Anyone who’s ever used a trail camera knows that one of its biggest frustrations is battery life. All trail cameras need batteries to function, and even efficient energy-efficient versions require anywhere between two to five trips annually to replace them.
The worst thing? Heading out to check your trail camera only to discover dead batteries.
Thankfully, technology has brought us an easy solution: a trail camera solar panel. This setup provides a hands-off way of taking advantage of your device, without the worry that you’re missing out on precious information.
Curious to learn more? Today, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about solar panel trail cameras, including:
- How they work
- What the benefits are
- What to consider before purchasing one
- How to set it up
If you’re ready to never have little heart attacks mid recording session, trail camera solar panels are a must. It takes less than 5 minutes to get used to it, and the money saved will only make you happier. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
How Do Trail Camera Solar Panels Work?
Trail camera solar panels work like any other solar product. The panel has photovoltaic cells that collect and produce solar energy, which is then turned into the electrical currents needed to run the device.
Like the solar panels used on homes, trail camera solar panels use direct current (DC), only there is no need to hook it up to an electricity grid.
While models may vary in design, most solar panels store electrical current inside an internal battery that’s housed within the unit. At night, it pulls energy from this battery to power the camera.
Trail Camera Solar Panel vs. Add-on
Before going any further, it’s essential to understand the different solar panel setups available for your trail camera. There can be a bit of confusion, as some people think that a solar power trail camera and a solar panel add-on are the same, but they’re not.
The former is a solar panel that you attach to your trail camera, which may be a good option in some cases. However, the better choice for most people is a trail camera solar panel–a camera with a built-in solar panel. This article will focus mostly on this kind of device.
Benefits of Using a Solar Panel Trail Camera
Not sure whether a solar panel trail camera is right for you? Here’s why you might want to invest in one.
If sustainability is important to you, choosing a solar-powered camera is a more sustainable option. Batteries require electricity to charge them, whereas all you need to power your solar panel trail camera is the sun.
Even though it’s an investment, these devices are a cost-effective choice in the long term (especially if you would otherwise be paying for regular batteries).
There’s nothing more disappointing than discovering your camera’s batteries are dead and you have no idea how much you’ve missed in the meantime. If you choose a solar-powered camera, you eliminate this problem, as your device will always be charged and ready.
Another reliability aspect that improves is that you won’t have to remember to charge your batteries or change them. Instead, you can focus on more important things and forget about human error.
For some people, rechargeable electric batteries work well for their purposes. And they indeed have their place–but rechargeable batteries are simply not the best choice in the wilderness.
If you plan to access remote locations, you don’t want to have to worry about where to charge these batteries. With solar power, the need for electric connection disappears, thereby granting you unlimited freedom even if you’re completely off the grid.
Our Top Choice Trail Camera With Solar Panel
This Grenova trail camera ticks all of the boxes, with an IP66 waterproof rating, 4K recording, and great night vision. For the price of this smart camera, it’s surprising how much you get for your money.
The trails will never be the same again when you can capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments with your camera.
Setup the trigger motion detector whilst you hunt, or have fun and leave it to work and check the footage later on when you hook it up.
iPhones are great for everyday use, but they are not built for trails.
Potential Drawbacks of a Solar Panel Trail Camera
Like any other device, solar panel trail cameras are not without a few drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the primary problems you might have.
Potential Lack of Sunlight
Wouldn’t it be nice if the sun shone 365 days a year? Unfortunately, sunlight is not a given in some parts of the world, meaning you may not be guaranteed sunlight year-round.
It’s critical to consider what the weather is like where you plan to use your camera–and whether there is enough daylight to power it. Otherwise, your device may be pretty useless.
Footage Quality May Be Hit or Miss
Even the most high-quality trail camera has a significant downside: it only provides passive footage. You record just what the camera sees, with no ability to adjust in real-time.
For example, there may be animals just outside the camera’s field of depth, but you can’t change the angle to follow them.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Solar Panel Trail Camera
If all these benefits have convinced you, you may be ready to head out and purchase a solar panel trail camera. But with all the options available, what factors should you keep in mind when making your decision?
Let’s go over some must-know information when purchasing a solar panel trail camera.
We can consider battery life to be the most critical feature of all. After all, the whole point of going solar is to extend battery life, as this capability is what makes a solar panel trail camera so low maintenance.
Of course, we’re not considering traditional trail cameras, which require frequent battery changes. But what may be less obvious is that not all solar-paneled trail cameras are created equal when it comes to battery life.
Any model worth it’s salt should give you around six months of battery life, although many provide autonomy for up to eight months.
Consider the type of battery the solar panel uses when making your decision. Lithium batteries are durable and tend to last the longest. With direct light, they normally charge pretty well and will continue running until morning.
Perhaps the second most critical point is camera quality. The camera functions as your eyes and ears when you’re away, so you’ll obviously want decent quality images.
