The Most Efficient Rechargeable Batteries for Trail Cameras

Jul 05, 2024 | XTAR

Trail cameras (also known as camera traps) are devices used to monitor wildlife activity. As long as these cameras are functioning properly, we are able to record animal’s behavior.

The performance of the battery directly affects the camera. To ensure the efficient operation of the trail camera, it is essential to choose a high-quality battery. In this article, we will introduce what kind of battery should be used in the trail camera and provide some suggestions for choosing a battery.

What Kind of Battery Performance is Suitable for Your Trail Camera?

Long-Lasting Battery Life

In order to explore new areas and observe the animals living there, trail cameras are often left alone in the woods for weeks or even months. At the same time, to avoid leaving scents that scares the animals, the frequency of camera checks must be minimized. Therefore, in addition to the large-capacity SD card, long-lasting batteries are also essential.

Especially with trail cameras like the Tecbeans, night recording will not be activated if the battery power drops below 50%. Considering that wild animals are more active at night, this will be a significant loss.

Stable and Sufficient Voltage Output

When users ask questions like “Why are my nighttime photos not clear?” or “Why does my camera show a full battery but fails to record video?” It frequently results from inadequate working voltage. Batteries with inadequate voltage can power the camera but cannot ensure it works well. This is especially true at night when the flash is on continuously, requiring higher voltage. No one wants to check their camera a few months later and find it didn’t capture clear footage.

Adaptation to Temperature Change

A Canadian outdoor enthusiast mentioned in the forum: “Since winter, my batteries have been draining quickly and seems to be not as good as before. I must go to the woods to change them almost every three weeks or less. It’s really a hassle.” In northern Canada, temperatures often drop to minus 10℃, while in the southwestern United States, summer often exceed 35℃. Whether it is a cold weather or a hot weather, the trail camera battery needs to maintain good performance to ensure the camera works properly.

Battery Size Compatible with Camera

Most trail cameras use standard household AA batteries. This is so important for trail cameras placed in remote outdoor environments, where specialized batteries might be hard to find. While some larger trail cameras may require C or D batteries, or even battery packs for better performance, these batteries are often more expensive and harder to obtain.

Which Battery is Best to Choose for Your Trail Camera?

Disposable Alkaline Batteries

》Alkaline cells are undoubtedly the most widely used and cheapest batteries. High-quality AA alkaline batteries is usually between 2500mAh to 3000mAh. Many alkaline cells from unknown battery brands have lower capacity. They are not enough to support trail cameras working outdoors for a long time.

》Alkaline batteries work well at first, but the brightness of nighttime photos will gradually decrease until the photos are completely dark or the camera shuts down due to low voltage. This is because the alkaline battery voltage starts at 1.5V, but it drops to around 0.8V over time, and needs to be replaced.

》In sub-zero temperatures, the capacity of alkaline batteries will be halved and their lifespan will be shortened. Many users have found that their cameras will not work properly in extremely cold conditions, but it will usually return to normal when the temperature rises.

》Its cons are that it cannot be reused and it is prone to leakage. Even reputable AA battery manufacturers like Duracell have had users report that their AA batteries leaked and damaged the camera.

Disposable alkaline batteriesProsCons
· Cheap and low cost
· Work normally at hot weather
· Low capacity, short battery life
· Unstable voltage
· Abnormal working at cold weather
· Easy to leak
· Disposable

NiMH Batteries

》The maximum capacity offered by reliable AA NiMH battery manufacturers is 3000mAh. However, many unknown brands may overstate their capacities. Besides, the video mode in trail cameras consumes more power, so many substandard NiMH batteries might not be able to support it.

》The output voltage of NiMH battery is 1.2V. Trail cameras usually powered by 4 cells for 6V(4 x 1.5V) or 8 cells for 12V(8 x1.5V). Most camera brands, like Bushnell, Reconyx, Zeiss Trailcam, and Tactacam, are designed for 1.5V batteries, 1.2V working voltage may cause problems.

