Cameras and water don’t mix but a waterproof camera bag makes it possible to protect cameras on rivers, lakes, or the ocean. On a recent rafting trip of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, I was thankful that I had the Lowepro BP 40L backpack to keep my camera equipment dry along the 90-plus miles of whitewater splashing into the boat on the 6-day ROW adventures expedition. Despite class IV and V rapids, the Lowepro backpack never let a single drop of water come in contact with my equipment.
The BP 40L is similar to a dry day bag used on river trips but is outfitted to work as a light backpack with a cushioned insert for cameras and lenses. Its adjustable padded shoulder straps, and back cushioning made it comfortable to take the day hikes up steep trails. The back cushioning wicked sweat away from my body, and a waist strap transferred the weight of the cameras to my hips.
Waterproof camera bag is like a dry bag
Like a dry bag, the top is rolled three or more times, then fastened on the sides using an adjustable plastic buckle to keep the water out. The sturdy strips along the top make it easier to roll the bag, however Lowepro didn’t allow for enough material above the first strip. This made it harder to line up the strips and roll the bag. Another 1/2 to 1-inch would have been perfect. In calmer waters I could unroll the bag (while it remained strapped to the boat seat), and reach in for my camera to take a few shots. Putting the camera back into the bag and closing the bag to be water tight was difficult (but not impossible) due to the limited material.
Despite this slight inconvenience, it did keep the bag sealed. I used a strap threaded through the lash points on the front of the dry camera bag to hold it securely onto the boat. Our trip had the boat dropping into rapids, and relentless deep “wave trains” splashing so high that one wave washed out my contact lens. The bag was pounded by waves yet it held secure, and no water got inside.
Along with the lash points, there are two loop straps on the bottom of the backpack. The loops were somewhat useful when attaching a water bottle or other accessory with a carabiner. Otherwise, the straps aren’t adjustable and couldn’t hold a tripod or anything else I had with me.
Padded camera bag insert
Cameras and equipment are protected by a cushioned camera bag insert that fits into the bottom of the BP 40L. The camera bag includes velcro dividers that can be positioned to hold camera(s) and lenses in place. A zipper top ensures that the cameras don’t come out of the insert inside the bag. (As the insert can be removed, I’ve been able to use it in another backpack that doesn’t have padded dividers.) The insert can accommodate one or two crop-sensor cameras and a couple lenses. It can fit a Canon full-frame DSLR camera with 70-200mm telephoto and possibly one or two small lenses. While the size will suit most photographer’s needs, it was a challenge for me to carry my Canon with telephoto, plus the Nikon D-810 full frame DSLR with a 24-70mm lens. I had to create other padding with lens cases and other accessories to keep the equipment from banging against each other.
Along with the insert, the DryZone bag is large enough to stuff with a jacket, hat, gloves or other needs for your day on the water.
This bag endured all I threw at it, including hanging from is top loop from a carabiner attached to a tree branch. It was convenient, comfortable, and protected my equipment. The Lowepro DryZone BP 40L might seem a bit pricey at $250, but if you are taking a rafting trip, trekking through rivers, or ocean waves are washing across the bow of your boat, it’s worth every penny to know your equipment won’t get wet or sandy and you have a comfortable way to carry it all. Lowepro also makes a step-up model, the DryZone 200, which is a divided camera bag rather than just a dry bag and looks like it would be easier to access my cameras. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to give it a try on my trip rafting and hiking through the Grand Canyon next month.
Barb Gonzalez is a travel and commercial photographer who is bringing years of experience to explain, review, and give tips about cameras, accessories, photo software, and how to create better photos. View a gallery of photos at www.barbgonzalezphotography.com, follow her on instagram @barbgphoto, and like the BarbGonzalezPhotography Facebook page.