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When carrying laptop / camera around I'm always stressed out when it starts raining. Living in a city one can easily avoid rain though - but on a long touring trip there will inevitably be cases when you have to bike through rain.

What's the safest way to protect gadgets (laptop, camera + lenses, phone, ...) from rain during a long bike trip? What kind of bag would give me complete peace of mind? Or should I just put them in a backpack and wear a good raincoat over the backpack? Anyone else biked with gadgets during rain?

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One thing to remember is the roofer's advice to "think like a raindrop". It's not necessary to have everything waterproof to the point of being submersible, so long as the water will drain away from anything sensitive. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 26 '11 at 15:23
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Among the many good answers, don't forget about the effects of condensation. Make sure that your protective cover is breathable. I lost a phone once due to condensation. –  tehnyit Sep 7 '11 at 10:16
    
@tehnyit : and I lost a compact camera for the same reason... –  heltonbiker Oct 13 '11 at 13:48
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9 Answers 9

The main compartment of most handlebar bags waterproof when closed. Better models have pockets to keep passports dry. There are also plenty of models on the market that have padding for cameras and lenses.

The brand most synonymous with waterproofing is Ortlieb. They make handlebar bags and camera kit inserts for them. There are plenty of other makes on the market, one feature to look out for is the Klickfix bracket that lets you quickly remove the bag for when you are off bike.

As for the computer, the best range of bags can be found in High Street computer shops. For light weight get a neoprene cover with no fancy handles or extra pockets. You can then put your neoprene sleeved computer in a pannier.

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+1 for a waterproof handlebar bag. It's a great way to keep things both dry and handy. –  Neil Fein Aug 26 '11 at 18:01
    
Ortliebs are very well-made panniers in general. They makes panniers that are drybags (the "roller" series); they also make make panniers that are not drybags (the "packer" series) but for conditions short of a hurricane are effectively as good. They also make non-pannier drybags. The only knocks against them (if any) is that they are kind of heavy and each pannier is one big compartment, so you need find a different way to organize than by compartments and pockets, e.g. ziplocs or stuff sacks. –  Adam Rice Aug 27 '11 at 19:54
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I double bag them (with heavy plastic bags) and then stick them in my supposedly (but not very) waterproof backpack. As long as I don't go swimming like that, they stay dry. :-)

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+1 for ziplock bags. I have a couple by the front door that I toss my smartphone or other small stuff I'm carrying into. Never failed me yet. If I'm transporting documents I have an old plastic folder with an overlapping cover (think of a manila envelope made out of vinyl) I'll toss them into before throwing into my Timbuk2 messenger bag. The messenger bag's never leaked but it doesn't hurt. –  lawndartcatcher Sep 9 '11 at 17:46
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Let me tell you from experience what doesn't work: Putting a cell phone in a the pocket of a "waterproof" jacket. I lost a phone that way, and another one saw the light at the end of a foggy, damp tunnel before returning back to life.

If you are able to, turn gadgets you are carrying off. Having electricity flow through the system just increases the possibility of problems. For extra paranoia, remove the batteries.

My rule of thumb is that any important electric should be "double waterproofed". Usually this is accomplished with a plastic bag (not necessarily anything special), inside a supposedly-waterproof pannier. A small "dry bag" would be durable, waterproof choice for small electronics.

For touring, I looked for and found extra thick and tough garbage bags to use as an inner liner for my panniers. These are far less likely to be punctured than garden-variety plastic bags. Again, nothing special-- just a grocery store product.

In a pinch, use two plastic grocery bags, applied around the electrics in opposite directions.

If the gear does manage to get wet despite your best efforts, let it dry out thoroughly before turning it back on.

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When I'm touring ("unloaded") I carry two moderate-sized panniers which end up being about half-full. In addition to rain gear in both, one contains snacks, my daily medications, and other odds and ends. The other mostly carries my full-sized camera, stuck in a large plastic bag if the weather is threatening. My phone (turned off) is in a small plastic bag in one pannier pocket.

Last year it rained 4 out of 6 days of our tour, and I had no trouble keeping the camera dry. (In fact, the panniers have pull-out rain covers, so everything else stayed dry as well.)

I've never carried a laptop, but I wouldn't have too many reservations about sticking one in a pannier, perhaps padded by some clothing.

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I have quite thorough experience, the solution is like this:

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Once I carried also a camera and 4 lens (one of them 500mm) this way...

When you go to tropical destinations, it is much harder because you also have to protect your electronics from condensated humidity. That's another story for another answer. Just ask if it's the case.

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Most sporting good stores offer a variety of dry bags by sealine,koki and others.They are intended for kayakers,canoers and boaters. They keep things dry even when submerged.

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Most dry bags will leak when submerged, they're designed to keep their contents dry while floating on the surface but are not 100% waterproof. –  Russ Aug 26 '11 at 13:51
    
@Russ - Agreed. There doubtless are dry bags that will do this, but most will not handle submersion. –  Neil Fein Aug 26 '11 at 18:24
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Check out Loksak, http://www.loksak.com/. They make some fairly inexpensive waterproof bags. They come in various sizes and should have something that will work for you. They're pretty durable, much more so than a ziplock, and the seal is watertight even when submerged. They're also very lightweight and you can even use a touch screen while it's inside.

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I use resealable (like Ziplock) bags around things that a) I want dry and b) want containment if they break. So I tend to wrap my wallet in a resealable bag, and fold the opening end over a few times and wrap a rubber band around it to keep it tidy. If I take a bottle of juice or a container of soup to work with me, I wrap it in a resealable bag in case the it breaks on accident (bike falls over, etc).

I tend to group items in bags to reduce clutter anyhow. So, if I have a bottle of sunscreen or ketchup, if it gets squished, I'm also well protected against having to scrub out the inside of my bag.

Just because your bags are waterproof, doesn't mean the place you open them isn't blowing rain in, either. I've had my bike tip into a puddle with my panniers open and that's just a sad wet mess, of course.

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REI and other outdoor stores sell Sea to Summit lightweight dry sacks. They're similar to the rubberized dry bags used in kayaking and diving, but they're made of light weight nylon. They come in several sizes. They're a little more reliable than zip-locks and trash bags, which can mysteriously acquire holes and tears. There are probably other brands too, but keep in mind that ordinary stuff sacks are not waterproof.

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