Complete 2018 Outdoor Security Camera Guide

Security, it is best implemented in layers. From web security to prisons and military bases everything revolves around layers. Much like an onion, each layer makes the collective defensive impact exponentially more effective.

When it come to home security the outer most layer begins with the perimeter of your property as this is the furthest you can extend your defenses without stepping on other people’s toes.

Obviously you cannot install surveillance or motion detection equipment on surrounding public land or private property, as much as you’d like to try!

So, working backwards from your property perimeter we will go over the best tactics and tools needed for implementing an effective, layered, early-detection security system for your home.

Securing Your Home Perimeter

If you don’t know where property lines begin or end you’ll need to find that out before proceeding with strategizing an effective perimeter home security system.

If the agent or seller you purchases your property from does not have copies of your exact property lines they can also be obtained from your local municipality as they are all stored for legal reasons.

It is important to know your own borders so you don’t accidentally over-extend your security network or even worse, miss some critical area if land you were unaware existed.

For most home owners though your property will be small enough to easily manually survey yourself.

With a notebook and pencil, sketch out your property lines, your house, and commonly used points of access like walkways, sidewalks and driveways.

These will be your routes of ingress and egress and will have to be secured with semi-permanent systems as opposed to other areas which can be secured by fixed structures/systems like fences and walls.

Once you have everything sketched out on paper you can go about actually developing, purchasing, implementing and testing (don’t forget to always test!) your complete layered home and property security system.

Step 1: Secure Your Borders

Survey your property borders. If there are no natural obstacles like bodies of water, cliffs or impenetrable undergrowth you will need to erect your own wall.

Walls can range from simple wooden fences (the least secure) to tall brick/stone walls, which are the preferred medium as they can be build much taller and much stronger than typical wooden fences.

Plans for building your own wooden fence can be found online or at your local hardware store. Doing this work yourself is smart as it is not overly technical and you can save a lot of money that you can then later spend on electronic security equipment.

Stone and brick walls on the other hand require more expertise than wooden or metal mesh fences and thus are best contracted out to skilled laborers.

*It is prudent to hire a local company to do this work as you don’t have to worry about details of your property being shared with 3rd parties. It also isn’t a bad idea to have all construction workers and builders sign a non-disclosure agreement so they are legally prohibited from sharing sensitive security information about your property.

Most people stop with just a wall. While this is better than nothing it is far from optimal. In complete darkness there is nothing to stop a potential intruder from scaling your fence or wall as it is just one easily overcome obstacle.

There are however ways to make it much harder for an intruder to breach your security perimeter unnoticed.

Step 2: Rig Your Border With Motion Activated Systems

One of the biggest weaknesses of walls is that under the cover of night an intruder has almost unlimited time to devise a strategy to scale and overcome your border security.

Installing motion-sensing lights along your wall is one effective way to both scare off intruders and limit more determined intruders time to breach. Putting pressure on potential intruders is key in gaining the upper hand in securing your property.

While you could run an electrical line all around your perimeter and install traditional electrical motion sensing lights we instead recommend using solar powered light units.

Outdoor Motion Sensor Security Lights

There are a wide variety of solar powered motion sensing lights that can be had at VERY affordable prices. In fact, the average per-unit cost for solar powered lights is so cheap today that you can easily secure miles-long perimeters without breaking the bank.

The benefits of solar outdoor motion lights are numerous:

  • Much cheaper than running electrical lines underground
  • Compartmentalized security: as opposed to cutting one electrical line, each unit operates independently, making mass deactivation difficult
  • Long lifespans. With solar panels and high efficiency LEDs some lights go decades without needing maintenance.
  • Easily replaceable: because of their cheap cost broken/damaged units can regularly be replaced
  • Weather-proof: unlike electric lights, these self-contained, sealed units are impervious to all weather conditions
  • Flexible: Being wireless you can position these at your most critical security points for maximum protection

We particularly like wall mounted lights so you can mount them up high with a ladder during the day which makes them harder to tamper with and allows them to illuminate more ground than ground-based lighting systems.

