12 Best Thermal Monoculars of 2022 for Coyotes, Hogs & More

The best thermal monocular device of 2022 lays on a case for optics equipment with imaging in the background

Our Favorite Thermal Monoculars of 2022 for Hunting Coyotes, Hogs & More

 

You probably thought seeing in the dark was a superpower when you were a kid. Now that you’re all grown up and have a little coin in your pocket, you can actually buy that ability with one of 2022’s best thermal monoculars.

If you’ve got pesky coyotes, hogs, and boars that insist on showing up where they’re not welcome, you can peel back the darkness and find out exactly where they are with the push of a button.

But it’s not just about nighttime. Infrared imaging scanners can expose camouflaged deer and elk who’ve bedded down during the day or blended into the woods too well to see. If something gives off heat, a thermal monocular can help you see it — night or day.

We’ve picked out various products from some of the best names in thermal imaging, like FLIR, Pulsar, ATN, and AGN. These trusted brands have products that satisfy all portions of the price scale, including budget options, under $1000 picks, and $4000 state-of-the-art monsters.

Deciding which thermal monocular you need depends on many essential variables — like how you plan to use it, the range you need it to detect, and your budget. The best thermal imaging device for one hunter could be a poor choice for another.

But enough of all this talk about superpowers and price scales. Our reviews of 2022’s best imaging monoculars for hunters and homeowners will heat up your imagination and maybe even help take down a coyote or two.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
BEST THERMAL MONOCULARS OF 2022

Budget or “Cheap” Thermal Devices

When it comes to entry-level thermal monoculars, each unit comes with a 160×120 thermal sensor. That’s nowhere near the pixel density of 640×480 sensors available on the higher end, but that doesn’t make these units worthless by any means.

A decent thermal monocular can help you detect prey animals at short distances that would otherwise be undetectable. Or, if you’re following a blood trail that’s gone cold, they’ll peer through the darkness and illuminate what you might otherwise miss.

To be blunt, we prefer mid-range imaging devices of 384×288 pixels or better, but if you want to dip your feet into the thermal monocular game, you can still reap some benefits from the following budget-friendly devices.

Best Inexpensive Solution
AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro TM160

Sun-$500 budget AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro TM160 device

Thermal Sensor: 160×120
Refresh Rate: 25 Hz
Display: 720×540 LCOS
Detection Range: 250 meters
Weight: .6 lb
NETD: <35 mK
Best for: Detecting heat signatures
Not for: Identifying creatures

As you might’ve guessed from the name, the AGM Asp-Micro TM160 is a small handheld thermal imager that fits easily inside your pocket.

Equipped with a 160×120 thermal detector, you’re not getting the most impressive thermal imaging monocular on the market, not by a longshot. But, if you need to spot heat signatures quickly, the TM160 could make the difference between detecting hogs and coyotes or letting them run wild and ravage your property.

Some additional features you’ll get with the Asp-Micro TM160 include:

  • 10-hour battery life
  • 8 GB internal storage
  • Video and photo camera
  • Up to 4x digital zoom

In short, this cheap option for sale delivers solid performance without breaking the bank.

Pocket-Sized Heat Imager
FLIR Systems Scout TK Mini

FLIR Systems Scout TK Mini handheld night vision device

Thermal Sensor: 160×120
Display: 640×480 LCD
Detection Range: 91 meters
Weight: .4 lb
NETD: Unlisted
Best for: Home security
Not for: Identifying creatures

The next affordable infrared spotter on our list comes from a well-known name in the thermal monocular space: FLIR Systems.

Even more compact and lightweight than the TM160, the Scout TK Mini weighs only .4 pounds. That makes it a portable companion for home security and animal detection, as well.

Like the TM160, you won’t be able to identify animals at far distances with this device, but it can give you the edge you need.

Just be careful: you’ll have to get close to identify animals with a  sub-$1,000 monocular like the FLIR Scout TK Mini.

Additional features include:

  • Still image and video recording
  • 5-hour battery life
  • IP67 dust and waterproof rating
  • Eight color palettes

If you’re looking for the most lightweight budget thermal monocular, consider the Micro TK Mini. And if weight isn’t your biggest concern, the next infrared imager is a significant upgrade thanks to its zoom capabilities.

