Chuck Fitzgerald

Article Summary:

What is a Night Vision Device (NVD) and how can it help you when hiking, hunting or on any other backcountry treks?

What is a Night Vision Device (NVD)?

Many nights in the backcountry are far from dark. A bright moon and a sky full of stars can throw 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.

NVD Types
Like choosing many other types of technology, choosing the correct NVD is all about how you are going to use it. When most people think of night vision capabilities, they think about spy movies, the military or law enforcement - applications where it is vital for the good guys to see without being seen by the bad guys. 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 collect small amounts of light and amplify them to the point where the human eye can observe the object.

Thermal Imaging
devices 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.

Who uses these things anyhow?
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.

Today, 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.

The Ultimate in BackCountry Toys
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.

Chuck Fitzgerald is Owner and President of Phoenix, Arizona based BackCountry Toys, an online store providing backcountry specialty gear and educational information to outdoor enthusiasts. Visit Back Country Toys online to receive the free newsletter "FreshAir" or call 1-(800)-316-9055.

Read all advice by Chuck Fitzgerald; Find more Backcountry experts

More advice on Backcountry
» Backcountry Trek: What Skills Do You Need?
» How to Buy the Right Binoculars For your Needs
» all Backcountry articles