Pipe Bags and Moisture Control

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McGillivray Piping Inc. carries pipe bags and moisture control systems (MCS) made by the two most proven and accomplished synthetic bag makers on the planet:  Ross Bagpipe Bags Propriety, Ltd. from Bentleigh Australia, and Bannytyne Ltd. from West Lothian, Scotland.

I have personally played a synthetic pipe bag for nearly 25 years, as do many leading pipers. A school of thought exists widely that natural and leather bags can give your pipes a more vibrant tone. If this is indeed true, the difference is so minor that it applies to only the uppermost levels of piping. For 99% of the pipers in the world, the convenience and longevity of synthetic bags over the maintenance demands of natural bags far outweigh any minor tonal advantages. With this principle in mind, and with all due respect, I leave natural bags for the purists to source elsewhere.

Moisture control is absolutely crucial if you are to keep your pipes in tune. Moist air being blown into the bag will condense on the reeds, or it will condense inside the drone bores, bead up, and run down into the reeds. Either way, your pipes go out of tune, drone reeds shut off, and chanter reeds go flat and lose their longevity. For some, a simple watertrap will do. For wetter blowers, a desiccant-based moisture control system (MCS) is crucial. Both are described in this section.

 

Ross Bagpipe Bags Pty. Ltd.

A brilliant piping innovator, Geoff Ross of Melbourne, Australia developed the first synthetic pipe bag in the 1980s, though it didn’t see wide usage until the 1990s when the Victoria Police Pipe Band won the World Pipe Band Championship in 1998 playing the Ross Canister Bag exclusively.

The bag consists of a suede synthetic outer material and an airtight but breathable inner lining. The stocks fit into plastic grommets. The bag has a heavy duty, airtight zip on the side, positioned not to interfere with the arm.

McGillivray Piping carries Ross Canister Bags in five sizes. The height recommendations shown directly below (along with recommended blowpipe lengths) are mine, developed after many years of experience with the Ross bag. These recommendations are not set in stone, and can depend on whether your build is heavy or slight.  Bag sizes in inches, below, refer to the diameter of the bag from tip to bottom when deflated, and the length.

Livingstone small (9” x 27.5”) — the smallest Ross bag, slightly smaller than the Extended Small (below), with the drone grommets moved 1” forward
— for pipers 5’ 3” or shorter; recommended blowpipe 8 inches or less (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Extended Small Special (10” x 27.5”) — same size as the Extended Small (below), but with the drone grommets moved slightly forward
— for pipers 5’ 4” to 5’ 7”; recommended blowpipe 8-9 inches (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Extended Small (10” x 27.5”)— same size as the Extended Small Special, with the drone grommets in their traditional position
— for pipers 5’ 7” to 5’ 10”; recommended blowpipe 9-10 inches (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Medium (10.5” x 28”)
— for pipers 5’ 9” to 6’ 2”; recommended blowpipe 10-11 inches (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Large (11” x 28.5”) — very few pipers will play a bag this size
— for pipers 6’ 3” and taller; recommended blowpipe 11-12 inches (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Each Ross bag is guaranteed for three years against breakdown of the material, grommets or zip, provided the damage is not due to mistreatment. Installation of the bag is quick and easy, and the instructions are excellent.

CAD $209 without canister system.  Note that bags and canister system are sold separately.

See the shopping cart below to purchase Ross Suede Zip Bags.

The Ross Canister System

The basic premise of the Ross Canister System has not changed since it was invented, though the components have evolved to be more efficient and user-friendly.

The central component is a small, chambered canister that sits inside the bag. It is filled with a desiccant material that absorbs breath moisture. Four tubes extend from the canister to the drone and chanter stocks. The air entering the bag must exit through the canister, after which the moisture content is substantially reduced before the air proceeds through the tubes and out through the drones and chanter.  You can adjust the amount of desiccant in each chamber.  Some people substantially reduce the amount of desiccant in the chanter chamber to allow the chanter reed to absorb a bit more moisture.  Some pipers don’t use the chanter hose at all.

