Gear We Use: Best Trail Cameras

Gear We Use: Best Trail Cameras

Trail cam technology has come a long way since the tripwires of the 80s.

While early models could only record a single event per setup, modern cellular cameras can transmit hundreds of images and videos to help hunters take inventory of herds from across the country.

What We Look for in a Good Trail Camera

We’ve put dozens of different trail cameras through the paces over the years. Some spat out indiscernible images, and others failed to take any photos at all. But the trail cameras we continue to keep in our toolbelt all have a few things in common.

  1. Speed
  2. Image Quality
  3. Battery Life
  4. User-Friendly Features

We’re looking for a quality camera that can capture crisp photos quickly, ride out many months without a battery or card swap, and make management a breeze.

The Trail Cameras We Use

The MeatEater crew has hung these trail cameras in whitetail woods throughout the country, and they’ve been reliable scouting tools.

What Makes a Good Trail Camera

Whether you want a premium cellular camera with all the bells and whistles or a standard model that simply gets the job done, any trail camera worth its salt will measure up based on the following criteria.

1. Speed

If you only end up with single photos of deer backends, your trail camera probably doesn’t have adequate trigger speed or recovery time. The best trail cameras will capture a photo almost immediately after detecting movement—ideally within a half-second—and be capable of taking the next photo within another second or two. Fast transmission times in cellular cameras can also provide real-time data to help you determine exactly what time of day deer are moving by your stand.

2. Image Quality

Rather than taking grainy, blurry images, a good trail camera should provide crisp photos and videos without clogging up memory with huge file sizes. A lot of the action will occur after dark, so cameras equipped with black or IR flash and considerable night detection range are best.

3. Battery Life

The less you disturb your hunting areas, the better. But even if you opt for a cellular camera, you could be stuck traipsing past your stand to replace batteries on a regular basis—and cold weather can kill them even faster. A good trail camera will offer several months of battery life, often with the help of lithium batteries, the option to double up on batteries, external power sources such as solar panels, or optimized settings. The ability to check battery level remotely is helpful too.

4. User-Friendly Features

You shouldn’t have to be super tech savvy to set up a trail camera. The best trail cameras will offer an intuitive quick-start process and make it easy to adjust settings on the fly. Mobile apps can simplify—or further complicate—these processes when paired with cellular cameras. A worthwhile one will allow you to tweak settings, check battery level, and manage photos and videos quickly and easily.

Field notes from the MeatEater Crew

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