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Good Quality without Breaking the Bank
ATN OTS-XLT 2.5-10x

Best for the money thermal imaging: ATN OTS-XLT 2.5-10x handheld device

Thermal Sensor: 160×120
Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
Pixel Pitch: 17 micron
Display: 720×540
Detection Range: 850 meters
Weight: .8 lb
Best for: Short-range prey detection
Not for: Long-range identification

The ATN OTS-XLT 2.5-10x uses the same size microbolometer sensor as our first two recommendations but offers a bit higher detection and identification range with a 2.5x base magnification and up to 10x zoom.

This additional zoom will come in handy if you want to center your thermogram and give yourself more confidence when identifying, though you shouldn’t expect to identify hogs or coyotes at long range.

I’d like to clarify my use of the word “identification” here. If you’re an experienced hog and coyote hunter, the ATN OTS-XLT can help you identify those creatures day or night. But telling the difference between a dog and a coyote with a smaller sensor isn’t for novices, so keep that in mind.

That said, if you’re new to thermal imaging or want a monocular that offers more detail, upgrading to a larger thermal detector resolution will do wonders for your identification game.

Features of this scanner include:

  • Four color palettes
  • 10-hour battery life
  • Base magnification of 2.5x
  • Zoom up to 10x
  • Camera for video and pictures

If you’re confident in your identification capabilities, you might get the job done with this entry-level ATN thermal unit.

Mid-Range Infrared Scanners

Now that we’ve considered some solid budget options, let’s move into the best mid-range thermal monoculars for hunting. The truth is, many thermal imaging experts consider this price range the actual entry level.

If you’re willing to drop a little more coin on one of these devices, you’ll be rewarded with a much better thermal sensor that offers 500% more microbolometer pixels. That means a sharper image, more heat detection, and a greater chance of identifying your prey.

Strap in because this is where the products start to get very interesting.

The Now-We’re-Talkin’ Choice
AGM Global Vision Taipan TM15-384

AGM Global Vision Taipan TM15-384 for sale

Base Magnification: 1.5x
Thermal Sensor: 384×288
Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
Pixel Pitch: 12 micron
Display: 1280×960 LCOS
Detection Range: 708 meters
Weight: .6 lb
NETD: <35mK
Best for: Mid-range detection, short-range ID
Not for: Long ranges

For hunters who want a device that can identify prey up to 200 meters in the dark, fog, or haze, this is the best thermal imaging for hunting monocular of 2022 for the money.

For starters, this unit is a breeze to use. There’s no focus ring to adjust; it fits your pocket easily and delivers a wide field of view. In short, beginners can turn on this compact handheld device, start scanning, and expect high performance with minimal adjustments.

Efficiency like this is possible because AGM engineered the monocular well and gave it a solid foundation. With a 384×288-pixel microbolometer, 12-micron pixel pitch, a generous 1280×960 LCOS display, and 1.5x magnification, users of all stripes can detect even small rodents at relatively long distances.

If you’re looking for camouflaged deer or elk at dusk or dawn, it should be no surprise when you find great success with this AGM unit.

Some other useful features you’ll find include:

  • 7.5 hour run time
  • Hot-spot mark
  • Distance measurement
  • Up to 8x zoom
  • App integration
  • Camera for video and picture
  • IP67 dust and waterproofing

For hunters who don’t need long detection ranges or those who hunt in tight spaces, the Taipan TM15-384 is the unit for you.

Great Value Long-Range Detection
AGM Global Vision Taipan TM25-384

AGM Global Vision Taipan TM25-384 handheld under $2,000

Base Magnification: 2.5x
Thermal Sensor: 384×288
Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
Pixel Pitch: 12 micron
Display: 1280×960 LCOS
Detection Range: 1,180 meters
Weight: .7 lb
NETD: <35mK
Best for: Mid to long-range detection
Not for: Short ranges

The previous AGM thermal monocular provides such great value that we had to include the upgraded 2.5x magnification model. If you value the ability to detect heat signatures up to 1,180 meters, you’ll love the Taipan TM25-384.

It uses the same infrared-detecting sensor as the TM15 but offers a longer focal length and higher magnification level. The benefit of 2.5x magnification is the ability to see animals as if they’re 2.5 times closer than what you’d typically see.

So, if you’re a long-range hunter who puts in extensive miles tracking and monitoring the behavior of big game like elk, this tool can allow you to see in the dark, gaze through the fog, and get the leg up on your prey.

