Survival Gear Review: FLIR Scout PS series

Admittedly seeing thermal images in the stark of night is cool.  Even in a limited product test mode, my mind was going wild conjuring up the multiple uses for such a tool.  I was given the opportunity for a month to check out the FLIR Scout PS series handheld thermal imaging unit. 

By Dr. John J. Woods, a contributing author to

USA Berkey Filters

I wish it had been the open hunting season, but just think of the opportunities during SHTF events or a night time Bug Out.  Without a doubt thermal imaging brings a whole new dimension to viewing live animals or other objects emitting heat that are picked up by the Scout.  The prospects for using thermal imaging are endless when it comes to hunting and other applications such as security work within your Bug Out area or around the neighborhood of our Bug In.

Uses for Thermal

The more obvious uses for preppers having thermal imaging capability include game management/herd surveys, wildlife FLIR Thermal Camera Reviewobservations, security, Bug Out camp law enforcement applications, searching for livestock, camper/hiker/preppers traversing trails at night, tracking downed game, or watching territory invaders.

For survival enthusiasts, the uses should seem more obvious.  Walking or riding hide out areas at night just to survey or patrol the area has its own benefits.  Anything that emits a heat signal will be picked up by the FLIR Scout.  Checking out game or other critters four-footed or two would be awesome.

It also works great for spying fields, food plots, and open trails for active observational spotting.  The Scout PS will spot man-sized targets out as far as 500 yards.  It also works through light fog, smoke, or dust.

FLIR PS Scout Specs

The Scout PS is a lightweight, handheld device similar to a monocular optical scope.  The unit is held securely by an adjustable hand strap like a compact video camera.  It is easy to use, hold steady and very portable at only 12 ounces.  The unit recharges via a supplied USB cable.

The unit itself is ruggedly designed covered in a soft cushion-like material that will take field bumps, but more importantly is really easy to grasp even when wet.  The design was well thought out for the user in terms of ergonomics, and grip-ability, if that is a word.

The operational control buttons are on top of the unit in a row.  Once the user learns which button does what, it becomes second FLIR Thermal Scopenature to turn on and adjust.  The FLIR web site has excellent tutorial video guides for learning to use the PS Thermal Camera.

The PS series thermal unit can “see” heat in two modes including white hot, and black hot. In use I preferred the white hot mode.  This simply means that the heat signature showing up on the screen is white as opposed to everything else being white in the background while the heat object picked up is black.  It’s a matter of personal preference I guess.  The white hot mode seemed clearer to me and easier to see detail.

The FLIR PS in Use

FLIT Scout units are in such high demand for product testing by writers that I only had a short time to use the unit in the field.  I took the Scout to my Bug Out camp on an overnight trip.  We built a huge fire in the campfire ring out in front of the cabins to give me a base of operation to work from.

Then I set out to walk down the main camp road.  I switched on the unit and changed the imaging to the white hot mode.  The PS immediately began to pick up heat signatures that I would not have expected.  Though it was 9 PM the tree line around camp was still emitting heat from the sunlight of the day.  That was cool.

The campfire of course lit up the Scout viewing screen in red hot color.  I could also easily see my campmate sitting in his chair by the fire.  This was from over a hundred yards away.  I picked up all types of heat escapes from the cabin as well.

I continued to stroll further from camp down the road.  Next I spotted a small animal on the ground roughly 50 yards out in front offlir thermal scope review me.  The image was so clear it was easy to determine the animal was a rabbit.  Its entire body was shown in mostly bright white in the viewer, but more particular the rabbit’s eyes were a brilliant white.

I crept up closer and closer until I was within ten yards of it.  My footsteps in the gravel road must have finally startled it as it ran into the woods.  Neat.  Next I heard a bird chirping up over my head, and when I put the PS on it, it too, appeared glowing white.  This proved to me just how sensitive the FLIR-PS is.

Alas I did not spot any deer with the unit, but if they had been out, I am quite sure their heat visibility would have been spectacular.  I learned enough with my limited testing time to appreciate the value of having the capability to read thermal images in the wild at night.  Just imagine scouting your protected area with a unit like this.

At a retail price of $1999 (Amazon $1,899), the FLIR PS would be a welcomed piece of gear for a prepper or settled survivalists.  The Scout PS would also be helpful in spotting trespassers or poachers where they should not be.  Also if game were lost or wounded, the Scout would be great for those tracking efforts after dark.  Thus, the FLIR Scout is certainly a recommended piece of high tech gear every SurvivalCache participant could use if it fits your budget.

