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Backpacking with a tripod

Vince Resor , Feb 17, 2012; 10:51 p.m.

I'm looking forward to several days in the Yosemite backcountry and have realized that I'd be foolish to compromise my image quality and flexibility by cutting weight with a point and shoot instead of my already light weight D7000. That was easy, but now I'm stuck on how to carry my G1127. On day hikes I just carry the tripod, but my knees tell me I need to use trekking poles. That means lashing the tripod to my pack, which in turn means it is a PITA to use. The whole point of the big camera is to use it, but the relative pain associated with using the tripod is at odds with using the camera.

I have backpacked with this tripod before and simply lashed with the feet in a "bottle" holder and the legs in a side compression strap. Easy, light and secure, but hard to get to. Carrying it is out (so says my knees). Bogen makes a quiver, but it weighs 1.1 pounds (that's too much). I know I'm not the first to come across this problem. What is the right approach? Thanks.


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Kent Staubus , Feb 17, 2012; 11:44 p.m.

I've used a rifle sling to do what you want, but really the best thing ended up lashing it to the pack. Otherwise, it tends to slide around, catch on brush, and be a major pain in the butt.
Kent in SD

Danny Low , Feb 17, 2012; 11:50 p.m.

I have a quick release ball head on my carbon fiber tripod. I normally use the tripod as a walking stick when hiking and snap on the camera when I need to use it as a tripod. Carrying the tripod just makes it dead weight. Using it as a walking stick makes it doubly useful.

Danny Low

Dave S , Feb 18, 2012; 12:34 a.m.

On this backpack, I secure a small lightweight tripod vertically using the side straps, which you can see in the picture. There is a little pocket by the hip belt, which supports the bottom of the tripod.

That's for the spindly Slik tripod which I use on real backpacking trips-- it actually provides adequate support for a Rolleiflex, under windless conditions. When I'm carrying a serious tripod, I use the same pack, and just secure the tripod horizontally with the bottom straps.

Matthew Brennan , Feb 18, 2012; 12:52 a.m.

I agree 100% if you are undertaking an image quest on foot you just have to fight harder for the images and lug a tripod about.

My own experience has seen me reach a compromise of sorts. I used to have a one tripod does it all but the weight on overnight walks orhilly / mountainous walks was too much and took the edge off the enjoyment. So I opted for a larger tripod (G1325 MKII) which is so heavy and long it completely removed itself from the hiking equation which meant I could purchase a tiny G0540 weighing 730grams as a tripod to lug about when mobility and weight were of prime importance.

The G0540, of course, is a compromise, but it holds up my D700+v/grip and a 17-35mm f/2.8 just fine and is solid so long as you take care to set it up well. (NB. I never use the final set of drop out legs on mine and may remove them permantly)

I used to carry the G0540 on the back of the old camera pack with a pair of straps for the purpose but inevitably the tripod would droop and one of the straps gave way on the stitching whilst jumping off a log putting the tripod on the (luckily soft) ground. I've recently switched to walking with a Crumpler camera pack which has this semi-quiver piece set onto the side of the pack. It's quite a good sytem and because the pack is narrow to begin with I've not yet been tangled in dense undergrowth or bashed the tripod against a tree trunk whilst sneaking through the forest. The semi-quiver arrangement makes me feel a lot better about jiggling about and jumping from short heights from a tripod security viewpoint.

I know my answer is all about throwing money at a problem, however, I now have a very 'do-able' set up for difficult terrain hiking which limits the weight, stays put when on the move and still does the job when the light is right.

Crumpler (Sinking Barge model) with tripod sling

Bob Flood , Feb 18, 2012; 12:58 a.m.

I have a homemade setup on my Lowepro backpack that has a carabiner connected to the bag at the top and a bungee cord across the bag with a carabiner a little below the middle of the bag. I fitted key rings at the right spots on my tripod to hang on the carabiners. The carabiners keep the tripod in place pretty well, but I don't stress it much as I usually walk with a cane. I can disconnect the tripod from the backpack easily when I need it.

Tim Eastman , Feb 18, 2012; 07:53 a.m.

I don't think there is an easy answer to this dilemma. With a daypack it is much easier to take off the pack and set up a tripod. I use an old JanSport, which has slots for skis behind the side pockets. One leg of my tripod slides into the slot, which makes it easy to access. Heavy backpacks are another matter and taking one off and then hoisting it back to your shoulders makes considering a tripod shot more difficult, compromising the justification for taking a tripod. How many shots would be helped by a trekking pole with a camera mount?

Vince Resor , Feb 18, 2012; 09:15 a.m.

Excellent ideas all. For me, I think a lot of my images from the trail benefit from a tripod because, for better or worse, I am usually out of breath or at least tired and far more shaky on the trail than usual. That translates to softer images. I make a concerted effort to shoot from a tripod for anything but snapshots. My family has gotten used to the series of whoosh, snap sounds of the old Gitzo legs extending and knows it's time to stop for a breather.

My search engine doesn't like the model G0540. Is that the table top or traveler size? I used to have an aluminum legged G01. While I loved using and even carrying it, I just don't have the knees to shoot from that semi crouched position and it's virtually impossible wearing a 30 pound pack. Interestingly, when I hike with a point and shoot it sits atop a Gorillapod that often requires kneeling or sitting on the ground. I'll have to examine that more thoroughly.

Your rings and 'biners design is intriguing Bob. Can you post a picture? My pack (or any pack really) has pockets on the bottom sides. In the Hydration Bladder Era I don't carry bottles any more, but the tripod feet fit neatly in one pocket and I've fitted quick release buckles to the top compression strap. Unfortunately it's still too involved to re-insert the tripod without removing the pack. Does your rings and 'biners design get around that need?

Tim Eastman , Feb 18, 2012; 09:29 a.m.

" My family has gotten used to the series of whoosh, snap sounds of the old Gitzo legs extending and knows it's time to stop for a breather. " I wonder how many here have this same dynamic! I want the hike to be about more than just my photographic endeavors and try to balance the picture taking with the family time. Last summer while hiking in the Dolomites with just my wife I figured out the solution. We hike at different speeds, so I would invariably be well ahead, giving me time to set up for panoramas, she arriving just in time to be included! Of course if I hike by myself the sky is the limit.

Daniel Jolkowski , Feb 18, 2012; 09:53 a.m.

Hike with other photographers. Or people that understand when you need to break out your tripod! I guess, if that isn't possible another thing to look at would be trekking poles with a camera mount to use as a monopod. Its a compromise for sure...

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