We’ve all seen it, the steady green glow of night vision in film and video games. The hero looking like some form of robotic cyclops with his vision bathed in green. A set of NV goggles strapped to his head and the steady hum of night vision.
The hum may be fictional, but the nature of night vision devices isn’t. Night goggles open up the world around you once the sun goes down.
Shopping for night vision goggles can be tricky. Night vision isn’t the simplest type of optic on the market. You need to know not only what to look at, but how it will function for your needs; especially that they can be used for a variety of purposes — from recreational to tactical.
The 3 Top Infrared Goggles of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for infrared night vision goggles of 2018:
- Best cheap: Get the Night Owl Optics NOBG1
- Best for the money: Get the Armasight Nyx7 Gen 2+
- Best for hunting: Get the Night Optics Patrolman Gen 3
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Lens Diameter||20 mm||24mm||26 mm|
|Resolution||35 lp/mm on center||47-54 lp/mm||64-72 lp/mm|
|Angular Field of View||30°||40°||40°|
|Weight||14 oz without head mount||16 oz||18 oz|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||5.2" x 4.9" x 2.1"||5.9" x 4.0" x 2.7"||6" x 3" x 6"|
|Battery Life||40 to 80 hours||60 hours||40 hours|
|Power Supply||(2) 1.5 volt Type-N batteries||(1) 3V CR123A battery or (1) 1.5V AA battery||(2) AA|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||$$$$|
1. Best Cheap NV Goggles: Night Owl Optics NOBG1
Night Owl Optics is well known for producing affordable night vision optics that are frills-free yet effective.
The NOBG1 is very basic but effective goggles for the night vision enthusiast on a budget. This two-lens goggles offer a wider 30-degree field of view. They are designed for movement on foot or for recreational vehicles like ATVs and UTVs.
With a Generation 1 device, you have a few flaws that you have to put up with:
- It lacks recognition and detection range.
- You are limited with a resolution of only 35 lp/mm in the center.
Like all Generation 1 devices, there is distortion around the edges of the view. The center is clear, but far from perfect. Do not expect to see fine details of say someone’s face or a deer’s horns. You have to counter these resolution elements with an integral IR illuminator.
It’s nice that Night Owl includes a full head mount, similar to a HALO system. It is an all-encompassing system which I can greatly appreciate being budget-minded myself.
The optics also has a bright light cut-off system. This prevents the optics from being exposed to damage by sudden and bright lights. The battery life ranges from 40 to 80 hours, depending on the usage of IR illuminators.
- Resolution: 35 lp/mm
- Magnification: none (1-to-1)
- Angular Field of View: 30 degrees
- Weight: 14 oz
2. Best Goggles for the Money: Armasight Nyx7 Gen 2+
Finding a system that strikes a balance between quality and cost can be difficult. To find this perfect compromise of cost and effectiveness, you have to look at what creates quality and what can be sacrificed to lower the cost.
The Armasight Nyx7 Gen 2+ is an effective and affordable unit. Let’s get cost out of the way now, and I can get on to describing why the system succeeds.
For the money, you are getting a Generation 2+ system that is incredibly versatile. You get:
- A great 47-54 lp/mm resolution with very little distortion around the edges of the lenses
- A wide 40-degree field of view that makes moving, aiming, and driving vehicles easy and safe
The system has an integral IR illuminator and can accept an external IR illuminator for longer range viewing. It can attach to any universal helmet or HALO mount.
It features an automatic brightness control, bright light cut-off, and IR indicator in the field of view.The battery is capable of powering it for a total of 60 hours.
To cut the costs, the system has what is considered a bi-ocular. Meaning it has two inputs for your eyes and one output lens in the center.
Of course, Gen 2 tubes are another cost-saving device compared to Gen 3 units which cost more than double its price. The Nyx7 is an excellent compromise of cost and effectiveness for those looking to save a bit of money.
- Resolution: 47-54 lp/mm
- Magnification: 1x (3x 5x 7x optional)
- Angular Field of View: 40 degrees
- Weight: 16 oz
3. Best NV Goggles For Hunting: Night Optics Patrolman Gen 3
Using night vision goggles for hunting is one of the most exciting ways to hunt. The animals are often more confident at night and easier to sneak up on. It’s also challenging to shoot them in the dead of night.
