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Tips for Taking Your Camera Afield -
Part 2 (Water Sports)

If you're like me and can't seem to confine yourself to just one outdoor pursuit to which you just have to bring your camera, this one and Tip 23 will probably be especially useful.

The general idea when bringing a camera afield is to ensure its protection while allowing for access to your equipment when it's wanted or needed. When dealing with water, ease of access is compromised in order to properly protect your equipment (with some exceptions of course).

The easiest thing to do in the event that you want to take a camera out on canoe, kayak, or rafting trip is to buy a waterproof or water resistant camera. Water resistant cameras vary from the $15.00 disposables, to models like the Pentax 90WR that I own which is water resistant to 12 feet, all the way to full-blown underwater cameras like the Nikonos that are designed to be used at great depths.

All right you say, I'm not in the mood to buy a new camera right now and a disposable just doesn't cut it. Several manufacturers, such as EWA Marine, make waterproof "housings" (more like giant zip-lock bags) for many different kinds of cameras, including video cameras. These housings allow you to use the camera, while protecting it from water.

If you won't need frequent or immediate access to your camera during your travels, a hard-case is the way to go. Cases such as those made by Pelican, provide complete waterproof protection in hard-plastic cases with built-in divider systems. If you are using a canoe, access to your equipment from these cases is relatively easy. Only the very smallest models would be practical for use in a kayak. Kayakers may also want to consider some of the "soft" cases that are available for smaller camera models. These resemble inflatable air-mattresses in their design.

The common and popular "dry bag" is also an option. These are generally made of a heavy vinyl with a roll-down top and can be found in most any sporting goods store. However, there are two problems with using dry bags. First, they don't have any padding to protect your equipment. If you have a padded camera case that fits inside the dry bag, you may be all set. Second, dry bags are not really designed to hold heavy equipment like cameras. If you only have a small point-and-shoot camera, or an SLR and lens combo, you may be alright. If you have anything more than that, you should consider a hard case.

If totally waterproof protection is not necessary for your purposes (let's say you're traveling on the unsinkable Titanic for instance), there are even more options. Plain old Zip-loc bags in a padded camera case will provide general protection from non-soaking spray or paddle drips. Garbage bags and other plastic bags can also be put to use for protection. Caution: don't rely on Zip-locs or other plastic bags to provide leak-proof protection. Camera equipment that has gotten wet, especially through immersion, generally cannot be repaired and will have to be replaced.

Oh, if you are planning on a voyage on the Titanic, buy a hard case! :-)

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