NightRide car mounted thermal review

A few months ago SHWAT Prostaffer Jared Hilton tagged me in a Facebook post.  He didn’t know it at the time, but that action would later cause a chain of events to occur that lead to 118 hogs down in two nights.  The post I clicked on took me to a video about the NightRide X.  It’s a thermal camera for your vehicle, so naturally my interest was immediately piqued.  The video caused the next domino to fall and I clicked over to NightRide’s website and ultimately, to the price.  Only $1,395, seriously?

That got me thinking, “If this thing works half as good as their video, it could be a great addition to our bag of tricks.”  This quickly progressed from Facebook to an email, to a few phone calls, to a few weeks later hunting with the NightRide as our primary source for lights-out navigation.  This is our story and our NightRide review.

Setup for Success

Four hunters once again: Jonathan Owen and Jared Hilton of SHWAT, Eric Suarez from Remington, and me.  They rocked custom 6.8 SPC ACRs and I had my trusty PWS MK216 in .308 WIN.  All four of us shot Remington pills and, other than a zeroing issue caused by a loose muzzle break, we had zero malfunctions all weekend.  AGM, Pulsar, and Trijicon joined the party for thermals, and of course, all weapons were suppressed.  I guess you could say things were getting pretty serious. 

Our ride for the weekend was my 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon guided through the darkness via the NightRide X system.  Top off, doors off, lights out, hammer down, 118 pigs. My Jeep has a new party trick called “Dark Mode” which allows me to turn everything off including brake lights.  Since we did not have NODs with us for this hunt we were really hoping the NightRide would perform so we could keep our stealth mode intact. 

What is the NightRide X?

The NightRide X is a Nalgene bottle sized thermal device that mounts to the hood of your vehicle and transmits an image via wifi to an Android device. Don’t have an Android? Don’t worry, me neither, but Niteride actually includes an Andriod phone with the X camera system. You won’t have switch between maps or calls on your phone while using the camera. To my way of thinking, this is a huge value add.  While it can function as a proper heads-up display, I didn’t test that myself but thought it was a nice touch. As I have mentioned in the past, batteries are always a consideration with thermals. Luckily with the NightRide all you have to do is connect it to your vehicle’s battery and voila, all done. 

Assuming you read the directions, your setup should be less than five minutes. Naturally, I didn’t do that so it took a little bit longer, but we got it sorted out. We thought that the battery connection would shake loose, but after two nights of pavement, fields, gravel, and washboard roads those concerns faded away. No issues on that front. We were able to set it and forget it. 

NightRide X Review

NightRide Thermal Image Quality

The clarity of the NightRide is more than adequate.  When you consider the price point, I would go as far as to say it’s fantastic.  The sensor is 384 x 288 and I had enough trust to drive 45 mph in some places completely lights out.  Just navigating by the device.  I am not advocating you do the same, and I doubt NightRide would either, but I and everyone in the vehicle felt comfortable throughout the night.  The device was able to pick up animals at distances over 1,000 yards away, but identification wasn’t possible until you were much closer due to the 1x magnification. It definitely reaches out much further than your headlights though. 

My hopes for the NightRide X were that I could just drive comfortably with lights out, navigate, and stay on the road.  For the price point, to me, that was going to be a win. Honestly, to my delight it did a lot better than that. The other hunters with me all had very capable handhelds and on many occasions I was able to point them in the right direction to identify a sounder. On three occasions I spotted hogs close up that they had missed, and on two occasions I avoided a collision with a pig. I did manage to hit a cow though. Actually it hit me. I mean it physically hit me! It ran into where the driver’s door mounts to the Jeep. It stopped only when it ran right into my body and the B Pillar! No fault of the NightRide, cows are just dumb. 

NightRide X screen

NightRide Features

The device itself doesn’t have many features. Instead, they pack those features into the application on the phone that ultimately displays the image. While the camera is mounted to the hood, you can start or stop recording, or change a detection mode. Yes, it records!  I don’t understand how some thermals still don’t have this capability. I haven’t verified this, but it seems that the recordings compress into smaller, less sharp versions of themselves for storage purposes because the image displayed on the phone screen seems to have a better resolution than the stored file. 

One thing I would like to see added in the future is the ability to digitally zoom.  Using this for hunting or LEO purposes, I can see a big need for that.  The good news is because they use an Android device to project the image, it can probably be done with just an application update. Honestly, for this device I personally just want it to turn on and off and record when I tell it to, and it did that very well. 

NightRide X

You would never mount the phone outside of the vehicle like this, but here you can see the size of the NightRide X compared to a standard Android.

Is the Nightride X Camera Worth it?

Absolutely, I say yes. Especially for $1,395.  Not only that, I see this being a staple in our equipment bag moving forward. In the past, for this type of lights out stealth driving, we would use binoculars or BNVDs. For that, you are looking at $3,000 – $10,000+ and the driver is the only one who can see.  I’m very excited about the NightRide X and look forward to getting my hands on some of NightRides higher-end products as well.