching shut-off for bright light conditions, so you don’t have to manually adjust whenever the lighting conditions change.

Granted, the focus is still manual, but once you get a hang of it, it makes it easy to go from close to medium to long range (half a twist does the trick). You can choose between four pre-set magnification settings – standard 1x, 3x, 5x and 8x.

PROS:

  • Excellent clarity
  • Built-in Infrared illuminator
  • Fairly powerful magnification (up to 8x)
  • Highly probable personal ID (up to 100’)
  • Rugged, compact and lightweight
  • Bi-ocular design
  • Low-battery indicator
  • 2-year limited warranty

CONS:

  • Not the most comfortable head-mount out there
  • No batteries included

Related: third gen Armasight Nyx-7 Pro 3 Alpha Gen 3 Night Vision Goggles, Armasight Vampire 3X Night Vision Rifle Scope 1+ Gen Riflescope,

Check the price on Amazon

Bial Wide Angle

Bial Wide Angle 

Price: Approximately $65

Weight: 1.75 pounds

Dimensions: 3.2 x 7.9 x 8.6 inches

Specific features: Day and night vision, 10x magnification, 40 mm lens, non-slip grip, shock-absorbent rubber body, diopter adjustment for fine focusing

Best use: Bird-watching on the go, stargazing, outdoor recreation

First thing’s first – these binoculars are great for daytime, startlingly so, but they are not true night-vision viewers. On the flipside, they do perform adequately in low lighting conditions, as well as in the mixing light.

As for daytime usage, you should fully expect astounding definition and a quite wide field of view (430 ft. at 1,000yds), which should appeal to birdwatchers and other wildlife enthusiasts. The magnification on the Bial Wide Angle  goes up to 10x, which is just shy of having to sacrifice the field of view and stability for enhanced detail.

While we’re on the subject, if you need to fine-tune your focus, the Binoculars feature a diopter adjustment that’ll help you get a sharp and crisp image of whatever it is you’re watching.

This puppy is fairly lightweight and compact, so lugging it around is no problem. The housing is rubber-coated, so it shouldn’t slip even in wet conditions, but even if it does, the rubber coat should provide some shock-absorption. The lenses aren’t shatterproof, mind you.

PROS:

  • Great field of view (430ft at 1,000yds)
  • Decent power (10x magnification)
  • Diopter adjustment for fine focusing
  • Can be used with eyeglasses
  • Non-slip grip (rubber coat)
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive

CONS:

  • Good for low light conditions, but not true night vision
  • No infrared, requires at least some light to function

Related: If you’d like more options from the same manufacturer, you can go for the Bial 10X50 HD Professional Binoculars (no night vision, though), or BIAL 20×50 Water Resistant Binoculars, so you won’t have to worry about fogging.

Check the price on Amazon

Barska NVX100

Barska NVX100 

Price: Approximately $130

Weight: 1.1 pounds

Dimensions: 5.2 x 3.6 x 1.8 inches

Specific features: 3x magnification, 20 mm exit pupil, Infrared illuminator, Lighting system Luminance, 1-year limited warranty, can record (1GB micro SD card), neck-strap case, built-in tripod, battery-powered

Best use: Surveillance, night-time hunting, bird-watching, wildlife watching

The Barska NVX100  is a decent value-for-money type of night-vision device, and with a more than approachable price tag, at that. It’s not overly powerful in the way of magnification, but it does have some other fortes.

The main selling point of this monocular is the fact it’s able of making low-resolution videos and photos, and it comes with a 1GB micro SD card for storage. You should be able to pack about ten minutes of footage per 1GB.

Of course, the NVX100 includes the whole pack in terms of electronics – one micro SD card (1GB), mini-USB cable, as well as an AV cable and a soft case for carrying. This way, you can either show the footage on a TV or transfer it to a computer for safe keeping.

As for the quality of the optics, you do get a decent magnification (3x), and a fairly wide field of view (328ft. at 1,000yds), which should appeal to anyone engaged in observing birds or other wildlife, as well as hunters.

The NVX100 is well able to work in conditions of total darkness thanks to its infrared illuminator. On the flipside, the illuminator can be clearly seen from about 10 feet from target, which is definitely a major gripe.