Periodically you remove the canister and dry the granules (commonly called “rocks”) in a microwave. Installation of the bag and canister is very well documented in the instructions.

CAD $120.  You can purchase the canister system and replacement components from the shopping cart below.

Bannatyne Pipe Bags and Moisture Control Systems

Craig Bannatyne in West Lothian, Scotland, has also been one of the great innovators in synthetic pipe bags and bagpipe moisture control.  

The concept of the Bannatyne “Hybrid” bag is the same: a hide external bag is covered on the inside with a breathable but airtight lining. The stocks snap into plastic grommets. Each bag has a heavy, airtight and durable zipper. 

Perhaps the chief difference between Ross and Bannatyne bags is that the Bannatyne external is thicker and heavier than the Ross, giving perhaps a more solid feel under the arm. Each Bannatyne bag comes with a tube/bottle watertrap that can be hemped and fit into the bottom of the blowstick stock.

McGillivray Piping carries Bannatyne bags in five sizes. The height recommendations (with recommended blowpipe lengths) are mine, developed after many years of experience with the Bannatyne bags. These recommendations are not set in stone, and can depend on whether your build is heavy or slight.  Bag sizes in inches below refer to the diameter of the bag from tip to bottom when deflated, and the length.

Small (9” x 24”) — slightly smaller than the extended small shown below
— for pipers 5’ 5” or shorter, recommended blowpipe 8 inches or less (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Extended Small (9.6” x 26.5”) — slightly longer and deeper than the small
— for pipers 5’ 5” to 5’ 8”,  recommended blowpipe 8-9 inches (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Willie McCallum Custom (10” x 27.5”) — slightly deeper than the small, but the arch in front of the drones is cut away a bit to allow less bag contact with the forearm
— for pipers 5’ 7” to 6’, recommended blowpipe 9-10 inches (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Medium (10.5” x 26.5”) — slightly deeper than the Willie McCallum, with the standard Bannatyne shape
— for pipers 5’ 10” to 6’ 2”, recommended blowpipe 10-11 inches (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Large (11.5” x 29”) — very few pipers will play a bag this size
— for pipers 6’ 3” and taller, recommended blowpipe 11-12 inches (from mouthpiece tip to top of hemp).

Each Bannatyne bag is guaranteed for two years against breakdown of the material, grommets or zip, provided the damage is not due to mistreatment. Installation of the bag is easy and instructions are provided.

CAD $215 (CAD $235 for Willie McCallum Custom) without canister system.

 

The Bannatyne light synthetic bag comes without the heavy external layer.

The Bannatyne Light Synthetic
Bannatyne also makes a light-weight gore-tex type of bag in the same sizes as described above. These are essentially the same bag as the hybrid, but without the heavier faux-leather exterior. They also have the zip on the bottom rather than on the side.

Though any moisture control system can be used with it, each light synthetic bag comes with a Bannatyne bottle/tube watertrap which can be hemped and inserted into the bottom of the blowstick stock.

CAD $177.50 including the bottle/tube watertrap.

See the shopping cart below to purchase Bannatyne Zip Hide Bags.

The Bannatyne Dri-Flo Moisture Control System

Developed as a collaboration between Craig Bannatyne and Willie McCallum, the Dri-Flo system does away with the canister, and places the desiccant beads inside the drone tubes, as shown in the photos.

The tubes can be hemped to fit into the drone stocks, or they can be fit into rubber sleeves that attach onto the bottom of the drones stocks, much like with the canister system shown below.

The orange beads turn dark green when they become saturated with water. The tubes can then be removed from the bag and the beads dried.

This system was released by the company in the spring of 2017 and is gaining popularity among top players.

Important:  when using this system, consider a tube watertrap.  Otherwise, you might find your chanter reed getting wet. The tube watertrap directs the incoming moist air to the back of the bag.

