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Night Vision: Not Just for Spies

Night Vision Cat. Photo: Lorchaos

We’ve all seen the green tinted night vision images from spy movies and gadget shows and nearly everyone who has seen these shows has wanted to give night vision goggles a try. Good news: the great outdoors provide the perfect playground for night vision fun.

Many nights in the back country are far from dark. A bright moon and a sky full of stars can give off enough light to allow for reading a book, but add cloud cover, mountains or trees and it gets dark awfully fast. When you need to see in the dark, you have two choices — you either turn on a light, or use one of the many available night vision devices (NVD). The NVD could be the ultimate backcountry toy.

Like choosing many other types of technology, choosing the correct NVD is all about how you are going to use it. A drop in pricing over the past few years has made a NVD affordable for campers, hunters, hikers and a wide variety of other outdoor enthusiasts. However, high-end devices used for specialized purposes remain quite expensive.

There are two broad categories of NVD. Image enhancement devices which collect small amounts of light and amplify them to the point where the human eye can observe the object, and thermal imaging devices which capture the high end of the infrared light spectrum which is emitted as heat by objects. Image enhancement devices will provide a much crisper image with detail while thermal imaging devices show regions of heat. Currently, five generations of NVD exist. Generations 0 and 1 are less expensive and typically produce a poor image quality. Generations 2, 3 and 4 have increasingly better image quality and an equally increasing price to match.

Applications for NVD are actually quite diverse. They include, but are not limited to: military, law enforcement, hunting, wildlife observation, surveillance, security, navigation, hidden-object detection, spelunking and entertainment. NVD can be found on helicopters, rifles, camcorders, cameras, boats… just about anywhere. A new craze found at up-scale gatherings is called “A Dinner in the Dark Party” where guests wear an NVD throughout their dining experience.

Many outdoor enthusiasts are beginning to discover the wonderful world that can be found after darkness falls in the backcountry. If you like to camp, hike or hunt, chances are good an NVD will be perfect for you.

 

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