Just know that you’ll have to scan the area a bit more thoroughly to cover the same ground as the TM15, as it has a smaller field of view (FOV). This is normal with higher magnification devices; they make it more challenging to spot up close-and-personal prey.

With those facts understood, we believe this is 2022’s best long-range thermal monocular for the money. We can’t recommend it enough for day and night hunting. Just keep in mind that you can’t replace the battery yourself.

Reference the TM15-384’s listing above for this specific unit’s additional features. And, if you don’t require this much magnification, a unit like the AGM Global Vision TM19 will hit the sweet spot perfectly.

Feature-Packed Imaging Device
Burris BTH 50 3.3-13.2x50mm

Burris BTH 50 3.3-13.2x50mm thermal monocular

Base Magnification: 3.3x
Thermal Sensor: 400×300
Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
Pixel Pitch: 17 micron
Display: 1280×960 LCOS
Detection Range: 708 meters
NETD: 50 mK
Weight: 1.2 lb
Best for: Long-range detect, short to mid-range ID
Not for: Very long ranges

While AGM thermal monoculars provide some of the best value in the space, Burris isn’t too far behind. Based on their included bevy of features, we think they offer greater value to hunters than the AGM solutions.

The main difference between the AGM TM15-25 line and the Burris BTH is the size of the thermal sensors. Burris put a slightly bigger unit on this device, which clocks in at 400×300. This handheld can collect more infrared energy than its AGM counterparts, and perhaps that’s part of why it weighs nearly twice as much.

Another reason for the added weight is this unit’s rangefinder, which can help you determine the exact distance between you and that raccoon, coyote, deer, or whatever else.

If ranging capabilities weren’t enough, hunters can set up the BTH and use it as a remote camera in the blind. Doing so will allow them to see what’s happening from a distance. The app integration on this beast truly sets it apart from the first two mid-range devices in this section.

High-tech equipment can mean the difference between filling your tag and spooking the game you’re after. We think the former is a better option, so check out the following features if you want to know what else this puppy can do.

  • Picture-in-picture mode
  • Five unique color palettes
  • Hot tracking
  • Remote control via smartphone
  • Multiple reticles, unlike AGM products
  • IP66 rated for dust and waterproofing

For a feature-packed thermal device at a great price, check out the Burris BTH50.

High-End Thermal Monoculars

This section is for you hunters and homeowners who want a device with a 384-pixel sensor that offers all the bells and whistles.

And, if you want to start dipping your toes into the 640-pixel waters, we’ve got an excellent choice immediately at the end of this section.

Rangefinding-Capable High End Buy
Pulsar 2-8x Axion 2 LRF XQ35

Pulsar 2-8x Axion 2 LRF XQ35 heat imaging device

Base Magnification: 2x
Thermal Sensor: 384x 288
Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
Pixel Pitch: 17 micron
Display: 640×400 AMOLED
Detection Range: 1,400 meters
NETD: <40 mK
Weight: .7 lb
Best for: Long-range infrared detection, short to mid-range ID
Not for: Extreme distances

Pulsar is a well-known and respected name in the thermal imaging arena. Their excellent customer service sure helps, but their spread of world-class heat-tracking products is why they’re one of the best, if not the best, in the business.

Housed in a magnesium-armored body and easy to slide into a pocket, the handheld Axion 2 LRF (laser range finder) can help you spot and range prey animals over 1,100 meters away. And, unlike all the other previous devices on this list, it utilizes a sharp, high-contrast AMOLED display.

The benefit of an AMOLED display is that it works in lower temperatures than an LCOS display. So, if you’re hunting or scanning in a frozen Minnesota winter, an AMOLED display could be the ticket.

It’s worth noting that this device comes in a non-rangefinding version as well.

You can save a good chunk of change by going without the LRF, and if you do, you’re still getting one of the best thermal imagers for hunting at any price point, let alone in the sub-$2,000 range. We love the rangefinder version, however, since it serves double duty in our packs.

Check out the Axion 2 XQ38 LRF if you want a unit with less base magnification. With both models, you’ll get:

  • Eight color palettes
  • Picture-in-picture mode
  • 11-hour battery life and user-swappable batteries
  • 2.4/5GHz WiFi wavebands
  • European-made Lynred sensor
  • 16 GB internal storage (and 16 GB free cloud)
  • Fast start-up (fully booted in 5 seconds)
  • IPX6 waterproof rating

The feature-rich Pulsar Axion line isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth the money for all types of hunting — including hog, coyote, deer, elk, and more.

