This is another guest article by Michael Pahl!
When I first started running trail cameras several years ago, I lugged around a grocery bag of batteries and a cardboard box of cameras. You’d find things in the grocery bag like random mixes of Duracell and Energizer AAs, and things in the cardboard box like the classic Moultrie M80 and some old WGI cams. It made hitting the woods to pull cards a little awkward but overall did the trick. Luckily, I only had a handful of cameras to manage back then and was still able to capture some target animals, like this cool smoke phase hen.
Times have changed and so has the quantity of cameras I’m using, as well as the quality of pictures I’m getting. The gear I use to help get the best out of all my inventory is more important now than ever before. This guide is intended to serve as insight into 6 essential gadgets every trail cam enthusiast should consider.
1. A level. Any level that’s small and light will do the trick.
Very few things pain me more than seeing a perfectly good trail camera picture ruined by being unlevel. I see it all the time, but there’s much more to it than deleting an otherwise postcard-worthy picture. Many people don’t realize a level trail camera works better than one that’s unlevel. That’s because the sensor on trail cameras (Passive Infrared or PIR) works by extending a cone-shaped detection zone outward from the camera. When your camera has a heavy tilt one way or another, it can miss detections that would normally be well within its detection zone. This is why trail camera height is also important. The picture below would have likely triggered on the buck to the right much sooner had a pesky raccoon not chosen to interfere the day before.
2. Slate River Stealth Game Camera Mount
What good is a level going to do you when the perfect place to hang your camera is a tree sloped at a 60-degree angle? That’s where these little slate river mounts come in handy. No matter where or what you are mounting your cameras to, you can get a good position with the nearly unlimited adjustments offered by these mounts. I always carry one with me in the field and I have never had an issue with any of them not holding up over time. The only downside here is they do tend to make a camera more visible to thieves, so keep that in mind.
3. Extra SD cards, SD Card Holders, and SD Card Smart Phone Readers
I always carry two SD card holders with me. One for freshly pulled cards full of pictures and one with blanks ready to go. It only took mixing these up once to learn my lesson. SD card holders help organize, protect, and store your cards. With the trend in the market towards high-quality video, SD cards are getting larger in capacity and therefore more expensive, so SD card storage is becoming more important. I carry a small SD card smartphone reader on me during hunting season. I’ll often pull a card before a hunt and flip through it in the stand. It can get your heart pumping when you flip through a card and come across something like this, especially when its 10 degrees out and motivation is plummeting. These are also really handy when testing a new spot out. You can set your camera, walk down the trail, and check the pictures quickly to confirm your height and angle.
4. Permethrin spray or aerosol.
I brought home one of my Moultrie S50i cameras a few weeks ago because it wasn’t working all that well. I pushed the eject button on the camera while sitting in my living room only to send the battery tray and 10 trillion baby spiders flying out and onto the floor. The wife was not happy to say the least. I nearly retired my camera obsession right then and there. So, here’s where the permethrin comes in; it kills ants and spiders on contact. Simply spray a small amount onto a paper towel and wipe down the outside of the camera and let it dry. Be sure to get areas of the camera typically used by ants like the rubber plug over the 12v power connection as well as around the battery tray. Use some latex gloves while doing this as permethrin is not designed for human skin contact. It’s completely odorless and deer and other animals don’t seem to pay it any extra attention.
It’s a sad state of things when you need to worry about Lyme’s Disease every time you trot through the woods. Lyme’s is extremely serious and needs to be taken seriously, especially if you live east of Ohio. A light coat of permethrin on your jeans will kill ticks on contact for 5-6 weeks. Not only that, but it lasts through 6 washes in the washing machine as well. Buy a bottle and save yourself from Lyme’s and your cams from ants at the same time.
5. Lithium and rechargeable batteries.
Everyone knows Energizer Lithium Batteries are the best option for trail cameras. They are lightweight, not susceptible to cold weather, and last a lot longer than other options. Lithium technology is so advanced, we have even gotten to the point where the Reconyx HyperFire 2 can take 70 pics per day and last up to three years! There are a ton of other considerations when thinking about batteries, so we’ve compiled a ton of battery information here for you to further your research.
After I got about 20 cameras (160 batteries), I decided to invest in a cheaper way to fuel my obsession. I invested in quality rechargeable batteries for my SpyPoint EVOs and Link – Dark’s that you can look into here. I get great life out of each charge and if you pick up a spare or two you can simply swap them out once every 2-3 months for a fresh battery. SpyPoint is the best in the business when it comes to battery options as well as being one of the only companies to integrate Solar into their cameras with their Link-S model. I have had the Link-S out in moderate sun for 12 months without changing batteries. Try that out of any other cell cam. In the future, I will invest in more solar options, but the risk of theft increases so keep your equipment locked down.
As an additional measure, I also decided to go with some high capacity (2550mah) rechargeable AAs for the cameras I run close to my house. The upfront cost was a bit daunting but I’m close to breaking even already and its only been two years. High-quality rechargeable batteries provide long life, right in-between Alkaline, and Lithium options, and offer up to 1,000 charges per battery. Pro Tip: If you had a bad experience with rechargeable batteries in the past TRY AGAIN! Stick to name brand batteries like Tenergy Premium and Eneloop Pro. These things have come a long way. Just be sure to use a high capacity version and a good pulse charger. Those two things are essential! Now that I run close to 50 cameras on six different farms across three counties, my battery requirements are nearly 425 AAs per year (~$745)! Being a sucker for video surely doesn’t help, and ultimately, I had no choice but to look into a more cost-effective way of making things work. Do some research and add some diverse power options to your arsenal this year and you’ll be glad you did.
6. A touch of Anti-Fog by Rain-X or Nikon.
A tiny bit goes a long way, but several companies out there offer anti-fog solutions. The two I’ve used come from rain-x and Nikon. In short, they work by prohibiting condensation on the lens, which means clearer pictures. Some cameras have a much harder time with fog than others, and some locations and times of the year are especially tough but using a bit of anti-fog can really help.
The good news…
Camera equipment adds up to be a lot of money quickly, doesn’t it? Especially for those of us die-hards. But there’s good news. Did you know TrailCamPro sells package deals with the vast majority of cameras we offer? Each basic package comes with Lithium Batteries, a Slate River Mount, SD Card Reader, and an SD Card. Premium packages come with two SD cards, a security case and python lock, Lithium Batteries, and SD Card reader. A premium package covers items from three of the six categories above plus anti-theft measures. These deals help you gear up in one place and save the most money possible.
The Better news…
TrailCamPro recently launched our own loyalty rewards program. Just signing up gives you 1,000 TCP points which turn out to be $10 off your first purchase. You earn points for every dollar spent on TrailCamPro.com and each 100 points turns into 1$ of TCP savings. But it gets better…. Silver and Gold tier rewards customers get 25-50% off Energizer Lithium and Tenergy rechargeable batteries. That amounts to a huge savings year after year for enthusiasts like me. As a bonus perk, UPS 2nd Day Air shipping is deeply discounted for Silver members and free to all Gold members. You can view all the details on the Rewards Program page.
Thanks for checking out the blog post and good luck this year!