It´s obvious, I know, but electronics and water don´t mix. And unless you’re shooting with a body made before 1980, chances are it´s filled to the brim with the stuff. Even though a little drizzle typically isn’t anything to worry about, it is not unheard of for even a little bit of water to render a camera inoperable. So what can you do about it?
First, it’s important to note that even weather-sealed professional bodies are prone to failure in the elements. For just as many people that take their pro bodies through a storm without ill effects, there are an equal number that have their bodies stop functioning due to much less exposure. Samples vary, seals wear out, dust causes leaks, etc. The same thing applies to non-sealed gear. Some people never protect it, and others lose it in minor conditions. The only way to guarantee your investment is safe and dry is to do your best to keep the moisture off of it. And the methods to achieve that goal go from goofy to purposeful and anywhere in between.
Let’s start with the goofy: The Pant Leg
Many convenience stores carry cheap, disposable rain jacket and pants. Find one that has legs or sleeves that are the right size for your gear and cut them out. Leave a bit hanging off the end to cover the camera and your head and you’re set. Bonus if the leg or sleeve has a draw cord on the end, use it to tighten around the lens. A close cousin to this is the shower cap. They tend to cover any point and shoot and even some smaller SLR/lens combos easily.
The Trailer Trash
Is the store out of rain pants? Grab a garbage bag and some rubber bands. Poke a hole smaller than the diameter of your lens in one end and push the lens through it. The hole is smaller to allow the plastic to stretch and seal around the lens hood or he lens. Use the rubber bands to tighten these areas and keep them from slipping off too much. If the remainder is too big, cut it off, leaving enough to cover the camera and your head.
This is the middle ground. It is a balance between complexity and effectiveness. Essentially, these protectors distill the issue into is most basic elements. Problem: rain. Solution: barrier from rain. These are barely different from the “Pant Leg,” but they do go a step or two further. More durable materials are used, such as nylon or canvas, sometimes coated with water proofers. Seams are sealed. Concessions are made for ease of installation, and straps are used to keep panels where they should be. Some, like the Kata, even have windows for viewing the screen as well as exchangeable lens sleeves, but that’s pretty feature-rich for this category. If you want to keep your gear dependably dry with minimal fuss, these are the items you should be looking at. They’re made by Newswear, Kata, Lightware and others and typically run in the $30-$120 range.
A few years ago a new contender entered the ring looking to raise the bar. Australia-based AquaTech, maker of diving enclosures, released its SportShield. Made of materials similar to Gore-Tex, watertight zippers, viewing windows, custom eyepieces, openings for flashes and straps and a range of sizes for different body/lens combos, these things are serious about their task. They look like they can protect gear from a hurricane, and I know that they have. They are expensive, slow to put on and remove and cumbersome to use. But if you’re in a driving downpour, this is your best bet of keeping your gear dry short of a diving enclosure. Although I’m sure AquaTech would happily sell you one if you felt you needed it.
This is not a comprehensive list. I know I left things out. The trick is to be creative, and to not be afraid of looking like a freak.
So in what whacked-out ways have you kept your gear dry in the past?