Tripod for hiking

All the funky stuff which turns your 550 gramme DSLR into a 5 kilo bag...
User avatar
mvanrheenen
Emperor of a Minor Galaxy
Posts: 1708
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:58 pm
Location: Netherlands
Contact:

Tripod for hiking

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:19 pm

In advance: my apologies for the longish story :)

If anything, I'm someone who likes to record the environment I'm in and try to capture the feeling I get when I look at some of the amazing things nature has produced on this earth. I mainly like to walk long distances in the many places I visit in all kinds of conditions, from blistering deserts to cold mountaintops.

Most of my pictures involve overviews of landscapes, seascapes and other natural formations as well as the odd flora and fauna captures.

The equipment I use for this are my trusty a390, 14mm Samyang, 30mm Sigma and 55-200 Sony lenses, where the short focal primes are used 80% of the time.

In the past, I mainly shot from hand, but I recently realised that a lot of my shots fail technically and artistically because of my 'hasty' shooting and my arms not being able to hold my camera steady. I want to change that and concluded I need to slow down my shooting and start using a tripod more!

Now, for that last part, I have a Hama tripod. However in the last couple of years it proved too unstable and of a flimsy build quality. Most of the plastic knobs now are broken, a leg is bend and I'm always strugling with the head. I concluded I need to buy a new tripod.

Now I'm looking for a new tripod which I can carry around on my travels and hiking trips.

I'm looking into buying a not-too-heavy tripod because of medical problems with the muscles in my shoulders and neck. If the bag I'm carrying gets too heavy (>8 kg) I'm in trouble. The problem using a lightweight tripod, I can imagine, is that it's not too stable, especially in slippery or windy conditions. This feels like a problem to me, especially for the stability I need.

Furthermore, I'm not too sure about using the tripod when hiking. Do I fully put it away every time I used it, or keep it in my hand for quick setup?

For a head, I like to use the ballhead, as it seems to be very flexible in usage and setup. The downside seems to be that when tightening the screw, the ball can shift and you have to start your carefully planned setup over again.

If anyone can help me with above questions/doubts or share some insight in how he or she uses a tripod in similar conditions, I appreciate it!

User avatar
Dusty
Emperor of a Minor Galaxy
Posts: 2308
Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:04 pm
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby Dusty » Wed Dec 29, 2010 6:26 pm

Mark,

There are a lot of good, light carbon fiber tripods out there, but they're expensive. You may want to look into a monopod. I often use a Slik monopod, which I find just a tad short for some uses, but then again I never put a ballhead on it, which would probably give me the height I need plus make it a bit more flexible. It's not perfect, and when you really need a tripod it's not a good substitute, but use it an brace yourself against a tree, and you're get rid of lots of shake.

It's also very fast to deploy, and can double as a walking stick in steep or slick terrain!

Dusty

User avatar
mvanrheenen
Emperor of a Minor Galaxy
Posts: 1708
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:58 pm
Location: Netherlands
Contact:

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:35 pm

Hi Dusty,

Thank you for your helpful reply!

Although I did consider a monopod, doesn't it hurt my photo's too much when shooting my landscape photo's? I mean, only when I've got full sun light on a bright day am I able to use "faster" shutter speeds at the f8-f10 apertures I use.

Doesn't using a monopod influence the sharpness of my shooting too much?

I do however like the idea of having a walking stick and light, very flexible and somewhat "stable" platform to take in hiking trips.

Mark

User avatar
mvanrheenen
Emperor of a Minor Galaxy
Posts: 1708
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:58 pm
Location: Netherlands
Contact:

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:11 pm

A friend of mine had een good idea: why not split the load? Not everything has to be carried on your shoulders/back!

Brilliant and simple! I'm now looking into a beltpack for my camera or a solution to carry a tripod on my waist/belt in stead of on my back. Could be a solution!

User avatar
UrsaMajor
Imperial Ambassador
Posts: 676
Joined: Sat Nov 22, 2008 6:36 am
Location: Southern California

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby UrsaMajor » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:42 pm

mvanrheenen wrote:A friend of mine had een good idea: why not split the load? Not everything has to be carried on your shoulders/back!

