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Backpacking tripods

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Offline Homer Wilson

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Backpacking tripods
« on: March 05, 2014, 03:54:55 PM »
Has anyone found what they consider to be the perfect tripod for backpacking?  I have a mefoto (2lbs, 12" packed, 48"+ extended). This is about as bulky as I want to go, and it is also a bit of a pain to set up. I also have a gorillapod dslr tripod that I've never used. I'm a bit skeptical I can readily find good mounting locations for it. I use an slr or equivalently weighted camera. Exposures may be a minute to an hour.

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Offline steelfrog

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2014, 04:30:37 PM »
Lance has one that weighs about 57 pounds.  He can carry it tho cause he a man

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Offline Lance

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2014, 05:55:51 PM »
I'd be interested in a solid, but very light weight tripod.  Haven't found the perfect one yet.  Got a gorilla pod, but it's not stable enough for me doing long exposures.  hate carrying my heavy manfrotto, but it's solid and I like the adjustable/spreadable legs.  Got a cheaper dolica that's lighter, but it doesn't have spreadable legs like the manfrotto.

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Offline badknees

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2014, 05:56:51 PM »
I have a gorilla pod, and you can mount it anywhere.
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2014, 06:17:16 PM »
sounds like we need some input from TJ Avery.   :crossedfingers:
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Offline steelfrog

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2014, 07:25:06 PM »
Lance likes his tripods like he likes his women...

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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2014, 07:50:20 PM »
Well, what a great question! And I'm gonna answer.

Several years ago, when I started virtual big Bend, I had to carry a tremendous amount of heavy gear up into the Chisos.

I spent the next 8 years trying to find the ultimate compact, lightweight, AND STURDY tripod.

I tried them all.  But none of them were STURDY. I finally found (and splurged) on the Benro A0691T. 
                                           
It's absolutely perfect. Got mine from BH Photo.   But they don't sell             
                                               
Here it is from Amazon:

 http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B004DGNO78/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1394070362&sr=8-1

www.VirtualBigBend. com - now mobile friendly!


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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2014, 07:51:34 PM »
Here's a pic of mine. Love it.

www.VirtualBigBend. com - now mobile friendly!


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Offline kevint

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2014, 08:36:23 PM »
I've been drooling over the Benro Travel Angel II for a while. Much lighter than my 7 lb Bogen. I like the idea of using one leg for a monopod when I want to drop even more weight. Glad to see CG likes his Travel Angel.
-- Kevin (W5KLT)

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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2014, 08:49:22 PM »
Highly recommend. Worth every penny.

www.VirtualBigBend. com - now mobile friendly!


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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2014, 10:54:57 PM »
My gorillapod works great with my P&S!

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Offline badknees

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2014, 05:05:03 AM »
I have the Gorilla Pod with a ballhead. It is spec'd for 6 lbs. It will support my SLR + a fairly heavy wide angle lens. It can be wrapped around tree branches and will level anywhere. It has limitations, but meets my backcountry needs.

BHPhoto sells them for $55 including the ball head, with 2 quick release plates and leveling bubble.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/633362-REG/Joby_GP3_BHEN_Gorillapod_SLR_Zoom_Flexible_Mini.html



I also use it to mount a 32X spotting scope when I'm checking out birds way out in the marsh, or shooting bench rest rifle at 300 yds so I can see the target impacts.

What it doesn't have is height...so you need a place to put it like the hood of a car, big rocks, or do a wrap around somewhere.
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

Through the Mirror
http://mirrormagic.com

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Offline tjavery

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2014, 08:06:59 AM »
sounds like we need some input from TJ Avery.   :crossedfingers:

Okay :icon_lol:

I've hauled several different "platforms" into the wilds over the years. Started with an ancient tripod inherited from my grandfather. I nearly broke it in half in Pine Canyon on my very first trip to the park (partly out of frustration and partly because of the abuse it was getting).

... Fast forward to today (well, actually late 2007) ... I spent the money (i.e. it was EXPENSIVE) and got a good quality carbon fiber tripod and aluminum ball head. I'm still using it today.

Things to consider:

- You get what you pay for. Seriously. Cheaper gear is cheaper for a reason. It may have the right specs, but it's probably going to not work as well and/or break down in the field. And you will be putting your gear through its paces in the Big Bend - i.e. you WILL find out how well it's made!

- Carbon fiber legs vs. aluminum. Typical CF legs are a pound or two lighter (when you compare CF models vs. cheaper aluminum models). Those few pounds of savings are definitely worth it, especially on long hikes. My advice would be that if you can afford CF, then go with CF.

- Heads. (specifically pan-and-tilt heads vs. ball heads) This comes down to personal preference. Each type of head does the same thing on a basic level. Pan-and-tilts (or "3-ways") are sometimes heavier and occupy more space than a ball head. Adjusting them takes more time than a ball head. Given the smaller size and ease of use, I would highly recommend a ball head.