Top-of-the-Line 384-Pixel Device
Pulsar Helion 2 XQ50

Pulsar Helion 2 XQ50 review photo

Base Magnification: 4.5x
Thermal Sensor: 384x 288
Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
Pixel Pitch: 17 micron
Display: 1024×768 AMOLED
Detection Range: 1,800 meters
NETD: <40 mK
Weight: 1.10 lb
Best for: Long-range detection, short to mid-range ID
Not for: Very long range ID

Compared to the Axion 2 I just mentioned, the Helion 2 XQ50 has a few significant advantages. The first leg up that springs to mind is this unit’s detection range. Because this imager starts with a 4.5x magnification, you’ll get an impressive 1,800 meters of range compared to the 1,400 meters of the Axion 2.

Of course, a device’s detection range isn’t all that matters. For example, you might prefer less magnification if you hunt in more confined quarters. If that’s the case, a unit like the Helion 2 XQ38 might be the best choice for you.

The Helion XQ series utilized excellent displays. Thanks to a standard 1024×768 AMOLED screen, these top-end devices provide razor-sharp optical detail for hunters in less-than-perfect conditions — day or night, in the summer, or during cold winters.

Pulsar built these units to last. They’re constructed of magnesium, which serves multiple purposes, including increased structural strength, heat dissipation, and high-quality image maintenance.

You can also expect:

  • Up to 8x digital zoom
  • Built-in photo and video camera
  • WiFi integration with Android and iOS
  • 10-hour battery life and multiple battery options
  • Stadiametric rangefinding and reticle (non-laser)
  • 16 GB onboard storage

If you want a 384-pixel sensor with the most bells and whistles available in a thermal monocular, the Helion 2 series is your best bet.

Our First 640-Pixel Unit
AGM Global Vision Asp TM35-640

AGM Global Vision Asp TM35-640 handheld heat vision imaging unit

Base Magnification: 1.4x
Thermal Sensor: 640×512
Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
Pixel Pitch: 17 micron
Display: 1024×768 OLED
Detection Range: 1,600+ meters
Weight: 1.1 lb
Best for: Identification at mid-range
Not for: Users who want quick-swap batteries

Once again, AGM shows up to the thermal imaging party with one of 2022’s very best models you can buy for your hard-earned money — the Asp TM35-640.

Equipped with the largest sensor featured in this article so far, it’ll deliver high-end thermal imaging capability, which means more crips and detailed images. Simply put, 640×512 sensors capture nearly 300% more thermal energy than their 384×288 counterparts.

With more detail, you’ll be able to identify animals at longer distances, which could mean a world of difference if you’re trying to differentiate between a buck or a doe, for example.

But that’s not the only advantage. The Asp TM35-640 comes with an OLED display, which provides more contrast than its AMOLED counterparts. Blacks are blacker with OLEDs, so you’ll be able to differentiate thermal signatures easier and more precisely.

There is one downside, though. Unlike the Pulsar units above, the battery is not user-replaceable.

Other than that minor gripe, we love this device, which also comes with:

  • 5-hours of battery life
  • 16 GB built-in memory
  • Photo and video camera
  • Four color palettes
  • Hot spot tracking
  • Up to 4x digital zoom

The TM35-640 is our top pick in the high-end range due to its technological advantages (640 sensor, OLED) over the two Pulsars above.

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Higher-than-High End Units

For the discerning hunter and homeowners who spare no expense, we’re happy to showcase the best of the best thermal monoculars of 2022.

While we’re aware that several thermal monoculars exceed this price point (~$4,000), we think these units are the best because they’re made for you — hunters. Here you’ll find cutting-edge sensors, bells, whistles, advanced capabilities, and incredible performance.

Best All-Around High End
Pulsar Helion XP50 PRO

Pulsar Helion XP 50 PRO, a not-so-cheap heat imaging monocular

Base Magnification: 2.5x
Thermal Sensor: 640×480
Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
Pixel Pitch: 17 micron
Display: 1024×756 AMOLED
Detection Range: 1,800 meters
Weight: 1.1 lb
NETD: <25 mK
Best for: Detailed observation in harsh conditions
Not for: One issue here is price, but if you can afford it, get it

Suppose you want the best possible compact thermal imaging monocular for hunting in the world. In that case, regardless of price, you’d be hard-pressed to top the genius-level capabilities that Pulsar stuffed into their Helion XP50 Pro.

