This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission if you purchase via these links.
Are you looking for a lightweight and portable handheld thermal imaging device?
Admit it, your arms get tired from wielding the rifle for a magnified view when all you want to do is scout and spot for a while.
A monocular keeps things simple while offering the best of thermal imaging tech that you can get on a handheld device.
But, when they're so expensive, you shouldn't be rash into buying the first deal that comes across your web page.
When you know the ins and outs of what to look for in a thermal monocular or thermal binocular and what models are ranking and rating in at the top, you'll be better prepared to make the most of every hard-earned dollar you plan to spend. And, trust us, these devices are not cheap.
To get the details on the best thermal monocular to date, see our lineup and take heart of our tidbits of advice along the way!
QUICK LIST: Best Thermal Imaging Monocular 2022
- Best Overall: Burris Thermal Handheld Monocular
- Best Value: FLIR LS-X 60Hz
- Best Handheld: ATN OTS LT
- Best for Coyote Hunting: AGM Taipan TM15-384
- Best Budget Smart: ATN OTS-XLT 160
- Best Compact: Infiray DV DP09
- Best Cheap: AGM Asp-Micro TM160
- Best Tactical: FLIR Breach PTQ136 Thermal Monocular
- Best ATN: ATN Odin LT 320 2-4x
Our Top 9 Thermal Monoculars
Just to be clear, we're not into thermal cameras and camcorders made for professional photography or for permanent home and property surveillance. We're all about the type of thermals that help us get out on foot to hunt, track down, and watch people and animals for many different purposes. Camcorder features are a bonus, and are of course, a feature we will definitely highlight in the process. So - on with it!
Like night vision scopes and night vision monoculars, thermal imaging monoculars and thermal imaging scopes get better the higher the price tag. Unlike night vision scopes, thermal devices are relatively new. They haven't been around as long, and that makes them way more expensive in the current market. Be prepared to set a budget, save, and do some serious soul-searching on how badly you think you need the latest features and tech because it will cost you.
Hunters may have different needs than those in law enforcement, security, or the military. Even within the tactical world, the need for thermal quality will vary depending on the type of use and activity the monocular is intended for.
So, instead of trying to predict every possible scenario in which you might need a monocular, we'll provide a number of models that have different features and price tags that might speak to you.
From long-lasting battery life to high pixel resolution and HD smart features, there's a monocular that will more than suit your needs. We also keep things reasonably affordable with some economical options to choose from.
It's all about evaluating what your needs are and how far you're willing to stretch the budget. Here's where we think you should put your money first!
|Burris Thermal Handheld||CHECK PRICE|
|FLIR LS-X 60Hz||CHECK PRICE|
|Trijicon Electro Optics IR Patrol||CHECK PRICE|
|Leupold LTO Tracker 2 HD||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN OTS-HD 384 1.25-5X||CHECK PRICE|
|FLIR Scout III-240||CHECK PRICE|
|AGM Asp-Micro TM160||CHECK PRICE|
|FLIR Breach PTQ136||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN Odin LT 320 2-4x||CHECK PRICE|
Best Thermal Monocular: Our Top 9 Reviewed
1. Best Overall: Burris Thermal Handheld Monocular
The Burris Thermal Handheld has long-ranging detection and that excellent Burris optical quality, but it’s on the expensive end for its upgrades. As a handheld monocular, it’s designed for fast use for hunting and limited professional use like search and rescue.
- 5 palettes
- Hot Track
- 750-yard range
- WiFi compatible
- Great glass/optical performance
- Battery life
There are Burris thermal riflescope and clip-on options within the thermal series, but the handheld has the best price. Even though it’s compared to alternatives twice its price, it’s more likely to be compared to those half its price. With that view in mind, you can see how the small upgrades significantly impact cost. However, those small upgrades aren’t to be underestimated.
The thermal handheld has a 400x300 sensor with 17 µm pixel size and 50 hz refresh rate. Combined with Burris’ excellent optical integrity and you have an exceptionally clear and sharp image. It comes in two sizes, the cheaper one with a 35mm lens and the larger one with a 50mm lens.
Sensor and display performance allows for detection beyond 750 yards for long-range performance. It has five palettes: White Hot, Black Hot, Red Hot, Iron, and Blue Hot. There is also the ability to adjust the intensity in Red Hot so that you don’t have lingering residual hot spots in extremely dark conditions.
