BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Affordable. Lightweight. Decent range of 120 meters. Handy 2x digital zoom. Captures digital video and takes photos. Simple to operate in darkness.
Its 3-hour battery life in night vision mode is not especially impressive.
Provides an HD picture that is clear even at a distance. Doubles as regular binoculars during the day. has 3x magnification and 4x optical zoom.
The LCD screen can be a bit bright for some users.
Comes with 32 GB of memory to capture video and pictures of anything that you see. The goggles feel very lightweight in hand. Has zoom up to 4x and multiple vision features.
Image can get a tad bit grainy at long distances.
Comes with multiple sizes of memory. Battery lasts a decent amount of time even when taking pictures. Has a 3.5" viewing screen.
Only displays in 720p and not 1080 like some users would hope.
The durable goggles are made from weather-resistant material. Can provide views from more than 900 feet away from the user. Comes with a memory card and carrying case.
The optical zoom isn't as good as other options.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Whether you’re camping, hoping to check out local wildlife, or want to make sure your home is as secure as possible, there are plenty of times when seeing a little better in the dark would help. Night vision goggles allow you to see even in near-total darkness, so they’re pretty handy for camping, birdwatching, hunting, home security, or any activities that require improved visibility at night.
They’re an investment, though, so it’s important to choose the right model. You need to know what type of night vision device, generation, and other features to look for in order to wind up with a tool that suits your needs.
Even in extreme darkness, there are small amounts of light present, including infrared light that can’t be seen by the eye.
Night vision goggles utilize image enhancement technology to amplify the light that’s present, so you can see objects even in the dark.
Night vision goggles are ideal for birdwatching or catching glimpses of other wildlife at night.
You can also use them to make your way around campsites after dark, or take them with you on boating trips. They can even assist you when you’re stargazing, or help you see inside caves on spelunking trips.
A pair of night vision goggles is also a handy tool if you’re concerned about your home’s security because they allow you to spot intruders in the dark.
Night vision goggles allow you to view objects with both eyes, but they offer no magnification. They are mounted to the head, so you don’t have to hold them to your eyes in order to see through them.
Night vision binoculars also allow you to view objects with both eyes, and they provide magnification as well. They’re fairly heavy, though, so they can’t be mounted to the head.
Night vision monoculars only allow you to view objects with one eye and offer no magnification. They are compact and lightweight, though, so they’re usually easy to use, and can be mounted to the head.
If you plan to use your night vision device on the move, it’s best to choose one that mounts to your head. Goggles or a monocular are your best bet.
If you plan to use your night vision device while mainly staying in place, a head mount doesn’t really matter. Goggles, a monocular, or binoculars are all good options.
Night vision goggles are available with four different generations of night vision technology.
Gen 1 is the oldest and most common type of night vision technology. It can amplify existing light up to several thousand times, so you can see items clearly in the darkness. They offer a clear, sharp image at a fairly budget-friendly cost, and work well for boating, camping, watching wildlife, and home security.
Gen 2, Gen 3, and Gen 4 night vision technologies are used mainly by the military, law enforcement, and other professional applications. They can amplify light many more times than Gen 1 devices, so the images are even sharper and brighter.
Higher-generation night vision devices can cost up to thousands of dollars, though, so they are a serious investment for home use.
The system light gain for night vision goggles refers to the number of times that the visible light is amplified by the device.
Gen 1 devices typically have a system light gain of 300 to 900 times.
Gen 2 and above devices can have system light gains of 20,000 to 30,000 times.
Night vision goggles’ system resolution reflects how sharp and clear images are when wearing the device.
For Gen 1 models, the system resolution is less than 1,000, so the image is fairly clear. However, you have to get closer to the object to see smaller details.
For Gen 2 goggles, the resolution is a little less than 6,000, so you can see more clearly at greater distances.
Photosensitivity refers to the minimum light levels that night vision goggles require to pick up an image, as well as what type of light it can detect.
Gen 1 devices typically have a photosensitivity of 180 to 240 uA/lm, which means they don’t do well in low light situations, and may sometimes distort images if exposed to bright light.
Gen 2 and above devices usually have a photosensitivity of more than 240 uA/lm, so they can work fairly well in low light situations, and don’t have an issue with distorting images.
Night vision goggles vary in price based on the type, generation, and other features, but you can typically expect to spend between $100 and $9,000.
For night vision monoculars, you’ll usually pay between $100 and $1,000.
For night vision binoculars, expect to pay between $250 and $2,500.
Night vision goggles typically run between $275 and $9,000.
It can take some time to get used to using a night vision device. Be patient and practice regularly to improve your vision while using the goggles.
Don’t squint when you look through night vision goggles. Keep your eyes relaxed, and look for movement to locate what you’re looking for.
Walking with night vision goggles is often tricky. That’s because looking through the device can be slightly disorienting, making it easy to fall. Take it slow, and practice on even terrain until you get the hang of it.
When you move with night vision goggles on, you’ll have to adjust the goggles’ focus — distance affects how clearly you can see an object.
Q. How far can you see with night vision goggles?
A. It depends on a variety of factors, such as what generation your equipment is and how the size of the item that you’re looking for. Keep in mind that you may be able to observe an item but not necessarily know what it is, such as seeing a person at a distance, but not knowing if it’s a man or woman until they get closer. That’s the difference between detection range and observation range. In most cases, the higher-generation device you use, the farther away you’ll be able to spot things.
Q. How durable are night vision devices?
A. Night vision goggles should be handled carefully because they’re not particularly durable. If you drop your goggles, chances are good that they’ll break. Some devices are designed to take more wear and tear, though, so if you’re afraid that you’ll damage your night vision goggles, look for a model that can take a little more abuse.
Q. What’s the difference between night vision and infrared technology?
A. Night vision technology works by gathering whatever small amount of light is available, then amplifying the light to make objects discernable to the eye. Infrared technology works with the infrared waves that are put out by heat-emitting objects, so differences in temperature allow you to discern between objects. As a result, infrared technology doesn't need ambient lighting to make items visible.