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Gear Guy

Where's the best place in my pack for a camera?

I recently purchased quite an expensive digital camera. As I'll be backpacking in Montana's Crazy Mountains this June, I'm wondering if it's practical to bring the camera along. If so, what type of bag or protection should I purchase, and where is the safest, yet most accessible spot in my pack to store the camera? Kristin Eden Prairie, Minnesota

A: Of course, the wise guy in the Gear Guy wants to quip, "Fine, but how you gonna store all the pictures you take?" Some digitals store quite a bit, of course, and you always can buy memory sticks. But I think film remains more practical for longer trips. That's simply an opinion. Digital camera fans, save your hate mail.

Overall, though, a digital camera can go most anywhere a film camera can go, with the usual precautions, naturally. Keep it clean and dry, of course, and cushion it from impact. You'll want a case to protect the camera when you're walking with it, and when it's in your pack. You don't say what camera you have, but I'll assume it's one of the ubiquitous point-and-shoots. For those, Lowepro's reasonably priced D-Res 8S is just the ticket ($13; It's actually designed for compact digital cameras and includes a slot for memory sticks. A padded case protects the camera from bumps. Lowepro's Topload Zoom Mini ($21) accommodates slightly larger digitals or compact SLR-type cameras.

There are various places to store a camera when hiking. Dana Design makes a pack add-on called a Wet Rib ($29; that straps across your midsection, a well-protected place from an impact perspective. This unit holds a water bottle, candy bars, and a small camera very nicely. Small cameras in a case also can be attached by threading your pack's sternum strap through the case's belt loop. Throw the case's strap around your neck for extra security if you must. Otherwise, just keep the camera at the top of the pack. But, in my experience, that also means it almost never gets used.

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