How to make your own Dry Box
Care for your camera
How to care for our camera & camera lenses against condensation and molds
I live in a very humid house and in the past, I had to throw away my clothes, handbag, mattress and book cabinets due to molds.
Few years ago, I bought a DSLR camera and soon afterwards, I found out that many people complained about molds growing in their camera lenses coating. It's extremely hard to clean these molds. Sometimes, they had to throw away moldy expensive lens and I don't want it to happen to me.
Why does the camera lens get molds?
Molds love to grow on DSLR lens coating as they love growing in warm, moist and humid places. Generally, molds will grow when the relative humidity (RH) is more than 70%. And there is a very specific type of molds which can only grow when the RH level is less than 20%.
The most ideal RH level to store the camera gear is between 40-50%.
The RH level at my home during wintertime is around 75% and I use a 20L dehumidifier to help reducing the RH level. Unfortunately, dehumidifier is expensive to run, so I had to find a cheaper alternative.
My friend suggested a dry box with silica gel & hygrometer. I shopped around and discovered that dry box for one camera and one lens is quite affordable. However, if you have more than one lens, dry box can be quite expensive, it costs more than $100.
If you don't want to spend a fortune to purchase a dry box, why don't you make your own? Making your own dry box will cost less than $60
When you use the dry box for the first time, put the silica gel & hygrometer inside the box first and keep the box empty & airtight for a minimum of 6 hours.
Because when the silica gel is used for the first time, it is in full strength means that it will absorb the moisture in full capacity making the dry box drier than anticipated.
It is based on my friend's personal experience, he put his camera & gear inside the brand new dry box & silica gel; and he found out that the RH level was 35% (too dry). After several hours, the RH level stabilized to 50% and stayed around that level until the silica gel needed to be recharged / renewed.
Making your own dry box
Three essential things you'll need to make your own dry box:
1. Airtight container
2. Silica gel or small wireless dehumidifier
1. Airtight Lock & Lock Container
Choose the right size container that will fit all your camera gear (camera & lenses).
The airtight container will prevent the outside air to enter into the container hence maintaining the right RH inside it. Place the sealed container in a cool dry area.
You can use big food storage container airtight or a specially-designed locked storage container for camera lenses. Price starts from $19
BPA free plastic. 100% leak proof & 100% airtight to keep your precious camera & lenses from dust & humidity.
It has 4 sided locking system plus a blue handle so you can easily carry your gear wherever you go.
2. Small wireless dehumidifier / silica gels
A small dehumidifier is totally wireless and is able absorb moisture from a small contained container unit. The unit does not need a battery / electricity to operate and simply hang it inside the container.
The beauty of this unit is it is rechargeable / can be renewed. The unit has a special color moisture meter crystals indicator which changes from "blue" (when dry) to "pink" (when wet). When the indicator is pink, simply remove the dehumidifier from the container and recharge it for 8 - 10 hours.
Please recharge it in a well-lit ventilated area as when you recharge it, the crystal will release all the moisture from the dehumidifier into the air, so it's ready to absorb the moisture again (the indicator will once again turn to "blue" color)
The unit can absorb approximately 6 ounces of moisture so for a small container, it will last up to 3 - 4 weeks before you'll need to re-new it.
One of mini dehumidifiers' best seller, this economical twin pack comes in two dehumidifier, uses a renewable silica gel technology so you don't need any battery nor power. It can be placed in the airtight container or any area up to 333 cubic feet and will slowly change from blue to pink as it quietly absorbs moisture. Perfect little humidifier for your need!
2. Silica Gel
There are many varieties of silica gel, the most common one looks like this:
You may have already saw this kind of silica gel inside your new handbag or your camera box. The above small bag of silica gel was from my new handbag.
Silica gel is essential as it absorbs the moisture from a small closed unit and prevent the molds / fungus to grow in it. It's particularly important to have silica gel if you store your camera gear for a long time in a closed unit. It is also recommended to have few small bags of silica gel inside your camera bag if you plan to travel for few days in a humid area.
Silica gel is reusable. If the silica gel is no longer absorbing the moisture or its color changes, you can simply fry or heat them up in an oven with low heat for few minutes. Then it is ready to be used again.
Silica gel is inexpensive, you can buy them from in small bag / pouch / packet like the above picture, you can buy the gel separately and put them inside the bag yourself or you can also purchase one like these below:
Peli Desiccant Silica Gel
A highly recommended silica gel from Pelican, it contains 40gr of silica gel unit and protects up to 3 cubic feet of enclosed space. So you can use this unit inside your own dry box. No electricity / battery needed.
This unit use a blue & pink color indicator, if it's pink, simply re-charge it in the oven and the unit is ready to be used again.
It's small (only 2x4 inch), light and will also fit into your camera bag.
Cost: Silica gel costs from $2 Amazon
Hygrometer is used to measure the relative humidity (RH) level.
For preventing your camera gear from molds and fungus, the storage box / dry box will need a RH level of 40 - 50%. If the hygrometer shows that the RH level is higher than 50% or lower than 40%, then you'll need to check the silica gel. Lower means you'll need more silica gel to absorb the measure or maybe the silica gel needs to be renewed / recharged. Higher means the dry box is too dry and you may need to remove some of the silica gel from your dry box.
It is very important to have hygrometer in your dry box.
You can purchase an analog hygrometer which is pretty cheap, around $5 - $10. Or you can also purchase a digital hygrometer which costs around $15 - $40.
Before your first use, I suggest you to calibrate it first to ensure it will give you an accurate reading.
I currently use the analog hygrometer:
It is a very small hygrometer, only 2.25" diameter and can be easily placed inside the dry box using the magnetic mount. Before I first use it, I calibrate it using this inexpensive small envelope:
Cost: around $9 for hygrometer and $8 for calibration pack
Dry Box on the market
At the moment, there are many companies selling dry box. I personally recommend the dry box manufactured and made by Pelican and it's also the brand most recommended by many photographers all around the world.
These boxes are also great for traveling. If you have couple of lenses and all other camera gear, you may not be able to bring them into the cabin as a carry-on luggage. Most likely you'll need to check them in and you can have a peace of mind to store all your expensive camera gear in these strong Pelican Dry Box. Importantly, it will also ensure your camera gear dry and prevent them from molds and fungus.
Recommended Dry Box for One Camera & One Lens
One of the best and affordable waterproof airtight hard case for storing your camera and camera lenses. This airtight case and silica gels will prevent mold growing on your precious camera equipment. Price starts from $40
Need an up-size? It's recommended to buy larger size case than you really need. This Pelican 1500 case can also be used for other electronic gadgets such as laptops, watch, etc.