The two most customizable, most effective, best bang-for-your-buck units available online are:

InnoGear Solar Lights

These are some of our favorite solar power motion sensing wall lights. There are a lot of different shapes and styles but we like the InnoGear 77 LED lightning system because they are long and narrow, so they can be mounted discreetly.

The 77’s also come with 77 individual LEDs built into each unit, which produce a LARGE amount of bright light per unit, so you theoretically need fewer units than when buying smaller packages.

Mr. Beams MB360XT Wireless Spotlights

While the InnoGear lights provide wide, broad illuminating power, the MB360XT’s are spotlight units, meaning they can be positioned to focus on a specific place and shine a particularly intense (200 lumen) LED spotlight.

These are more spotlight style motion lights compared to the fixed position LED units mentioned above. With full 360 degree swiveling capabilities these are great for positioning around particularly sensitive areas of ingress like driveway entrances or by doorways.

Speaking of driveways, now that we have our perimeter secured we can focus to the points of entry and exit that need more adaptive technologies to secure.

Step 3: Securing Entrances With Driveway Alarms

After first securing the borders of your property with fixed obstacles you then must turn your focus to the holes in your walls, mainly your driveway.

The driveway will be the first place a potential intruder will breach with force. Given the need for fast get aways, especially for properties where escape on foot is not practical, securing the driveway will be the single most important task for any home owner who values complete privacy.

The most secure form of security is a retractable fence system, preferably made of high tensile metal, complete with an intercom system, so that all visitors can be screen and are required to manually be allowed to enter.

If you aren’t securing your driveway with a fence the next best thing will be to put up motion activated sensors that can subtly notify you when someone enters your driveway.

Best Wireless Driveway Sensors

When it comes to outdoor motion sensing driveway alarms reputation matters because if you skimp on quality and have a defective unit you open yourself up to being completely surprised.

Within the consumer-grade motion detecting alarm space there are two giants of alarm manufacturers.

Chamberlain Alarms

Chamberlain has been in the alarm game for decades and have really dialed in their technology. Their units are small, weatherproof,  have solid battery life and transmit alarms up to 1/2 mile away.

Each Chamberlain unit can detect motion up to 30ft away and have customizable sensativity settings which you can modulate if you are getting too many false negatives.

You can combine up to 4 sensors to connect to one alarm, so you can monitor multiple points of entry if you wish.

We also like that the motion sensor housing is protected by a little pill-box style slot. This keeps the sensor itself from getting damaged by brush or debris.

At just under $50, with a 1-year warranty these are also some of the more affordable driveway motion-activated alarm systems on the market.

Guardline Alarms

Guardline wireless driveway alarms are the best selling consumer-grade alarm systems on the market. They have proven themselves to be extremely durable, simple to install and come with a full 2-year warranty.

Guarline units are generally a little more customizable than their Chamberlain counterparts. They come with 30 different alarm sounds, and can expand up to 16 sensors for one alarm unit, compared to the 4 unit max for the Chamberlain system.

The motion sensing units themselves also ship in nice covert olive green and army brown colors which help them blend in with natural surrounding well for reliable, discreet driveway monitoring.

We also like they put their face to their products on their Amazon page so you can see the people behind the Seattle-based brand.

 

Now that we’ve covered perimeter security and motion detection it’s time to tackle actual surveillance equipment. While border security and motion detection are designed to alert you to an intruder, cameras and microphones will allow you to get a better picture of what type of intruder it is so you can better prepare an action plan.

Step 4: Outdoor Wireless Cameras

Installing cameras around your property both allow for early threat detection when mounted discreetly along a fence or wall or even camouflaged amongst trees or natural foliage.

You can also use higher definition cameras with microphone and keypad functions integrated to install near your front door or entrance to your driveway. These types of cameras are not meant to be hidden but instead are assist the property owner to confirm identities of visitors.

The type of outdoor camera depends on the intended function of the camera. We break down the best wireless models based on whether they are designed for discreet surveillance or if they are designed for identification and communication.

Best 2018 Wireless Surveillance Cameras

These cameras are designed to survey property, whether there is motion/intrusion or not and are primarily designed to be hidden or installed in low-profile fashion that conceals their presence.