- Strength ratings. Tripod legs and heads usually have a rated carrying capacity. These ratings are somewhat useless. They might indicate the ultimate load the tripod or head can carry. But the reason why these ratings are not very useful is because what you're really after is stability. Sure, you can probably put a heavy camera on a 10-lb. rated tripod and it will hold up, but when the legs are fully extended it may vibrate like crazy in the wind. My advice would be to look for a weight capacity that is 2-3 times greater than the actual weight of your camera+lens.

- Leg splay. Look for tripod legs that will allow you to splay the legs independently and lock them in place. This is highly recommended especially when using on uneven surfaces.

- Size. This all depends on what you need and your preferences. My tripod, when fully extended, will get the viewfinder about two inches above eye-level (I'm 6'-2"). There are so many different versions out there, you can probably find one at just about any height. You have to consider what shooting height you want (do you need it tall, or can you go shorter and just stoop over a bit when you shoot?) and also how small it packs up.

Basically look at two things: how many sections do the legs have and does it have a center column? More leg sections usually means it folds down smaller, but the con is that it takes a little longer to adjust and is probably more flexible (the leg tube diameters get pretty small in the third and fourth leg sections). A center column will add height while keeping the legs shorter.

- Leg section locks. Typically you'll find two types: 1) flip levers and 2) twist locks. The flip lever types are easier to use but sometimes come on heavier models. Twist locks are more streamlined and sometimes lighter. Either works fine as long as you use it right. Twist locks take some getting used to. The lefty-loosy, righty-tighty rule is reversed when you're looking at your tripod from the top-down.

Bogen-Manfrotto makes a set of legs that can be pulled out without having to undo any locks, and then the legs automatically lock into position. To retract, you simply press a button at the top and push the leg sections in to retract them. It's very fast - you can even press all three buttons at once and compact the legs in one motion. The huge con to this is that the legs are very heavy. I've seen a lot of students in my workshops use these legs, and they work well. But they are heavy.

- Quick release system. You definitely want some sort of plate-and-receptacle, "quick release" type system. This is a system where you attach a metal plate to your camera. It will have beveled edges that dovetail into a receptacle on the tripod head. The idea is for you to be able to very quickly attach and then remove your camera from the tripod. Highly recommended.

So what do I use?

My tripod legs are a carbon fiber model by Gitzo. I cannot recall the model number, but it's been so long (6+ years) that Gitzo has replaced it with newer models. It was a middle-range model that offered the right balance of capacity and size. The legs have 3 sections and it does have a center column.

Gitzo is not the cheapest, but their products are well made and durable. The legs that I use have seen a lot of action in Big Bend and other places, and the only issue I've had is the leg hinges loosening up over time. Be sure to keep the special wrench handy to tighten them up when needed.

The ballhead that I use is the Really Right Stuff RH-40. They still produce this model: http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/s.nl/sc.26/category.568/it.C/.f I bought mine with the "LR" receptacle (lever release).

The Really Right Stuff quick release system is based on the Arca-Swiss standard. So I have Arca-Swiss type plates that attach to my cameras.

I HIGHLY recommend Really Right Stuff products. They are expensive but extremely well made. And I can say that truthfully. I've been using their products in the field since 2007.

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Offline tjavery

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2014, 08:43:52 AM »
Just to follow up on this ('cause now you have me thinking)... :icon_lol:

This is why independent leg splay can be important:


Of course that is an extreme example. But when you're setting up on uneven ground, especially sloped, hard rock, being able to manipulate your legs such that the overall tripod set-up is balanced and won't tip over is important.

In the past several years, the high ISO capabilities of digital cameras and image stabilization technology have gotten so much better that it's possible to shoot relatively clean, steady images without a tripod.

Here's an example. This is a scene with a very wide dynamic range. I hand-held (no tripod) several shots at different exposures. I used Photoshop to align the shots (on different layers) and then blended them together.


Of course to get the best quality images possible, you'll still need a tripod. Your camera will produce the lowest noise and best dynamic range at the lowest, native ISO setting. Also, your lens will be sharpest at middle apertures (and you get better depth of field). Those two aspects generally mean that your shutter speeds become fairly long, especially in low light conditions.

And you most definitely still need a tripod for shots like this:


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Offline Homer Wilson

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Re: Backpacking tripods
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2014, 10:06:34 AM »
Thanks everyone!  There's some great info here. For those of you who usually bring tripods, how do you pack them or attach them to your pack? The couple of times I've tried to take one, it's been buried in my pack or lashed to my pack in a way that makes it hard to access. Either way resulted in me very rarely using it because it was too much trouble to unpack.

 


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