With multiple features from Hot Track, a stadiametric rangefinder, PIP (Picture-in-Picture) mode, videos/photos, and calibration modes, the monocular covers more than your most basic needs in a thermal. Since it is WiFi compatible, it can be connected to the Burris Thermal app for user controls and viewing from the device.
However, the internal battery runs for a little more than five hours. The power saving settings should help conserve and extend runtime. Though it’s not covered by the Forever Warranty, the Burris Thermal Warranty does cover the monocular for three years. In this market, that’s about as industry-best as it gets.
2. Best Thermal Monocular for the Money: FLIR LS-X 60 Hz Review
It’s one of the best thermals FLIR has released to the market. It’s expensive, but it’s specifically designed for law enforcement with the quality and dependability that they must have to get the job done quickly and safely.
- 60 Hz refresh rate
- Laser pointer
- Selectable polarity
- Battery life
This is a true handheld thermal imaging unit that has professional quality at its core. Law enforcement, security, search and rescue, and all tactical related professionals will easily recognize the affordability of such a tool and its value.
It’s extremely portable and easy to use as a handheld monocular with its 12 oz weight and 6.7 x 2.3 x 2.4” size. It has 2x and 4x zoom and a detection range of 623 yards (570 m). Its overall design is kept as minimalistic as possible for fast execution while out in the field. It powers up in less than 1.5 seconds, a 640 x 480 LCD display, and it can provide over 5 hours of operation depending on use.
The battery life isn’t the greatest, but it’s within standard expectations for a thermal. The built-in battery can be charged up with the included USB power adapter/charger and cable that can likely connect into your compatible ports on the dashboard of your patrol car.
The LS-X has three polarity modes that are especially useful for law enforcement: White Hot, Black Hot, and InstAlert. InstAlert is a mode that shows higher temperatures like human bodies in red. The screen brightness can be adjusted, and there is also an integrated marking laser pointer on the monocular that allows the user to safely pinpoint suspects to other officers closing in.
This monocular is easy to use, fast to deploy, provides silent operation, and is extremely portable and convenient. The reliability and dependability of this professional-grade monocular makes it the best buy for the money.
3. Best Handheld Thermal Monocular: ATN OTS LT
The OTS LT series of handheld monoculars from ATN are popular and easy to use. The OTS LT 160 is the best for the price in the series, but the long-ranging 320 6-12x is the champion for maximum use out to a mile.
- Hi-performance sensor
- Extreme long-range
- 60Hz refresh rate
- Long battery life
- Multiple features
- Built-in battery
Like many thermals, the OTS LT has a built-in lithium battery for the power source that requires plug-in charging when battery runtime is low. However, a longer runtime of 9+ hours is quite generous given its built-in battery design.
The longest-ranging model features a 320x240, 12 µm, 60 Hz sensor that provides impressive clarity and focus with Black Hot and White Hot palette modes. Pixel calibration mode (NUC) can help to improve the image quality when conditions challenge thermal visibility.
With 6-12x magnification, it has a detection range of 1700m, recognition range of 700m, and identification range of 400m. That’s impressive for long-range performance nighttime hunting of hogs or other trespassing perps. Whether or not your take those long shots, the identification prowess is there.
If you only need to id hogs inside 150 yards, the 160 3-6x model is the most appropriate and affordable option. But for those who want distance, going bigger to a 320 sensor is the way to go.
How is the OTS LT different to the OTS XLT? Both have a 3-year warranty and share the same thermal core, but the OTS LT has a hi-performance sensor with better pixel resolution, faster refresh rates, and an HD display. While the OTS XLT might not be as fast or sharp as the OTS LT, it is compact, cheaper, and has additional Fusion and Red Hot palettes.
The higher price point of the LT model comes with better resolving power for longer distances. This may make all the difference in real-time use.
4. Best Thermal Monocular for Coyote Hunting: AGM Taipan TM15-384
For everything hog and coyote hunting, the AGM Taipan has been highly rated to do the job well. As a thermal at a price point under $1500, it offers a 384x288 detector and a high-resolution display for extremely clear views in total darkness.
- 384 sensor
- Hot Spot Mark
- Digital zoom
- WiFi Hotspot
- Not for helmet mounting
The Taipan has a high-resolution, 12 µm, and 50 hz sensor with Flat Field Correction (calibration) modes, Highest Temperature Spot Tracking, WiFi Hotspot, and Distance Measurement (stadiametric measuring).