It all starts with the thermal sensor Pulsar used in their flagship handheld. With a <25 mK NETD rating, this unit has no problem discerning even the smallest differences in heat. Those tiny differences, delivered to its HD-quality screen, give you a vivid and complete view of the field.

No matter the weather you’re battling, even extreme cold coupled with rain and fog, you’ll cut through it all to spot what you’re after — creatures that would be hidden entirely otherwise. And even if it takes you a while to spot what you’re after, this device uses hot-swappable batteries to keep you going as long as you want.

With 1,800 meters of detection range, you’ll be able to scan extreme distances. This impressive range, coupled with the high-end visual abilities packed into the unit, will allow you to identify precisely what the thermogram is displaying long before inferior units.

Additional game-breaking features of the Helion XP50 PRO include:

  • Picture-in-picture
  • Stadiametric rangefinding
  • IPX7 waterproof rating
  • Easy-to-update software
  • 8+ hours of battery life
  • 8x zoom

If you’re ready to step up to the highest level, check out Pulsar’s Helion XP50 Pro. But if you don’t battle temperature swings often, our next option might be even better for you.

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Biggest Thermal Sensor
Leica Calonox

Pulsar Helion XP 50 PRO nighttime hog and coyote hunting optics

Base Magnification: 2.5x
Thermal Sensor: 640×512
Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
Pixel Pitch: 12 micron
Display: 1280×960 LCOS
Detection Range: 3,000 meters
Weight: 1.5 lb
NETD: Not listed
Best for: Long-range detection and ID
Not for: Extreme temperature variance locations, but it’ll do just fine if you find yourself in one

In our opinion, the thermal device with the best image isn’t from Pulsar; it’s the Leica Calonox. To help decide between the two units, ask yourself one question:

Do you prefer to notice greater temperature changes, or do you seek out more detailed images?

Versus the Pulsar Helion XP50, Leica uses a 640×512 microbolometer while the Pulsar uses a 640×480 counterpart. For that reason, the Leica can collect more thermal energy via its sensor.

Then, because the Leica uses a more advanced 12-micron pixel pitch, the images are crisper and easier to see since there’s less distance between the center of each pixel and its neighbor.

The result is arguably the sharpest image on the market when it comes to compact handhelds explicitly made for hunters. But because the Leica uses an LCOS display, it won’t fare as well as the Helion in downright cold temperatures.

Your choice ultimately comes down to the environment you’ll do most of your thermal imaging. At 3,000 meters, the Calonox has nearly double the detection range of the Helion XP50 Pro. Do you need that much range, or would you rather have better performance in harsh conditions?

Here are some additional features to help guide your decision making:

  • Leica Image Optimization (LIO) for extreme sharpness
  • Up to 5 hours of run time
  • IPX4 Rating
  • 10x magnification
  • Four color palettes
  • Excellent app integration and remote control
  • Can be used while charging

It’s pretty apparent that the Leica Calonox is an exciting challenger to the Pulsar Helion XP50 Pro.

Longest Range on the List
ATN OTS 4T 640 4-40x Smart HD

ATN OTS 4T 640 4-40x Smart HD high-end nighttime imaging device

Base Magnification: 4x
Thermal Sensor: 640×480
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Pixel Pitch: Not listed
Display: 1280×720 LCOS
Detection Range: 3,300 meters
Weight: 2.0 lb
NETD: <25 mK
Best for: Long-range scanning, marathon hunting sessions
Not for: Swampy environments — not rated for submerging in water

Not to be outdone, ATN presents its challenger to the thermal imaging throne. If you need extreme range, the ATN OTS 4T 640 4-40x tops all others on this list.

With 3,300 meters of detection, the ATN delivers excellent image quality via its 640×480 sensor. One exciting way that ATN stands apart from its competition is that it utilizes a superior 60 Hz refresh rate, enabling hunters to scan the field quicker and miss fewer details.

Capabilities like these are beneficial when considering this model’s base magnification. Starting at 4x, you’ll be able to eyeball the field without fear of being spotted. And, if you need different magnification levels, ATN offers several other powers in this series.

If you don’t need the extreme magnification and zoom this particular unit provides, chances are there’s something more your speed on this list.

Each device in this series includes:

  • Spin-to-zoom wheel
  • 16+ hours of battery life
  • Dual-core processing
  • Video recording
  • HD video streaming
  • Ballistic calculator

If you’re seeking excellent battery life and ultra-long-range detection, you can’t do better than the OTS 640 series from ATN.