Some key traits that all wireless surveillance systems have include the following:

  • Small, modular units that are DIY-friendly and compact
  • Part of a scalable system, so you can incorporate multiple units to cover large properties
  • Discreet design, for subtle placement concealing their location to potential intruders
  • Durable and all-weather friendly
  • Sync with a centralized software system to an entire property can be monitored from one single command center
  • Affordability is important as surveillance requires covering broad areas, meaning a single property owner may need dozens of cameras

So, with that in mind, below are some of the most popular, best selling brands that can all be found highly reviewed and purchasable on popular e-commerce sites like Amazon.com.

Best Outdoor Security Cam of 2018: Dericam PTZ

The Dericam Wireless Outdoor IP camera is professional-grade surveillance equipment at consumer prices. These are top of the line designs that are currently being used internationally by high net worth individuals and corporations alike to secure their properties.

What makes the Dericam so special? It has eagle-eye design that allows for high up installation making it easy to put in a place well above eye-sight line of potential intruders.

The unit has everything a security enthusiast could dream of, including:

  • Compact, self-contained design for ultimate weather protection
  • Full 350 degree horizontal rotational capabilities and 80 degree up-and-down vertical rotation capabilities
  • Built in infrared camera with 4X optical zoom and built in memory of up to 32gb.
  • Clear, zoomable night vision up to 65 feet
  • Easity control and command via computer, iOS or Android device
  • Ready-to-use out of the box, with no hidden costs

This is one of the best selling brands in the professional surveillance industry and is the model we use on our personal storage properties at home. We have units installed on sheds that have been operational for over 5 years now without any problems, installed on a pole shed in northern Minnesota, which sees brutal summer storm and winter blizzard conditions.

Wireless LED Bulb Hidden Cameras

There are a wide variety of LED Bulb cameras on the market because of their ingenius design of hiding your surveillance unit in plain site.

Bulb cams are made for both indoor and outdoor use and sport some unique features that set them apart from traditional hidden outdoor cams. These include:

  • Hide-in-plain-sight design useful for properties lacking natural flora to camouflage other camera types.
  • Compact design makes them easy to fit in small/tight spaces that larger units cannot
  • Most sync directly with smartphone’s for use anytime, anywhere.
  • Unique 360 degree camera integration because of their spherical shape/design
  • Integrated two-way voice control

We personally like the Pzozpad Bulb cams because they are specifically designed for either indoor or outdoor use. Other models like the JBonest only state they are to be used indoors, although with adequate water protection (mounting under eaves for example) they may also be used for perimeter security.

Make sure you specifically read your bulb cam specs before purchasing to make sure it is designed to work outdoors.

Fake Outdoor Light Fixture Camera by Kuna

Kuna is a unique entry to the hidden outdoor surveillance field because like the bulb cam, it audaciously hides its surveillance tech in plain site, the last place a potential intruder would look.

The Maximus is designed to look like your typical run-of-the-mill outdoor lighting fixture with a boring black metal cage and frosted glass. Hidden in the stem of the fixture however is a HD camera that records when motion sensors activate the light.

Since the unit is entirely integrated it can be installed in as little as 15 minutes and provides constant access via wifi or Bluetooth 4.0 via iOS or Android deices.

We really like the design here incorporating the light with the camera which saves tons of money compared to high-end infrared models that depend on sophisticated night-vision technology to work.

Xtreme Life Rockcam SC7000

The SC7000 RockCam hidden outdoor camera from KJB technologies is one of the most creative applications of consumer surveillance tech we’ve seen in a long time.

Embedded in a giant artificial rock is an optical camera unit and ultra-long life battery that can record from about shin-level up whenever something trips its motion sensors.

Using it’s size to its advantage the RockCam has a whopping 1-year battery life. No, that is not a typo, this thing will work for up to a full year on a single battery charge!

As we mentioned in the introduction to this guide, the most effective security is a layered system. If you install cameras at eye-level or in traditional locations you open yourself to the risk of potential indentification and avoidance by a potential intruder.

