So you just spent thousands of dollars on your first night vision device, and you want to treat this thing like the holy grail. We get it. With something so expensive, all of us babied our first devices. And in some ways, we still do. There's no point in treating something intentionally poorly, right? We've learned some tips & tricks on how to take care of your night vision we'll break down for you.
First though, a re-assurance. These devices are tough. They're built for military use. And yes, if you're dumb with them, negligent, or don't use common sense, you can break them. But they aren't as delicate as you're worried about, and your chances of breaking them in normal use is small. You know, just don't be an idiot.
Batteries: Choice & Care
Batteries power the device, so we'll start here. After all, you really don't need to worry about how to care for the rest of the night vision device if you can't use it to begin with. There's two subjects we really need to touch on:
Buy Quality Batteries
We're talking about something that cost you thousands of dollars. Don't destroy it because you decided to save $1 on a battery. And since your device will run for 20-40 hours off a single battery, you're only saving pennies per use by cheaping out. We've seen multiple devices deadlined because someone decided to use a cheap battery. Seriously, don't be that guy.
So use Lithium Batteries ONLY. Lithium doesn't leak or corrode, so you don't have to worry about destroying whichever housing you're using.
Take Batteries Out for Storage
"But why?" You ask, as someone too lazy to spend 5 seconds to take a battery out. "What if there's a break-in and I need to kill the power and throw on NODs to gain the upper hand?"
Well, again, batteries will leak if you didn't buy lithium. But even if you are using the correct batteries, there is the real risk of leaving the device on and nuking your tube with the light in your room. Don't think you're too smart to do this, plenty of people have thought the same, and wound up with images of their bedroom or workbench burnt into their tubes. And if you're dead set on using NODs as a home defense option... then get a device with a LEMO port. You can just unplug your battery pack and plug it back in when you need it.
Keep Your Night Vision Device Secure
Alright, so we can power the thing on, we're ready to use it. The next logical step is making sure it's secure to you. After all, we don't want it coming off during all the fast-roping, door kicking, and breaching you're planning on doing after you leave your 9-5 data entry job.
Choose A Quality Mount
Again, don't cheap out here. Sure, you can find a cheap airsoft knockoff version, or a Chinese clone. But don't skimp here either. Cheap mounts have a tendency to break away, have a lot of play in them, or not securely hold the dovetail mount. All of those put your night vision at risk.
We strongly recommend a Wilcox mount. The Wilcox G24 is the gold standard. Plus, you aren't just getting security for your money, you're getting some nice features as well. You have 3-axis or adjustment to make sure that you can adjust your tubes to properly fit your eyes. You also have a breakaway feature that can reduce impact force to the tubes if you fall or smash into something. Or prevent you from snapping your neck if they get caught up. All good things!
Use a Retention System
Despite choosing a quality mount, we still want to have a backup plan in case things come lose (especially if you're using a breakaway feature). So use a retention device. A lot of helmets have these built in now, but it never hurts to have an extra. There's plenty of great options out there, so we won't recommend any specific one. It's really just figuring out how to tie something to your helmet, it's not rocket science.
Limiting Light Exposure
Now to the actual use of your NODs. We want to take precautions here as well, but if you have modern Gen 3 auto-gated tubes, you don't need to be overly paranoid.
Bright Light Exposure
This is somewhat obvious, but we still want to talk about it a bit. Bright lights aren't going to blind you with autogated tubes. And a bright light isn't going to automatically kill or blem your tube. However, light exposure mitigation is an important factor in taking care of your night vision.
The fact is exposure to light sources are going to happen most places you'll use night vision on some level. It may be a flashlight, vehicle interior lights, headlights, a weapon light, the moon, or just a house with its lights on. The three determining factors are:
For example, if you look up into stadium lights for just a second or two, you run a very real chance of permanent damage. It is a very intense and concentrated light even if the duration of exposure to the tube wasn't very long. On the other hand, viewing the interior of a house from the outside is not as intense or concentrated, but if you are observing for a long time and keeping those lights in fixed positions in your field of view, you run the risk of burning those images in.
"Day Noodling" is slang for wearing your night vision device on your head during the day. This is mostly to look cool on Instagram. There are not many reasons to do this, and you really run the risk of blemming your tubes on sunny days. This isn't necessarily because of the light coming into the objectives (as long as the power is off), but how they concentrate sunlight onto the photocathode, like a magnifying glass and an ant.
Taking Care of your Night Vision Glass
Cool, now onto maintenance. You have some nice glass there, it would be a shame if something happened to it. This is probably the most common way that we see people damaging their devices, is simply not caring for their objectives.
The easiest way to protect your objective lens is to prevent anything from touching it. And the easiest way to do that is a sacrificial lens. This not only prevents your lens from getting grime on it, but it also reduces the liklihood that an impact may scratch or damage your front lens element also.
This is often overlooked. DO NOT use any old piece of fabric to clean your night vision. Don't just start rubbing your front element with your range shirt because some dirt is on it. As best, you're damaging the coatings on the lens, and at worst you're scratching the glass itself. Also be very wary of any solvents when cleaning. Even rubbing alcohol is will help remove anti-reflective coatings from glass. The oils on your fingers can do the same, so avoid touching them. Use a microfiber cloth to clean your glass, and be gentle. I keep this Nightforce microfiber in my kit, which stuffs inside its own pouch that keeps it clean.
Proper Night Vision Storage
Finally, let's talk about a few pointers on storage. No sense in figuring out how to take care of your night vision if you ignore where it will be most of the time: in the safe. Common sense prevails here.
- Again, take the battery out or disconnect your LEMO port when storing.
- Make sure to put caps on your objectives to protect them and not allow dust to settle.
- Keep them cool and dry. If they got wet, dry them off first.
- Don't store them in their little case. Let them be in open air. The foam in those cases like to trap water, and those can cause mold to grow in your tubes if your unit isn't sealed, or if exposure is prolonged. We're not joking.
Is Your Night Vision Cared For?
And that's about it guys. Take care of your unit, and it'll take care of you. Basic care will take you a long way. Remember, these devices are given to 18 year old Rangers to go to war with, they're durable and can withstand some abuse. But they hold up best when properly cared for. For most people this is likely their biggest single purchase besides their house and car, so take care of it!
Enjoy Our Night Vision Blog?
Hope you found something of value to yourself here! We write these to try and educate and share information that we had a hard time finding when we were new to NVGs. If you liked it, sign up for our newsletter to be notified of new articles or company news. Feel free to comment what you thought down below, and we always love when our articles get shared for others to read.