And if you don’t need long-range capabilities and desire less magnification, going with the ATN OTS 4T 640 1.5-15x will save you some dough over our previous top-end recommendations.

Technical Considerations of Thermal Monoculars

Thermal imaging scope against the background of a forest at dusk

Thermal monoculars are complicated gadgets; let us help simplify them for you

 

Thermal monoculars are complex devices that give you the ability to see heat. Since animals are warmer than their surroundings, these devices pick up their infrared energy and turn it into visible light that a hunter can see.

With the suitable unit for the hunting and imaging you do, you’ll be able to inspect the darkness or defeat natural camouflage to spot hogs, coyotes, deer, elk, and other game that typically go undetected.

But, that ability isn’t possible without advanced electronics and materials. Let’s dive into the most critical aspects of thermal monoculars and what they mean for your buying decision.

Lens Material and Size

Unlike binoculars or spotting scopes that use glass for their objective lens, the lens at the end of the cylinder, many infrared scanners use the germanium. That’s because infrared light doesn’t pass through glass.

Germanium, on the other hand, is invisible to infrared light, enabling it to pass through and relay infrared information to the electronics. That info is then processed and delivered to your eyepiece.

The larger the objective lens, the more infrared light the sensor can capture. If you know you’ll be hunting a lot at night or in adverse conditions, a larger lens will help you see more infrared energy.

Sensor and Resolution

Also called the microbolometer, this component reacts to infrared wavelengths or heat given off by your prey. It’s composed of pixels that send electrical impulses to the electronics for processing, creating an image your eyes can see.

The more pixels your senor has, the better image quality you’ll receive. At the lower end of the price spectrum, you’ll commonly see 160×120 microbolometers, which equates to 19,200 total pixels overall.

If you were to move up into the next level of thermal monocular class we discuss, the 384×288 units, you get 110,592 pixels, or over a 500% increase. With more pixels, you’ll see more detailed images, meaning you’ll be able to spot and identify animals with far more certainty.

For that reason, we strongly recommend going with a 384-pixel unit or better. Check out the AGM Global Vision Thermal Monocular Taipan TM15-384 for the best 384-pixel unit you can buy for the money.

Pixel Pitch

Now that you’ve got an idea of what microbolometers do and how they work, it’s vital to discuss pixel pitch. This number measures the distance, in microns or µm, between pixels directly next to one another. You’ll typically see 17 µm or 12 µm measurements.

A lower number denotes a higher-quality sensor. That’s because there’s less space between the pixels themselves. With less distance between the pixels, the sensor can create more detail to give you a sharper image.

Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference (NETD)

NETD is the sensor’s ability to discern even the most minute differences in temperature. Like the pixel pitch measurement, this is another measurement that’s better if its value is lower.

Anything below the 60 milli-Kelvin (mK) is considered an above-average sensor. The higher quality instruments, such as the Pulsar Helion XP50 PRO, feature sensors capable of discerning minute differences in temperature, which helps give hunters the clearest, most precise image available.

In the case of the Helion XP50 Pro, its NETD value is <25 mK, making it one of the best values you’ll find on the market today.

Display Resolution and Type

After the microbolometer takes infrared information and passes it to its electronics for processing, that info will arrive on the display to show you what you’re looking at.

There are a few critical bits of information to know regarding displays. The first is resolution.

High-end devices use HD resolutions like 1280×960. On lower-end devices, you’ll typically see lower resolutions, including 720×540. Just like the microbolometer, more pixels lead to more detail. You can make out more of the animal or scene you’re investigating with more visible pixels.

The next information to keep an eye on is the display type.

On low-end devices, you’ll typically see LCOS displays. These are solid since they use very little energy and are relatively cheap, but they won’t work in temperatures below 14° F. You’ll want an AMOLED or OLED display if you regularly hunt or use your monocular in colder temps.

AMOLED displays work down to -25° Fahrenheit. They also provide greater contrast than what you’d get in an LCOS display, which can help you make out minute differences in a scene.

OLED displays work in similar temperatures as AMOLED displays, but they have an advantage considering contrast ratios. Because an OLED pixel powers itself, you’ll get deeper blacks on your display.

When using palettes like white-hot or black-hot, higher contrast levels can mean you’ll see more detail on your display. However, AMOLED displays have higher color saturation, meaning you’ll get more color when using palettes like fusion.