Brilliant and simple! I'm now looking into a beltpack for my camera or a solution to carry a tripod on my waist/belt in stead of on my back. Could be a solution!
Alternatively, you might want to look at a backpack frame, as used by people who may go camping for several days with only what they carry on their backs. With a backpack frame, the vertical load is carried almost entirely by the waistband, and the shoulder straps do very little more than provide stability in the horizontal directions. I have carried 50+ pounds with a system like this with less effect upon my shoulders and back than a 10 pound load in a fabric backpack, because almost all of the load is carried directly by the hips and legs.

With best wishes,
- Tom -

User avatar
mvanrheenen
Emperor of a Minor Galaxy
Posts: 1708
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:58 pm
Location: Netherlands
Contact:

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:01 pm

Hi Tom,

Thank you for your very helpful suggestion!

As I never hiked for several days straight before, I have no experience taking everything with me.

Do they have these frames for camera gear only, or do you buy a frame bag which also holds your camera bag?

Thank you very much!

Mark

User avatar
UrsaMajor
Imperial Ambassador
Posts: 676
Joined: Sat Nov 22, 2008 6:36 am
Location: Southern California

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby UrsaMajor » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:29 pm

mvanrheenen wrote:Now I'm looking for a new tripod which I can carry around on my travels and hiking trips.

I'm looking into buying a not-too-heavy tripod because of medical problems with the muscles in my shoulders and neck. If the bag I'm carrying gets too heavy (>8 kg) I'm in trouble. The problem using a lightweight tripod, I can imagine, is that it's not too stable, especially in slippery or windy conditions. This feels like a problem to me, especially for the stability I need.

For a head, I like to use the ballhead, as it seems to be very flexible in usage and setup. The downside seems to be that when tightening the screw, the ball can shift and you have to start your carefully planned setup over again.

If anyone can help me with above questions/doubts or share some insight in how he or she uses a tripod in similar conditions, I appreciate it!
You do not mention how much you are willing to spend, so some of my comments may not be valid if your budget is limited.

In regard to the stability of a lightweight tripod, there are a couple of options that you might consider.

First - think about carrying a lightweight bag into which you can load some rocks, earth, or something similar that you can pick up at the photo site. Hang the bag from your tripod to increase the effective weight and lower the center of gravity of your tripod-camera combination. Some modern tripods come with a hook on the bottom of the center post for exactly this purpose, but that hook is a convenience, not a necessity.

Second - if your budget allows, think about getting a tripod with carbon fiber legs. It will be quite a bit stiffer than a metal tripod of equivalent weight. As a general rule, the larger the diameter of the legs the stiffer the tripod will be - and it is an exponential relationship.

In regard to the use of a ball head, if your budget allows it I would suggest that you look at the products from Acratech. (Web site at http://acratech.net/ ) I have one of their GP ball heads and have had no problem with the ball shifting after the knob is tightened - which was not true of the smaller Bogen ball head that I had used previously. The ball heads from Acratech are designed by the owner of the business, who is a backpacking enthusiast that could not find a rigid ball head that was as light as he desired. Since he owned a machine shop that manufactured parts for the Aerospace industry, he decided to design and manufacture his own ball head. Other hikers saw it and asked where they could buy one, so he started making them for sale, and his 12-man shop is now devoted entirely to camera gear.

FWIW, I previously posted some comments here about the Acratech GP ball head and Acratech L-plate in the thread at: http://www.photoclubalpha.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=1243&hilit=Acratech&start=15

With best wishes,
- Tom -

User avatar
UrsaMajor
Imperial Ambassador
Posts: 676
Joined: Sat Nov 22, 2008 6:36 am
Location: Southern California

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby UrsaMajor » Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:46 pm

mvanrheenen wrote:Do they have these frames for camera gear only, or do you buy a frame bag which also holds your camera bag?
I have never looked to see if there are any frame/bag combinations designed just for camera gear, as I have only used a backpack frame for camping in the High Sierras on trips where the camera was a very small part of what I was carrying.