Photos by:
Dr. John J. Woods

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27 thoughts on “Survival Gear Review: FLIR Scout PS series”

  1. Would certainly be a force multiplier for night trespasser interdiction. Well out of my budget though, so this college student will have to stick with digital "night vision."

  2. There are a few more applications that you can use them for. Obviously we use them extensively in firefighting. You can tell if fire is in a wall without having to tear through drywall or siding saving you time and repairs. In rescue situations where fire/heat is involved a human human presents with a darker signature because of the heat around them. The other option you have with this is that you are able to see how full a closed container holding liquid is. Propane tanks, gas pigs, barrels etc. Great tool as a force multiplier but also a cost and labor saving tool.

  3. I love using FLIR. I used early generation versions in the Army, and have used them in my professional life too. They are perfect force multipliers. If the bad guy can’t see you, but you can see him, you have overwhelming advantage. Regular night vision suffers horribly when you have ambient light from city sources, but FLIR does not have those limitations. It can even see faint foot prints from recent travel. The advantages are mitigated by spoofing, or baffling attempts. It can see heat through bushes, but is fooled by mylar blankets. They used to be uber expensive, but are starting to get more reasonable. I plan on getting one, but I think I will wait a while until the cost goes down way more. I can afford about 800 bucks for somthing like this, but I cannot justify spending 2 grand. Thanks for reading this….

  4. I did contracted security for a number of years. In my last year doing that, we acquired thermal scopes for select AR15's. Very impressive equipment. Can see clear outlines of anything that leaves a heat signature. Even footprints. Clearly see through smoke, and footprints that people leave behind. One thing that they told us never to do – point it at the sun.

  5. this would not only be a valuable piece of gear for the survival kit, but in my upstart business it would be a very valuable tool. I am starting a security and investigation company. for the short term it will be licensed for operation in Kansas, but I can see where tools described in SC would have uses in more than one area of interest.

  6. The monocular is cool, and is about the basic for receiving the thermal technology. I like mono’s better then a binocolar because the binocular can produce double images at times.

    Although if I’m shelling out a couple thousand dollars, I think I would go ahead and pay another thousand to get a 10x thermal rifle scope. You could still watch things at night and have a .243 or a .308 round ready to fire then and there, not halfing to put down the thermal monocular and having to pick up your rifle and squint to shoot, if you could even do that. But since the thermal is tied to your gun, it would add about 5-8 pounds or so. If you needed your thermal ability less bulky and lighter, you could remove the scope and have a half-way monocular.

    I myself, would go with a night vision headmounted night vision before thermal. Yes, I guess you can kinda see stuff at night but I’m not aware of how well. I would assume if all is calm and cool, litterally cool, it could be tough moving through the woods at night. The hands-free night vision could help you see obstructions on the trail/in the woods at night, and the thermal rifle scope could be useful for keeping at eye on locations at night or sighting in on animals that blend in well during the night.

    That’s how I see things, anyway. I have no firsthand experience with any of the above mentioned tools or technology. I do know, however, that it sucks major eggs when walking even a well-traveled trail at night.

    • Depends.

      Assuming the blanket is at air temperature — not body temperature — it'll block your body temperature for a short time, then warm up. If there's any place warm air can escape, that warm air may be visible in IR.

      Once the blanket it at the same temperature as your body, it'll appear just as bright as your body — and likely be a larger target as well.

  7. What about power? In a survival situation, you have to recharge that thing. Last I checked, I don't thin that model has AA or AAA that can be recharges via solar common solar chargers. Have you tried any off-grid charging? If so, how did it work?

  8. I have had the chance to use both FLIR and night vision and I have developed my own humble opinions about both. Something to consider in the debate about FLIR vs night vision is not just what is it capable of, but how long is it going to last. With night vision you get improvements in image quality that dramatically better as you go up from Gen 1 to Gen 4 (and the variants in between). As far as I'm concerned Gen 1 is good enough to navigate a trail by given the right lume, so you'll also cut down on your sound signature at the same time. Beyond that I've been spoiled by Gen 3 and better equipment in the service. With Gen 3 the resolution is good enough so I can pick out important detail at further range, and he who sees first, lives the longest.

