Best trail cameras in 2023: top camera traps for wildlife

Product shots of the various best trail cameras on a green background
(Image credit: Future)

The best trail cameras let you capture wildlife shots that would be near-impossible with an ordinary camera. Once they're set up, animals will eventually become acclimated to them and carry on as normal around them.  

Most trail cameras are equipped with night vision as well as no-glow infrared flashes, which can illuminate a scene without animals even realising. And top-end models can even connect to cellular or mobile networks, making it easier for you to get images and videos from them without having to go near the camera. 

We've gathered together a selection of the best wildlife trail cameras at a range of prices. Also see our guide to the best memory cards for recording your footage. And if you want a more conventional wildlife setup, then try our guides to the best cameras for wildlife photography and best cameras overall may prove helpful. 

The best trail cameras available now

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How do I choose the best trail camera?

Far from basic point-and-shoot cameras (though there are certainly models that do just this) the more reputable trail camera manufacturers offer devices that come in all shapes and sizes. Making a conscious decision about which features you'll need and others you can live without will stand users in good stead for purchasing the right device. Still image and video resolution (including video frame rate) is important, but so too is cellular connectivity so that you can view or record from remote locations. Good night sight or a dedicated night-time image sensor is essential for capturing subjects in the dark, but some cameras come with an undetectable infrared option, too.

If visiting the location is difficult or likely to disturb shy subjects then solar panels can help prevent the need for battery changes, as they sport rechargeable lithium ions. Strong camouflage or plain earth tones also help trail cameras go undetected by wildlife subjects and security threats if using the camera for this purpose. 

Composition can be tricky when setting up a wildlife camera, so if that's important then consider a unit with an LCD built-in so that you can line up the device before leaving the area. Weather sealing and durable construction are also important, as are operation temperature ranges if you're planning on using it somewhere extreme.

How to prepare a trail camera

First, you'll need to scent-proof the camera by washing it with water or a field wipe. Some sources suggest leaving it outside for a week before use to completely eliminate odour to ensure it isn't off-putting to wildlife. 

Cheap batteries could leave you disappointed as they may not last, so invest in good-quality ones. Some trail cameras have their own rechargeable battery; if yours does, make sure it's well-charged the night before you plan to use it. Other trail cameras use simple batteries like AA or AAA; if so, make sure you have plenty to hand, ideally rechargeable ones to cut down on waste. 

Finally, research which camera mode you want to use. Outdoor Life recommends a "three picture burst with a 15-second delay" as it allows for more chance of getting the perfect shot. 

Where to install your trail camera

Choose a place that attracts wildlife, be that a field, a wooded area or similar depending on what kind of animal you want to photograph. You want to find somewhere animals feel secure enough to congregate, like corners, water or field edges. 

Assess animal behaviour when making your choice, food and water sources are reliable as are the corridors leading up to them. Having multiple cameras set up could help you find the best place, so don't be afraid to experiment.

How to mount your trail camera

First, you may need to buy a mount. The brand that makes your camera may have its own option, or there are many others (see a selection of mounts here).

Mount your camera on something rigid – a fence, post, tree or metal stake work well since they won't move around if disturbed. Make sure there are no stray bits of vegetation that could set off your camera unnecessarily by waving around. Finally, be aware of where the sun is rising/setting to avoid a washed-out picture.

Are trail cameras good for home security?

Absolutely – everything that makes a trail camera great for spotting a reclusive deer can also make it highly suitable for home security. The fact that trail cameras are designed to be left outdoors means you can mount one outside your home, and rely on the motion trigger to let you know when someone (or something) enters the camera's field of view.

If you're looking to use a trail camera for home security, then we'd say get one with at least HD resolution so you can clearly see what's happening. You also might want to consider getting a camera with cellular capability, so that you can get an instant alert on your phone when the camera detects movement. 

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Jason Parnell-Brookes

Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer, educator and writer. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and works with many high profile international clients. For Creative Bloq, he writes about cameras, photography and video and photo editing. 

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