Whether a tree falling in the forest makes a sound if no one is present to hear it has generated philosophical debate for centuries. While a literal answer may somewhat miss the point, using a trail camera to record the action could offer a valid and unique viewpoint. However, the best trail cameras aren’t just handy for solving age-old problems; these person-independent cameras can be used to record all kinds of forest goings on, whether it be wildlife, people or general surveillance.
There’s no shortage of outdoor gear out there to help you traverse rough and rugged parts of the wilderness. From night vision goggles and magnetic compasses to binoculars and trekking poles, there’s no need to go into the wild unprepared for the task. As humans with advanced technology and centuries of experience contending with the natural world, there are few places we can’t physically get to on this planet. However, as a person can’t be in every place at the same time, using a trail camera to capture every action in nature seems like a smart idea. And that’s why we turn to trail cameras.
Instead of being physically present and spending your whole day in exhausting, potentially dull or life-threatening conditions, trail cameras take your place and record all moments, big and small, in the natural world. Sure, we all love up-close-and-personal footage with nature’s most intimidating beasts, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth potentially sacrificing someone’s life for that shot. The best trail cameras are also tough and rugged, and with a bit of practice, they can easily record the footage you want — from a nesting bird to a hungry jaguar on the prowl.
What to Consider Before Buying a Trail Camera
When it comes to finding the best camera for your individual needs, several factors are worth considering. These include:
Image Quality: While more megapixels don’t guarantee better image quality, it can be a general guide on how good the internal camera is. So as a general (but slightly loose) rule, the more megapixels, the better quality you can expect. Our list features devices with cameras ranging from 12 to 48 megapixels.
Video Quality: Another important factor regarding the content your device delivers is its video quality capability. All devices on our list are at least capable of 720p video. If you’re looking for higher quality video, choose a trail camera with 4K capability.
Battery Life: Your battery life requirements greatly depend on the task you need a trail camera for. If you intend to leave your camera in place for weeks or months at a time, you’ll want to consider a camera with a longer battery life. Otherwise, if you only want to keep it out for a few days or overnight, any device on our list will do the job. In addition, it’s worth mentioning that most devices use AA batteries instead of rechargeable lithium batteries, making it a lot easier to change them quickly and easily, especially if you’re out in the field.
Nighttime Performance: If you’re mainly looking to observe nocturnal animals, it’s worth favoring a device with a focus on nighttime recording. Search out devices with more infrared LEDs or a more powerful flash function.
Trigger Speed: A faster trigger speed may make the difference if you’re trying to observe fast-moving animals. Typically, devices offer a trigger speed of 0.5-0.1 seconds, so if you’re targeting skittish or speedy wildlife, you may want to opt for the 0.1 side of the scale.
Max Card Capacity: If you’d rather avoid regularly switching out micro SD/SD cards when they’re full, ensure you choose a device with a larger card capacity. Most devices come with/accommodate 32GB cards. But, some can house 512GB cards, although the card itself will need to be purchased separately.
Connectivity: If being able to review footage and images wirelessly or have your trail camera send images to your smartphone sounds appealing, be sure you choose a device with wireless connectivity. Some devices offer local Bluetooth connectivity, ideal for users who want to avoid constantly opening and closing the camera. Alternatively, the best cellular trail cameras can send footage to your smartphone via a built-in cellular connection. Check out SPY’s top picks below.
How Do Trail Cameras Work?
Trail cameras were designed to have the longest battery life possible. This often meant sacrificing video or image quality. Thankfully, as technology has improved, cameras have managed to strike a balance between high-quality footage and long-lasting battery life. The best trail cameras now use motion or sound sensors and only turn on when an animal, person or other moving thing sets off the relevant sensors. This action-dependent recording helps prevent hours of dead, useless footage. Trail cameras also vary in quality, price and functionality. This is why we’ve included a wide variety on our list.
Whether you’re a wildlife researcher needing dependable equipment or an environmental enthusiast looking to take your hobby to the next level, these are the best trail cameras for capturing everything in 2022. From high megapixel sensors to rugged constructions and fast trigger speeds to night vision, we have devices for every trail camera need and budget.
1. Vikeri 1520P Hunting Trail Camera
This trail cam from Vikeri is designed to capture 1520P HD images with vibrant 20MP resolution and clear audio, even during the dark of night. It has a built-in, 2.4-inch LCD screen for viewing playback in the moment and is IP66 waterproof with a heavy-duty case over it for protection in all conditions. The probe lens has a seal that is rain-proof, drop-proof, and dust-proof and made to work just as effectively in a rainforest, desert or forest. The trigger speed is 0.2 seconds, and distance is within 25 meters or about 80 feet. The angle lens is 120-degree wide, so you get a broad view of the animal and its surroundings, and it’s super easy to install.