These modes and features are easily seen through the large 0.4” 1280x960 LCOS display. With a 4-button interface, it’s easy to navigate the menu and make fast in-the-dark presses while coyote or hog hunting under the cover of darkness.
With White Hot, Black Hot, Fusion, and Red Hot, you can observe from a great distance, record and capture images, and zoom in with digital zoom of 2x, 4x, and 8x. With 8g of storage, there is no need for an external SD card.
The detection range of the TM15-384 is 708 meters – long-range performance for long-range predator hunters. Identification range performance to is around 200 yards on targets such as hogs and deer with recognition at about 500 yards.
The battery is a rechargeable and provides 7.5 hours of runtime without WiFi enabled. Although it has a tripod screw and 1x magnification, it may not be the best for helmet mounting given that the screw is mid-way along its 6.23” length. While it will work to be mounted, it will be snug as the eyepiece will be hugging the eye socket with little wiggle room.
The Taipan is covered with AGM’s limited 3-year warranty and is within standard expectations for thermals of this quality and in this price range.
5. Best Budget Smart Thermal Monocular: ATN OTS-XLT 160
As the cheapest thermal monocular ATN has with basic ‘smart’ features such as a rangefinder, video/photos, and heat tracking, it’s about as smart as you can get at this price point. The OTS-XLT fits today’s expectations for an entry-level, budget thermal monocular.
- Smart features
- Heat tracking
- 4 palette modes
- Tripod screw
- Built-in battery
The OTS has smart features that includes its ability to range a distance, record video, and capture images. It has 8g of internal storage and you will need to transfer files with the included cable.
It has four palette modes: White Hot, Black Hot, Red Hot, and Fusion. You can adjust multiple features from the diopter (knob at the eyepiece) and focus lens (adjustable objective) to settings such as brightness and contrast.
With a 160 sensor, 17 µm, and 50 hz refresh rate, its performance is ideal for close-range use inside 300 yards for targets from humans to coyotes. ATN states a 670m detection range and 170m identification range, and this is most likely in ideal conditions on vehicle-sized targets.
Heat Tracking is a nice feature that puts a cross reticle on the display as it points out the hottest object within the FOV. While it doesn’t have a ranging engine, it does feature a stadiametric-based rangefinding system. Measuring the target based on Deer, Wolf, Bear, and Custom modes, you’ll get a distance between you and the target.
The ATN monocular also features a tripod screw on the underside of the monocular for mounting to a tripod. Although, you can mount it to a J-arm for helmet mounting, it may force the eyepiece to be snug against the eye socket.
The OTS-XLT has a built-in lithium battery that requires recharging when battery life runs low. Without the ability to juice up with replacement batteries in the field, this can be a limitation. However, with 10 hours of runtime, it should be plenty for the hog hunt tonight.
6. Best Compact Thermal Monocular: Infiray DV DP09
The Infiray DV Series are extremely compact and lightweight. Incredibly small, it’s made to fit in the hand, pocket, or to a smartphone, and it’s ready for thermal viewing at your convenience. Not only is it small, it’s under $500 too.
- Uncooled 256 12 µm sensor
- Connect to phone
- External power source
- Easy to use
- No brand recognition
- Battery life
- Not shockproof
InfiRay has made some ground over recent years in the thermal imaging industry. With what seems to be subsidiaries in the US and Australia, the parent company is headquartered in China. Though they’re still building a foundation with the market, the DP09 monocular is by far one of the most compact units to date.
It has a 256x192, 12 µm sensor but only a refresh rate of 25 Hz. While images are surprisingly clear for such a small gadget, fast moving images may appear a bit choppy. It’s worth mentioning that you can perform a manual calibration to improve image quality. It features White Hot, Black Hot, Red Hot, and Color palettes, six adjustable brightness settings, and 1x-2x magnification. It touts detection to vehicles at 1150 meters, but to humans, 475 meters with an id range at 59 meters.
It measures in at 3 x 2.2 x 1.4” in size and weighs a mere 3 oz. Being so compact in size, it can be used alone or attached to a smartphone or tablet device. It has a very tiny display and no eyepiece cup, but it does have a diopter knob. It takes a CR123 battery and runs for approx. four hours. You can also connect it to your phone to extend its operational time.
