If you need an easy way to see what’s going down when you aren’t around, you should consider a trail camera.
Commonly used by hunters and wildlife enthusiasts, game cameras are also quickly becoming a popular choice for home security. They are even used by law enforcement to help catch criminals.
As their popularity has grown, more and more manufacturers are pumping out awesome high-tech remote cameras. With so many options on the market, knowing how to choose the best trail camera for your specific needs can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the technology.
We’ve done the dirty work to help make your job easier. We’ve sifted through hundreds of models to create this informative guide. Whether you’re a hunter, homeowner, or wildlife lover, you can use the information in this article as a springboard to finding the perfect model for you.
If you don't have time for the details, check out the list below for the best rated trail camera:
- 1Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X Covert IR Camera
- 2Bushnell 30MP CORE No Glow Trail Camera
- 3Spypoint Solar Dark Trail Camera
- 4Stealth Cam G42NG
- 5Meidase Trail Camera 16MP 1080P
- 6Browning Strike Force Trail Camera
- 7Moultrie A-40 Pro Game Camera
- 8Wildgame Innovations Terra 10 Extreme Trail Camera
- 9Cuddeback 20 Megapixel IR
- 10Amcrest ATC-1201 12MP
Table of Contents
- What is a Trail Camera?
- Things to Consider When Buying a Trail Camera
- Best Trail Camera on the Market Reviews
- 1 Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X Covert IR Camera
- 2 Bushnell 30MP CORE No Glow Trail Camera
- 3 Spypoint Solar Dark Trail Camera
- 4 Stealth Cam G42NG
- 5 Meidase Trail Camera 16MP 1080P
- 6 Browning Strike Force Trail Camera
- 7 Moultrie A-40 Pro Game Camera
- 8 Wildgame Innovations Terra 10 Extreme Trail Camera
- 9 Cuddeback 20 Megapixel IR
- 10 Amcrest ATC-1201 12MP
- Trail Game Camera Tips and Tricks
- Summing It Up
What is a Trail Camera?
Trail cameras (sometimes called game cameras, remote cameras, or camera traps) are designed to capture images and video from remote locations.
They can save hunters hours of scouting, by providing valuable information about game populations, movement, and feeding patterns.
Nature lovers can use trail cameras to capture truly candid shots of wildlife.
Trail cameras can also be used to enhance the security profile of your property, providing perimeter visibility without using your own eyes.
Things to Consider When Buying a Trail Camera
With so many different types of trail cameras on the market, it can be hard to decide which one will best meet your needs. Knowing which features to look for can help you narrow down the choices and find the models that are worth serious consideration.
Here are some key features to consider in your trail camera search.
The word megapixel literally means “one million pixels”. The term is used in photography to indicate the number of pixels in any given picture. Pixels are the tiny dots that, when put together, create an image.
Typically, the more megapixels there are in an image, the sharper and clearer that image will be. If you intend to use your trail camera for birds or wildlife photography, you will obviously want a model that produces sharp images. If that describes you, look for a trail camera with at least 16 megapixels.
If you are a hunter using a trail camera to scout for game, megapixels are less critical. However, you do need the captured images to be clear enough to identify different animals.
Trigger speed refers to the amount of time it takes for your trail cam to snap a picture after it detects movement. The faster the trigger speed, the more likely your camera is to capture whatever may be moving in front of it. Faster trigger speeds also allow the camera to shoot images in rapid succession.
While trigger speed is important, even the slowest trail cameras have trigger speeds of less than a second. The fastest models can snap pictures at around 0.2 seconds.
The ability to capture images at night (or in very low light) is an essential feature of trail cameras used for hunting or surveillance. Many animals are more active after the sun goes down, so the ability to observe them during peak activity is key to hunting success. For surveillance, capturing and recording activity after dark could help thwart would-be criminals and help keep your property and your family safe.
If you want to capture images without alerting the subject, you’ll need to find a no glow camera with infrared LEDs for best results.
The battery life on a trail camera is important. If your batteries run out unexpectedly, you could miss some important shots. Fortunately, most modern trail cameras use LEDs, so the batteries last fairly long, sometimes up to a year or more even with continuous use.
Some trail cameras feature rechargeable batteries, which can save you some cash in the long run. Others use integrated solar panels to help power the camera.
Field of Vision
Not all trail cameras are created equal. Some will snap wide landscape images while others capture a much narrower field. Some high-end models even have full panoramic imaging features for a full 360-degree view.
A trail camera with a wide field of vision will capture subjects even on the periphery of the camera. The wider the field of vision, the less likely you are to miss capturing a subject on the move or one that slinks just to the side of the camera.
Most trail cameras store photos and video on an internal SD card. In order to view the photos, you’ll need to retrieve the SD card from the device and then download the images to your computer.
If you want to monitor your camera from a remote location (like the comfort of your own home), you’ll need a device with Wi-Fi capabilities. To take advantage of the device’s Wi-Fi capabilities, it will need to be mounted in range of a WI-Fi network. While this works well for most home security cameras, it can prove tricky for hunters who need to place cameras in secluded areas.