Layering your eye-level surveillance tech with some ground level tech is a sure-proof way to capture every single visitor. Seriously, when was the last time you looked towards the ground to locate a camera! Genius!

The rock is hyper realistic looking so it can sit in a rock bed or be placed to look like a doorstop next to an entrance point.

The RockCam is also a complete beast in terms of durability. We don’t need to make the “built like a rock” pun here do we?

The rough exterior means this camera system is fully weather-resistant and durable as hell.

Minox Wireless Game Cams

Last, but certainly not least, are Minox wireless game cams.

The compact camo design are dead giveaways as to why these hunting-specific cameras make excellent property threat-detection and recording devices.

Game cams work great for outer perimeter security as they have been designed to withstand the most rugged outdoor conditions and are also designed to elude hyper-sensitive live game, which means they’re also great for avoiding human detection.

Any reader of License-to-Shoot will know we are huge fans of the Minox range of scopes, binoculars and game cameras. The durability and reliability of the German engineered tech is the gold standard when it comes to digital camera tech.

For a full overview of Minox surveillance cameras visit our complete guide here.

 

Best 2018 Wireless Cameras for Identification & Communication

While the above models are all designed to avoid detection, the models reviewed below are all designed to be detected. Sometimes the best security is simply the act of making your security known to deter potential intruders.

The below camera models have all been recommended based on the following criteria:

  • Reputable brand names with fair consumer warranties
  • Wireless function for easy installation and monitoring
  • Scalability, meaning you can have one or multiple units synced to one viewing station to monitor larger areas
  • Weather-resistant so they operate without issue during all seasons and in all climate types
  • Microphone integration for recording and potential communication functionality
  • Night vision, because let’s face it, 80% of potential threats will seek the cover of darkness to make their strike

So all the systems reviewed below will at the minimum have the above features checked off. Let’s dig into some of these gadgets shall we!

Nest: Smartest Modular Smart Home Security Cam

If you’ve been in the surveillance space for any time you will have undoubtably heard about Nest. They are at the forefront of “active surveillance and response” tech. This means they don’t just record, they seamlessly sync with one another with intuitive applications for smartphones and all the intelligent technology that comes with them.

One of the smartest functions of the Nest security cameras is their built-in integration with Alexa voice control. This allows the cameras to be guided and accessed with simple voice control, something many other cameras do not have.

The design of Nest is small and compact, very discreet. While it isn’t designed to be completely hidden, they are definitely small enough to not be noticed by the casual observer.

Nest cams don’t just record, they react and think. For example, instead of pure motion detection the camera units actually listen to sounds. If they hear a loud crash or bang, like the shattering of a window or breaking of a door for example, they will send alerts directly to their owners phones.

Each unit also has a built in microphone and speaker for two-way communication. This allows the operator to interact with visitors or warn potential threats not to enter/possibility of deadly force being used.

The connectability of Next to other functions is what truly makes them “smart”. For example, Next systems can be integrated with smart LED lights around your property, both inside and outside, to turn on lights when motion or sound is detected. This is great for maintaining security even when you are not at home, like when on vacation or at work.

Nest systems are all integrated with the cloud, so even if a potential intruder tries to destroy a camera, the crisp, clear 1080p video will be backed up digitally in the cloud, out of reach. Since these cameras are modular, you can install multiple units around your property and control them all with one smartphone.

These truly are on the cutting edge of predictive, active home surveillance and intruder deterrence.

Arlo Pro 2 by NETGEAR

The Arlo Pro 2 are very similar to Nest units in that they are Alexa-capable, all-weather home security cameras that sync with the cloud and provide active deterrence from home intrusion.

The ability to connect the Arlo Pro 2 cameras to other integrated cloud-based services makes them one of the best options for 21st century surveillance.

For example, you can connect your Pro 2 cameras with Amazon’s Alexa, or even Google services like Google Assistant, which is perfect for Android lovers.

How do you choose between the Arlo Pro 2 and the Nest? Well we break down some of the main differences below to help make the decision easier.

