Backpacking with a tripod

Discussion in 'Nature' started by vince, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?
  8. 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?
  9. " 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.
  10. 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...
  11. The Gitzo Matthew refers to is now the GT0541 (4 section) or GT0531 (3 section). These 0 series tripods with a small ballhead (e.g. RRS BH-25) can work, especially with a lighter (perhaps non-zoom) lens and with the legs not fully extended. In that case, what you need is an angle finder. Your back and/or knees will appreciate not having to bend down. If it is too windy for this light set-up you still can use it as a monopod.
  12. The modern iteration of my old G01. Very cool. Sadly too short for me now. I'd love the small size and light weight though.
  13. Vince, I believe compromise may be your solution: for those sections of Yosemite where you're "grunting" (uphill, switchbacks, etc.), carry the Gitzo as you have in the past. In areas where you want it handy, consider a strap. I'll recommend the OpTech for this type of walking, no weight issues with one of these.
  14. The most I've ever taken is the Leitz tabletop tripod. Fine for high country. There's usually a rock to set it on. A major
    compromise in options of course. I like Matthew's kit. I'm going to look at that bag.
  15. Excellent point Bill. I've been perhaps too focused on trimming weight and the ultralight mantra and failed to consider lashing the trekking poles to my pack when the going is easy. Yosemite's North Rim Trail has about a day of uphill and a day of downhill, but the middle days along the rim are relatively level. I like it.
  16. I do a lot of backpacking with a full kit of camera equipment. (I also day hike, but I presume you are writing about multi-day overnight trips.) I have a post at my blog outlining my current back-country kit and variations: Backpacking Photography Equipment
    The tripod question is a tricky one, especially when it comes to shooting on the go. My tripod rides either in a side "pocket" of my pack or else on the back of it, depending upon what pack I carry. If I see a photograph that requires a tripod while I'm on the trail, I just have to stop and remove the back to get at the tripod - and I simply figure "that's life." When I'm out in the back-country primary for photography, I realize that I'm not going to cover as much ground and that dealing with the photographic equipment logistics will change everything. By the way, I also use a different tripod and bullhead on the trail than I use for "normal" photography. My regular tripod and head is just way to big and heavy. The "smaller" trail tripod is a Gitzo 2542L with the Acratech Ultimate Ballhead.
    Fortunately, I'm usually not actually hiking in the great light times of the day, so my typical plan is to shoot a few hours in the morning, then move to a new camp if necessary, set up, then shoot for a few hours in the evening. In other words most of my serious shooting is not done while I'm in transit between one place and the next. Ideally, I'll even stay in a place for several days and day hike from base camp to more thoroughly photograph the area.
    I do leave a IS lens on my camera, which is carried in a chest-mount bag. So it is possible to pull the camera out and do some shots hand held. For certain shots I am willing to work this way - and if not, I'll drop the pack and set up as described above.
    I do know a few photographers who hike with the camera on a tripod and held in hand or over the shoulder. With the right pack this can work, but it is not very comfortable for long distances, and you do risk certain kinds of damage to your equipment.
    Dejan, 45 lbs. is a pretty astonishing amount of gear! Are you carrying all of this on your back, or are you having it packed in to a base camp? I know of one person who carries loads close to that (John Sexton carries more than 30lb of BW MF film gear) but that is pretty extreme!
  17. Thanks Peter E - My tripod is indeed the GT0540 model. It's def. a traveller.
    I either crouch (At 5'11") or mostly sit on my backside when using this tripod hence considering permanently removing the final leg sections.
  18. I second the idea of using a Gorillapod. I find my Gorillapod SLR, with Manfrotto ball head, is just about good enough to support the weight of my D7000 with lightweight lenses. An SLRzoom would be better. I use mine with a Manfroto head with an cheap adaptor to convert the 1/4 inch screw on the Gorillapod to the 3/8 inch thread on the head. You obviously have to compromise a bit on exactly where you put the camera but on the other hand you can use Gorillapods in positions you couldn't use a conventional tripod.
  19. I have several sizes of Gorillapods and they are awesome. My current favorite is the magnetic feet model. Not so relevant for the trail, but excellent for travel snaps around town. They generally spend time attached to one of my P&S cameras. Attached to my D7000 or smaller D40 I'd have to drop my pack to get down to Gorillapod level to use it. I'm pretty committed to my old G1127. The new Traveler series is intriguing, but I'm concerned about shooting from the crouch at 45 inches or so.
    Great site Dan. I envy your summer status and often second guess my own. For better or worse, a week in the Sierra Nevada has to suffice. I still hope to devise a way to get to the tripod without removing my pack. If I do, I'll report back with a post on your site. Thank you.
  20. Vince,
    I spend time in Yosemite a couple of time a year. I do use a traveler tripod, not perfect,but certainly lighter. The best solution I have found is to use a caribiner on top under the ball head, and a strap to secure the legs. I wrap the strap around the legs in the middle and then loop it around either side of my pack. It's pretty easy to take on and off and doesn't move around much on the pack. I also use a binocular shoulder strap with release buckles to hold the camera to my chest so I don't have to carry it all the time. That frees up your hands for hiking poles or anything else you might find to do with them.
    Have fun. It's one of the greatest places on the planet.
  21. Same problem, different solution (used for Gitzo 2530 with Acratech; or smaller Gitzo); attach length of cord to grab handle on top of day sack or multi-day sack, drop feet of tripod through the loop, and pull legs into side of pack via side straps, wand pockets or whatever the pack has. To get at it, it's just a vertical pull. Not perfect, but works and keeps the load stable. And no, my knees won't carry what some of you guys are carrying.
  22. I have to admit, I don't know much about photography and I use a point and shoot camera for photos and videos for my web site. But I do know about backpacking and I do believe in using trekking poles as suggested above. Use them, you won't be sorry! Also I would probably get better photos and videos if I had a tripod as well.
  23. My lightest weight solution to carrying a tripod is to carry a Gorillapod and place it on a rock or whatever or to hold it on the handle of a trekking pole or ski pole and use the pole plus Gorillapod as a monopod. One problem with this set up is the inability to take vertical shots. If I want to bring a real tripod I carry my Gitzo Traveler with a small Giottos ball head or, for shorter hikes, my trusty old Tiltall tripod.
  24. Backpacking with a tripod can be difficult. I backpacked with a tripod up Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand. Just remember to take your time if you need to. Also, you can use one of the legs of your tripod and brace it over your shoulder. This will free up your hands if you do not have a backpack sling. I would highly recommend investing in a sling. Enjoy your travels and backpacking!
    Keep safe.

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