I’ll admit it, I’ve been spoiled. Having spent the past three school years in northern New England, I’ve gotten very attached to low humidity. It makes the heat of summer much more bearable, and to be honest the heat of summer isn’t that bad either. I’m in Maryland now visiting family, and it’s much more humid here than where I’ve been, and it’s playing havoc with my pipes.
Moisture with pipes is a trade off. Too much causes the chanter reed to go dull and flat, and synthetic drone reeds will shut off. Too little and the chanter becomes thin and chirpy; neither is great. Enter the moisture control system to regulate (not eliminate) the moisture in the bag.
I use the Achiltibuie system designed by Bruce Hitchings at Highland Reeds; the canisters plug into the bottom of my drones so all the air that gets to the reeds has to pass through the drying agent. I found the included gel pellets had limited effectiveness, so I replaced them the rocks from my old Ross canister and they work great.
The Maine winters are so dry that I didn’t have to change my rocks between October and June. Seriously. You can hear the thin top hand on some of the videos I posted from my early competitions, which is a result of not enough moisture.
Humidity is a constant feature in the mid-Atlantic, and the good thing is it makes my pipes sound better. The bad thing is that it’s harder to control; after about 45 minutes of playing yesterday and 30 minutes today, I had drone reeds shutting off. So I’m back to dealing with moisture for the time being, and it’s not my favorite thing in the world. I’ll survive though.