Ultimately, the image should look fantastic if you’re buying a high-end device, whether it uses an AMOLED or OLED display.

Magnification

Typically, thermal monoculars have some sort of base magnification. Shorter-range devices start at 1.4x or 1.5x, meaning objects appear 1.4x or 1.5x closer to your eye than you’d see naturally. Some have no magnification at all.

You can expect base magnifications of 2.5x to 4x and higher for long-range thermal monoculars.

If you hunt animals at great distances, say you’re in an enormous flat expanse somewhere in the plains of eastern Wyoming, detecting animals at long range can make the difference between missing a potential trophy buck or filling your tag.

Field of View

If you’re not aware, field of view is the width of the area you can see on your thermal imaging monocular display.

It relates to magnification in a pretty specific way. If you’re looking through a lens with higher magnification, you’ll have a smaller FOV. If you need to scan wide-open spaces, a larger FOV may be for you.

But, if you value the ability to see far, a monocular with a higher base magnification might make the most sense. It just depends on what and where you’re hunting.

Zoom

With zoom, you’re taking that base magnification and enlarging it. In the case of thermal monoculars, you’ll be doing so with a digital zoom feature. The electronics in your device are simply digitizing a larger version of what you’d see with no zoom applied to the image.

Zoom can help you determine whether or not the thermal image you’re seeing is prey worth further investigating or if you’re just looking at the neighbor’s dog.

Detection Range

When you combine the lens, microbolometer, display, and magnification, the hope is to create a marriage of components that will help you detect coyotes, hogs, deer, elk, or whatever else.

Different thermal monoculars have different detection ranges, which are measured in meters. Monoculars with large microbolometers and higher zoom numbers give you more extensive detection ranges.

Detection essentially just lets you know a creature is out there. Depending on how close you are to it and what color palette you’re using, it could show up as a splotch of light or a highly detailed image.

How easy it is to identify animals at a given range depends on the quality of your monocular.

Let’s talk about that next.

Identification Range

Wild hogs illuminated by a heat imaging mono device

Identification range of the Leica Calonox: on point

 

All animals, humans included, give off heat, so deciphering what you’re looking at can be tricky. High-quality thermal monoculars allow you to identify the creature on your display at further distances than lower-quality devices.

Just like detection range, identification range is measured in meters. Naturally, all products always have a smaller identification range than they do detection range. That said, you can get away with a shorter identification range if you’re well accustomed to animal behavior and movement.

But, if you want to be sure about what you’re viewing, you’ll need to find a thermal monocular with a more extended identification range, for example:

If you’re a coyote hunter, knowing whether you’re looking at a coyote or a dog can make the difference between having some serious explaining to do or eliminating a harmful nuisance from your property.

A device like the Leica Calonox makes for an excellent identification tool.

Refresh Rate (Hertz)

Your refresh rate relates to both your microbolometer and display. This value, or the amount of Hertz, states the number of times per second your microbolometer or display will refresh.

Typically, you’ll see values of 50 Hz, meaning the image can refresh itself 50 times per second. If you scan large areas, you’ll want a higher value to keep up with how quickly you move the device.

Palettes

Thermal monoculars have a variety of ways to display the thermal information they pick up, and they’re called color pallets. Using different colors allows hunters to better decipher the scenery around them. We’ll discuss the four most widely used here.

Black Hot: Warmer objects appear black. This palate is used extensively by hunters and law enforcement because it doesn’t deviate much from how humans typically view the world.

White Hot: Warmer objects look white. This palate is one of the most commonly used for surveillance in urban environments.

Red Hot: Warmer objects look red. This palate is probably what you think of when you hear the words “thermal imaging.”

Rainbow: Warmer objects appear lighter and cool objects appear darker. This palate is excellent for observing objects and environments where heat differentials are minor.

Durability and Waterproofing

Because the items listed here are made mainly for hunting, they require a certain level of durability.

Spending lots of time in the great outdoors will beat the heck out of stuff, so finding durable equipment that can last several seasons will inevitably save you some dough.

One of the ways you can tell if something is durable is to identify what it’s made of. The Pulsar 2-8x Axion 2 LRF XQ35 is an excellent example of a product made of solid materials; in this case, Pulsar constructed it of incredibly durable magnesium.

