I started filming wildlife with trail cameras last year. And I love that they sit ready to capture footage day and night. But if the batteries fail then it’s dead. And you might not even know that the batteries died unless you’re regularly checking your camera. How long do trail camera batteries last?
Trail cameras can shoot 20,000 photos on a set of batteries. And last as long as 8-12 months. Some factors affecting battery life include shooting video, using rechargeable batteries, temperature, night shooting, and trigger delay. Here are 9 ways to get longer battery life in your trail camera.
Average Trail Camera Battery Life
With so many models of cameras with different batteries, coming up with an average is a challenge. Estimating the length of battery life is easier said than done.
Most trail camera users are getting from 5,000 to 30,000 photos on a full charge. This has a huge variance. Sometimes, they’re getting even less than this.
Here are some ranges to consider and first-hand experiences.
- 15,000 to 20,000 photos, lasting 7-8 months ~ Campark
- Some manufacturers even avoid the question altogether. Browning says “One of the hardest things to estimate when speaking in terms of a trail camera is battery life. There are many variables that must be considered.” And they don’t even offer an estimate.
- Sota, a member of BowHunting, says he gets “about 3000 pics on a set of batteries” with his Browning trail camera.
- Another bowhunter reported using the same 8 lithium batteries for the past 14 months – and getting 300 weekly photos. This amounts to 16,800 photos all on the same set of batteries and still going.
- Right in the user manual, trail camera manufacturers often recommend against using rechargeable (NiMH) batteries, because they don’t last as well as alkaline batteries.
When I first bought my first trail camera, I also ordered a box of rechargeable AA batteries. But right inside the user manual, it says that alkaline batteries are preferred over NiMH.
So I bought a large box of alkaline batteries and was good to go.
How Long Do Trail Camera Batteries Last With Video?
How much video can trail camera batteries shoot? This is an almost impossible question. It depends on video resolution, temperature, lighting conditions, and battery type.
For example, if an animal hangs out in front of your camera for an afternoon, it would probably fill your SD card with video footage. And once your card is full, battery life doesn’t matter. Many trail cameras accept a maximum size of 32GB SD card.
According to my calculations, a 32GB card will fill with 1080P video in 115 minutes (just under 2 hours). Based on this calculation, you can expect just under two hours of video on one set of batteries. Here’s more about how to calculate that for yourself.
For this reason, you might consider shooting just still images if you can’t regularly check on your game camera.
How to Extend Trail Camera Battery Life: 9 Tips
With the highly variable nature of trail camera battery life, here are some ways to extend the battery life for as long as possible.
- Purchase higher quality batteries such as lithium.
- Avoid rechargeable batteries. They don’t work well in trail cameras because of their low voltage.
- Consider taking lower-resolution photos.
- Consider a longer trigger delay in areas of higher animal traffic.
- Place the camera away from blowing vegetation to avoid unnecessary trigger delay.
- Avoid taking videos or using any other special features that drain the battery
- Avoid placing the trail camera out in extreme temperatures, especially cold.
- Consider a higher-quality camera
- Consider attaching solar panels or an external battery to your camera to extend the shooting life
7 Factors Affecting Battery Life
Here are seven factors that can influence the life of your trail camera batteries.
1. Type of Battery
Different cameras will require different batteries, but of those, there are many variables. For instance, whether the battery is alkaline or lithium-based will impact its performance over time.
Lithium batteries last about three times longer than Alkaline batteries. Alkaline batteries may yield fewer photos overall because they’re less resistant to the cold. The benefit is that alkaline batteries are cheaper.
Then there are nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries. Even though these last significantly longer than most alkaline batteries, they will not usually outperform lithium batteries over a long period. Typically, they will last about half as long or less in some instances.
Lithium batteries last longer and are somewhat resistant to rougher environments but are more expensive.
Lithium vs Alkaline vs NiMH: Best Battery for Trail Cameras
Alkaline vs NiMH vs Lithium Battery: Alkaline batteries are standard, single-use batteries. NiMH is the standard rechargeable battery. And lithium is the longest-lasting option of the three.
Can I Use Rechargeable (NiMH) Batteries in a Trail Camera?
It is a bad idea to use rechargeable batteries in your trail camera. Rechargeable AA batteries have 1.2V. Standard alkaline batteries have 1.5V. This voltage differential will provide disappointing results.
Want to view your footage on a larger screen? Here’s how to connect your trail camera to a computer.
2. Mode of Operation: Video vs Photo
The exact settings for the camera will be important, but specific to your goals. Generally speaking, higher-resolution photos may drain the battery quickly. Likewise, any special features like glare reduction may take a toll.
If you only need data and are not making a wildlife documentary, consider how clear the resolution must be.
3. Trigger Delay
Trigger delay is one of the biggest drains on the power when taking pictures. This comes from the frequent turning on and off again. Having a trigger delay that is too short, under thirty seconds or even a minute, can waste precious battery life.
How often you expect the sensor to pick up movement will influence this. In an area with lots of wildlife walking by, the battery life will be spared by having a longer trigger delay. The only time to have a short one is if you expect infrequent animal traffic.
Ensure that the camera won’t only pick up movements in vegetation too, as this wastes resources.
Here’s more about how to program a trail camera.
4. Flash and Night Mode
Not only will the number of photos taken affect battery length, but any special features at play will compound the battery drain.
Night vision and LED lights require more power and different settings for the sensor.
Batteries in most types of electrical gear are affected by the outside temperature. Given that a trail camera needs to be outside in various climates and weather conditions, this is a significant variable in estimating the battery’s life.
Leaving the camera out in the cold can drain the batteries. No batteries fare well in the cold. In freezing temperatures, lithium batteries are a better choice. Still, they will only operate a fraction of the time they would in milder climates.
Similarly, putting the camera in direct sunlight for prolonged periods can shorten the functional life of the device, and might damage the battery.
6. Type of Camera
The type of camera can also influence how long camera batteries last. A bigger, heavier trail camera with more features to protect against natural elements will require more power.
Likewise, any protection it will have against water damage, cold, or other environmental factors will help to keep the batteries running as intended.
7. Solar Panels
On some batteries or camera systems, there will be pre-installed solar recharging capabilities. This will naturally increase the length of utility for the camera.
It is also possible to buy a solar panel designed specifically for trail cameras if one is not included with the camera.
In this case, you will need to ensure you have enough storage on the camera for the amount of time you plan to leave the trail camera out.
What if your game camera is glitching? Here’s how to fix a trail camera that won’t turn on.
Here’s how to hide your trail camera from humans and prevent theft.
When considering the best trail camera and battery type for you, it is important to factor in these variables so that you can be sure you get the longest charge possible. Forums are the perfect place to share your expertise and learn from others as well.
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and blogger on GudGear – and is working to make it the best resource for outdoor gear and guides.
He loves the outdoors and has hiked the Andes, kayaked the Galapagos, and biked and camped around Nova Scotia, Canada.
He is a travel blogger at Storyteller Travel and blogs about photography at Storyteller Tech. He is also co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.
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