The frame itself can be general purpose, as its design is dictated by the shape of the human body and the need to feed the load into the hip/waist band, while allowing a cloth bag or other container to be readily attached to the frame. I assume that there may be special purpose camera bags sold that are designed to attach to a frame, but I have never had a need to investigate, so I do not know for a fact that this is true.

If you do not find something easily with a search on the Internet, you might try looking for a copy of "Backpacker" magazine or "Outdoor Photographer" magazine. There may be advertisements in one of these magazines for such a product. ( I do not have a copy of either magazine with me at the moment, so I am unable to check myself right now. )

With best wishes,
- Tom -

User avatar
mvanrheenen
Emperor of a Minor Galaxy
Posts: 1708
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:58 pm
Location: Netherlands
Contact:

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:25 am

Hi Tom,

Again, thank you very much for your very usefull information.

As far as budget goes, I am still a beginning photographer who just happens to be willing to spend some money to get good gear. As far as figures go, I'm willing to spend about a $700 on tripod, head and bag. That should be enough to start with I think. If not, I'm able to spend more.

I am looking into the different tripods available. It seems Manfrotto, Gitzo and Giottos are very popular brands. They all have carbon tripods, but prices and weight can vary a lot.

For the heads, I'll look into the Acratech heads. The prices are reasonable as I can see.

I'll stop by an outdoor specialist shop to see what bags they can offer me.

Thank you for the advice. If I have any update, I'll let you know.

Cheers!

motor
Heirophant
Posts: 76
Joined: Fri May 29, 2009 6:53 pm

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby motor » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:54 pm

Hi mvanrheenen

Every summer my wife and I head out west to Glacier, Upper and Lower Bighorns, Yellowstone and Tetons areas. We usually carry the 70-400, 70-200, 2x's and 1.4x's and 2 camera bodies with misc lenses. We do a lot of hiking back woods looking for elk, moose, bear, goats etc. ( I do alot of hunting so instead of a gun I shoot them with the glass in the summer and early fall!) Here is my gear and it works perfect for me. Great for hiking, sneaking up on, crawling and even small climbs) We have two setups and 2 bags. I carry the camera gear and she carries water, clothing, food etc. ( My mule!) That is her nick name so it is all good :lol: I carry the thinktank bag Airport Antidote® V2.0 if it is a long hike and I am carrying everything or the Thinktank Taxi if I plan to have one lens on and one off-lite walks. The antidote is one ugly bag in my eyes but it is SO comfortable I don't care. ( I don't think the elk do either :lol: ) My wife carries a simple LL bean backpack and we put her tripod running left to right on the bottom where you would put the napsack normally. Now if you buy a good backpack you could just buy a shoulder bag and put the lenses in it and then put that in the bag or a couple small shoulder pouches and strap your lenses on the outside. I like inside for protection but we do sometimes put a ultrawide on the side of my wife's bag for easy access in a small case/pouch. This is how we carry our wide and standard zoom lenses most of the time. She has the tokina 11-16 and tamron 17-50 in a small shoulder bag in her pack. I carry the KM 28-75 or 24-70ZA in my bag with the 30macro and the teleconverters sony and Kenko set and her camera if she doesn't have it on. In most cases though my bag is almost empty for I always have my camera in hand unless we need to climb and the same with her. The thinktank you can actually strap the camera to the shoulder band and it is even lighter. You don't even need to hold onto the camera it just hangs. Both bags are very comfortable FULLY loaded.

Tripods....Well I went against the reviews and tried the Induro c214 carbon I picked up off ebay for $169. I got previous years model. My wife uses the induro C113 still listed for $199 on ebay right now. I have NOT had a problem with either. I am maxed as in weight they can handle but they are very stiff and good for me and very lite.hiccup!hiccup!

Heads I used the Manfrotto 322rc for my wife. She loves this head and it is very nice and I use the Giottos MH3000. (I also have a giottos tripod but don't carry that way to heavy and big. Holds 44lbs. I use it for studio work.) I picked the manfrotto up for $95 on ebay and Giottos from adorama for $150 with 3 plates.