Another way to determine how a product will fare against the elements is via its IP (ingress protection) rating. An IP rating tells you how well an enclosure can keep dust, water, and other stuff out. For example, in the case of an IP67, the first number (6) is the solids protection. Six and up indicates that the product is dust-proof.

The second number, 7, tells the consumer how water-tight a product is. In this case, seven means the product can withstand being submerged in water for up to 30 minutes.

In short, IP ratings give hunters a quick way of telling how much interior protection a product will have out in the wild.

Click here for a full breakdown of the IP rating system.

Battery Life and Type

If you plan on hunting for extended periods, you’ll want a device with long battery life. Better yet, find a device that enables you to swap batteries and extend your day in the field.

One great example of a device with long battery life is the ATN OTS 4T 640 4-40x Thermal Smart HD. Batteries can weigh a lot, so be sure to find your sweet spot between battery life and weight when choosing your next thermal imager.

WiFi Connectivity

Some devices are equipped with WiFi capabilities, which connect the thermal imager to a cell phone to transfer data between the two. Most devices use the older 2.4 GHz spectrum, but newer ones use 5 GHz for faster data transfer speeds.

Size and Weight

At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, the size and weight of your thermal monocular could mean the difference between making it a joy to carry or a bulky hindrance.

Get your hands on a device that offers you the portability you require. One example of a lightweight unit with exceptional capabilities is the AGM TM19-384.

Safety

Thermal monoculars make up just one portion of the thermal imaging market. Manufacturers sell thermal binoculars and thermal scopes as well. Compared to thermal scopes, I think monoculars are safer.

When using a rifle scope, you have to point your weapon at what you want to scan. Doing so can present some safety concerns if you’re hunting with a large group or in a well-trafficked area. Plus, looking through the scope all the time can be a literal pain in the neck.

I think the safest way to use thermal technology is via a monocular, though a solid thermal rifle scope is a nice piece of kit too.

Warranty

A product’s warranty is something to consider when dropping over a grand on a thermal monocular. Make sure you feel comfortable with the company you’re dealing with and the warranty they offer. Read the fine print.

Most of the monoculars on this list come from companies that offer three-year limited warranties for their products. As always, ensure you’re getting a solid warranty from a trusted company when you decide to purchase this significant.

Thermal Technology vs. Night Vision

Split-screen visual of deer and hogs through night vision scopes

Thermal technology vs. night vision: which is best for you?

 

Many of you might wonder whether night vision or thermal monoculars are best for hunting, and there’s some confusion surrounding the debate.

The differences between the two come down to what each device can “see” and how it sees it.

Night vision devices rely on a light source — the moon immediately comes to mind. You can also use an infrared illumination device to provide your scope or monocular with a light source.

On the other hand, thermal imaging doesn’t require any light whatsoever. These devices pick up heat signatures and can work flawlessly in the pitch dark of a moonless night. You can also use a thermal imaging unit in the daytime to help you detect and identify bedded or naturally camouflaged animals.

Both thermal and night vision devices have their advantages and drawbacks, so using them in conjunction is good. For example, a thermal monocular and a night vision scope combo tacked onto your rifle could be a winning combo for quick scanning to detect prey and accurate shot placement.

Which of 2022’s Best Thermal Monoculars Will See the Heat?

Thermal imaging monocular under $1,000 laying across a glass display case filled with hunting gear

Time to step up your game and see what all the fuss is about

 

As you can see, 2022’s best thermal monoculars come in all shapes and sizes. The high-tech products we recommend are lightweight, handheld, and extremely helpful for spotting and identifying coyotes, hogs, and other pesky creatures.

Not only can one of these infrared scanners help you see in the dark, but they can help you spot creatures when conditions are foggy, rainy, and frigid. The coyotes, hogs, and raccoons out there will stand no chance if you’ve got a quality thermal monocular in your kit.

Heck, you also get an advantage in the daytime if you’re looking to find bedded and naturally camouflaged wild game like deer and elk.

So hopefully, no matter which device you pick, whether it’s a Pulsar, ATN, or AGM Global Vision, it’ll give you the ability to see what your eyes alone can’t.

Whether you’re looking for a budget option, a solid setup under $1,000, the best mid-range choice for the money, or an ultra-high-end hoss, we hope our thermal imaging for hunting reviews and write-ups give you all the advantages you seek.

Thanks for checking out 2022’s best thermal monoculars, and be sure to check back soon for more hot gear reviews.

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