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Old 04-24-2010, 06:32 PM   #1
bostran1
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Camping with Camera Gear Question

When I was growing up my brothers, dad, and I would go camping in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota almost every summer. Once us kids got older, went to college, and moved away we stopped. Well, we are all going back this summer (so is my wife). In the many-years interim since I have been to the Boundary Waters I started taking photography more seriously. I will be bringing a decent amount of gear with me this summer.

As the Boundary Waters are a canoe in and canoe out type of place water damage is a big concern of mine. While I would not mind hearing everyone's thoughts on what gear to bring with me I am specifically looking for information on waterproof camera transportation. I just want to know what will help keep my gear dry while I am paddling. Tipovers are always possible and rain is usually inevitable while I am up there. I am thinking of just getting a dry bag from REI to accomplish this task as I do not expect to need to use it more than once or twice over the next several years. The cost of the bag is another factor (I don't expect it to be cheap but would like to keep it around $50).

What does everyone think? Keep in mind that we have to fit everything in a canoe and carry it all on our backs between lakes. As I said, I'm looking for a simple solution and will likely not need extremely quick access to the camera while it is in waterproof storage in the canoe.

On a related note, here is what I am bringing (weight and compactness are important for this trip!):

1. DSLR
2. An incredible amount of compact flash cards
3. 2 camera batteries
4. Battery grip
5. 2-3 dozen AA batteries for the camera grip when the other batteries run out
6. Tripod, likely a GorillaPod rather than my full tripod
7. 17-85 lens
8. 70-200 lens
9. Compact camera bag
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Old 04-24-2010, 06:34 PM   #2
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Check with Mark, I know he takes his Camera on canoe trips.
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Old 04-24-2010, 06:39 PM   #3
bostran1
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I was thinking the same thing. I figured he would be drawn right to this thread and his knowledge would help me and many other members. Thanks.
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Old 04-25-2010, 11:35 PM   #4
My2Girls66
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I use a dry bag for my camera in the canoe. I got mine from Eastern Mt Sports but I would imagine any sporting goods store that carries kayaks and such would have them.
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Old 04-26-2010, 07:49 AM   #5
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I am taking a photography class from a guy (professional photographer) who does a lot of traveling - Africa, So America, etc. He uses a Pelican case that is waterproof, bulletproof - and he says it will even float in the water when loaded.

Good luck finding what you need!
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Old 04-26-2010, 01:52 PM   #6
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Canoeing and Photography are my favorite hobbies, so I've done both together many times. I've packed my gear in a variety of different ways.

A Pelican case is the most durable casing. That's what I would use on a whitewater or heavy surf outing. If it falls out of the boat, it will float and survive a lot of bashing. The problem is that it is a pain to get in and out of and, being rigid, doesn't pack well. It would also be a real nuisance to carry on a hike and you probably wouldn't want to leave your camera gear sitting in your canoe unless you are in a really remote area.

I have a LowePro DryZone 200. It's a waterproof backpack. It's not nearly as durable as the Pelican case, but on flat water, it would be just fine. If it fell in, it would probably still float and should be watertight unless it went quite a ways under. I have two problems with it. First, It has an outer cover flat that is too big and is a pain to deal with. Second, the waterproof zipper system is a pain to close. Out of water, you can zip the non-waterproof zipper and use it like a normal backpack.

Another option is what you mentioned - a dry bag. They tend to have relatively narrow mouths, so it might be hard to find one into which you could shove a camera bag. You might want to get some small, padded bags to stick your camera in and then shove those in the dry bag. Or you could just shove your camera gear in their and not worry about the various parts banging around against each other. Like everything else, a dry bag can be a nuisance to get in and out of while paddling.

If you've had much experience canoeing, you don't plan to any significant whitewater, and you're paddling a decent boat, you might want to just use a regular camera bag. While it is possible for a neophyte to flip a canoe on flat water (especially if it is a poor design), it requires some seriously bad luck or stupid moves. This is especially true if it has a lot of gear, which tends to lower the center of gravity. You could always bring a trash compactor bag or two to cover it during the rain.

When I canoe with camera gear, I usually just use my regular pack (which has a rain cover). I use it primarily to hold spare lenses and stuff. I paddle in the bow and have a foam footbrace on which I rest my camera so that I can have quick access to it. You don't want it on the bottom of the boat because of bilge water. Of course, I'm known to be reckless, so I'm probably not a good role model.

A word of caution about DEET. When we paddled the BWCA about 13 years ago, we were concerned about the bugs. We brought bug net jacket/hoods and 100% DEET. The DEET worked great for mosquitos, but at 100% concentration, it was hell on some plastics and other materials. One could question the wisdom of slathering your skin with something that melts plastic, but that's another topic. My point is that if you use bug spray with high concentrations of DEET, be careful to clean your hands before handling your camera gear.

One other thing to consider is a clamp with a 1/4" mount screw on it. You could clamp it to your canoe, mount your camera on it, and shoot or take video while you paddle.

Aside from camera gear, I strongly recommend that you get a good canoe and paddle. We used a Kevlar Wenonah Minnesota II before we had kids and upgraded to a Minnesota IV for camping with them. They are very light, track well, and are great for lake tripping. The have very little inital stability, so they aren't the best for photography, but they have awesome final stability, which may be why in 18 years of paddling together my wife and I have never tipped a canoe over (kayaks are another story). As for paddles, nothing beats carbon fiber. The weight savings is dramatic. My preference is Zavarel racing paddles, but don't get the 8 ounce paddles as they break too easily. If you paddle hit-and-switch (switching sides ever 5 to 20 strokes) rather than having the stern paddler J-stroke, having an ultralight paddle is extremely important. Of course, a bent shaft paddle is also a big advantage for flat water paddling.

Here are some shots from a Buffalo River trip we took a couple of years ago. It's not flat water paddling, but it's the only set of shots I have of photogrpahy on a canoeing camping trip. You can see a silver pelican case in some of the shots. I'd recommend orange for better visibility if it goes swimming without permission. You'll also notice that my wife and I wore inflatable PFDs. They are so much more comfortable, but only suited for flat water situations.
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Old 04-26-2010, 02:07 PM   #7
My2Girls66
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Another word about DEET. I put a can of 15% Deet in my suitcase going to AZ last summer- the can leaked and melted the plastic bag it was in.
When I take my camera in a dry bag I put the camera and whatever lenses I take and put them in their own cases and put them in the bag. If rolled properly the bag is supposed to float.
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:21 PM   #8
bostran1
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Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

I gave some serious thought to a Pelican case but I think it is just going to be too bulky for this particular trip. I am glad to hear that others have experience with a dry bag and I think I may go that route if I can find a decent one that will fit my more compact travel camera bag. I think that with a carabiner to the canoe will do the trick alright.

As for the canoeing, Mark, it will primarily be flat-water canoeing but we have been paddling in the boundary with some pretty good storms so I always keep an eye out for a tipover! I haven't taken a plunge in about 10 trips there but my brother has! Of course, now that I say that, I'm going in this time...

Thanks for the other suggestions too. The bugs at the BWCA can get bad!
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