Night vision goggles are well known for military use, but there are plenty of different reasons to own a pair. From watching wildlife to emergency situations in outdoor pursuits, these goggles make things easier. They are can also just be fun to use.
Bird and animal watching or hunting are wonderful activities, but most of the action occurs around or just after dusk. In emergencies, even relatively minor ones, such as when the sun drops during a hiking trip, night vision goggles are a marvelous addition to your pack. To help you choose the right pair for your needs we’ve examined dozens of night vision goggles, so we can recommend the best ones for general use – all under $500.
There are a lot of things to consider when purchasing night vision goggles. The main factors are the quality and price. There are a lot of cheaply made models, and a lot of ridiculously priced professional/military models on the market. For most people, the models ranging from $250-500 are the best options for a good mix of high quality and affordability.
There are both monocular and binocular models available. Both have advantages and disadvantages, so we’ve considered both. Monocular goggles only cover one eye, so by closing one eye or the other you can switch between views rapidly. Unfortunately, you will not be getting the night vision in “stereo.”
Hands-free is such a fantastic advantage in any situation, so we’ve only considered models with great quality headwear for hands-free use. Below you will find the best night vision goggles under $500 that are also top shelf in terms of clarity, so you don’t need to worry about that.
Our top picks
There are different generations to choose from, but for casual use Generation 1 is the best choice. Generation 1 models are the oldest technology available. Generation 2 is a lot better, but they will set you back three to four times as much money. And the price shoots upwards again with Generation 3, for only a slight increase in functionality for the majority of users. For us, Generation 1 is the most appropriate because they are relatively inexpensive, function well and are small enough to carry easily.
Bird and animal watching is a very entertaining activity, but most of the action happens at the end of the day and just after dusk. These goggles will allow you to see the action, while letting you safely navigate your way out of the woods afterwards. Goggles that securely attach to your head are also very useful for these activities.
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Yukon NV 1×24
Yukon NV 1×24 goggles are exceptional night vision goggles. This binocular model is built in great quality, with rubber protection and water resistance. The PULSE IR is fantastic for illuminating the world around you. Reviewers say that the Yukon can easily see up to 150 yards at night, and with a bright moon up to 250 yards. The battery life is reported to be sufficient for standard use (a couple of hours), and users say that the clarity of vision is very good.
These are definitely not military spec, but unless you want to pay at least three times more for a pair, you won’t get better. Most people agree that these aren’t cheap, but they are worth it for the wonderful world they will illuminate, as well as their quality and great design.
Armasight Vega Night Vision
These are the best monocular option for under $500. While monocular goggles can be a problem, customers love the easy flip-up to return to normal vision. Many people prefer to use it on their left eye instead of the right, and this model makes that easy to change.
Users love the infrared flood illuminator and the clarity of vision given. However, they are not the most powerful on the market, and will not provide good vision over 50 or 100 yards in typical conditions. For the amazing price point however, you can’t get better for casual use – even for hunting.
Night vision goggles make things easy to see at night. They can improve your hunting or bird watching, or simply allow for easier night hiking. They are also a great tool to have in the case of an emergency.
Monocular or binocular is an important decision, so we’ve listed one of each. The quality you get for the price you pay is obviously the most important consideration, so the two we’ve listed are the best we could find for under $500. The Yukon NV 1×24 goggles are the best available for casual and non military use, although are very effective for hunting purposes. They have top range quality of construction, and the length and clarity of vision obtained cannot be complained about in regards to price.
Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: The U.S. Army