》At high temperatures around 38°C, the performance of NiMH batteries will drop significantly. However, they are stable within the normal temperature range, especially at low temperatures. They also can be charged and discharged hundreds of times, making them better than disposal alkaline batteries for environmental protection.

NiMH batteriesProsCons
· Environmentally friendly and recyclable
· Work normally at cold weather
· Exaggerate the usable capacity
· Insufficient working voltage
· Abnormal working at hot weather

Disposable Lithium Batteries

》Each disposable lithium battery has a voltage of 1.5V. Just as lower voltage can result in weaker flash performance, higher voltage in some cameras can produce a stronger flash, making photos brighter.

》Because of their chemical composition, lithium batteries are not affected by temperature changes. The increased capacity allows them to run 30% longer, twice as long as the best NiMH batteries.

》Disposable lithium batteries are quite expensive. The production process and eventual recycling are harmful for the environment. When choosing to use them, you need to weigh their cost-effectiveness against their impact on the environment.

Disposable lithium batteriesProsCons
· High capacity, long battery life
· Sufficient voltage
· Adapt to temperature changes
· Disposable
· Expensive

Rechargeable Lithium-ion Batteries

》Lithium-ion batteries have higher energy density and longer battery life than NiMH batteries. Giacomo used rechargeable 1.5V AA lithium-ion batteries in Meidase trail cameras and found that they lasted over three months, enough to fill a 256GB SD card. This is a great convenience for researchers and wildlife enthusiasts conducting long-term monitoring in the wild.

》Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are more powerful than regular batteries, and they can output 1.5V continuously. What’s more, like disposable lithium batteries, they can adapt well to the temperature changes. However, it should be noted that these two batteries are not suitable for use in extremely cold conditions below -20°C.

》Lithium-ion batteries are not cheap, but they can be used over 1000 times before their capacity noticeably decreases. Also, AA lithium-ion batteries have no memory effect, so they don’t need to be fully discharged to maintain capacity like NiMH batteries.

》Charge quickly. It takes less than 3 hours to fully charge using the dedicated lithium-ion battery charger.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteriesProsCons
· High energy density and long battery life
· Sufficient and stable voltage
· Adapt to temperature changes
· Long cycle life
·  Fast charging speed
· Relatively expensive

HuntingFarmer has verified the above advantages after using XTAR 1.5V AA lithium batteries in his trail camera.

I decided to use these batteries all summer, even though I had previously thought I would never need them. And I don’t need to spend money to buy new batteries for my next hunting season” – he changed his mind about rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

Conclusion

For your trail camera, we don’t recommend using alkaline batteries. They have limited capacity and aren’t suitable for cold weather. When using 1.2V NiMH batteries, make sure they meet the specifications of your trail camera manufacturer, and replace them before summer arrives.

1.5V rechargeable AA lithium-ion batteries are always the best choice for trail cameras. They adapt well to temperature changes, provide sufficient power output, and have long-lasting battery life. They can also be used thousands of times, unlike disposable lithium batteries.

Postscript (P.S.)

XTAR 1.5V 4150mWh AA Lithium-Ion Battery Charge and Discharge Curve

* The data comes from the data sheet

FAQ

How to Get Better Battery Life from My Trail Cameras?

1. Reduce photo upload frequency: Instead of setting the camera to transfer photos instantly, set it to upload photos once every day or every two days, especially during the hunting off-season.

2. Lower image resolution: If you only need basic wildlife observation, there’s no need to capture high-resolution photos to save camera space and battery power.

3. Adjust shooting mode: Video mode consumes a lot of battery power. When you only need to identify wildlife species and their activity times, turn off the video function and use only photo mode.

4. Decrease number of photos taken: The more photos taken, the faster the battery drains. To avoid taking multiple photos of the same area, reduce the number of photos your camera takes at one time.

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