If you’re serious about going hunting or even just bird watching, one of the essential tools you’ll need is a pair of high-quality thermal binoculars. However, these devices can be pricey, making it all the more important to know what you’re getting before spending your hard-earned money on them. After all, buying cheap will only set you up for disappointment later on when your purchase doesn’t meet your needs.
When choosing thermal binoculars, image quality is paramount. While thermal imagery requires a different way of looking at things than standard optics, it’s still essential that you get as clear and crisp an image as possible to spot and identify targets effectively. If you find yourself squinting or straining to focus, you should consider trying another set of binos.
The sensor is what records light and converts it into data. Thermals are typically either microbolometers or uncooled thermal imaging devices. Microbolometers record at a higher resolution but can only detect heat up to 3,000 feet away—and in particularly challenging environments (e.g., a lot of vegetation), they can see even less than that.
Even lightweight, compact binoculars can feel heavy after a long hike. The last thing you want is an eyesore hanging from your neck, so choose a comfortable pair on your shoulders and arms. (And keep in mind—the lighter they are, generally speaking, the more expensive they’ll be.)
The ambient temperature is one of many variables in how long a pair of thermal binoculars will last on a single charge. In simple words, if you plan on spending most of your time out and about when it’s hot outside, look for a model that does well in extreme temperatures. On the flip side, if you intend to use your new thermal binocular for hunting or observing wildlife at night, be sure it has enough battery life for all-night sessions in below-freezing temperatures.
The size of a thermal binocular is essential because you want a comfortable and ergonomic one. A hand-friendly size will make it easier to hold your binoculars, keeping your hands steady for more extended periods when spotting. Likewise, be sure you know where you plan on storing your binoculars—if space is limited, opt for something lighter and more compact.
Without good optics, you don’t have anything worth looking through. The lenses should be multi-coated (for brightness and evenness) and feature a phase correction coating (to improve sharpness). These features add clarity to your view. An excellent thermal binocular should let you see at night without using any light of your own.
Often, you want to buy a new product. Whether it’s a new cell phone or an energy-efficient car, there are a lot of factors that play into how much you pay for it. The same goes for thermal binoculars. There are dozens of factors that determine how much these things cost—from what they’re made out of to what specific technology they have and where they’re being sold.