You don’t have to purchase an expensive home security system, and top it off with a monthly subscription, in order to have a piece of mind. Instead, you can re-purpose a product that is marketed for a different niche, but due to its inherent features you can easily use it to great effect for another purpose.
A trail camera is one of those rare products that are amenable to such useful adaptation. As their name alludes, they were originally designed to be used by hunters in order to more easily acquire their game (some use it just for observing wildlife), but those same features that make a hunter’s life a lot easier, are also the features you can put to great use for your own home security, while saving a lot of money in the process.
Features of a Trail Camera
Motion sensors – Upon movement detection the photo-taking or video recording is triggered, depending on your setting and the model. Some are limited to only taking a series of pictures, while some have HD recording capability. However, you need to pay attention to the maximum resolution of that recording capability. FullHD, that is – 1920 x 1080 resolution – should be considered bare minimum. Otherwise, there will not be enough detail compared to picture-taking only models.
Surreptitious recording – Necessary for both animals and trespassers, as a ‘no glow’ feature on a trail cam can ensure that an animal is not startled when the recording starts, or that a burglar doesn’t notice the camera when it records his mischief. A trail cam with a ‘no glow’ feature will be suitable for both daylight and nighttime, as it utilizes infrared (IR flash) to take pictures.
Known for their robust mobility, trail cameras are great for connecting to your home’s wireless network, or for directly connecting to your phone. This way, you can have feedback in real time every single time a motion detector is triggered. The delay differs from model to model and network availability in the area, but generally speaking, you can expect less than 90 seconds of delay between the time the picture is captured and the time it arrives on your phone.
The cellular feature on trail cams adds another layer of security and redundancy if you choose to use it as a part of your home security, as it is more likely that you would receive the picture of the culprit before he has the chance to steal it or damage it. However, keep in mind that it will function just like a regular smartphone, meaning that it will use a SIM card and data traffic of your chosen ISP. Of course, just like smartphones, many trail cameras have both wireless and cellular connectivity, so always switch between the two to save money.
And lastly, the dual function of trail cameras. There is nothing preventing you from using the same cameras as both home security and as a useful means to hunt game or watch wildlife. All you would have to do is install a few trail cam holders around your home, and when you are going to hunt, simply take one of the trail cams with you.
Positioning and Features
Whether you use it for hunting or home security, optimally setting up your trail camera will make all the difference.
Concealment – The best way to avoid getting the camera stolen or damaged is to make it as difficult to spot as you can. Height and taking advantage of foliage are the two biggest factors that would determine a good concealment spot. Blend it with the background environment.
Sheltered from sun – Always be careful how will the sun affect the quality of your photos, during the entire daylight time. Glare can render your recordings and photos completely useless, so make sure to place the trail cam in the appropriate, shaded spot.
Elevation – No good doers will first check anything in their line of sight, so along with concealment, your trail cam should be above or below the average human’s line of sight.
Connectivity range – If you decide to use cam trail for home security, most likely you will use your home’s wireless network. Therefore, before settling on a specific spot and placing it there, first test if the range and signal strength will be sufficient.
Motion sensor range – Along with connectivity range, pay attention to the specs of the effective motion sensor range. Depending on the size of your property, this should be an important factor in your cam trail purchasing decision.
Trigger speed – You want as small delay as possible between the triggering the motion sensor and snapping the picture. It should definitely be under 1 second in the specification sheet.
Time stamping – Archiving the activity of all the times the motion sensor was triggered is important to get a better sense of both wildlife habits, and as evidence against criminals. Therefore, ensure that the time stamp feature is active when you finally position the trail cam in the right spot.
Battery longevity – Although motion sensor triggering already ensures that the camera is active only when needed, it still uses energy on the motion sensor itself and the connectivity. The stronger the signal the less battery will it use, and if you keep it really close to your house try to find a way to plug it into an electric network.
Image quality – Fortunately, technology has advanced to the point of cost-effectiveness where the useless, grainy videos and pictures are a thing of the past. You may have noticed the same trend with very cheap smartphones, as even the low-end ones are capable of snapping high quality images. The standard for camera specs below which you should not go is approximately 8 Megapixels. However, the quality of the sensor itself is more important than pixel count, so always check the image samples in online reviews.
Best Trail Cam to Start With
Considering that you should have more than one trail cam for home security, the APEMAN Trail Camera would fit that slot perfectly:
- It can take high quality pictures with its 12Mp camera, for all lighting conditions.
- It has exceptionally low trigger speed at under 0.5 seconds.
- It is built to last, and is waterproof.
- Multitude of options for setting when the camera is triggered.
- It is very affordable.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have wireless/cellular connectivity. You would have to look at Wireless Trail Camera Commander for that feature, which would also cost you about 4 times more.