We read an article a while back about how mold and fungus can start growing inside the lens or body of a camera, especially in high humidity environments like Costa Rica. The result was a frenzy of Google searches and, similar to when you look up some weird skin rash, the results were horrifying. To sum it all up, mold and fungus can ruin your equipment if you’re not careful. Worst of all, upon closer examination, we realized our zoom lens already had wisps of mold growing right under the front glass. Luckily, with the help of some miniature screw drivers and lens cleaner, we addressed the problem before it got worse. But the question still remained: How to keep a camera mold free in the tropics?
For those just traveling to Costa Rica for a week or two, a few silica packets (like the ones you find in a shoe box) placed in your camera bag and an air conditioned hotel room will probably suffice. But for longer stays, a dry box is the way to go. There are many commercially available dry boxes specifically designed for cameras and other electronics, but you can also easily make one yourself. We got most of the materials for ours from the local Maxi Pali (Walmart-owned store chain).
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Plastic container with good sealing lid. It helps to put some weather stripping or something around the edge if it is loose.
- Something to absorb humidity. Silica packets work and can be re-dried at low temps in the oven, but we couldn’t find any in Costa Rica. Instead we used a system of Calcium Chloride (similar to Damp Rid) which is more readily available here. Update: We have tried both methods and prefer the Calcium Chloride one. The Silica Packets worked great but were saturated within a month or so. We also found drying them to be a major hassle as opposed to just adding a little more Calcium Chloride powder to the Damp Rid container every few months.
- Humidity gauge. Again, we couldn’t find one here so we bought this one on Amazon and had a friend bring it down for us.
- Rubber place-mat or something else to keep your equipment from sliding around in the box.
Our dry box setup has been a lifesaver. We keep the humidity level around 40-50%, adding more Calcium Chloride or Silica packets when needed, and store our camera away whenever we aren’t using it. Since our initial fungus discovery five months ago, we haven’t had any problems since. Hopefully this post will help keep your camera and lenses safe too.
If you have any other techniques that you use to keep your equipment fungus free, please let us know below.
Post by: Matthew Houde and Jennifer Turnbull-Houde