About floating hides
Using a Floating Hide or a Hidrohide is one of the best ways to watch, observe and taking pictures of birds living on or next to the water.
On this page you will learn more about the how and when, what equipment is suitable, how to stay safe and how to be a bird with the birds so you won't disturb the subject of your love.
The custom made inflatable hull with an extra 'dip' in the front gives room for your lens to move freely. Therefore it is possible to be as close to the water level as you dare to be with your floating hide classic, less than 15cm. It was really a challenge to build a well-performing and stable hide and combining that with a super low-level mounting point.
After more than 8 prototypes and numerous pre-production models with small changes, we finally had the possibility to hand it out to a few photographers with lots of experience in using a Floating Hide. Yves Adams and David Pattyn were among the first to use it. And they still do. You can find their work on the Ambassadors page. Fine-tuned with their feedback we could start the production and start shipping the preordered Floating Hides.
Now the MrJan Gear Inflatable Floating Hide (sounds like something Q invented) is in use everywhere in the world. From the Amazon to Svalbard, From the fjords near Trondheim to the French Camargue and even in China. Places hard to reach with a homemade PVC-piping or Styrofoam-plywood floating construction.
Questions need to be asked. We do it all the time. Getting the answers is even more important. We will collect the most important and frequently asked questions about the Floating Hide on this page. Do you have a question that's not answered and you think it should be in the FAQ? Send us an email and if we publish it here, we will reward you with something useful.
It's a bit arbitrary to say 'more than you ever will need' but we can explain this calculated guess:
The float contains about 200 liters of air so it will produce an upward force of about 200kg when fully submerged. Minus the wight of the float itself and the camera gear mounted there are still 185kg to lift.
Even if you are an very great photographer who enjoys floating along: the volume of you that is in the water also receives an upward force equal to the water displacement of the submerged body. So it's safe to say that only half of your bodyweight is supported by the float.
We do not know of a photographer or anybody else who is 370kg or even more than 200kg so that's the calculation on which our 'more than you will ever need' is based.
We think so. Two of our prototypes had 3 compartments and they were heavier, more complicated and therefore much more expensive to build.
But was it safer? Yes and no. In theory if one in three tubes get a puncture you can float to a safer place. But there where considerable problems with the stability. When the front-tube is empty there is not much connection between the two hulls. And when the left or right float is losing pressure the whole system tends to lean over in a way your equipment will hit the water.
Even more cumbersome was that losing pressure in one of the tubes also did drop the pressure in the other tubes.
Nevertheless safety is a big deal. So we make the hulls from a very reliable end stable material also used by Raft makers. It's very resistant material which will guarantee a very long safe use of your floating hide.
The most used support is a Wimberly-styled head. But we know of the use of bean bags, video sliders, ball heads, level bases, straps, and fluid heads. What the best solution is, depends on your needs and it is hard to answer that question for you. Our favorite head is the FlexShooter which we do sell in the webshop. For salt-water we have used the cheapest gimbal we could find - nothing withstands salty conditions for long.
To support your freedom of choice we supply a 3/8 RVS screw and give you the opportunity to estimate the most balanced spot for your system yourself.
For the FHII we offer a custom made slider to be even more flexible in the positioning of your head.
Nope. It's water repellent though. Since the tent has windows with netting it is meaningless to make the tent waterproof.
We could have used waterproof tent fabric for the tent but that would be a big mistake: it is considerably hotter in the sunshine and the climate in the hide would become an ordeal. And we had another reason to choose for polycotton: it makes far less noise than nylon and reflects less light.
If you are worried about your camera you can choose one of our rain covers (shower cap we call them) or build something yourself.
Easy answer: it depends...
That was not the answer you are waiting for? We thought so. So let us explain:
First of all, you will be in the water for quite some time. A wetsuit is a bad choice. If you are not moving (like when surfing) you won't warm up the water film in the suit and you will lose heat.
Waders can be a good idea but wear thermal underwear beneath it and beware of the dangers of water flowing into the pants. The air in the boots will be trapped and you will end up upside-down in the water. We have seen it happen and it is really dangerous. Use a belt or take other precautions.
The best option is to buy a dry-suit like professional divers do. It's heavy and expensive and not per se comfortable to wear but it is the best option.
We offer the Suit, a lightweight fully waterproof onesie witch neoprene cuffs and no hood.
For heavy use and difficult circumstances, we have very good experiences with the custom made models from Otter in the UK. This will keep you warm and well protected and is the safest solution, especially when you are all alone in the pond.
If you still want to use waders: buy a pair that has a snug fit (neoprene) and a high top. Use thermal underwear. And be careful.
The Floating Hide Classic is shipped with a bag to carry the Floating Hide in. This is not much bigger than a sports bag. The bag is larger than you need for the Floating Hide itself and leaves room for extra clothing, a pump, and other stuff. If size matters you can use the pump to extract all the air from the hull and you will end up with a very small package that fits in a suitcase or backpack. The complete kit weighs less than 6.5 kg
The floating Hide II is even compacter and weighs less - just 5.3 kilos and is packed in a small bag. Easy to carry and even easy to take it with you on the plane. That opens unique opportunities for your photographic ambitions!
The hull of the Classic is made of the same material as a raft - the rowing boats used on white water rivers. This is a very resistant material and not very easy to damage. Or even: it is hard to damage.
Nevertheless, it can be punctured by sharp things that are hidden below the surface: barbed wire, broken bottles, disposed of fridges.
The FHII is made of nylon with a Cordura cover which is even easier to patch.
If you ran out of luck and air, the hull can be repaired. As easy as fixing a tire or put a bandage on your knee. There is only one problem: this glue is a very special kind and this product has a very short shelve life. If we should add it to the package, the glue is probably dried out before you ever need it.
For a semi-permanent fix, we advise you to use a small tube of Seam-Grip™ which can be bought at most outdoor shops.
For a more permanent fix, you can order a repair patch + glue.
Using a floating blind is a non-motorized boat. If you are allowed to get in the water with a canoe or small fishing boat it should be no problem - even in nature reserves. Nevertheless, you will be asked from time to time what the hell you are doing, by peeking officers and 'if you have a permit to do 'that''. Be prepared to answer those questions or even better: answer it with the permit you have arranged while preparing your trip.
It is most likely that you will enter the water before sunrise - for some people that alone is already suspicious behavior. We always managed to find spots where we did not encounter any problems.
Last words: be prepared, be polite, be informed, and be cooperative. Do not spoil it for other photographers who want to enter the water at some time. Floating blinds are quite a rare phenomenon tot the public. Like wild animals: not because there are none but because they are quiet and hidden and hard to see. And that is OK.