Cold Weather Gear for Photography

The fall season brings beautiful colors, earlier sunsets, and a chilly breeze. Because photography equipment is not perfect, it’s important to consider a few simple things to help protect it from the cold weather. Hopefully this list will give you some ideas for keeping things operating smoothly while anticipating the colder weather this winter.

MIKI Yoshihito – Wild bird.
MIKI Yoshihito - Wild bird.

Hand Warmers

There is nothing more frustrating than looking at a beautiful winter scene and not being able to shoot it because of a cold, dead battery. One technique to help extend battery life during colder temperatures is to use hand warmers. You can keep batteries in your pocket with the warmers or use a rubber band to attach it to the battery. Hand warmers are usually low heat and can last for up to 10 hours, but it’s still a good idea to make sure they don’t get too hot while in contact with your batteries.

And make sure to carry extra batteries when it’s cold outside (or always).

SanDisk Extreme

SanDisk Extreme SDHC Memory Card

Although the chances of your memory card freezing up are low, it’s still not a bad idea to go with one that is designed to withstand extreme weather. The SanDisk Extreme is built for and tested in harsh conditions; temperature proof, water proof, shock proof, and x-ray proof. It’s designed to operate in temperatures as low as -13F and stored in -40F. It’s one of the best memory cards on the market for the price and there is a good chance you can find a great deal on them as they go on sale quite often. At the time of this posting, a SanDisk Extreme SDHC 32GB is $20 on Amazon. They range in storage from 16GB-256GB and it’s difficult to find a bad review about their performance.

Carbon-Fiber Tripod

Really cold metal isn’t something you want to touch with your bare skin. A carbon-fiber tripod not only decreases the amount of weight you have to carry while trudging through the snow, but it also doesn’t have cold metal issues you have to worry about. There is concern about the tripod become brittle when it gets really cold and should definitely be a consideration if you decided to shoot in really low temperatures. This discussion thread on DPReview has a lot of great feedback from photographers about that issue.

If you want to avoid the carbon-fiber debate, investing in wraps for your metal tripod would provide a great thermal barrier against the cold. LensCoat and Aquatech are two companies that make quality tripod wraps.

Gear Covers

Although a lot of manufacturers do their best to weather proof their equipment, it’s still a good idea to cover it during inclement weather. Nature Photographers Network wrote this informative blog post about choosing the right covers for your gear.

Freehands Gloves


Having a good pair of gloves to keep your hands warm is essential in cold weather. It’s also important that photographers have easy access to their camera buttons without freezing their whole hand, which is why opting for a pair of Freehands gloves or a similar type is a great idea.

Waterproof Cases, Backpacks, Bags

If you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on camera gear, it’s best you also invest in a quality camera bag to protect that expensive equipment. We recommend ThinkTankPhoto for bags and Pelican Products for cases. If you’re outside braving the freezing temperatures trying to get the shot, more than likely you’re camera gear needs a good bag all year long.

Silica Packets

These gel filled, moisture absorbers are perfect additions to your gear bag. They help minimize the amount of water vapor surrounding your equipment which all around is a better way to keep your camera and lenses operating smoothly and extending their life.

Emergency Blanket

Light, cheap, and easy to store, an emergency blanket can be used to protect gear from the elements and is an effective ground cover to kneel or put your equipment on.

Airtight Plastic Bags

A simple ziplock bag or similar will prevent moisture from building up on your camera and lenses when coming from shooting outside in the cold. The cooler equipment attracts moisture from the warmer air inside but if you place your camera in an airtight plastic bag, it’ll allow it to warm up slowly without building up condensation.

For more great tips about cold weather shooting check out this post by National Geographic and this one by Weldon Lee and Nikon.