Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about purchasing a night vision device (NVD). I started getting curious about NVDs after reading a couple of post-SHTF novels and seeing the great advantage the characters in the books had over the bad guys when they were equipped with some type of NVD. More recently we’ve had a couple of temporary power outages caused by construction in the area, and I’ve had to navigate a very dark house and yard for a few nights using lanterns and flashlights.
Most of our regular readers probably already know that I’m a big aficionado of powerful flashlights and I do have more than a few that can light up the backyard as well as any police spotlight. That’s great when you want to scare off a raccoon but less useful if you hear something more suspicious, such as an intruder of the two legged variety. The problem with a flashlight is that not only does it immediately give away your position but it also ruins your own natural night vision, making you almost completely blind when the light goes out. As bright as my flashlights are, it can take several minutes for me to regain my normal night vision after using one.
So, with the price of Night Vision Devices coming way down I’m really tempted to pick something up. After doing a bit of research I’m fairly certain that for my budget and what I want to accomplish an Active Infrared device is the right choice. Active infrared devices use illuminators that project high levels of infrared light, effectively “lighting up” the users field of view. This spectrum of light is below the levels that humans can naturally see so to the casual observer there is no light emitted at all. However, to anyone else in the area who was also using an NVD it would appear that you were using a flashlight and your position would be compromised.
Another type of NVD actually detects thermal radiation, or heat, and does not need a source of illumination. These Thermal Imaging Cameras pick out heat signatures as clear as day (sometimes clearer) and can see through rain, fog, and smoke. Also, as they do not emit any light whatsoever using one would not compromise your position to anyone using an active infrared device. However they are very expensive and way way beyond my price range. The lowest price thermal vision cameras I’ve seen start at about the $2000 mark and that’s just for a simple monocular model. Whereas the active infrared products I’ve seen range from just a couple hundred dollars for a simple monocular up to $500 or so for fancier binoculars and goggles. You can certainly spend much more for an active infrared product but I don’t think you need to to get a good quality product intended for general use.
For me, someone who wants to be able to take a look around the backyard to make sure whatever noise I heard was in fact made by a roaming opossum and not a prowling burglar, the lower price option is probably just fine. Now don’t get me wrong, I still believe a surprise beam of super bright light shined right into a bad guys eyes is a good way to begin a conversation, I just think there’s a time and a place for both and having an NVD could prove very valuable if things got tough in the crunch.