Because hunting at night uses a firearm, you always have to follow some basic safety rules. One is to know your target. So you need to be able to see it clearly with high-quality night vision goggles like the Night Optics Patrolman Generation 3.
- Clear and bright 64-72 lp/mm resolution
- There is no distortion around the edges of the lens.
- You get that clear picture you need to identify your target.
- Comes equipped with an integral IR illuminator that can easily attach to any major mounting system.
When hunting animals, you need to be able to see them clearly to ensure you are taking a legal game animal. A low resolution can make it very easy for a fox to look like an opossum. In some states, killing a fox is a major felony so you want to avoid that.
The Patrolman system is autogated so it is protected from sudden exposure to bright lights. It is waterproof and can even be submerged to 3 feet for 30 minutes. It also has an outstanding detection and recognition range. These ranges are 1148 feet and 984 feet respectively.
The downside of the Patrolman series is the pound plus weight that makes it uncomfortable to mount on the head.
- Resolution: 64 -72 lp/mm
- Magnification: 1x
- Angular Field of View: 40 degrees
- Weight: 18 oz
Know What You Need To Get the Right Gear
Generations and Use Cases Explained!
- Better for casual observation and learning to use night vision.
- General surveillance of an area is possible, however recognition is difficult.
- Great choice for airsofters and paintballers.
- The low resolution makes it difficult and unsafe to drive or shoot with it.
- Lowest generation optics that can be used for hunting, shooting, and driving safely.
- Generation 2 and 2+ optics have a massive increase in resolution.
- Needs less ambient light to function than Gen 1 devices.
Gen 2 optics allow you to step your game up when it comes to the use of night vision. They are not something I’d trust my life on during a tactical situation but they are capable of easy movement and easy shooting.
- These devices are the first level you start to get tactical with.
- Provides enough power and a resolution high enough to see and recognize almost anyone and anything at a respectable range.
- This is what the military currently use in combat.
- Used by tactical patrols to clear rooms.
- Also used for observation, surveillance, hunting, shooting, driving, and more.
With a Gen 3 set of goggles, you can do basically anything.
- Provides the clearest picture currently possible with NV technology.
- Like Gen 3, it is suited for tactical units. It can do everything a Gen 3 device can, only clearer.
- The downside is the extreme cost that goes with its performance.
Gen 4 goggles are the best of the best when it comes to night vision technology.
Weight is a major issue to consider when buying night vision goggles since they are designed to be mounted on a helmet or a head-worn system. If they are too heavy, they can cause discomfort and strain to your neck.
You really want to stay under 2 pounds if possible.
The size of a unit becomes a major issue if you attempt to try and use a firearm while utilizing the goggles. Too large and it makes it near impossible to gain a cheek weld on your rifle.
You need to determine what mounting system is compatible with your night vision goggles and how exactly you are planning to wear them.
Rhino helmet mounts are the most common and what most military forces use. It is directly attached to either a helmet via a screw or to a tensioned strap.
A HALO or head mount does not require a helmet. It is composed of bands and webbing that situate the goggles over your eyes. These mounts are lighter, cooler, and cheaper than a helmet and mount system, but less comfortable overall.
Autogated devices are handy when wearing goggles since they are commonly used while moving, shooting, and even driving. The appearance of sudden bright lights can be dangerous. This sudden light exposure can easily damage a non-gated device.
An autogated device will not be damaged by bright light and will often shut off completely when exposed to bright lights.
It reduces the weight and complexity of an attached unit. It also makes it possible to see and move when there is little to no ambient light.
Feature to Avoid
Goggles are designed to be worn while shooting, walking, and driving. For these tasks, you really want a zero to 1 magnification.
If magnification is present, you may have difficulty moving safely.
Have Fun with NV Goggles!
When we start thinking of “night vision”, we usually picture night vision goggles. The tactical aspects make these a highly desirable system for night time movement.
Using goggles can also be a lot of fun, especially when playing MilSim airsoft. You can easily live out your Tom Clancy fantasies with a set of night vision goggles!
Learn more about night vision devices here.