Some trail cameras feature viewing screens right on the device. This lets you check your photos without having to haul your SD card all the way home to your computer. However, the viewing screens on most trail cams tend to be small, so seeing photo details can be difficult. Generally speaking, if you want to see details, the larger the viewing screen, the better.
You will also need to choose between models with internal versus external viewing screens. Internal screens are better protected from the weather. However, you have to open the cover to access them. External viewing screens are much easier to access, but are also more easily damaged.
Best Trail Camera on the Market Reviews
If you aren’t sure where to start in your search for a trail camera, check out this list of our top picks.
1 Reconyx HyperFire 2 HF2X Covert IR Camera
With a 0.2-second trigger speed, 100-foot detection range, and a 150-foot flash range, nothing gets by the Reconyx Hyperfire 2 trail cam.
If you plan to primarily use your trail camera for video, this may not be the best tool for the job. Although video quality isn’t this device’s strong point (it only shoots 10-second clips in 720-pixel definition), the photo quality is seriously impressive. Even skilled wildlife photographers will be impressed with the high-definition, 1080-pixel images this trail camera captures. These images are worthy of gracing glossy magazine covers.
The Reconyx HyperFire 2 has an impressive battery life. Users can expect up to two full years with twelve simple AA batteries. Although this trail camera is super durable and definitely built to last, Reconyx still backs it up with a five-year warranty.
2 Bushnell 30MP CORE No Glow Trail Camera
Bushnell specializes in high-quality products for avid outdoorsmen. Their CORE Trail Camera is perfect for hunters looking for a trail camera to scout game. It features two image sensors - one optimized for daylight and one for nighttime. The nighttime sensor captures images with high-contrast clarity at up to 80 feet with its infrared night sensor.
The CORE Trail Camera has an impressive trigger speed and detection range. Capable of capturing almost anything that goes on in the woods, this camera ensures you never miss any of the action.
Images are stored on your own SD card. However, the CORE also has an internal LCD viewing screen, so you can check your captures right in the field.
The device operates on six AA batteries. Battery life lasts up to one full year with constant use. Super durable and covered in camo, the CORE comes with a limited two-year warranty.
3 Spypoint Solar Dark Trail Camera
This high-tech trail camera from Spypoint is packed with high-end features. It has hybrid illumination (no glow and extended range), invisible LEDs, 0.7-second trigger speed, and a two-inch internal screen with both zoom and pan functions just to name a few.
When it comes to detection, the Solar Dark trail camera really delivers. It has a 90-foot flash range and a detection range of up to an amazing 110 feet.
While the range makes this model perfect for home surveillance, it's really built for deer hunting. If you’re after a trophy whitetail, you’ll really love the Buck Tracker technology on this device. This cool feature sorts images by buck, doe, or turkey, so you don’t have to sort through hundreds of images to find that monster.
The Spypoint Solar Dark lets you choose from time-lapse mode, multi-shot mode, or full HD video recording. It even records sound!
As the name implies, the Solar Dark trail camera has an integrated solar panel, for virtually unlimited battery life. However, it also takes six AA batteries, so you never miss a shot, even when the sun isn’t shining.
With all these incredible features, it’s hard to believe this model is priced under $300. That’s a serious bargain price for some serious high-end features.
4 Stealth Cam G42NG
This trail camera from Stealth Cam is a perfect entry-level option for both hunting and home security. Offering incredible value for the money, the Stealth Cam G42NG has a price tag under $100.
The G42NG has a respectable .5-second trigger response, and it captures high-quality 10 megapixel images and up to 180 seconds of video footage. It also has no glow infrared emitters that extend the visibility range to 100 feet, so it captures nighttime images without alerting the subject.
This one sets up fast, features intuitive controls, and has a durable weather-proof housing. As an added bonus, images feature time, date, moon-phase, temperature, and name stamps for easy organization.
5 Meidase Trail Camera 16MP 1080P
If you’re looking for a true budget-priced trail cam, look no further. While the image quality offered by this 16 megapixel trail camera from Meidase probably won’t knock your socks off, the device is dependable, durable, and has a better-than-decent detection range.
The device uses no glow infrared LEDs and high-tech sensors to capture night vision images to 65 feet in total darkness. The Meidase Trail Camera also features a 120 degree viewing range and a .2-second trigger speed, so you never miss any of the action.
The Meidase Trail Camera is weather-proof and operates reliably in a range of temperatures, making it perfect for use in cold weather or mid-summer heat. This means you can use the device for wildlife or surveillance year round and in all kinds of weather.
6 Browning Strike Force Trail Camera
Browning has a hard-earned reputation for producing high-quality hunting gear, and their Strike Force Trail Cam does not disappoint. It has an impressive 0.4 second trigger speed and only needs 0.8 seconds of recovery time between captures. It also features a cutting-edge video processor that records quality HD video clips with sound.
Measuring 4.5" x 3.25" x 2.5", this is one of the smallest trail cameras on our list. With a slim profile and camo-patterned case, this model is virtually undetectable in the woods.
The Strike Force does a great job of capturing nighttime activity. It takes after-dark pictures using Browning’s patented "Zero Blur" technology. “Zero Blur” effectively eliminates motion blur in your pictures, producing clear nighttime images at a range of up to 120 feet.