PROS:

  • Great value for money
  • Works in total darkness (IR illuminator)
  • Sharp image, decent magnification (3x)
  • Good field of view (328ft. at 1,000yds)
  • Can take photos and make videos
  • 1GB micro SD card included
  • Lightweight, yet very rugged construction
  • 1-year limited warranty

CONS:

  • Low resolution camera
  • IR illumination can clearly be seen from target
  • About an hour of battery life

Related: If you’d rather buy something specifically for hunting, try the BARSKA 3-9×32 Plinker-22 Riflescope; alternatively, you can complement the monocular with the Uineye Laser Rangefinder, which will help you pinpoint the distance.

Check the price on Amazon

Bushnell LYNX

Bushnell LYNX Gen 1 

Price: Approximately $420

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Dimensions: 6.5 x 6.3 x 3 inches

Specific features: 2.5x magnification, 40 mm AR-coated lenses (glass), built-in infrared illuminator, battery-powered, weather-resistant, durable, lightweight

Best use: Surveillance, night-time hunting, hiking

Seeing as budget is usually the first consideration, we may as well start from here – the Bushnell LYNX Gen 1 Night Vision Binoculars are a great choice if you want a night-vision device without breaking the bank. Of course, no one would call them cheap, either.

The most important thing to note right off the bat is that these are solely intended for night-time use, as using them in daylight conditions will tarnish the intensifier tubes. That said, they do have a decent magnification (2.5x) and 40mm anti-reflective glass lenses.

Speaking of which, 40mm is pretty much as large as you can go without going too big – a pair of 50mm would be heavier and also brighter than your eyes will be able to process. Besides, the difference is indistinguishable except in the darkest conditions.

As for the housing, adjectives such as durable, rugged and streamlined come to mind – it certainly feels as if it’s made to withstand some beating. This lends it particularly well to outdoor activities, such as hiking and/or hunting.

PROS:

  • Excellent night-time performance
  • Built-in infrared illuminator (up to 90yds)
  • Decent magnification (2.5x)
  • Adjustable eyepiece and objective lenses
  • Affordable, decent value for money
  • Great for hunting at night
  • Lightweight, yet rugged

CONS:

  • Not intended for daytime activities (will damage the unit)
  • Limited performance without the IR illuminator

Related: If you plan on doing some camping, hiking or hunting, you might like having the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter; also, if you do the majority of your viewing in daytime, you might prefer the Bushnell Falcon 133410 Binoculars over the LYNX.

Check the price on Amazon

Bestguarder

Bestguarder WG-80

Price: Approximately $260

Weight: 2 pounds

Dimensions: 4.13 x 8.19 x 2.44 inches

Specifications: 6x magnification, 1–5x digital zoom, 50 mm lens, built-in infrared illuminator, day and night vision, water-resistant, tripod jack, battery-operated, video-out capable, accepts TF or SD cards (up to 32GB)

Best use: Night-time surveillance, hunting, watching wildlife, outdoor recreation

The Bestguarder is pretty much what it reads on the tin – a nice little night-vision monocular and an even better camera for night-time conditions.

As for the optical side of things, the monocular sports a decent 5x magnification. Coupled with the 50mm lens, this gives you excellent performance in low light conditions – once you factor in the built-in infrared illuminator, you can pretty much walk in pitch black without tripping.

The field of view is decent, but nothing to write home about – it’s about a third of what you’d have with your standard 50mm scope. Plus, it’s a bit restricted further by the LCD screen, which definitely doesn’t sit well with us.

As for the camera side of things, you’ve got a built-in menu, so you can program the desired resolution, video size, backlight, and a couple of other non-visual features, and just press record when you’re ready.

The Bestguarder’s got 5 pre-set zoom options (1x through 5x), three resolutions for the photos – 2952×1944, 1600×1200 and 640×480 and two resolutions for video – 1280×720 and 640×480 (both at 30fps).

PROS:

  • Very rugged build
  • Built-in IR illuminator
  • Great performance in pitch black
  • Can make videos (30fps) and photos (up to 2592×1944)
  • Built-in TFT LCD screen
  • Works with either a micro SD or TF card
  • Can stream live video on PC or TV

CONS:

  • Takes a bit of finagling to get the focus right
  • No memory card included

Related: You’ll need an SD card, so here’s a good choice – SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSDHC; also, if you prefer binoculars over monoculars, check out the Bestguarder HD Digital Night Vision Binocular.

