There has been quite a flurry of trail camera launches recently, but with the exception of the Reolink Keen I have not really enjoyed a lot of success with any of them. For most people I’m sure this latest crop of sim-based cameras are fine, but I happen to reside in something of a black hole when it comes to telecoms.

Living halfway up the wrong side of a mountain certainly has its challenges, with the lack of a mobile signal being one of them. When I say the ‘wrong side’, I should perhaps say the ‘dark side’. The only cell tower in the area is several miles away on the opposite side of the mountain, which means I get zero coverage at home, relying entirely on wi-fi calling for mobile connectivity.

The annoying thing is that only 600m away across the valley there’s an OK-ish 3G signal that falls just outside the shadow of the mountain, so I can sometimes deploy cameras on my local permissions, but it’s often a very hit-and-miss affair.

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 Loads of optional extras and mounting options


I was initially approached by the marketing agency that represents Eley, as they had also just taken on the ICU account. I explained my rather precarious position when it comes to comms but they seemed confident that the ICU system would still deliver the goods. I was sceptical given my previous experience, but I was assured that this system is different and specifically designed to work in very remote areas right around the globe, primarily for wildlife conservation, anti- poaching activities and the like.

The acid test would be deployment on my little four-acre patch of mountainside. If a trail cam works here, it will work anywhere. Once it was safely attached to a small pole barn I flicked on the power and waited nervously as the lights flickered.

I’ve never managed to connect with any trailcam from this spot, but amazingly once back at the house my phone reconnected to the wi-fi and seconds later a less than flattering picture of your truly appeared. My phone showed zero bars down by the barn but it’s clear that the camera somehow managed to make a connection, delivering not only a still shot but also the option to download an accompanying video.


This single technical achievement would warrant a rave review from me but it’s only part the ICU CLOM Cam5’s appeal. If you need to deploy several cameras it can quickly become quite a costly undertaking. Each camera comes at a cost, but over time it’s the sims themselves that can really chew through your cash.

The cheapest method is often a 4/5GB sim-only deal, typically costing £5/7 per month, but multiply that over 4/5 cameras and it becomes a sizeable investment. The ICU CLOM Cam5, however, ships with pre- installed sims, which in itself is nothing particularly unusual. However, there is one crucial difference: these sims/ cameras operate as a network.

Each camera has its own sim, but the cost is shared across the network based on a ‘coin’ (credit) system. You pay for coins, not the sim itself, so if ‘camera 1’ takes no pictures you pay nothing; it’s only the total number of pics or videos across your network that matters. This approach can dramatically reduce your monthly spend while still allowing you to cover a much wider area with an array of cameras drawing from a single pool of coins. Crucially coins do not expire, so there’s no waste if you don’t use your cameras for a while.

At the basic rate each still image costs one coin and a video is 10. Another money-saving feature is that if you have stills and video recording active you receive the still with an option to download the video, you don’t need to download the video if it’s a false trigger or if the still image provides all the information you need.

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Excellent daytime image quality and config options


So the ICU system offers unrivalled connectivity, is very cost effective when operating a multicamera network, and you don’t need to spend unnecessarily on video clips you might not need. But how does it stack up in terms of image quality and functionality? Again, it scores very highly on all counts. The image/video quality, triggering distance, customisation tools and the accompanying app are excellent, and certainly on a par with anything else on the market.

Like all modern sim-based cams, the unit is primarily app driven, so there’s no squinting at a tiny screen on the unit itself unless you need to. It’s all very nicely presented, featuring all the configurations options and features you’d expect, including scheduling for on/off times, image sharing with friends, image analysis (which requires a premium subscription) and AI to detect specific species. Admittedly it did ID my next- door neighbour’s lakeland terrier as a wild boar, so perhaps a little more fine- tuning is required in that department… But it was a tricky angle.

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The only irritation is that you really need to sign up to a Plus or Premium account to access certain key features such as remote control and time control. The Plus account also provides half-price video once you’ve signed up.

A basic account still allows you to add coins, but it’s very limiting in terms of setup and configuration – no remote config. The combined screenshot above right illustrates the difference between the three plans.

The plus plan (which adds all the key functionality) effectively adds £69.99 to the basic yearly running cost, although that would open up the core configuration options across all the cameras in your network.

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 Impressive performance after hours

ICU are also sweetening the deal with an introductory offer using the slogan ‘The first year is on us!’ In other words a €50 bonus, equivalent to 4,000 pictures (coins) with every new 4G camera. Their website goes on to add: “This corresponds to the average annual requirement of an icuserver customer.”

Technically excellent, amazing coverage plus an approach to data costs that will have huge appeal to heavy trailcam users such as farmers, keepers and hunters. Highly recommended. 

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