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What things cost: Moisture control

Moisture control is all about finding the solution that works for you.
Image: Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Moisture control

~$50 – $300

Lots of options here (noticing a pattern at all?) … but depending on the setup being used with a given set of pipes (particularly your bag), most pipers need to at least think about some sort of moisture solution at some point.

And no, moisture isn’t just a fancy word for “spit,” though yes, some pipers get more spittle down their blowpipes than others.

No. I’m talking about the hot, humid air that is our breath, and any other moisture that happens to be around in the air at the moment.

More often than not, all of this leads to a significant amount of condensation inside of the bag, and then the pipes. The reeds will only put up with so much of this before they start to do crazy things, and lots of moisture repeatedly getting into the wood is extremely bad for it, which can lead to all kinds of costly issues (such as cracking).

Conversely though, if you are playing in a hot and dry climate, say, summer in Arizona or in high elevations, then you actually may need to add moisture into your pipe somehow. A common trick is throwing ice cubes into the bag.

Otherwise, excess moisture will often be a concern—even more so when it’s very cold and wet outside. In these cases, there are lots of ways/devices to combat it.

The tube trap

Simple tube traps can work wonders over nothing-at-all, and are certainly among the cheapest options. For folks who have natural skin bags, this is one of very few options available, as most natural bags do not have a way to open it up (i.e., a zipper). Most of these are simply a clear, silicone tube with holes and a cork at one end. They only cost about $30 or so, or you can head down to your local hardware store and build your own for even less.

A really cool thing to have is what’s called a “split-stock.” It is what it sounds like—a stock, that splits. =)

An example of a blowpipe tube and split-stock. Also, you can see the Trap-dri valve in the middle of the tube (black). Image: Bennett Pipe Bags

I really like (and use) a split-stock and tube from G1 Reeds. What’s particularly nice about theirs is that they recently acquired and incorporated Trap-dri, which is a nifty little filter that goes in the middle of the tube. Early condensation collects in the tube, which will help limit the amount of moisture that makes it into the bag. All one needs to do is dump out the tube every once in a while.

Personally, I feel that a simple tube trap (and a Trap-dri added is a nice, simple “extra”) covers lots of bases, and should be considered as a good “minimum” for moisture control.

Going up from there are all kinds of complicated doo-dads and thinga-ma-whats-its that’ll filter out the moisture in your bag/pipes so that things stay nice and dry. Of course, the more complicated it is, the more it’ll tend to cost, and (depending on who you ask) the more that can go wrong.

Canisters & Desiccant

As mentioned over on the Pipe Bags page in this section, many synthetic bags will trap moisture in the bag, which will often lead to issues. So in these cases, it’s good to look into some more intensive options.

There are a great many systems that employ a canister, which will hold some form of desiccant. This will actively filter out moisture going into the instrument because desiccant (such as clay chips, or silica gel) absorbs moisture. This is very effective—but only for a while. Only so much moisture can be absorbed, so the desiccant usually needs to be regularly removed and dried.

Again, this is WAY more complicated than a simple tube trap, and it’s generally much more expensive. Many of these systems will go from anywhere between $150 and $300, depending on the complexity of them. Apart from maybe buying new desiccant on occasion though, these products will usually be a one-time purchase.

There’s such a wide array of these things out there, that it’s waaaay beyond the scope of this page to go into them all (and there are more and more coming out all the time). I’ll put up a few images and links here to give you an idea.

As with everything discussed on these pages, feel free to talk to me directly if you have any questions.

Here’s a canister addition to the Trap-dri tube, offered by G1 Reeds. I used this before switching to a sheepskin bag (that doesn’t have a zipper to open it). The canister is designed to be filled with silica gel (the orange and white stuff). A pretty nifty solution that I like because it’s made to prevent moisture from making it’s way into the bag at all—I feel this can help quite a bit in promoting longevity for the bag itself. This system retails around $50, so overall it’s still a budget-friendly option. Only draw back can be that the chanter reed isn’t getting any opportunity to receive moisture. So sometimes things can be TOO dry. =)
Image: g1reeds.com

Here’s the nice view of a more typical canister design, this one is from Bannatyne. As you can see, there are several tubes coming out of the canister, one for each drone and the chanter as well. Drone reeds are the ones that really do best when they don’t get wet. Thus, this will allow you to change the amount of desiccant for each (e.g. less for the chanter). This retails more around the $100 mark.
Image: pipersdojo.com

Talk about innovative ideas. This is a fairly new product call Drone Dry. It consists of three drone stocks, and the stocks themselves hold little desiccant canisters. They screw open from the outside, so this still allows users of natural skin bags to have some degree of moisture control over the drones, and the drones only. Retails up around $250, so definitely one of the pricier options out there.
Image: boderiou.com

Another solution that’s designed to see to the moisture needs of just the drones, Bannatyne’s Dri-Flo. As you can see, this is a separate tube canister for each drone, and the black cups hold them into the stocks on the inside of the bag. This is a little less elegant than the Drone Dry shown previously, but it’s also far-less expensive. It’s also used by plenty of professional pipers, so it’s fair to say that this solution is tried-and-true. Retails around $75.
Image: McGillivray Piping