Seeing in the dark, and owning the night

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Everybody always talks about owning the night, and it’s a pretty easy concept to understand. What people generally mean when they say owning a night is that they are in control and those opposed them are powerless against them. In prepper circles this usually means that they have night vision devices to allow them to see at night or other setups, usually some sort of technology, that help give them a great advantage in the dark.

While it’s all good and fun to talk about this concept, and especially the gear, it’s not always easy to get accurate and unbiased information. I’m not an expert and have never used any of the devices going to talk about here in a sort combat heart use application. So take it as a good explanation of why did what I did.

Start out I’ll break the topics into four groups the first three of which are technologies and the fourth is a tactic, you can use all of these technologies and tactic in conjunction or independently. More is better, and always remember the role “one is none, and to his one”. The three technologies I talk about are A. Light B. Light amplification (NVG/NVD) C. Thermal imaging (FLIR) the tactic is just passive and active alarms and monitoring.

Light: pretty simple, flashlights, candles, floodlights, flares, glow sticks, fire, and many more. This can be somewhat counter-intuitive, if you’re using lie you don’t necessarily own the night because using light will also aid anybody else, even those who you don’t want to aid. It should not be overlooked however because if you control the light you control that portion of the playing field. And that control can be the difference between winning and losing, or noticing and not noticing.

Everybody should have many sources of light with several redundancies, but even if this is your strategy in any sort of grid down situation light discipline is a must. Practicing light discipline in doing a “light audit” to see where light can be seen and can’t be seen are both important projects. The last thing you’d want to do is to be signaling people “hey look at me!” By having light and a power when nobody else does.

For what it’s worth I’m a fan of Streamlight and Surefire flashlights. Streamlight makes very good and VERY bright flashlights, while Surefires are just as good and bright and are made to withstand a tremendous beating. (they are even designed to be used as impact weapons)


Light amplification: this encompasses the majority of night vision goggles were night vision devices that people normally talk about. These are generally broken out into different generations but for simplicity sake I’ll describe them as three; GEN 1, GEN 3 and then everything else. (there are some places that will reference a Gen 4, but this isn’t a ‘real’ designation and these devices actually fall into the GEN 3 category)

Why? Because I can only recommend, based on my research and observations, GEN 1 and GEN 3 units.

GEN 1units are the cheapest and generally least effective, so why would I recommend these? Because they’re the cheapest. And because they give you a great bang for your buck, if you get a good unit. I personally have two GEN 1 units made by Yukon, and for the price they work great. Many people say to stay away from these kinds of things and only go for the PVS 14 military grade hardware. But like many others, I can’t afford to spend that kind of money on hardware that we hopefully will never have to use. After doing a ton of research online and testing out a few different options I ended up on the monocular version from Yukon, although some of the versions from ATN were also very good and highly rated. If you go this route I recommend a monocle over a binoculars and also recommend something without magnification. It’s much easier in my experiences to walk at night with a monocle using a “take your path, then walk it” and it is with binoculars and working with magnification is always a little trickier than not.

GEN three units,specifically those that meet the PVS 14 designation, are high-end and usually military grade equipment. These are definetly worth what it costs but at $2000 or more per unit it does cost a lot. There are many people selling these, if you are looking to spend the money most of the reputable dealers will be able to point you in the right direction without too much hassle. I feel there is a lot of bias out there towards the GEN 3units, especially by those who have used them for actual tactical purposes. While I don’t have that background I do have a limited budget, unlike Uncle Sam and I need to make sure that I get the best bang for my buck. I also hope that I won’t ever have to use mine for anything other than walking, working or hunting at night. For those purposes it works very well!

All of the other stuff, GEN 2 and Gen x+s and anything in between. I don’t recommend the stuff. Why? I personally tested a couple and saw no noticeable difference between them and the GEN 1 at least until I started getting in to the near/over $2000 mark again. If you are going to spend that much, go ahead and spend a little more to get the really good stuff.

With GEN 1 I suggest getting ancillary infrared flashlights or floodlights to use with them and make sure that the device you get can have the IR light turned off. GEN 1 will allow you to walk and navigate easily, and aid in movement detection. Nothing like the GEN 3, but way better than nothing at all!


Thermal imaging: Forward-looking infrared, FLIR, looking at a completely different light spectrum than you’re used to. These devices look at heat signatures, just like the Predator does. The best way I’ve been able to explain it is to point people towards classic Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Predator. Okay so maybe that’s not the best way, but it’s an easy one, and its a pretty fun movie too.

To me, this is the most effective way to own the night and a lot of the experts will agree with me. FL IR comes into its own by being able to pick out heat signatures of people and animals or things such as fires or cars, at a distance usually measured in the hundreds of yards. It’s very hard to hide from this  technology. (Not impossible, but hard) Using thermal imaging to scan your surroundings will allow you to pick up anybody or anything approaching you very easily. Very often you won’t even be able to see them with your naked eye but the thermal signature they give off makes them stick out like a sore thumb. This also works in the middle of the day. If you ever have a chance to play with one try couple of exercises like hiding in thick brush were you can’t be seen even though somebody knows where you are, your thermal image will stick out no problem. Or try to have somebody come through grasses in a field or other vegetation, once again concealing your whole person from normal eyesight, and you’ll easily be picked out with the thermal imager. The two biggest drawbacks of FLIR are cost and the fact that you can’t look through glass. (no peering out your window like you can with NVG)

A short and great FLIR vs. NVG example, although the limitations they are showing on NVG wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be found on a PVS14, but would be an issue with gen 1s.

These capabilities are what’s moving a handheld thermal imager to the top of my list of things about me, the very top. For the same price as a single PVS 14 I’ll be able to have my two GEN one monocle’s and a thermal imager.

The tactic of alarms and monitoring: I just wanted to bring this up very briefly to help round out the discussion. If you are having some sort of problem or are afraid of some sort of problem; whether it’s two or four-legged creatures, alarms and monitoring solutions should be set up. Whether their electronic like a motion detector or electronic alarm, or if they’re just very basic can of rocks tied to a trip line. They should be used to help alert you to the breach of your perimeter. These help back up any other method you’re using and should always be used to that end.


That’s about the extent of my knowledge, once again I didn’t say I was in expert, but hopefully what I put here and links to these videos that I’ve provided can really help you get up to speed and make a good decision.

Not only are these tools useful in a prepper’s sense but they can be a lot of fun, if for when you get any of these devices I highly suggest going out and playing with them. Yes, playing. If you are so inclined I also suggest training and practicing, but sometimes you just need to go out and play with your toys. Speaking of that I just got a new knife back from Cassel knives here in Indiana, handmade by a true craftsman and I’m going to go outside and play with that. Hopefully I won’t be playing with my first aid kit too.