Infrared sensor technology has come a long way in the last ten years. Once used primarily by law enforcement, the military, and hunters, the low cost surrounding recent advancements in the field of infrared means that consumer-level thermal scopes and imagers are now becoming more readily available. The FLIR Lepton, for instance, is a radiometric-capable LWIR camera that is smaller than a dime, fits inside a smartphone, and costs one tenth the price of traditional IR cameras—and is also a component inside the Scout TK Thermal Monocular, an infrared monocular with which we recently played.
The problem is, if you're not in the military, law enforcement, and all you know about hunting is what you picked up from Elmer Fudd on Saturday mornings, then you may not see much use for this. But after a long week of taking this unique unit out for a spin, we found some interesting—and non-traditional—uses for an infrared monocular.
Varmints and Critters and Such
Living in suburban New York, I have a big back yard, filled with jungle gyms, old toys, and broken dreams. I also have a problem with nocturnal creatures that are ruining my wife's flowerbeds and vegetable garden and, by extension, my marriage. The problem is, the backyard is blanketed in darkness, mostly because of the proximity of our neighbors. This means no intrusive floodlights or spotlights, which results in a plague of possums, a rogue of racoons, and occasionally, a drunken in-law.
The problem is finding these varmints. I must search them out in the dark, find where their lair is located, and then come up with a humane solution to relocate them—all while clutching my flashlight like a dowager heiress clutching her purse. And even if I do survive the fright (and a mild case of the vapors, oh dear), I have probably scared off the animals.
But with the Scout TK, I simply scan the backyard and can immediately spot where the adorable little garden-wreckers are, and more importantly, under what part of the deck they are slinking. This reduces my anxiety level by half and leaves me with a clearer path to take in eradication theory.
Another critter feature: my wife saw a mouse and proceeded to further the stereotype by jumping onto the nearest table, dancing the Merengue while screaming in tongues. She insisted that I find a) where the mice had entered our home b) how many mice there were and c) establish communication with the mice so that we could come to agreeable terms of co-existence. Unfortunately, when I used the Scout TK to peer behind a basement wall, I saw that many mice had formed their own mini-civilization, complete with voting booths and a social media platform. The house is currently up for sale.
I grew up in California and enjoyed many camping trips to the Tahoe National Forest and surrounding areas. My father insisted that his "citified kids" would learn the joys of outdoor adventuring. Little did he know that we did enjoy it, but were scared all the time of meeting up with Bigfoot, the cast of The Hills Have Eyes, or alien abductors. We were city kids who watched a lot of movies and TV.
My father enjoyed seclusion when camping. His best camping spots were miles away from the nearest neighboring campers. He felt that if you could smell their campfire, you were too close, which resulted in miles of backpacking before he found a perfect spot, like the dog circling his pillow twenty times before he lies down. My poor mother, who felt that camping was best served by proximity to a spa, would always worry that the farther we got, the more chances we had of becoming some tragic Hallmark movie where we would be forced into campground cannibalism after only three hours' walk from the highway.
If my father had the Scout TK instead of his trusted "night eyes," as he called them, we could have scoured the surrounding area to see if there was some hulking Sasquatch in the tree line, or angry beavers, or even surly deer that have had enough of human civilization and were ready to turn on us. The Scout TK would have been invaluable to us in hunting down the perfect campsite, free of bears, mountain lions, and politicians. Oh, sorry—most politicians are cold-blooded and wouldn't show up in thermal detection.
My dog is a small, long-haired Chihuahua, but is a gigantic pain in the neck sometimes. I believe my wife adopted him just to annoy me, although I have grown to love the furry little four-footed fiend in our time together. But one thing the dog does that spikes my anxiety level like an unwanted tax audit is when he goes out to use the little Chihuahua's room in our backyard, and I must wait for what seems like hours for him to come back. Many times, I have trudged into the backyard to whisper hoarsely at him (neighbor's etiquette, remember) and hurry his process along. Sometimes I conveniently forget he's out there until one of the kids comes home from school, and then I pretend I lost the dog, and I need their help to find him.
Unfortunately, this doesn't work at night (I'm not a monster), and when I had the Scout TK I found it to be instrumental in finding the little guy among the high weeds and heavy bushes of the backyard. I also used it when we took the dog camping with us, to make sure he never strayed far from the campsite, or that nothing strayed close to him (although on his leash, I don't know how far he thought he was going to get).
It's also helpful to locate pets in the house when you don't want to turn on every light. I have a crazy male cat-lady friend who gets up in the middle of the night to triple-check his security system, and he used the Scout TK to make sure he didn't trip over his many cats. He claims it saved him many stubbed toes.
Whether you believe in ghosts or the afterlife or the inexplicable theory that your deceased relatives want to have anything to do with you after what you did at the funeral, ghost hunting has become extremely popular, both on television and YouTube. Seriously, there are more paranormal videos than there are cooking videos, which just goes to prove that people would rather be scared than well-fed. But the amount and type of equipment that ghost-hunters use has now become its own (haunted) cottage industry and having a good infrared thermal device is a mainstay of any paranormal investigator's arsenal.
I went to a local haunted house with celebrity status—the Amityville Horror house, which is only a few blocks from where I live. I sat outside for hours one night, using the infrared monocular to spot any errant spirits that may have been out and about that night. Did the Scout TK spot anything abnormal? No, but it did get me a nice lecture about orders of protection from the Amityville Police Department, and a serious crick in my neck. As we like to say in both love and product descriptions, "Your experiences may vary."
And just to make sure you understand how my night went, I found out later that I was looking at the wrong house.
People with a flair for amateur detective work may want to add the Scout TK to their list of equipment to buy. While it will not make you better at detecting culprits, it can help you to identify nefarious characters lurking in the dark. If you live on a large, open tract of land, you may want the peace of mind knowing that someone or something isn't lurking around your shed. If you're lucky enough to live in a secluded area that teems with wildlife, you may want to check for predators before you take a nighttime walk with your pet. There's even a chance that coming home some late night down a dark street, you just want to check and see if anyone is hanging out that you might want to avoid. Safety first.
So, although the Scout TK is an amazing marvel in infrared technology, it may have other uses besides the traditional hunting and spotting scenarios. What do you think? Could you come up with even more interesting usages for this unique device? Leave comments below, and let us know.