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I am planning to travel to places like Switzerland (Mt. Titlis) which has temperatures going down to -15 C. I have the Nikon D3100 SLR camera. I am not sure about the performance of the camera in such conditions (and the precautions to take). I am planning to put 2 small pouches of silica gel in the camera case/bag.

How useful is the silica gel in protecting the camera for any kind of condensation issues that may arise due to change of temperatures?

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Asking two question under one title is not a good practise here. For the batteries part; check this answer from a Canadian camera reviewer. –  Esa Paulasto Jan 25 at 16:03
    
I can't speak to silica gel's effectiveness, but standard operating procedure is to bag the camera/lenses (as in "Ziploc bag" or similar, not just "camera bag") while you're still outdoors and don't remove the bags until the equipment has warmed. The air inside the sealed bag will be quite dry (the relative humidity will decrease as the air's temperature increases). –  user2719 Jan 25 at 19:08
    
On battery: batteryuniversity says "Batteries that would provide 100 percent capacity at 27°C (80°F) will typically deliver only 50 percent at –18°C (0°F)" and "at –20°C (–4°F) most nickel-, lead- and lithium-based batteries stop functioning". 50% loss at -18°C matches well with my experience. –  j-g-faustus Jan 25 at 19:48
    
It will always depend on amount of gel that you use. –  Evan Pak Jan 26 at 4:34
    
I have kept 2 small pouches inside the camera bag –  testndtv Jan 26 at 4:36

1 Answer 1

The greatest benefit from including silica gel in your camera bag is to keep the inside of the bag dryer than the outside air when stored at room temperatures that tend to be fairly moist for long periods of time.

If you bring your cameras in from a cold environment, particularly sub-freezing temperatures and then bag them in a warm, moist environment nothing is going to prevent problems from condensation. If you bag the camera gear while still in the cold environment and then take the bag inside and allow it to sit unopened for enough time to warm to room temperature the additional insurance of the silica gel can't hurt. This is based on the assumption your bag is fairly air tight and doesn't have a lot of voids with air pockets when your gear is stowed. Otherwise you may want to place the camera gear in an air tight plastic bag until it has warmed up.

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FWIW blown warm air clears up condensation rapidly. In Kuala Lumpur a butterfly house had a warm air blower inside the entrance to allow people to defog spectacles and camera lenses. I do not know if the air source had been dehumidified. –  Russell McMahon Jan 26 at 2:28
    
@RussellMcMahon It would just about had to have been dried air, either with a dedicated dehumidifier or as a result of how it was heated. The colder air is, the less moisture it can hold before it begins to condensate. That is why a dew point measurement is more precise than relative humidity. The dew point is the temperature at which the current amount of moisture in the air (regardless of current temperature) is the maximum amount of moisture the air can hold without being supersaturated. The lower the dew point is, the less moisture the air is holding. –  Michael Clark Jan 26 at 4:59
    
That would have to be 'maybe'. I'm aware of the general principles of condensation and dewpoint and relative humdity etc and have pored over[psychrometric charts](. google.co.nz/…) for various reasons. I'm even aware that the normal arguments for camera lens fogging when exposed to cold air are the inverse of actual(!) But in this case it MAY have just be a was mounted fan heater. May. Technically that counts as a dehumidifier in that context. –  Russell McMahon Jan 26 at 9:56
    
Camera lenses can and do fog when moved from warm moist air to a colder environment. If a camera lens fogs when exposed to cold air it is because of the warmer moist air inside the lens condensing on the interior surface of the lens elements as they and the moist air inside the lens cool. –  Michael Clark Jan 27 at 0:34

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