Check the price on Amazon

ATN PVS7-3

ATN PVS7-3 Night Vision Goggle

Price: Approximately $3,700

Weight: 2.8 pounds

Dimensions: 7 x 7 x 3 inches

Specific features: Military-grade quality, Gen 3 technology, multi-coated all-glass optics, built-in infrared illuminator, head-mounted, waterproof, IR switch, battery-operated, 2-year limited warranty

Best use: Demanding night-time applications, combat-proven

If you feel overcome by an urge to splurge, you’d probably want to check out the ATN PVS7-3. Be warned, this piece of equipment is not for the faint of heart (or tight of fist).

On the flipside, if you do have the budget for it, you’ll be getting a military-grade night-vision device (one that is forbidden to ship outside the US). It’s a standard issue to the Army ground forces (pilots and rangers use the ANVISs, in case anyone’s wondering).

The goggles are fairly lightweight, rugged and, most importantly, combat proven. You can use them handheld, helmet-mount or head –mount, whichever jingles your jollies, and not worry if they’ll survive the night.

Speaking of which, the performance in night-time conditions is astounding, though you’ll need to keep them away from artificial lights and daylight, as it’ll screw up the lenses. There’s also built-in infrared illuminator, which allows you to stay operative in pitch black conditions.

The focus is manual, but once you figure it out, switching from close to long range shouldn’t be a problem. This makes the goggles perfect for night-time hunting and general wildlife observing, but you could probably also use them for stargazing.

PROS:

  • Military-grade quality
  • Built-in IR illuminator (around 30+ feet)
  • Handheld, helmet- or head-mounted
  • Perfect for night-time surveillance
  • Undoubtedly worth the money
  • 2-year warranty

CONS:

  • Prohibitively expensive
  • Not for folks with smaller sized heads

Related: Go for the Armasight Nyx7-ID Gen 2+ Night Vision Goggles for a cheaper option, the Yukon – NV 1×24 Goggles for an ever cheaper one, and if you really want to go dirt cheap, check out the Firefield Tracker 1×24 Night Vision Goggle Binoculars.

Check the price on Amazon

Firefield Nightfall 2

Firefield Nightfall 2

Price: Approximately $170

Weight: 1.41 pounds

Dimensions: 3.31 x 4.41 x 7.72 inches

Specific features: 12x magnification, 50 mm lens, non-slip grip, durable housing, tripod-mounted, waterproof, fog-proof, lightweight

Best use: Observing wildlife, bird-watching, stargazing, hunting

If you’re hunting for a decent entry-level night-vision device, then you might want to check out the Firefield Nightfall 2. As the name suggests, the monocular has a pretty powerful 5x magnification, coupled with a large 50mm lens.

The IR illuminator definitely plays the part, making everything clearly visible up to 150 yards, and enabling probable personal ID up to 100 yards. Anything lit by the moon or streetlight will blind you if you’re using the IR. You will need a couple of AA batteries to power it.

Granted, field of view is a bit underwhelming, but the IR goes a long way to enhancing it. You could get anywhere between 75 and 100 yards in total darkness, depending on the terrain and weather.

The case feels very comfortable and natural, and should be able to withstand a bit of punishment. It’s ideal for exacting night-time activities, such as hunting, hiking and general surveillance.

PROS:

  • Inexpensive
  • Fairly powerful magnification (5x)
  • Large objective lens (50mm)
  • Comfortable ergonomic grip
  • Great value for money
  • Built-in IR illuminator
  • Ideal for night-time surveillance and hunting
  • 3-year warranty on mechanical parts

CONS:

  • Not intended for daylight (will damage the intensifier tubes)
  • No batteries included

Related: To complement your Firefield Monocular, Evolva Future Technology Infrared Light, or go with the Firefield Tracker 1×24 Night Vision Goggle Binoculars if you prefer to use both your eyes.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

And there you have it – eight best night vision goggles, binoculars and monoculars on the market. We hope that you find something to like on our list, and if not, we hope that we’ve at least given you a good basis to start your hunt.

Speaking of which, hunting is definitely one of the activities that might benefit from night vision devices, along with hiking, bird-watching, wildlife observation, surveillance or spying your ex (hey, we’re not judging).

night vision binoculars

On a more serious note, no matter the type of activity you’re conducting at small hours, keep in mind the safety risks you’re facing, especially hunting.

The goggles will help you be aware of your surroundings, but you should be aware of your limitations, as well, and not push your luck. Sometimes, it’s better to sleep it out than going for that goonie that’s been eluding you the whole weekend.

Do you agree with our list, or would you like to change/add anything? If so, feel free to leave a comment down below, and we’ll be happy to discuss it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Harrison
Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.

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