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Weatherproofing your gear during wicked Montana winters



My partner and I had just hiked nine miles to our campsite at Cosley Lake in Glacier National Park when we noticed an approaching dark cloud that threatened rain and snow. We moved fast to erect the tent and as soon as the last stake was driven into the ground, the sky opened up and we dashed inside. The temperature started to drop, as did my stomach. I was on assignment, with photos still to take, and had no way to recharge my camera’s dying batteries. I decided to do the next best thing: I ejected the one from my camera, grabbed the spare and climbed into my sleeping bag. Long, frigid days in the outdoors can be a drain on battery juice, but snuggling up and keeping them warm will extend their life and keep you shooting in bone-chilling conditions.

Preparation during winter months is key. Before you set out, it’s critical to make sure your batteries are fully charged. I usually take two; one in my camera, the other in a pocket close to my body. If I don’t plan on shooting right away, I place both batteries in my pocket and don’t pull one out until I need it. Placing them in a Ziploc bag will ensure that they stay dry.

Montana Headwall
  • Cathrine L. Walters

It’s also important to keep your gear dry, especially if you’re out in snow, sleet or rain. I store my CompactFlash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) photo cards in a waterproof container to keep them free of moisture and protect them from accidental drops into snow or puddles.

I like to carry multiple lenses on snowy expeditions, even if they do add weight to my pack. Wide-angle lenses are great for grand backdrops, and a telephoto zoom will bring viewers closer to your action. If you find yourself needing to swap lenses in a snow storm, it’s best to find a sheltered area or wait until you’re indoors to make the switch. This helps prevent moisture from getting inside the camera body. A good chamois is also helpful for removing any water droplets that may accumulate on the glass.

After spending long days out in the cold, visions of warm fires and hot furnaces begin to fill my head. But before heading to any heated oasis I place my camera in a plastic bag and leave it on an unheated porch, near a cool window or in a cold corner of the room for a few hours. This allows the camera to warm up slowly, and condensation to settle on the surface of the bag instead of on your expensive electronics. Before you turn in for the night remember to charge your batteries once again—or take ’em to bed with you if charging is not an option. When you wake up you’ll be ready to keep shooting up a storm, even if you’re in one.


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