CAD $76.50 – See the shopping cart below to purchase the Dri-Flo system.

The Bannatyne Canister Moisture Control System

Similar to the Ross canister system, the Bannatyne MCS is based on the principle of the moist air blown into the bag passing through a desiccant-filled canister that reduces the moisture content.  The moisture-reduced air then passes through tubes into the drone and chanter stocks.

 

There are a number of differences between the Bannatyne MCS and the Ross:

-The Bannatyne system uses dust-free desiccant beads.
-The drone tubes can fit onto the bottom of the stock using rubber sleeves rather than being inserted.
-The canister is a round cylinder rather than a rectangular box.
-The desiccant beads must be air-dried or dried in an oven.
-The system comes with an optional filter that fits onto the canister, acting like drone plugs to reduce drone noise during strike-in or stops.
-The desiccant beads change colour from orange to dark green when they become saturated with moisture

Installation of the bag and canister is well documented in the instructions provided.

CAD $105  – You can purchase the canister system from the shopping cart below.

  • $205.00
    Ross ‘Livingstone Small’ Suede Zip Bag (9” x 27.5”)

    Slightly smaller than the extended small, with the drone grommets moved 1” forward. Recommended for pipers 5’ 3” or shorter. Includes 5 clamps, no canister system.

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  • $205.00
    Ross Extended Small Suede Zip Bag (10” x 27.5”)

    Slightly deeper than the above, with drone grommets in their traditional position. Recommended for pipers 5’ 7” to 5’ 10”. Includes 5 clamps, no canister system.

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  • $205.00
    Ross Extended Small Special Suede Zip Bag (10” x 27.5”)

    Same size as the Extended Small, but with the drone grommets moved slightly forward. Recommended for pipers 5’ 4” to 5’ 7”. Includes 5 clamps, no canister system.

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  • $205.00
    Ross Medium Suede Zip Bag (10.5” x 28”)

    Recommended for pipers 5’ 9” to 6’ 2”. Includes 5 clamps, no canister system.

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  • $205.00
    Ross Large Suede Zip Bag (11” x 28.5”)

    Very few pipers will play a bag this size. Recommended for pipers 6’ 3” and taller. Includes 5 clamps, no canister system.

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  • $215.00
    Bannatyne Small Zip Hide Bag (9” x 24”)

    Slightly smaller than the extended small. Recommended for pipers 5’ 5” or shorter. Canister system not included.

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  • $215.00
    Bannatyne Extended Small Zip Hide Bag (9.6” x 26.5”)

    Slightly longer and deeper than the small. Recommended for pipers 5’ 5” to 5’ 8”. Canister system not included.

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  • $215.00
    Bannatyne Medium Zip Hide Bag (10.5” x 26.5”)

    Slightly deeper than the Willie McCallum, with the standard Bannatyne shape. Recommended for pipers 5’ 10” to 6’ 2”. Canister system not included.

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  • $235.00
    Bannatyne Willie McCallum Custom Zip Hide Bag (10” x 27.5”)

    Slightly deeper than the small, but the arch in front of the drones is cut away a bit to allow less bag contact with the forearm. Recommended for pipers 5’ 7” to 6’. Canister system not included.

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  • $215.00
    Bannatyne Large Zip Hide Bag (11.5” x 29”)

    Very few pipers will play a bag this size. Recommended for pipers 6’ 3” and taller. Canister system not included.

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  • $177.50
    Bannatyne Light Synthetic Pipe Bag

    Bannatyne also makes a light-weight gore-tex type of bag in the same sizes as described above. These are essentially the same bag as the hybrid, but without the heavier faux-leather exterior. They also have the zip on the bottom rather than on the side.

    Though any moisture control system can be used with it, each light synthetic bag comes with a Bannatyne bottle/tube watertrap which can be hemped and inserted into the bottom of the blowstick stock. You will be asked to choose from four sizes available — extended small, Willie McCallum custom, medium or large.

