Can I use rechargeable batteries in my camera trap?
Well, yes and no.
It is possible to use rechargeable batteries in a trail camera, but this will come at a cost. Essentially, it will depend on how well you want your camera to work.
As an environmental organisation we would of course love to be recommending the use of more eco-friendly and sustainable options including rechargeable batteries, but we also want you to get the most out of the tech you buy and have fully functioning cameras that are working the best they can for you.
Poor quality, low power or incorrect batteries are the number one cause of users experiencing issues with trail cameras. The following are some common battery-related issues you could experience, if you do have any of these problems change your batteries:
Camera screen flashing on and off
Shorter videos than you’ve set
Poor detection/missing things
Taking a picture but no video in hybrid mode (Bushnell Core, Spypoint, Ltl Acorn)
Screen not coming on
Not triggering at all
Turning the camera on but the battery percentage or bar going down steadily, then turning off
Dull LEDs or infrared flash brightness
Why We Don’t Recommend Rechargeable Batteries
Regrettably, rechargeable batteries are not recommended by the majority of manufacturers, or NatureSpy and here’s why:
The Voltage isn’t high enough: Trail cameras are either a 6V or more commonly, a 12V system and typically run off 8 batteries that need at least 1.5V from each battery. Rechargeable batteries are all only 1.2V per battery. This means that most rechargeable batteries won’t have enough power to work sufficiently in camera traps. They may turn the camera on, and they may even allow it to record in the day, but night-time recording will pose a problem as that’s when the LEDs are needed, and these are the things that require the most amount of power.
Milliamp Hours Vary: Something else to look out for is the mAh – or milliamp hours. This can vary between brands, but it’s always printed on the packaging or batteries themselves. The mAh needs to be at least 2500mAh to be adequate enough to power a trail camera but there is a bit of a catch…
False Promises…. Most rechargeable batteries give numbers that in reality they don’t back up with performance.
If you really want to use them: The ones to look out for are Panasonic Eneloop Pro. They are the only higher quality rechargeable batteries which will, generally speaking, work in a trail camera. Please keep in mind however, they will only work to a certain degree and are not comparable to the performance of Lithium batteries.
If you do choose to use them: Be prepared to lose performance – using rechargeable batteries can mean a loss of detection range, slower trigger speeds and reduce IR LED brightness.
Who should avoid them? We wouldn’t recommend rechargeables to any trail cam user but due to the potential battery-causing issues mentioned and the fact they simply don’t have enough power to get your camera working to maximum capacity, we would strongly advise against their use if:
You take a large number of videos, especially at night
Your using your camera for research and/or data gathering purposes
You leave your camera for long stretches of time without checking it
You’re conducting a presence/absence study and can’t afford to miss a trigger
For this reason, we’d say it’s only worth using them if you’re a casual wildlife watcher or don’t take a large number of videos during the night.
They won’t last as long as you think: Lastly, rechargeablebatteries lose a bit of capacity every time you charge them. Eventually, they won’t have enough power to operate the camera at night and will need replacing. Generally, this happens after about 9-12 months, depending on usage. This isn’t too far away from what Lithium batteries give you, and with much higher performance.
What is Best to Use?
Our recommendation is always to use Lithium AA batteries, specifically Energizer Ultimate Lithium, here’s why:
They have a higher voltage – approx. 1.85V per battery
They don’t care about cold temperatures, performing as normal down to -15C
They last about 5x longer than alkaline batteries
Their battery current is much higher at around 2900mAh
They give far better performance and much longer battery life making them more cost-effective long-term
Higher voltage & mAh means better detection distances, quicker speeds & brighter IR LEDs
Rechargeable batteries will work… to a certain point: You certainly won’t get the most out of your camera if you use them and we would only say it’s worth using them if you’re a casual wildlife watcher, not taking many videos at night and you check your camera regularly.
Use Energizer Ultimate or Varta Professional: These are best – with high currents, resilience to the cold, longer battery life and cost-effectiveness, we use these in all our own projects.
If you’re experiencing problems – change the batteries: If you are experiencing any issue with you trail camera change the batteries – it’s highly likely to solve any problems you may have.
Please recycle your batteries if and when you can when they are no longer in use. This can be done at most recycling centres and some supermarkets.
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