2. GardePro A3 Trail Camera
This is another high-quality trail camera available at a reasonable price. It comes with a large, premium-aperture lens with super high sensitivity to movement, even in low light. The camera has a blur reduction algorithm, so colors and shapes always come through, even more evident in darkness. And video recordings come in 1080p with 30 frames per second. The videos are converted to small file sizes, which use up to 80% less storage than other cameras so that you can capture more on each memory card, and the motion detection has a speed of 0.1 seconds. The camera is straightforward to operate and accepts SD cards up to 128GB. Additionally, it comes with great features like time-lapse and loop recording, has a standby time up to eight months and is supplied with a fully waterproof case.
3. Bushnell Trophy Cam Trail Camera
BEST FOR RESEARCH
This wireless wildlife trail camera comes with a higher price tag and several more advanced features that could be worth your while if you can afford it. It accepts up to a 32GB memory card and has a 0.3-second trigger speed with 16MP image resolution. It’s got a 100-foot detection and illumination range and a low-glow LED night vision to flash for capturing images and video at night. It’s built with fast image recovery so that the camera can capture more pictures in a shorter time and has dynamic video capabilities. It can record 720p video for up to 30 seconds and has a 1-year battery life while taking 35 nighttime and 35 daytime images per 24-hour period. Each image also captures the moon phase, date, time, temperature and other key metrics for biological research.
4. Meidase P60 Trail Camera
FOR NOCTURNAL GAME
If you’re looking to capture general activity or wildlife during the night, you may want to consider this Meidase P60 Trail Camera. Updated for 2022, this device includes a f/1.6 lens with a 70-degree field of view. It’s capable of producing 32MP images and capturing bursts up to five images at a time, and it has a 0.1-second trigger speed. During low-light conditions, 36 high-performance IR LEDs allow the camera to capture objects up to 100 feet away. In addition, the device records sound and has space for a Micro SD card up to 512GB in size. This wireless trail camera can capture video in .MP4 and .MOV formats, making it a versatile option. For iPhone users, the ability to record in .MOV is a definite plus.
5. Wildgame Innovations Terra Extreme Trail Camera
They’ve packed a ton of functionality into this small, affordable trail camera from Wildgame Innovations. It boasts a 14-megapixel camera, a built-in infrared flash range, and a detection range of 65 feet. It also features 21 high-intensity infrared LEDs for capturing video and images without spooking animals and has an energy-efficient design. You’ll also find bungee cords for attaching the camera to a tree or a post. Plus, it has enough capacity for a 32GB SD card, not as much memory as other cameras, but still enough for the average user.
6. Hawkray Trail Camera
MINI TRAIL CAMERA
If you’re short of storage space or want something on the smaller side of the scale, consider this Hawkray Trail Camera. The palm-sized device is IP65 rated and ready for adventure. It also features a 0.2-second trigger time and 120-degree wide-angle field of view to ensure you capture any animal, person or thing which passes through. The camera is also supplied with the required batteries and a 32GB micro SD card. Plus, it comes backed by more than 700 five-star ratings from Amazon users.
7. SESERN Trail Camera
The SESERN Trail Camera is a 2022 upgrade that offers an impressive balance of high-quality features, durability and a great value price tag. Its 120-degree, the wide-angle lens produces 20MP pictures and 2.7K video. The IP66-rated device also comes supplied with the necessary batteries and a 32GB microSD card. It features a 20-meter trigger distance and has a two-inch pioneering LCD screen for easy media reviewing. Additionally, 48 no-glow Infrared LEDs produce impressive nighttime abilities. At the same time, green, dark green and brown colors ensure there’s an option to turn your choice into a stealth cam in any environment.
8. Meidase S3 Trail Camera
With its ultra-fast, 0.1-second trigger speed, ability to capture 1080p video and 20MP images and adventure-ready, IP66-rated weatherproof construction, this Meidase S3 Trail Camera ticks all the right boxes. The well-endowed camera also sports a 2.31-inch color screen, making reviewing your images and videos easy and convenient. The device’s 82-feet motion detection distance and short 0.5-second recovery time add to its feature-filled design. Plus, 36 high-performance infrared LEDs deliver noteworthy nighttime performance.
9. Meidase P50 Trail Camera
MOST USER FRIENDLY
The Meidase P50 Trail Camera is another option that has been updated for 2022. This gives the camera impressive specs which deliver quality content for a budget-friendly price. The hardy device can be used in temperatures between -4 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit and during daytime and nighttime conditions. A built-in 2.31-inch color screen and user-friendly menu make it easy to take advantage of all the camera’s features, including the strip, loop Recording and time-lapse functions. Plus, the 100-feet night vision capabilities and 0.1-second trigger speed ensure you won’t miss any of the action.
