For the past couple years I have been keeping six or more trail cameras out year round. I love watching the critters the cameras are able to catch in images and video.
Recently I picked up a new Browning Recon Force (BTC-7FHD) that takes full HD video and a 2015 version of the Strike Force camera I really like. In the first couple of days of testing the cameras I realized that the batteries were getting drained a little faster than my older Browning trail cameras. It's makes sense that recording larger files of higher quality video would drain the batteries a little quicker.
Combine the fact that I have been feeding multiple cameras hundreds of batteries through the years and the higher battery consuming newer models, I setout to find a solution that would not only provide rechargeable batteries but also provide greater longevity of the batteries before they stopped operating the camera in the field.
I have found that when you have cattle coming into the same spring that the elk and deer love, several hundred videos can easily be recorded in a week. With 32 GB SDHD cards I can get hundreds of videos but sometimes the alkaline AA batteries in the camera get drained out before the SD card is full.
The Browning trail cameras themselves are designed to run with 1.5 Volt AA batteries. The problem with just putting rechargeable NiMh batteries into the camera is that NiMh batteries are only 1.2 Volts. With an eight battery trail camera and this would create only 9.6 Volts instead of 12 Volts. I have heard of people running their cameras with only 9.6 volts put this makes me a little weary that it wouldn't have the juice to operate the LED flash at night and just not perform very well.
A nice feature to all Browning trail cameras is the ability to plug in an external 12V power source. I have used the Browning external battery packs that run on eight 1.5V AA batteries to make 12 Volts of juice. With this in mind the gears have been a churning in my head. What if I had a external battery pack that had ten 1.2V NIMH batteries for a 12V total pack? Hmm...
Here's what I came up with: Because each battery pack will have ten batteries I found a charger that holds ten batteries so I can recharge the AA batteries in groups of ten to match the battery packs. I purchased some "2.1 x 5.5mm DC Power Pigtail Male" plugs, and tracked down some hard to find battery cases that hold ten AA batteries.
For protective case to place the battery packs inside I am trying out reusing empty Berger bullet cases. I just drilled a hole for the power cord to go through and two holes in the back/bottom of the case to thread parachute cord through to use to attach the pack to a tree.
I used some sand paper to roughen the outside surface of the plastic bullet box and then spray painted the box earthy green. Because the box isn't water tight I am placing the battery pack inside of a zip lock bag then placing this inside of the bullet box. I also use the cut foam that comes in the bullet box to cushion the bullets to fill in and cushion the battery pack.
I have been testing this DIY 12V rechargeable battery pack and to looks like it is going to work great. I'm thinking this will eventually really save me in the battery expenses and I believe these packs should really out perform using alkaline batteries as there will be two additional batteries with the NiMh AAs and NIMH batteries maintain a very strong voltage over the life of the charge. On the other hand alkaline batteries start loosing voltage the minute you start using them. I am also thinking this battery pack will work really well in cold temperatures.
One downside to NiMh batteries is that I have heard somewhere that they loose their charge in hot temperatures, I think above 90 degrees or so. I will have to see if I can find more info on this.
I think I am really going to like this NiMh battery system! Now I just need some more Berger Bullet cases to make several more battery packs... I might have to find some other cases to use until I burn through some more Berger bullets.
Since I first tried the Berger Bullet cases I have found a better case to use for the battery packs. The cases are Black & Decker ForTools cases that are designed to clip to your belt and hold screws and other small parts and tools. I found some of these cases at Ace Hardware. With a little paint and a hole drilled through the edge of where the door closes these cases work great.
Here's some of the first video I have got from the new full HD Browning Recon Force BTC-7FHD trail camera. This camera takes a little more juice to operate and my DIY battery packs should work great at making sure the camera has plenty of power before I return to check it again.
Some of the supplies to start using NiMh AA rechargeable batteries with my Browning trail cameras.
A Berger VLD bullet box works great for making a case to enclose the ten NiMh AA 12V battery pack.
The Berger bullet boxes work good but I have since found that Black & Decker ForTools boxes work even better. These boxes have a metal clip on the back that makes it a breeze to just clip the battery pack to the strap that is holding the trail camera.
A few Black & Decker ForTools cases painted up green. The cases are ready to put in my Alps Crossfire X Pack to take to the woods to put on my trail cameras.
I just drill a hole on the rim of the door closure for the cord to thread out, a little spray paint and the Black & Decker ForTools boxes work great for holding the 12v NiMh battery pack.