Protecting & Carrying Your Digital Equipment
Article © 2005-09 by Jenna Caplette, with tips from our staff at F-11 Photographic Supplies
No question about it: becoming a member of the imaging world quickly becomes an investment. How do you protect your gear, efficiently pack and carry it, and give yourself quick access to it? Enter the world of imaging accessories, a world where needs you didn’t know you had have been both anticipated and remedied.
In Montana, we’re going to be carrying our gear out and about; to the mountains, canoeing or rafting, hiking, mountain biking – car camping. To protect your gear, and your body when you’re carrying it, and to provide that quick and efficient access to it, enter the world of Lowepro. Founded thirty years ago by climbers who field-tested all the products, Lowepro manufactures a variety of shoulder sling bags, backpacks, rolling bags and camera pactouches. .
Every Lowepro bag safely holds your camera and a lens, or two. Their backpacks hold much more. Depending on the design, you can load in gear and accessories, along with your camera instruction manual, your car keys, a lunch and a rain jacket. Speaking of rain – that’s a big reason for investing in an optical-gear specific carrying solution. Rain. Snow. Sleet and hail. You don’t want your gear to get wet, or dusty for that matter. Lowepro AW series packs have an attached raincover – pull it out, slip it on, and you’ve protected everything in the bag. It’s a very efficient design with some room for a lunch and a jacket at the top of each pack. There’s even a place to carry your tripod vertically so it doesn’t smack in to trees or rocks as you bushwhack.
There are many traditional bags available in the all-weather design to protect even the smallest point and shoot digital cameras. Journalists – and other people who want to be ready with their gear – benefit from the all-weather design. Check out Think Tank for a new twist on speed of use without sacrificing your equipment.
For water-play, canoeing, kayaking, river rafting, and fishing, you can also get packs that are totally waterproof, with a submersible dry-zone and a special waterproof-sealed zipper. Waterproof zippers are harder to "pull" because of the seal they create, so use the little tube of lubricant that comes with the bag until you can zip and unzip easily.
So, you’re on the water and experience an unscheduled, quick turn-over event. You and all your gear end up in the river. If you have your extra camera cards in a little cardboard box secured with the rubber band you took off your morning newspaper, when they hit the water, will they stay dry? Will the card you tucked in a pocket float? Try a Gepe Card Safe™. Their Extreme cases float. Each of their other designs protects memory cards from humidity and dust as well as electrostatic charge. Depending on the case’s size, they hold from two to six cards. One case is designed to also hold and protect a digital camera battery.
The crew at Bozeman’s F11 Photographic Supplies product-tested Gepe Card Safes by throwing one off the roof of their three story building. It hit the concrete sidewalk and survived. They put it under the tires of a United Parcel Service delivery truck. Nothing. They whacked its hinges with a hammer. Ah, it is possible to break a card safe. But it takes commitment.
If you are going to float a river, you should consider a hard-case that’s completely water tight. The primary manufacturer for these is Pelican and the cases come in all sizes and price points, from a simple, low-cost one for a little digital point-and-shoot camera to large, lockable cases that you can wheel through an airport. Pelican cases are absolutely guaranteed to be waterproof and they keep your equipment extremely safe. Remember to check the seals on waterproof bags and keep them free of dirt and debris that could cause them to fail. Replace damaged or worn out seals before you test that new kayak.
Ever not have your binoculars out and ready to use because their strap bites in to your neck? Web straps can be hard and harsh against your skin over the course of a day. Consider getting a neoprene strap that form-fits and makes your load feel much lighter. OpTech straps are made in Montana, Belgrade in fact. There are many styles of straps with interchangeable connectors. Connectors allow you to remove the strap quickly, mount the strap to different cameras, and adjust the overall length of the strap. For active outdoor recreation like biking and climbing, consider adding a "weight reduction system stabilizer strap" which holds your binoculars, or camera, in place, with an easy, one-buckle release.
Really like the neoprene? You can get OpTech cases for your camera and lenses that fit wet-suit close. They’re actually made from heavy dive suit weight neoprene and are sewn so they not only give you impact protection - they also give you water and dust protection.
OpTech also makes a nifty accessory called a filter pack. It snaps to your camera bag so that you’re not digging for your filters. Each filter pack has room for two filters, up to 77mm in diameter.
Filters? Yes. They’re an important camera accessory that deserve their own "photo-tip." But for now, consider putting a polarizer and a graduated neutral density filter in that OpTech filter pack...