How To Manage Your Camera Gear in Cold and Warm Temperatures
Fighting condensation when moving from your warm car or hotel into a cold environment (or visa versa) can play havoc with your camera equipment, within a few moments of opening your bag you will end up with lots of fog on your glass or even worse on your sensor.
While this is a royal pain there are a few simple ways your can avoid condensation on your camera or condensation on your lens.
Moving from Hot Environment to Cold Environment
One easy way to combat any condensation is to leave all your gear outside, simple enough however if you are like me the thought of leaving over $10,000 worth of camera gear in your car or on hotel balcony can make you slightly twitchy and restless, then read on and I’ll tell you how you can avoid that horror scenario.
When going from hot to cold you will need to cool your equipment down, the best way is to throw some freezer packs into your camera bag in a separate compartment and then leave it closed. I use these from Amazon for $20 as they are super thin and can be placed anywhere inside. If you are staying in a hotel check the freezer (if you have one) is actually on when you arrive, then you can freeze your packs.
It’s worth noting batteries perform far worse in the cold so keep them warm for as long as possible or slip them into your packet with a hand warmer for example, these hand warmer packs from Eddie Bauer do the trick, can heat an entire compartment in another bag too and only cost around $30. A good alternative is keep them in the same pocket as your mobile phone as that will keep them just warm enough too. Check the heat from the heat warmers (which ever you choose) before you set off mind as they do get toasty.
Make sure your freezer pack is in with your camera for at least an hour before you head out. Pro note (i.e. I learned from this mistake), make sure you wrap the freezer pack inside a zip lock bag so your camera and lenses are not splashing around in water by the time you use them.
If you are in a hotel and have a fridge you can set the fridge on its highest temperature and place your camera and lens in there. Do not place your batteries in as well as they will under perform when you go to use them. Keep them charged at ambient temperature. When you’re ready to go place your cold camera into your bag at the very last moment before leaving the room. Use a freezer pack to keep it cold during transportation, you could take it out after you know the lens doesn’t fog up.
Doing all this should stop your equipment from fogging up, at least in some part when going from hot to cold temperatures. Do not open your bag again until you’re ready to start your photography.
Moving from Cold Environment to hot Environment
The ultimate and best way to leave your gear outside but if that makes you uncomfortable or you can’t for whatever reason then we can plan for that.
I come up against the condensation problem more than moving from hot to cold with my camera gear. To avoid it I slip some heated hand warmers into my camera bag before I head out, these medical grade “grab n go” packs are amazing and cost very little, they will heat up your camera and lens just long enough for you to get zero condensation before you start photographing the outdoors. Alternative purchase are these by Heat Factory for less than $40 for a box and they last much longer and these on Amazon by Jobsite for just under $40
For heading out into the heat I would recommend slipping these in up-to two to three hours before you leave as heating seems to take longer than cooling down, test the heat first and never place them directly onto your camera or lens to heat them up. Zip up your bag and leave it until you are ready to shoot.
Alternative Method (works for both)
Another alternative is take a cool box like this one from Engle with you and lock your camera in there, bring it inside and don’t open it. This way you can keep either the camera warm or hot using the methods above and not having to relay on a fridge freezer for example. You could also have a small bag of unopened ice from the local department store of fuel station and keep that inside.