It's compatible with Android devices for downloading the app and connects via the Type C USB port. It has a slide-over cap that exposes the connection. With your phone, you have on-screen controls, video and photo capture, and three types of measuring modes: Point, Line, and Area. You also have access to additional palettes, thermography data, and shutter calibration.
That’s a lot of appeal for a budget $500 thermal monocular. While not for hunting or professional use, it’s a great gadget for the smartphone and for recreational purposes.
7. Best Cheap Thermal Monocular: AGM Asp-Micro TM160
Overall, the Asp-Micro is an affordable thermal monocular with exactly the kind of features a hunter needs while it can be suitable for some casual law enforcement use. Its low price point is a major magnetizer for those looking for thermal while staying under budget of $500. For these reasons, we had to purchase and test it for ourselves!
- 4 palette modes
- Digital zoom
- Built-in battery
The Asp-Micro has a built-in, rechargeable lithium battery that powers it for a runtime of seven hours. If you enable the WiFi, it will draw power even faster. While it’s convenient to recharge the device and never have to buy batteries or carry spares, its benefits are simultaneously a drawback as you can’t have renewed power when out in the field.
However, the balancing act between battery life and device size results in the Asp-Micro having a built-in battery design. One tip to we can recommend to save on runtime life is to power it off completely instead of leaving it to sit in Sleep Off mode.
The thermal monocular has a 160x120 25Hz sensor with a 720x540 50Hz display. Combining the specs together, the Asp-Micro has better-than-average image quality for its low price point. Optimal performance is at 1x, but digital 2x, 4x, and 8x is beneficial to get a closer look.
As a close-range device, its detection range is 250m to human-sized targets with an identification range of 25m - we confirmed this during our field testing. Much larger targets such as vehicles will have a detection range to 611 meters. Putting this into context, it’s been beneficial for hunting hogs and coyotes with normal ranges between 30-150 yards for highly effective use.
Between Fusion, White Hot, Black Hot, and Red Hot, there are multiple palettes that will suit the terrain, conditions, and personal preference. With a user-friendly interface, comfortable size for handling (9.5 oz, 6.3” L), and great quality for inside 300-yard use, the Asp-Micro offers a lot of value for its performance. Use it handheld, tripod mounted or helmet mounted - we tested all of these options and more!
8. Best Tactical Thermal Monocular: FLIR Breach PTQ136 Thermal Monocular Review
Do you work in law enforcement? Do you need a monocular that covers tactical basics? The Breach PTQ136 by FLIR was made for you. To be completely honest, it's on the more expensive end of the spectrum for its basic features, but it does have a few surprises that might be priceless to you.
- 60Hz refresh rate
- Video recording
- 1-4x zoom
The Breach is the ultimate, covert thermal monocular that only weighs 7.4 ounces. Adding it to your gear or your uniform, whether it be camo or tactical, is a non-issue. It even features a mini-rail for mounting that many monoculars are incapable of doing.
Because of its ability to be mounted to a helmet or to other head mounts, it allows for hands-free operation that can be invaluable in the field. With a 320x256 sensor, a Quad-VGA (1280 × 960) FLCOS display, and a 60Hz refresh rate, nothing will get past you. You can catch it all on video too which is priceless for a cop who needs that body cam proof to support the case.
However, the Breach is made for close-range work. It has 1-4x variable magnification and 7 palette options to best identify your suspect or game day or night. You'll want to look into getting an external battery pack if you plan to be out for any decent amount of time since 90 minutes is pushing it.
While this isn't the ideal hunting monocular, it's a great close-range monocular for tactical and security work. It has better than average specs that will support your multi-purpose nighttime needs. Catch the breach before it happens with a Breach monocular for a set of eyes.
9. Best ATN Thermal Monocular: ATN Odin LT 320 2-4x
Though not the cheapest ATN thermal monocular on the board, the Odin LT 320 earns its own stripes with 320 resolution, helmet mounting, and external batteries. It’s not perfect if acquiring smart features is the goal, but the Odin nails simplicity when quality resolution is always the goal.
- 320 resolution
- Easy to use
- 1x CR123A battery
- Head/helmet mounting
- Poor battery life
One of the primary benefits is that the Odin takes external batteries, however, they’re expensive CR123A batteries and it only has a runtime of 2.5 hours. For a thermal that is lacking in power-hungry features, it’s certainly a disappointment. To mitigate this drawback, I recommend the Extended Life Battery Pack that doubles the runtime, recharges with a USB Type C cable, and is O-ring sealed for some water and dust-resistant benefits.