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  • $120.00
    Ross Canister System

    Includes two canisters (one with a tube lid), one chanter hose, three drone hoses.

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  • $105.00
    Bannatyne Canister Moisture Control System

    Includes two canisters (one with a tube lid), one chanter hose, three drone hoses, spare desiccant beads, optional air filter.

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  • $76.50
    Bannatyne Dri-Flo Moisture Control System

    Includes three desiccant-filled drone hoses, elbows, three rubber stock sleeves.

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  • $35.00
    The MP Watertrap

    Simple but effective tube watertraps like this one have been used for decades to control moisture being blown into the bag. Getting it designed just right so that it doesn’t come loose, doesn’t restrict blowing, doesn’t drip onto one spot on the bag, and actually does collect water is difficult. This one took me 20 years of tweaking as a professional player to get just right. The elbow joint is equipped with a rubber sleeve to fit snugly over the blowpipe stock to avoid possible stock-cracking caused by hemped tenons. From here the tube runs along the bottom of the bag right up to the top back corner. It catches not only saliva, but also water vapour that condenses inside the tube. To empty it, you remove the blowstick and turn the whole bagpipe upside down. I play one of these with a canister system. I don’t use the chanter hose, and the tube trap catches a good deal of moisture and keeps my chanter reed from getting soaked. Comes with instructions.

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  • $28.50
    Ross Blowpipe Stock Valve/Watertrap

    This combination valve/watertrap installs into the blowpipe stock easily using a tool provided. The valve negates the need for a clacker valve on your blowpipe. The device also stops moisture from dribbling into the bag. Remove your blowstick and dump it out when you’re finished playing. It’s not as effective as a tube trap or a desiccant system, but for the casual player it’s convenient and all they need for moisture control. Drone stock shown in the picture is not included.

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  • $59.00
    Piper’s Pal Alert Humidified Reed Protector

    Rob Kinnaird of Saskatoon invented the first humidified chanter cap nearly 20 years ago and continues to lead the market with this and similar products. This most recent iteration of the Piper’s Pal sports a dial that allows you to monitor the level of humidity in the cap, thus avoiding an environment that is either too dry or too moist. A rubber-tipped rod inserted into the bottom of the chanter maintains the enclosed environment. Instructions are included. The humidifying agent should be changed about once a year. Recharge kits are available on this page.

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  • $10.75
    Piper’s Pal Recharge Kit

    Recharge kit for the Piper’s Pal Humidified Chanter Cap. These should be changed about once a year.

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  • $35.00
    Drone Drying Brushes

    Drone cracking is caused when moisture left in the bores causes the inside of the drone to expand while the drier outside does not. The differential cracks the wood starting on the outside. If the bores of your pipes are getting wet — whether you use a moisture control system or not — you should have a set of cotton drone brushes to dry them out. These five cotton brushes are sized so that every bore size is taken care of.

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  • $54.40
    Pipe Case Humidifier

    This nifty little humidifier keeps my pipe case at around 60% humidity during dry Canadian winters. It also comes with a hygrometer to provide you with the relative humidity and temperature in your pipe case.  Refill the humidifier with water as it dries and visibly shrinks. The humidifier and the hygrometer can both be affixed to the sides or top of your case as you choose. The gels inside the humidifier seem to last about a year, and then you need the recharge kit (below).

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  • $12.50
    Pipe Case Humidifier Recharge Kit

    After about a year your Pipe Case Humidifier (above) will need to have the gels replaced or the water dries out of it very quickly, even seeping through the material. This little kit contains the replacement gels, tools and instructions.

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  • $30.00
    Ross Canister only with Tube Top and Granules
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  • $22.00
    Ross Canister Only With Granules and No Tube Top
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  • $14.50
    Ross Replacement Drone Hose – bass or tenor
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  • $18.50
    Ross Replacement Chanter Hose
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  • $14.50
    Ross Desiccant Granules (for one Ross canister)

    The canister shown in the photo is not included.

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