    The major problem is Gen 2 and up have parts in them that wear out. This is described as MTTF or mean time to failure. Gen 2 will typically last about 5,000+ hours which is about 2.5 to 3.5 years of nightly use (assuming 4-6 hours a night). Gen 3 and 4 usually have an MTTF of 10,000+ hours is comparable 5 to 7 years of the same use. Gen one does not have that part, so while this image quality and brightness is not as good it has the potential to last longer. If you can still find batteries with a charge.

    FLIR from what I have found does not have parts that have a particular lifespan. FLIR also gives you different information. Day or night doesn't matter. Neither does smoke, fog or light rain. It can "see" through all of that, where night vision that is based on light intensification can't. IMHO FLIR is a much more useful technology, and gives a competitive advantage. The flip side is that you can afford 6 or more Gen 1 NV devices for the price of the starting model FLIR system. I don't know about the rest of you, but the saplings in my back yard are not looking like money trees yet.

  9. These are cool toys with a high price tag. Work better in a high temp contrast environment. We hid from vehicle mounted flir among dark rocks that were warmed by the sun. High temp such as fires or flares can blind flir or cause bleed over. Distance adds to image blending. Trying to i.d. someone's head laying prone within small arms range can be impossible under the right conditions. You can get an infrared scope for a tenth the cost.

  10. Make sure you do your research on this item. I happened to a couple weeks ago after reading about it in a gun mag. Several users are having many problems with the PS series, ranging from decrease in performance over time, decrease in performance due to weather conditions, area of operation, etc. Basically, the unit might not operate well unless used in ideal conditions, and open areas. 100 yards and under produced best results. There was also trouble with actually identifying targets.

    Now I havent actually used one myself, but for $1800, I will wait to see if improvements are made or can I use one before purchase.

  11. I have a bit of experience with FLIR (flying with it in the F-15E) and also wearing NVG's (not while looking at a FLIR image).
    If you boil it down to a few basics here it is;
    FLIR will work day or night and bright lights do not effect it too much. You could use FLIR in a city at night. FLIR can see through some weather and smoke (but hot exhaust/smoke or hot clouds reflecting the sun is difficult to see through). FLIR takes a little time to learn to use and interpret the image properly. You have to understand that a several hours after sunset objects start to cool (some objects faster than others) so the FLIR picture will change or be different at different times of the night. This time is called "thermal crossover", now is when you might try "black hot".
    NVGs work great on a night with bright stars or a small moon (producing a little light versus a full moon). Artificial light such as lights in a city, headlights, bright light flooding out of a house window, etc. will practically ruin your NVG vision. NVGs need to cared for well to prevent dirt and debris from scratching the lenses. Wearing/carrying NVGs at night in the woods and camping/traveling several days with NVGs require great care or you will soon have a pair of scratched up green tubes that don't function at 50-60% of their capability.
    Plain old binoculars work on many nights (depends on the ambient light) if you are patient and move slowly.

  12. I really think the thermal imaging is great ,but out of my price range.I looked around and found a used(very little)yukon tracker night vision2x24,water proof,rubber grips,gen .It works great (not as good as a thermal but at a price of $170(325 new) .I went out in the woods was able to see all kinds of stuff,in no light it has long range infrared,,they say can not be seen by the human or animal eye.Well they lied you will see a slight red glow if hit with the infrared,,but that feature does not have to be used,if you do use it works great just shine 3yards off target.
    This got me to thinking about the same thing on my rifle.So more research and back to e-bay i found a orion 5 power night riflescope gen 1 used for $225—-new $450(you can find gen 2 and 3 higher price) i have used something like this many,many years ago it was called a starlight scope worked for what i needed at the time.Both of these have coated lens,which helps.Now i live in the country as someone pointed out car lights and such can damage the tubes so this is not great in an urban area,but in the woods works great.Like any of my equipment you have to take care of it,put the lens cover when not in use both come with flip up covers ,not as easy to lose.
    The rifle scope is not light 3# and can not be used in day light,with lens cover down there is a small hole to protect tube so you can sight in in day light.I have 2 scopes for my rifle(weaver rails) i installed quick disconnect levers on each scope.After sighting in each scope i would switch back and forth you will lose zero some with the change over but it still works.The other night i had a raccoon in my trash dump i put on the night scope(s&w mp 15-22,i like a 22cal round h.p.) well i hit the critter at 80 ft took 2 shots but did the job.I have a 30-30 but my 22 has served well over the years just personal choice.
    As some one said regular binoculars will do the job at night with some ambient light.
    I hope this helps some at my age, i will not move around much at night, if some else is i would like to know about it.

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