During hands-on testing, I was convinced of its resolution prowess when I could detect humans beyond ATN’s listed 535-meter range. It certainly has the reach to observe large targets long range, and coyote and hog hunters will clearly spot the invasive species to around 300-600 yards away – I did anyway.
The Odin LT has an integrated dovetail rail for head/helmet mounting, and though it’s convenient for hands-free use, it has 2x magnification that depletes its mobility benefits. If you’re mostly at a stationary setup, it’ll serve as an observation device the way it was designed to be.
Weighing in at 10 oz with a 5.1 x 2.8 x 1.8” (approx.) size, it’s lightweight and compact. The included extras in the box keep it snug and safe during transport.
By the end of my time with the ATN Odin, I was convinced. The quality resolution makes it one of the best ATN thermals and proved that it’s worth the money especially so from 160 alternatives. To see night turn into day, the Odin LT 320 is one way to do it.
What to Look For in a Thermal Monocular
There's a lot going on in a thermal device, and we don't expect you to know every step of the manufacturing process or every component that's needed to get you a heat signature in the light of day or pitch black.
Instead, we'll clue you in on main features you must know about when searching for your monocular buy. This list will help you determine what a fundamental feature is and what a luxury feature is. You can go without built-in WiFi if it means you can put your money into a high resolution and fast refresh rate monocular.
But, what's high resolution for a thermal? Does it matter what the temperature is when you want to spot the polar bear in the tundra? Check out our tips on what to look for to make the wisest investment for your next hunt or deployment.
Thermal Sensor Resolution:
Even though thermal technology is somewhat new, it's come a long way very quickly. What used to be the standard is now far below what's accepted to get positive identification beyond 100 yards. 640x480 pixel resolution is quite exceptional for a thermal sensor. However, the higher the resolution, the more it will cost. You must evaluate if your needs justify the extra image quality.
This is different and usually higher than the thermal sensor rating. It indicates the resolution the display is able to achieve, but it may not be functioning at this rate if the thermal sensors are not as good.
Refresh Rate (Hz):
This is how quickly an image is refreshed or cycled to present a more natural image, especially when there's moving objects or when you're on a moving platform. The higher the refresh rate, the better. Typically, you will see 30Hz or 60Hz. Most of the time, users don't see the time lag between a 30Hz and 60Hz device, but if you're on a moving platform like a vehicle, 30Hz may be too slow.
This is a price factor since price is indicative of quality here. The better quality the monocular, the further the detection range. Detection range allows for positive heat signature acquisition from distances up to 4,000 yards on some of the best thermal devices available. However, being able to identify an animal from a person, a pig from a coyote, etc is another factor to consider.
Most of the time, your monocular will be fine to use most of the time in most conditions. However, it's still important to note what the operating temperature range is since many electronic devices can only function per battery limitations. If you need to stay out in sweltering heat or on the coldest nights, you want to make sure your monocular won't fizzle out.
8 hours is pretty significant for a user who wants to make the most of their time. Be on the lookout since a monocular with an hour battery life may not cut it. Also consider if rechargeable batteries or external battery packs may be worth investing in.
Most monoculars should offer a color palette mode with selectable options. Various monochromatic color schemes can make it easier to detect your target or differences between the background and other objects.
Thermals will typically offer two types of zoom magnification: optical and digital, and both will directly affect resolution. Optical magnification will have less effect on resolution than digital. Digital zoom can reduce image quality at high magnification unless the monocular has special software to help minimize the effects and sharpen the image.
These are not cheap devices. Be brand-specific or buy a very good warranty to protect your investment. If customer service is important to you, be sure to look into this before choosing a brand or monocular.
Thermal Imaging: More Than Night Vision
It's natural to lump night vision and thermal imaging into the same category. We tend to think that they're just night devices to help see when it's pitch black outside. While this is true of a thermal imaging monocular, it's not limited to just nighttime use.
Because it's an active device, you can use this during the day. Use it to spot faraway targets or downed deer you lost track of. If you need to refresh yourself on the differences between thermal and night vision, take a quick read of how they differ right here then decide for yourself - which is the best thermal monocular to take home with you today?