My setup works very well. We leave in the morning and sometimes get talked to by rangers for coming back to late! :roll: We have got some great shots in the past with this gear and it works great fro us. Here are 2 of my favorites!

Bodies were the A700 with grip and the A350 just sold for the A580 we'll see how it holds up this summer! My wife loved the 350 for the size


Totals-$900 for 2 sets of gear and you only need one!

Thinktank-$199
Taxi-$119
C214-$169
C113-$199
322rc-$95
Mh3000-$150

Enjoy

Moater
Attachments
moose-Yellowstone-2008.jpg
moose-Yellowstone-2008.jpg (68.86 KiB) Viewed 3656 times
elk-Bighorns2009.jpg
elk-Bighorns2009.jpg (116.72 KiB) Viewed 3656 times

User avatar
mvanrheenen
Emperor of a Minor Galaxy
Posts: 1708
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:58 pm
Location: Netherlands
Contact:

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:53 pm

Hi Moater,

Thank you very much for the insightful post.

I checked the Thinktank Airport Antidote and your right, it's one ugly bag :lol: But I'll consider/try it because of the comfort you mentioned.
The Glass Taxi seems like a good bag, if you bring a big >300 mm lens with you. I only bring my 14mm and 30mm primes and Sony 55-200, so no big lenses. Biggest lens is the 55-200 which is nearly as compact as the two primes :wink:

I'm still on for looking into tripods. Haven't had the time yet, but will shortly.

Very nice images you posted! :shock: Thanks for that!

Mark

User avatar
Birma
Tower of Babel
Posts: 6679
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2008 3:10 pm

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby Birma » Sat Jan 15, 2011 7:17 pm

Hi Mark,

Getting the right combination of tripod and bag(s) is almost as much fun as choosing lenses and camera bodies :D . I have a Manfrotto 055XPROB which is very solid, and also tall, but a bit of a monster to lug around. I carry it in a Manfrotto trpid bag (over the shoulder) for longer walks, or just in my hands if on a shorter walk. They do a carbon-fiber version of this tripod (055CX?) if you have the $$$.

I purchased a monopod this year to help steady a long lens when chasing butterfiles, bees, etc. as the trpiod isn't a very helpful solution when you are moving aound a lot. I considered this when looking for the monopod http://www.trek-tech.com/ but I have never found one to try out before buying. I went with a simple Mafrotto monopod in the end.

My original tripod head was a 3-way job which is fine but can be a slow to use. I have just received a ball head, Manfrotto 322rc2 which seems great but I haven't got to "in the field" much yet.

As for bags - I have two solutions. One is a Kata backpack - it holds lots of stuff but is then too heavy to carry on a hike! The other solution is a Lowepro top-loader with attached lens pouches. So the regular hiking kit is this Lowepro over one shoulder and the tripod bag over the other. I am realising that Tom's advice regarding carrying weight over your hips is correct and I will have to look in to this. I think finding the right bag is probably a life long search :D.

Let us know how you get on :)
Nex 5, Nex 6 (IR), A7M2, A99 and a bunch of lenses.

User avatar
Birma
Tower of Babel
Posts: 6679
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2008 3:10 pm

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby Birma » Sat Jan 15, 2011 7:18 pm

P.S. Great shots Motor - that moose is superb :D .
Nex 5, Nex 6 (IR), A7M2, A99 and a bunch of lenses.

User avatar
mvanrheenen
Emperor of a Minor Galaxy
Posts: 1708
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2010 3:58 pm
Location: Netherlands
Contact:

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby mvanrheenen » Tue Jan 18, 2011 4:48 pm

Hi Birma and others,

The past couple of weeks I've been busy going to several camerashops and trying different "hiking setups".

I've tried several different monopod, tripod and head combinations, as well as a few different bag options.