The best gauge of camera quality is the number of megapixels it has. In general, the more megapixels, the better the images. On solar-powered trail cameras, the lowest number you’ll find is usually about 16 megapixels, with options ranging up to about 30 megapixels.
As you can imagine, the more megapixels a camera has, the more it will cost. For some people, this aspect is a bit of a trade-off. If your budget is limited, most people find that 16 megapixels are plenty to deliver what they need–in other words, crisp shots.
However, beware of going below this number. Anything less than 16 megapixels, and it’ll likely be hard to spot prey.
You’re going to be leaving the device outside for long periods, which means it will be subject to all kinds of weather and potential abuse. While it’s unlikely a large animal will toy with the camera, it will probably be exposed to the cold, rain, and it may have some branches fall on it.
The camera needs to be able to tolerate plenty of abuse, or it won’t last long. It should be made of high-quality material that will withstand any kind of weather conditions. Reading product reviews from other users can help you gauge whether a trail camera is durable or not.
Detection Angle & Distance
Make sure to consider the camera’s detection angle and distance.
Does it have a full enough range to cover the width and depth of the area you’ll be covering? You don’t want your camera to cover too narrow of an angle or too short a distance. Otherwise, you might miss out on some smaller animals.
Be sure to examine the size of the area you plan to watch before purchasing your camera. Doing so will give you a better idea of what detection angle and distance you need.
Waterproof vs Water-Resistant
Though many people use “water-resistant” and “waterproof” interchangeably, there is a world of difference between them. Both offer protection from wetness, but at varying levels.
- Water-resistant: resists water penetration to some degree, but not completely
- Water repellent: the next step up from water-resistant, not easily penetrated by water
- Waterproof: completely impervious to water
In other words, a water-resistant solar panel will handle the elements up to a certain point, but it’s not likely to survive for a long time in extremely wet conditions. It’s always better to choose a waterproof solar panel, especially if you plan to set up the camera in a rainy area.
Flash & Night Vision
Night vision is not important for everyone, but some people do want to capture shots of animals at night. If you do, having night vision capabilities is critical to detect and shoot critters after the sun goes down.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to use flash, which will scare the animals off, but you should get a good picture. You may also want to consider how visible the activation light is when it detects motion. A no-glow camera produces no light.
Don’t forget to consider the camera’s playback capabilities, as the most critical part of collecting footage is being able to review it. Some cameras include screens to display the photos, and others allow you to connect wirelessly to a mobile device.
Which you choose depends on how you plan to use your camera. If you’re using it for security, you may want to view the images on the screen, or you may only want the camera to record if movement is detected.
Think about where you plan to place the device when deciding whether you need a camera capable of playback on wireless cellular devices. If your recording location is nearby and access is easy, you probably don’t need any fancy playback capabilities.
But if you plan to leave the camera in a remote area, it’s critical to have this feature.
Trail cameras are available with bonus features that are useful for hunting. Consider your needs when deciding whether certain multi-capture modes, like time-lapse and continuous, are right for you.
Some people find things like customizable detection range and video capture incredibly useful, but not everyone needs them.
Another thing to keep in mind is whether you need an external power jack. This feature is useful if you plan to use your camera at home for part of the year.
Tips for Solar Panel Placement
Now let’s go over some tips to get the most out of your solar panel.
Proper Sun Exposure
As you might expect, the number one tip is to install the solar panel in a place where it’ll be exposed to plenty of sunlight. Although many devices will still work in shaded areas, they’ll be less efficient than those that receive direct sunlight.
Consider the seasons when placing your camera. In summer (in the Northern Hemisphere), you should place it towards the west or the east. In winter, a south-facing panel will better absorb the sun’s rays, which are lower at this time of year.
Keep It out of Sight
Another factor to consider is placing your solar panel trail camera somewhere inconspicuous. It’s best to put it out of the sight and reach of both humans and animals.
Otherwise, if your subject can see the device, it probably won’t hang around. Similarly, you don’t want animals hanging on your camera and covering the lens.
If it’s somewhere humans can see, you run the risk of having someone walk off with your investment. (You can find some excellent camo patterns to help with this problem).
Check the Field of View
Finally, before you walk away, you must ensure that the camera has a clear field of view. It’s all too easy not to notice obstructions like bushes, branches, etc. And if you’re using bait, it should be directly in front of the camera.
How to Set up A Trail Camera Solar Panel
Using a solar panel addon? The good news is that they’re reasonably easy to set up. All you have to do is charge the solar panel, and then connect its power cord to the auxiliary port on your camera.
Most of the time, the auxiliary port is on the bottom of the camera.
Set up your trail camera;
- Use the strand
- Connect the Wifi/Bluetooth with your phone
- Wipe clean – remove any smell
- Set the time to turn on/off
- Turn on the motion sensor
- Attach to a tree
Here are three types of trail camera holders that you’ll need to get those top shots;