Trail cameras are a great investment for hunters because they allow them to know when and where the game travels at any time. They also make it easier than ever to track the movements of specific animals, such as the elusive 12-pointer that’s been seen on your property but can never be found when it matters most. Of course, this technology also gives property owners of all stripes added security in knowing who or what is active on their property.
Due to the wide variety of trail cameras available on the market today, finding one that’s perfect for your unique needs can be a little tricky. We made this guide to provide you with all of the information you need to help you make an informed choice and end up with a trail camera that you can cherish for years to come.
Why buy a trail camera?
Hunters typically employ trail cameras to record and track animals that are active on their property. Finding out when and where specific animals tend to be active makes hunting specific prey much easier. However, discreet trail cameras can be great tools for property surveillance and can provide you with video evidence that reveals a vandal or burglar’s identity.
What should you consider in a trail camera?
- Durability: Your trail camera will be exposed to the elements, so finding a model with a rugged, all-weather design is imperative. Additionally, if you live in an area that experiences extreme heat or intense cold spells (or both), be sure that the trail camera is rated to operate effectively in your area’s climate.
- Photo/Video Quality: Megapixel count and video resolution are two other factors to think about. However, high-quality photos and videos will fill up your memory card faster than a deer darting through the woods, so finding a nice balance between quality and quantity might be your best bet. Many models also offer adjustable quality options, making striking the right balance between quality and storage space easier than ever.
- Night Vision Quality: In the world of trail cameras, most of the action occurs at night as nocturnal animals galivant around your property under cover of darkness. Thus, quality night vision is imperative. No-glow LED options are ideal, as they’re harder for animals to detect. Either way, be sure that your trail camera’s night vision range and quality are ideal for your needs and space.
What is an ideal trigger speed for a trail camera?
While this question is sure to generate some debate, many agree that a trigger speed in the vicinity of 0.25 seconds gives you the best chance to capture amazing photos of animals in motion. Veer too close to a trigger speed of 0.5 seconds (or beyond), and you’re likely to miss a lot of quality shots, especially if the trigger sensitivity is also lacking.
Browning Strike Force Extreme 16 MP Trail Camera Kits
This trail camera is as durable as they come and features photo and video quality that make it great for a wide range of applications.
Pros: This trail camera does well to minimize blurring when taking photos and features the same durable, all-weather construction that Browning trail cameras are known for. Additionally, it’s simple to set up and captures beautiful 1280 x 720 HD video clips that look equally impressive whether they’re taken during the day or in the dead of night.
Cons: While it’s nice that this trail camera’s 0.4- to 0.7-second trigger speed is adjustable, 0.4 seconds might leave something to be desired when your camera attempts to photograph an animal during a full sprint. So, while it definitely takes quality photos, expect some shots of a deer’s hind legs to be thrown into the mix every now and then.
Bottom Line: In terms of dependability and ruggedness, this is a trail camera that can’t be topped. Its photo and video capabilities also impress, but there are more technically sophisticated options out there with better night vision, trigger speed, and so on. However, if you’re looking for a trail camera that’s easy to use out of the box and dependable for a wide variety of applications, this one is a great pick.
GardePro A3 Trail Camera
This trail camera impresses with its lightning-quick trigger speed and 20MP photos. It's also incredibly easy to set up for beginner trail camera users.
Pros: If you’re on a budget, the GardePro A3 Trail Camera gives you the best performance for the price, hands-down. From its insanely fast trigger speed to its lush HD videos, this trail camera offers the performance of a trail camera at double the price. It also scores points for its no-glow IR night vision, which does well to capture amazing shots without spooking the photo subjects.
Cons: While the night vision impresses at fairly close range, it’s much less effective over longer distances. Thus, don’t expect any crystal-clear nighttime shots from 80 feet away. Additionally, since this trail camera takes eight AA batteries, its battery life won’t compare to other models that can house 12 batteries at once.
Bottom Line: This budget-friendly trail camera goes above and beyond in some regards (such as its trigger speed and close-up nighttime shots), but falters under the more advanced applications. However, if you’re seeking a cheap, dependable trail camera to test the waters before putting down a more sizable investment, this one is dependable and user-friendly enough for the job.
Cuddeback H-1453 20MP Trail Camera
Featuring a long battery life and a flash range that exceeds all expectations, this trail camera is the undisputed king of night vision photos.
Pros: Sporting powerful LEDs and a flash range that outdoes the other products in this guide, this Cuddeback trail cam is the undisputed king of nighttime photos. It also scores points for being user-friendly (It’s effortless to set up and dismount.), and its 20MP camera is able to capture an amazing amount of detail at a distance.
Cons: While this trail camera excels with photos, its 480p video resolution is below par, even when compared to more budget-friendly options. Additionally, its LEDs do leave a faint glow, so while they’re amazing in terms of performance, they might leave seasoned deer skeptical about wandering near your trail camera.
Bottom Line: For people who are primarily interested in a trail camera’s photographic capabilities, this one is top of the line. It also sports a 0.25-second trigger speed that’s quick enough to ensure that you’re capturing quality shots. However, for people who are looking for high-quality video or a stealthy trail cam that remains invisible to wildlife, there are better options at this price point to consider.
Covert WC Series LTE Cellular Trail Camera
This trail camera packages some great features (such as shot burst mode and 32MP photos) with its intuitive remote control functionality.
Pros: This cellular trail camera offers you the convenience of instant photo sending and allows you to access your trail camera remotely via your cellular network, making it ideal for people who lack mobility or time to frequently check their trail cam. Despite the added functionality, it’s also incredibly easy to set up and use, so even non-tech-savvy folks can easily operate it. It also scores high marks for its long battery life and feature-rich design.
Cons: While its 0.4-second trigger speed is nothing to balk at, it’s slightly below the standard that other trail cameras have set at its price point. Additionally, the cellular network functionality comes with a monthly cost, so this trail camera can be deceptively pricey after years of use.
Bottom Line: Compared to similarly priced cellular trail cameras, this one offers the best in terms of quality. From its 32MP photos to its crystal-clear 1080p videos, this trail camera leaves nothing to be desired. Its cellular network functionality is also top-notch but can be a deal-breaker for people who like to limit the number of monthly charges they see on their bank statements.
WingHome Trail Camera
This trail camera sports customizable sensitivity modes and quality settings so that you can maximize storage space and optimize photos and videos.
Pros: Despite its budget-friendly price tag, the WingHome Trail Camera sports some stellar functionality that pricier models lack, including a nifty time-lapse mode. It also allows you to adjust the trigger sensitivity, photo quality, and nighttime shooting settings. The controls are intuitive enough for even inexperienced trail cam users to optimize the end product to their liking.
Cons: This trail camera’s 65-foot detection range isn’t ideal for large, open spaces, so expect to miss out on a lot of quality shots if you’re setting up your trail camera in a less-than-ideal spot. Additionally, although this trail camera takes 12 AA batteries, its battery life is nothing special compared to some other models.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for something inexpensive and customizable that’s a joy to play around with, then you’ve found the perfect product. However, it does get easily bested by pricier trail cameras in terms of photo and video quality, especially when operating from a distance.
When looking for a great trail camera, it’s incredibly important to closely consider the most important factors to you. While budget-friendly models often allow for stellar photos and videos, they usually lack the user-friendly functionality that makes pricier models so attractive. Conversely, while more expensive models offer added durability and impressive specs and functions, it’s important to ask yourself whether that’s truly worth the extra money. By focusing more on your needs than your wants, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to find the perfect trail camera.