Photographing wild mountain lions with a trail camera (also known as a game camera) is a chance to get close to a cat without putting your life on the line. But which camera will get you the best trophy?

There are more than a dozen major camera makers, and new models are constantly hitting the market.

I’ve found that the most helpful online resource is TrailCamPro.com, which has methodical testing and results that make it easy to compare cameras (plus a two-year warranty if you buy from the site).

The author sets up a trail camera near his home outside of Leavenworth. The discreet cameras are triggered by movement. (Courtesy of Jeff Layton)
The author sets up a trail camera near his home outside of Leavenworth. The discreet cameras are triggered by movement. (Courtesy of Jeff Layton)

Company CEO Rich Howell offers this advice:

1. Cameras costing less than $100 don’t usually last. They usually have a fatal flaw such as slow detection or short battery life. They probably won’t make it to the next season.

2. Cameras in the $129–$150 range hit the sweet spot of affordability and reliability, along with good features.

3. Browning cameras take superior photos, with good features and reliability.  During the past five years, the Strike Force and the Dark Ops models have been among the most popular value cameras.

4. Some newer cameras will text an alert when the camera is triggered. However, many models are still inconsistent or have technical problems. Paying for an extra data plan also affects their affordability.

Cougars caught on camera: A stark reminder we live among very big cats