Kayaking and Camera Gear?

Ron Niebrugge Alaska, Ask Ron, Chugach, Photos, Travel 10 Comments

Kayaking in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

Kayaking in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

As part of the ask Ron theme, adventure photographer Ryan Bonneau asks how I handle my camera gear while kayaking.  Ryan is going to be spending two months kayaking in Prince William Sound this summer (lucky guy!).  He went on to say he has tried storing his gear on deck in a dry bag, as well as in his cockpit in a dry bag, and has never felt comfortable with either system.

Well, unfortunately I don’t have a solution for this one.  I do the same thing as Ryan, and have never felt comfortable with those options either.  Usually I keep my camera in a dry bag under the bungees on the deck in front of me, kind of like the yellow bag you see in this photo.  My camera’s dry bag is red – it is probably sitting on my skirt and just out of sight in this photo.  Getting the camera in and out of the bag and stowed away is always a wet, awkward proposition full of risk – I dread hearing that plunking sound of a lens dropping overboard, so far I have been fortunate.  I’ve seen this topic come up in photography forums, but have never heard of a better solution.

By the way, the dark area between both bows is a large school of salmon.

I hadn’t seen Ryan’s photography until today – check it out, he has some great stuff.  Looks like he just started a blog as well.

Comments 10

  1. Several years ago I picked up a Sima Sports Pouch for rafting and kayaking trips. It’s sort of like a dry bag, but with inflatable tubes so it floats if it goes overboard, and it’s a little quicker to get open and closed than a standard dry bag. The inflatable tubes also provide cushioning, and it comes with a shoulder strap so you can “wear” it, or easily lash it to something on your boat.
    http://www.simaproducts.com/products/product_detail.php?product_id=102
    Doesn’t make it much less scary taking multi-$$$$ equipment on the water, however. : )

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    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for suggestion and the link – looks like an interesting product. I like the idea of extra padding and inflation – I’m not sure my heavy camera would actually float in a dry bag even with extra air left trapped inside.

    The lack of protection has also bothered me – I usually leave a small towel in the bag to help cushion, but when you put the bag in the cockpit, kayak compartment, or even on the beach, I worry about it getting bumped around without the normal protection provided by a camera bag.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  3. Liking this post Ron – I really want to get out on a kayak a bunch in the future. I’ll have to check out Greg’s suggestion. I don’t know how much you are changing lenses while on the water Ron, or how much Ryan plans to. If you are thinking of sticking to just 1 body + 1 lens (maybe a sharp all around zoom – dependent on what you want to focus on), then you might want to consider getting a Ewa Marine “Bag” (they call it a housing – but it’s a flexible bag rated to 20 meters). I know James Balog (of the Extreme Ice Survey) used one to photography icebergs while being splashed full in the face with salt water. It’s completely waterproof and appears to allow you to adjust all camera settings.
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/17357-REG/Ewa_Marine_EM_U_A_U_A_Underwater_Housing.html#reviews
    I’m going to pick one up for my SLR kit. Another option is a Canon G9 with the Canon underwater housing. I picked up the housing when I first bought my G9 and it’s actually quite nice! It would make a decent wide angle to mid tele camera (with RAW and IS capability built in). Even with the camera in it, it is positively buoyant – but you could also attach a small “life vest” to it – a small section of a “water noodle” tied to the housing strap should do the trick.
    For the rest of your gear that you don’t need ready access to, maybe a Lowepro Dryzone backpack. I’ve had one for several years now – it is made just like a drysuit, floats with a full load, and is waterproof when sealed shut.
    Hope this helps.

  4. Thanks for the response Ron and Greg.

    I think I might try to customize a deck bag that I have and see if that helps. I will let you know if I have any luck.

    I hope it’s a little warmer and drier than last summer up there!!

    Ryan.

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    Hey Ryan, I think we all hope it is a better summer!

    Thanks for the suggestion Dave! I have wondered how sharp those bags are when used above water. I have always wanted one, not just for kayaking, but for messing around lakes and streams as well. I will be interested in hearing how you like it.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  6. Not an easy problem to solve. While in Maui I pretty much took a huge chance using a waterproof backpack. I’ve never had luck with dry bags as they always accumulate water in them one way or another no matter how careful I am. Great to see the other comments with potential solutions. A great discussion Ron thanks for hosting it.

  7. I’ve only managed to go kayaking once (on lake powell) and I had a blast. I took a camera (film back then), and just shoved it in a dry bag. I used my cheapest camera at the time. That’s actually one unfortunate thing I find about digital. You can lose a _lot_ of money, whereas back in film days, you could still get fantastic results with a plastic Rebel.

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