7 Moultrie A-40 Pro Game Camera
The Moultrie A-40 Pro Game Camera has a 0.7-second trigger speed and captures 14-megapixel resolution images and 720p HD video with sound. With a long-range infrared flash that reaches out to 70 feet, this model really shines after the sun goes down.
The A-40 Pro features intuitive back-lit controls that make the set-up super easy, even in twilight conditions. It runs on eight AA batteries that should provide up to 17,000 images. If you plan to use your game camera in cold weather, you’ll want to swap your AAs out for high-quality lithium batteries to get the best performance.
What we love best about the A-40 Pro is its convenient wireless technology. No more hiking to your camera to pull an SD card. You can actually view images and videos from your iPhone (or other cellular phone) right in the comfort of your own home.
8 Wildgame Innovations Terra 10 Extreme Trail Camera
The Terra 10 Extreme features a 21-piece high-intensity LED Infrared array designed to boost after dark illumination. Even in the darkest conditions, this trail camera captures images of wildlife or nighttime intruders out to 60 feet from the device.
The Terra 10 Extreme works just as well during the day. While the images aren’t sharp enough to feature on a magazine cover, they are detailed enough to show you what’s going on when you’re not there. It even captures up to 30 seconds of video and stamps images with the time, date, and moon phase for easy tracking.
The device comes in a water-resistant housing, so it offers reliable performance in all kinds of weather. Hunters may choose to use several of these highly affordable game cameras to cover a larger area and track the movement of the local whitetail population.
9 Cuddeback 20 Megapixel IR
With a lightning fast 0.25-second trigger speed, the Cuddeback 20 can capture two pictures in the time it takes the competition to capture one.
The picture quality is just as impressive as the trigger speed. You get stunning 20 megapixel color images in daylight, and high-contrast black and white images at night.
The Cuddeback 20 is also compatible with the Cuddelink Cell System. This system allows you to check up to 15 remote cameras from one home camera, and it doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection. Instead, the Cell System relies on a proprietary wireless mesh network that can create a camera-to-camera system that can span up to a quarter mile in dense forest. It can range even further over open terrain.
The camera has easy-to-use controls and a Genius Mount System that allows you to easily slide the camera on and off the tree mount. Surprisingly affordable, the Cuddeback 20 camera itself costs well under $200, and it’s one of the best rated trail cams on the market.
10 Amcrest ATC-1201 12MP
The Amcrest ATC-1201 game camera is a highly affordable model that sports a ton of high-performance specs. It takes crisp 12 megapixel photos and 1080p video. The unit also features 36 infrared LEDs for night vision images out to 65 feet.
With a respectable trigger speed of 0.7 seconds, this device catches all the action and stores it on a 32 GB SD card. However, you can also view your images on the integrated two-inch LCD screen.
For even more versatility, the ATC-1201 comes with a remote control that works from up to 9 yards away. It also comes with a built-in laser pointer! The ATC-1201 runs on AA batteries and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Trail Game Camera Tips and Tricks
Here are a few pro tips to help you get the most out of your new trail camera.
Find the Right Spot
When choosing a spot to mount your trail camera, you will want the device positioned five to ten yards from the target area. Although some trail cams may have a longer detection range, this distance tends to yield the best quality images, no matter which model you’re using.
Positioning your trail camera approximately three to five feet from the ground is sufficient for capturing most animal movement. You may want to hang it slightly higher if you're hoping to capture passing humans. Alternately, you can hang your camera higher and angle it downward to catch activity on the ground.
Make sure you orient the camera so that it doesn’t face directly into the sun. You also want to make sure there are no tree limbs or tall grass in front of the camera that could set off the sensor when the wind gets rough.
Find the Right Settings
Although you may be in a hurry to get your trail camera up and running, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the camera before you set it up.
Take time to set the time, date, and location on the device. You also want to make sure your memory card is formatted for your trail cam.
Most trail cameras allow you to choose between several modes, like single photo, photo bursts, time-lapse, or video. Before you leave your trail camera. Make sure you have selected the desired capture setting.
Don’t Neglect Regular Maintenance
While it’s easy to set your trail camera and then forget it, they do require some general maintenance. Check your cameras regularly so you can switch out batteries when necessary and download and clear memory cards to ensure there is plenty of storage space.
You should also make sure nothing is obstructing your camera. Keep grass and weeds trimmed in front of the device. This will give you clear pictures and also prevent the camera’s sensors from tripping when the conditions are windy.
Also, be sure to wipe down the lenses with a glass or plastic compatible cleaner to ensure you get the clearest images possible.
Keeping Your Camera Secure
Even if you set your trail camera in a remote location, it’s a smart idea to use a cable lock to secure the device to its location. This will keep trespassers from opening or stealing your trail camera should they come across it.
Summing It Up
Whether you’re in need of the best trail camera for scouting game, home security, or wildlife photography, the information in this article should help you on your search. No matter which model you choose, make sure to follow all the directions in your user’s manual to get the best performance from your device. You may be surprised at what your trail camera captures when you’re not around.