text.skipToContent text.skipToNavigation

Choosing a Trail Camera

Trail cameras are the best solutions for capturing images of wildlife without being anywhere near them. From stationary options that wrap around a tree to fancy hunting binoculars with HD video-recording capabilities, there are tons of outdoor cameras to choose from. Whether you’re hoping to capture a video of your neighborhood’s elusive moose or want to upgrade your hunting capabilities, a trail camera is a great investment for any property owner or hunter!

Different Types of Trail Cameras

Stationary trail camerasmonitor a specific area on an ongoing basis. They are usually secured around a tree but can also be mounted to a house or hunting stand. They can store pictures and videos on an SD card, send footage directly to your cell phone, or connect to a smartphone app. Many stationary outdoor cameras also act as home or camp surveillance and use no glow functionality to remain undetected to humans.

a camouflaged trail camera attached to a treeStationary trail cameras are usually camouflaged to blend in with natural surroundings.

Hand-held trail cameras are portable options that you can carry with you. There’s a wide variety of designs, including monocular and binoculars that feature photo and video recording for spotting, tracking, and hunting. Some hunting cameras can even attach to rifles and give you the ability to record your hunt.

an assortment of binocularsMonocular and binocular designs are portable and great for tracking wildlife.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Trail Camera

Purpose: What do you hope to use your trail camera for? These can be attached to a fence for monitoring wildlife or carried with you on a hunting trip to take HD videos of your targets. Some even come with remote security monitoring to keep an eye on your hunting camp. Many trail cameras are multi-purpose, so consider the various ways you may use it to help narrow down the options.

Camera quality: Don’t assume a high megapixel count will capture the best pictures possible. Many megapixel ratings on trail cameras are interpolated, which means the camera digitally adds extra pixels for every real pixel created by the camera. This doesn’t increase the quality of the picture nor allow you to zoom in to see photo details. Many models with high megapixels also use low-quality lenses. It’s much smarter to focus on the size and quality of the camera’s image sensor than pixel count. Be sure to look at sample pictures from each model you’re considering!

Detection capabilities: A trail camera’s detection circuit is what senses an animal and is based on a combination of motion and heat. Every camera has a different detection zone (the width and range in which a camera can sense motion) that will trigger a picture automatically. In addition to the detection zone size, be mindful of trigger and recovery times, or how fast the camera takes a picture after detecting motion and how quickly it stores this picture before taking another.

A userchecking on a trail camera. All trail cameras are different, so always check detection capabilities and quality.

Infrared capabilities: Most trail cameras come with some type of night vision and ability to capture images after dark. There are 3 main categories of infrared cameras:

  • No glow trail cameras are invisible to the human eye when taking a photo or video at night. They are great for both security and wildlife surveillance, but the images are usually fairly dark.
  • Low glow trail cameras are slightly visible to the human eye but still work well for wildlife and security surveillance. These cameras produce brighter pictures and videos than no glow cameras.
  • Red glow trail cameras emit a faint red glow when taking pictures at night, which results in significantly brighter images. These are excellent for monitoring wildlife and enable better species identification.

Battery life: Not all trail cameras are created equal, and there is a wide range in battery type and longevity in trail cameras. Alkaline batteries are inexpensive and work sometimes, but they aren’t the ideal choice. They quickly decline in flash illumination and each picture will be darker than the last. This is especially noticeable in colder months. For better performance and longer run times, consider trail cameras with lithium batteries or solar-powered models.

A trail camera with attached solar panel. Solar-powered trail cameras require almost no maintenance and last for years.

Cellular or wireless connectivity: Some trail cameras send pictures and videos directly to a cell phone using a cellular network monthly plan. Other trail cameras pair with a WIFI-enabled smartphone app that notifies you whenever there’s activity and provides a live stream of your footage. Before selecting any particular cellular or wireless trail camera, make sure the area you’ll use this in gets enough service to transmit the data!

Animal caller: Additional features like electronic animal callers can help attract wildlife to the camera’s detection zone. These callers come with many different animal sounds and can lure birds to feeders and backyard sanctuaries or deer to hunting locations.

Trail cameras provide lots of visibility and peace of mind to both property owners and hunters. Whether you’re hoping to take some fun videos of birds and rabbits or want to survey a new spot on your property for hunting, a trail camera can help with many outdoor needs!

Recommended For You