10. Xtellar Trail Camera
BEST FOR TIMELAPSE
This Xtellar Trail Camera allows users to capture 24MP static images, full HD 1080P videos, and time lapses at specified intervals. A CMOS sensor and premium F1.6 aperture lens deliver outstanding results across a 120-degree motion detecting range. 36 no-glow 940nm LEDs can function as an infrared flash when it’s dark, illuminating distances up to 82 feet, while three PIR sensors deliver a trigger time of 0.1 seconds. Furthermore, the camera is compatible with solar panels and external power sources, functions in temperatures between -4 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit and comes in either camo brown or camo green.
11. SPYPOINT FORCE-20 Trail Camera
SD CARD INCLUDED
This isn’t your regular trail camera; it comes with a bunch of features, including an A.I. solution that analyzes your trail photos by the species and gender of the animal. It’s made to maximize the efficiency of your footage and the technology itself. It also comes with 20MP picture quality, 48 power LEDs, an 80-feet flash and 70-fee detection range. It’s a 0.7s trigger speed, notably slower than other cameras, but can take color photos and comes with multi-shot and time-lapse modes. Furthermore, it’s supplied with its own 16GB SD card and has an ultra-compact design for blending in with the surroundings.
12. VANBAR Trail Camera
With its ability to capture 48MP pictures and ultra HD 4K video, this VANBAR Trail Camera is all about quality content. The advanced device can capture color media during the day and black and white during nighttime periods. It also sports a 2.4-inch LCD screen and built-in Bluetooth functionality to offer users a range of ways to preview or watch pictures and videos live and adjust the camera’s settings. The camera can also detect movement within a 120-degree range, has 40 non-glow infrared LEDs and features a trigger distance of up to 30 meters (22 meters at night) to deliver an all-around user experience that is hard to beat.
13. Generic Solar Powered Trail Camera
A solar-powered Generic Trail Camera makes so much sense and nearly eliminates the concern over losing power during the critical moments you want to capture. This one comes with a 4400mAh solar pack which can keep your camera running day and night. The camera captures 36MP images and 4K video with clear sound quality. The camera has an ultra-fast trigger speed of 0.1 seconds to ensure you never miss a beat. The sensing angle is 120 degrees, letting you capture wide-angle images and motion. For added convenience, it’s possible to use the accompanying app and local connection to preview and download stored pictures and videos. It’s built to withstand extreme weather conditions and is IP66 waterproof, dustproof and shockproof. Furthermore, it comes with a mounting bracket for quick and easy installation.
14. Bushnell CORE Trail Camera
LONGEST BATTERY LIFE
This trail camera from Bushnell has a battery life of a whole year. It also features a 0.2s trigger speed, a 0.6s recovery rate and an 80-feet No-Glow infrared night range. It takes 30MP images so your animal kingdom footage will be as clear as possible and offers 1080p 60fps video. It comes in a durable, rugged casing made to withstand the elements and accepts up to a 32GB SD Card, so you’ll have plenty of memory to work with.
The Best Cellular Trail Cameras
Opting for one of the best cellular trail cameras allows you to receive live updates and access to your images and footage without having to be nearby. This offers a whole new level of convenience for hunters, researchers and anyone looking for a hassle-free way to keep tabs on what’s happening in remote locations (cellular service permitting). Here are our picks for the best cellular trail cams.
1. Yellowstone.ai 4G LTE Wireless Cellular Trail Camera
The Yellowstone.ai 4G LTE Wireless Cellular Trail Camera can deliver 12MP pictures and 1080p full HD video. It’s also available in wide or narrow lens models and compatible with other power banks and solar panels to extend battery life in the field. The accompanying Command Center Mobile app allows users to perform various functions remotely, including viewing and deleting images, adjusting camera settings, receiving alerts and monitoring battery life and cellular signal levels. Furthermore, it’s compatible with any smartphone, tablet or computer which can access the app and comes with a 32GB SD card and a mounting strap.
2. SPYPOINT LINK-MICRO-LTE Cellular Trail Camera
BEST BUDGET CELLULAR CAM
At under $80, this SPYPOINT LINK-MICRO-LTE Cellular Trail Camera is a great option for anyone on a budget. The device can capture 10MP pictures with a trigger speed of 0.5 seconds. Users can also choose from a wide range of SPYPOINT service plans, while the SPYPOINT mobile app lets you receive full HD images direct to your phone. In addition, four infrared LEDs give this camera an 80 feet flash range, matching the 80 feet direction range the camera enjoys.