Arlo Pro 2 vs. Nest Cam

Similarities:

  • Both record at a super high definition 1080p
  • Both have integrated night vision
  • Both have 130 degrees of viewing angle
  • Both have zoom functionality
  • Both have two-way communication functionality courtesy of built-in speakers and microphones
  • Both integrate with Email, Alexa, Push and IFTTT notification platforms
  • Both monitor both sound and motion
  • Both work with iOS and Android

Differences:

  • Arlo Pro 2 can charge via battery, solar, mount or wires. Next is only via a power outlet.
  • Nest units are easier to steal, but easier to install because of their simple user-friendly mounting systems
  • Nest monthly subcription rates are cheaper than Arlo Pro 2 at roughly $5/month vs $9.99/month. Yearly rates are also cheaper for Nest at $50/year vs Arlo’s $99/year

If all these “smart” cameras are a little bit more than you need then there are still plenty of other more traditional outdoor camera units on the market for much cheaper prices that work just as well, just lack some of the “intelligence” of the Next and Arlo Pro 2.

PTZ Outdoor Cam by Foscam

The PTZ is a hanging-style camera which we like because it provides maximum flexibility in terms of horizontal and vertical movement to track and better zoom in on visitors/threats.

The PTZ is a beautifully self-contained egg-shaped unit that sports full 1080p resolution, full 355 degree horizontal panning and full 90 degree vertical tilt.

Of course the unit is also weather proof and has integrated night vision for 24/7 security around the clock. Like the more expensive Nest and Netgear brands Foscam also offers a cloud storage solution that comes with a monthly or yearly subscription, although it isn’t required and you can just used the integrated WiFi and a home storage system instead.

One real stand-out feature of the PTZ is it’s industry leading night vision technology. While most outdoor security cams have nigh vision limited to 30-60ft the PTZ’s night vision extends up to 196ft, which is by far one of the best night vision systems currently available on the market.

Foxcam PTZ can also integrate with your smartphone, send alerts/notifications and is backed up with an ironclad 2 year warranty on their CE and FCC approved camera units.

It’s no wonder this small upcoming company is constantly reviewed as one of the best outdoor camera solutions

Zmodo Security Cameras

Zmodo are known as some of the most reliable outdoor cameras for budget-minded consumers. Starting at well under $100 per unit it is hard to match the quality and functionality offered by Zmodo.

For an unbeatable price you get some great features that are regularly only seen in higher end units that run hundreds of dollars. This includes cloud storage integration, night vision, IP65 weatherproofing, and a no-questions asked 3 year warranty that we love.

These are also very robust units. Sure, the design looks a little dated as they sport the traditional rectangular box look with big wifi antennas poking out the top, but it is a time-tested and proven design. Why mess with a good thing?

The only sacrifice to be made with the Zmodo’s is that they only record in 720p. Oh no! Only 720p! Yeah, it doesn’t concern us all that much, especially given the bargain pricing.

We would gladly sacrifice 1080p resolution for 720p if it means we have the ability to purchase twice as many units to secure our property.

If you are looking for outdoor home surveillance on a budget then the Zmodo security cams should be on your list of considerations.

In addition to the Zmodo we also recommend cameras by Wansview, 4SDOT, and Amcrest as they are all extremely budget friendly brands who manufuctur decent quality cameras with warranties.

Zmodo vs. Wansview vs. 4SDOT vs. Amcrest

(insert table)

License-to-Shoot Summary

This is by no means a 100% complete guide, this is a guide based on personal experience, aggregate reviews and common sense. There are hundreds of different security camera manufacturers out there but we’ve selected units we’ve personally spent money on or would personally spend on.

If you have used a camera system from a different brand for your home outdoor security please let us know in the comments below as we’d be interested in researching it ourselves.

Remember, security is a matter of layers. Ultimately we like to have at least two camera systems installed on our residences, one discreet hidden system so we can monitor potential intruder without being aware, and another non-hidden system so we can view visitors and communicate with them from a distance.

We detailed both solution types above and highly recommend you consider implementing a two-tier surveillance and communication system yourself to cover all potential bases.