A few things I noticed were:

Shops often don't have a good collection of different camerabags. Allmost all of them have the "standard" Lowepro Slingshots, Fastpacks and the occasional Trekker bag as well as the Tamrac Aero's and Kata bags. Almost none have a decent collection of toploaders or belt systems. And if they do, they almost all ask top prices for them. Several larger shops farther away might have bigger collections, so I need to check them as well. Most webshops do have large collections, but it's always a gamble what you're buying when you've only seen something online.

Shops tend to have a somewhat bigger collection of tripods and heads. Monopods are still quite rare it seems.

In the end, I've tried several tripods from Manfrotto, Gitzo, Redged and Velbon which were made from different materials. Due to the smaller collection of monopods, I could only try one aluminium model from Velbon and Hama. None of them felt reliable to be honest. The only carbon one was from Manfrotto. That one did feel reliable and pretty light, but was rather expensive.

When I started my search, my main objective was to find lightweight equipment so that I could carry it all in one bag on my back. After testing the mono- and tripods however, I came to the conclusion that the heavier aluminium tripods felt more stable than the carbon ones. The monopods have their function, but are not for me. I want to be able to setup a stable platform for my shooting. A monopod just isn't that.

Back to the tripods, the only carbon ones I did like were about twice as expensive as the heavier, aluminium ones I've tried. Finally, after trying about 20 different tripods, it came down to my "gut feeling" and value. My gut told me to buy the heavier tripods, often from aluminium, because they felt more stable. Finally, I decided to buy the exact same model you have Birma, the Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod Black. Yes, it's aluminium and yes it's twice as heavy as most carbon pods, but it felt the most reliable to me without having to spend €500 on it. I bought it for around €160.

Now, for the head. As I've said earlier, I have a certain budget which was based on having to spend about €350-€400 on a tripod and the rest on a head. Well, as I only spent €160 on the tripod, I had a fairly big budget for the heads.

As Tom mentioned in one of his posts, I have tried to find a store in which I could try Arcatech heads. None of the stores I visited sold those heads. I looked at the official dealers on the website of Arcahead and only found one entry which is to far away for me. So, unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to try one.

I did however, tried several heads from Manfrotto, Markins and Kirk. I've read a lot about different heads and concluded I wanted a ballhead. The thing most people warn about, especially with ballheads, is that long heavy lenses could result in the lens creeping downwards. As I only use prime lenses with a short focal length, I was hoping I wouldn't see this with my setup. Both primes are fairly heavy (450-500 grams) but are reasonably short.
After a lot of testing several heads, I came to the conclusion that almost all ballheads from the more established brands would be sufficient for me. It mostly came down to handling. The friction control is a nice option and most heads have it. Most heads have reliable quick-lock mechanisms to securely place your camera in them. I finally bought a Manfrotto 498RC4 Midi ballhead. Net costs were about €120 for the head and release plate.

All in all, I have saved lots of money because I found out the expensive equipment isn't always the best for ones personal needs!

So, know I have a sturdy, reliable and flexible tripod and head combination which is WAY to heavy for using a backpack. Off course, I knew this before I bought it ;-)

This made me realize I am in need of a more hybrid solution, where I can distribute the weight of the tripod + head, camera + lenses and personal belongings and food. Soooo, I'm back to the hiking, non-camera backpack and beltsystem idea.

Next stop: in search of the perfect combination of bags...

Thanks for all of you who took the time to aid me in this quest. You're insights were (and still are) very valuable to me!

Cheers!

User avatar
Birma
Tower of Babel
Posts: 6679
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2008 3:10 pm

Re: Tripod for hiking

Unread postby Birma » Tue Jan 18, 2011 5:28 pm

Hi Mark,

It is always interesting to find out what other people have purchased so thanks for the update. I am sure that you will find the Manfrotto 055XPROB a very steady tripod. The only time I have had trouble was with the legs sinking in very soft sand on the beach. I think you can get 'snow' feet that may help with this.

Keep us updated with the bag investigations, and of course, post some pictures taken from the new tripod :D .
Nex 5, Nex 6 (IR), A7M2, A99 and a bunch of lenses.


Return to “Tripods, bags and accessories”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron