Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed

Started May 13, 2012 | Discussions
speediq99
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Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
May 13, 2012

Hello,

I am looking for a small lightweight tripod for hiking that can carry a 5D + 24-105. Ideally, it would be short enough to fit in a backpack.

Budget:

Thanks,

Mike

travelinbri_74
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to speediq99, May 14, 2012

No suggestions, but I am tracking the subject as well. Not sure how good the sub-100 tripods are though...

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mosswings
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to speediq99, May 14, 2012

speediq99 wrote:

Hello,

I am looking for a small lightweight tripod for hiking that can carry a 5D + 24-105. Ideally, it would be short enough to fit in a backpack.

Budget:

Thanks,

Mike

I assume you want a full-height tripod, one that allows you to stand up and comfortably sight through the viewfinder. That means about a 24" collapsed length for a 3-section leg, about a 20" collapsed length for a 4-section leg. If you're carrying a 60+liter pack, the tripod will fit inside, but it will eat up a tube of space 24" long by about 4-5" in diameter. The better way to carry a tripod is strapped to the outside of your pack, in a stuff sack if you want. This also permits you to select 3-section leg tripods, which are stiffer than 4-section leg tripods - and the most important quality you want for a tripod is stiffness and stability, with little vibration. At the $100 price point you're going to get precious little of any of those qualities.

You will also want to have a ballhead that is rated for at least 8-11lbs carrying capacity. The manufacturers, particularly of the cheap tripods and ballhead, inflate their capacity claims. You do not want to load your ballhead to more than half of its rated capacity, particularly a small diameter ballhead, because the camera will creep out of position with unbalanced loads like a heavy camera and long lens in portrait orientation. Throw in spec creep and you're looking at 1/3 rated load as a comfortable maximum.

Your tripod and ballhead will weigh 3-4lbs. You can save a pound with carbon fiber, but your budget won't tolerate it. Aluminum will be the leg material.

Here are a couple of Oben brand tripods that should work for you. They're Chinese knockoffs of big-brand tripods, and they won't be as durable, but you can't argue with the price for the use that most hobbyists give them. Bare minimum and $100:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/687330-REG/Oben_AC_1310_BA_0_AC_1310_3_Section_Aluminum_Tripod.html

If you can push your budget, this one would be worlds better and reaches a bit higher:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/768010-REG/Oben_AC_2310_3_Section_Aluminum_Tripod.html

Frankly, most people completely underestimate how expensive a good, stable, lightweight, and tall enough tripod and ballhead are; the good stuff, even the Asian wannabes, approaches $400, and the best stuff is $800-$1000 or higher depending on how big a lens and body you're packing. Thom Hogan wrote an oft-quoted article on tripods that I'll requote here:
http://www.bythom.com/support.htm

I will say this, though: you don't have to spend Gitzo money to get a really good tripod these days, but it does seem that the sweet spot for reliable traveler's carbon fiber tripods and a 30-33mm ballhead is around $400-$500.

There are plenty of tripods out there priced less than $100 for legs+ballhead, but they're all going to be fairly heavy and will struggle a bit with a full-size body and longish lens.

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travelinbri_74
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to mosswings, May 14, 2012

While we're on the subject, any recommendations for tripods in other price ranges?

Say the 200-400$ range and the 400-600$ range?

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mosswings
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to travelinbri_74, May 14, 2012

travelinbri_74 wrote:

While we're on the subject, any recommendations for tripods in other price ranges?

Say the 200-400$ range and the 400-600$ range?

There are many. In Hogan's article he suggests a $650 pairing with an Acratech ballhead, rightly noting that the ballhead needs to be very good to be enjoyable to work with.

Personally, I purchased through reallybigcameras.com a Feisol CT-3441S ($300-$390, rotating/non-rotating legs, carbon fiber, compact collapsing) and a CB-30C ballhead ($109), which is not adequate for a D90 with a 70-300 at full extension. I'd now specify

something like a Photo Clam PC-33 or PC-36 instead ($190-$210). The nice thing about this tripod is that even though it's a 4-section leg tripod, the legs are large diameter and therefore very very stable, so this tripod offers the best of both worlds: a near-standard size tripod that is reasonably transportable and quite light - about 3lbs - for about $500-$600.

However, in this price range you can also find Manfrotto tripods (190 series) that work very well and are widely available; Feisol is mail order only - I just happen to live near the US distributor and could try before I bought.
In the $200-$400 range, I don't have any suggestions.

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travelinbri_74
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to mosswings, May 14, 2012

Thanks, I guess stability and light weight/portability will be my priorities, since I do travel photography, although I don't want to hijack the thread, and I know the OP is looking for a less expensive solution.

-TBri

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mgerpe
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to travelinbri_74, May 14, 2012

the past 5 years ive broken a few of my tripods, so spending more on a nicer tripod with a 5 year warranty is worth it for me if your out there hiking and beating it up.

for me ive seen the biggest improvement in buying nicer ball heads, the RSS 25 is really small, light, works fine with my D700 and lens.

I really like the L brackets with arca quick mounts. Kirk heads are really nice too.

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klimbkat
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to mgerpe, May 15, 2012

I went on this same search a few years back, trying to optimize features, full height, and 4kg (8.8 lbs) capacity with light weight and low cost. I hike, climb, backpack, travel and trek, so light weight and small size is critical. I ended up with Slik Sprint Pro legs - 4 section, 3-position legs with clamp adjustment and rubber feet that screw up to reveal spikes, short or long and reversable center column - and a Manfrotto 484RC2 head. Both components are rated at 4 kg, the total weight is 2.5 lbs, and the length is less than 20" with the ballhead flipped sideways, even less with the head off. Fits in modest carryon luggage, pack outside, pack inside, or slung over the back with a bit of webbing. Its been to 18,000' in Peru and Nepal, up numerous mountaintops, camped at alpine lakes, and I've shot surfers on Kauai with a Bigma while sitting in a sandchair.

Is it the sturdiest tripod one can buy? Of course not. At that weight, it can't do what my 055CF legs and beefier head can. But, I'm still willing to take it almost anywhere I'm headed, so I get a lot of use out of it. It works pretty well for many things, and is infinitely better than no tripod. If this is what you want, do what I did - research and find the legs and head that have the capacity you seek at the price you're willing to pay. Under $100 is probably a stretch, but you can get in the neighborhood for only a bit more - my Slik-Manfrotto rig was only about $125 . . . Good luck in your search.

Here is the little rig at 16,500' in the Cordillera Villacanota in Peru.

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GDB
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to speediq99, May 15, 2012

I have been using a Velbon 530 carbon fiber tripod for years now and absolutely love it. Look up Velbon on Adorama or B&H. In fact, I stupidly broke one of the legs on my tripod (shooting at midnight, in rain, on steps with steel hand rails...with tripod leg extending through hand rails...then walked away...snap!) Anyway, got some super glue and sand paper, fixed in the field the next day and it still works!!

I've tried lots of ball heads but finally got a great Acratech ball head; it easily supported my 7D with Canon's 100-400mm zoom.

I take the Velbon and Acratech ball head EVERYWHERE...travelling, hiking, and yes, backpacking. It'll be on my pack for the next backpack over the Memorial day weekend.

Gary

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twan
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to GDB, May 15, 2012

I also want a new tripod for lightweight traveling.

According the velbon site, the 530 only supports 4.0 kg. I expect this is without the head so isn't it to less for the 7D + 100-400?

I always looked for tripods with can carry approx 8 kg...

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Marc S
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to travelinbri_74, May 15, 2012

travelinbri_74 wrote:

While we're on the subject, any recommendations for tripods in other price ranges?

Say the 200-400$ range and the 400-600$ range?

Some people here will probably beginning to get sick because I'm posting my link again...but anyway.

Have a look at Feisol tripods. I've got a small, light and sturdy Feisol CT-3442 Tournament (1.05kg, 1.5kg with head) carbon fiber tripod thats sturdier as comparable Gitzos of the same weight class while costing about 1/2 to 2/3 of a Gitzo and a big Feisol CT-3471 carbon fiber tripod for 'serious stuff' (2.3kg, 3.5kg with head) costing about 1/2 of a comparable Gitzo.

That said if the Gitzos where better I would had bought Gitzo carbon fiber tripods regardless of cost.

And here is the link: http://marcschlueter.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/the-perfect-tripod/
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mosswings
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to Marc S, May 15, 2012

Marc S wrote:

travelinbri_74 wrote:

While we're on the subject, any recommendations for tripods in other price ranges?

Say the 200-400$ range and the 400-600$ range?

Some people here will probably beginning to get sick because I'm posting my link again...but anyway.

Have a look at Feisol tripods. I've got a small, light and sturdy Feisol CT-3442 Tournament (1.05kg, 1.5kg with head) carbon fiber tripod thats sturdier as comparable Gitzos of the same weight class while costing about 1/2 to 2/3 of a Gitzo and a big Feisol CT-3471 carbon fiber tripod for 'serious stuff' (2.3kg, 3.5kg with head) costing about 1/2 of a comparable Gitzo.

That said if the Gitzos where better I would had bought Gitzo carbon fiber tripods regardless of cost.

And here is the link: http://marcschlueter.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/the-perfect-tripod/
--
Marc
http://marcschlueter.wordpress.com/

Huzzah, backup has arrived! I appreciate the link, Marc. To the OP: Marc's CT-3442 is just slightly beefier than my CT-3441S. The difference lies mostly in the top plate, which is of larger diameter and can accept a leveling base for the ballhead, and the lack of a standard extension tube, which is usually a bad idea anyway since it permits more vibration.

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Marc S
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to mosswings, May 15, 2012

mosswings wrote:

Marc S wrote:

travelinbri_74 wrote:

While we're on the subject, any recommendations for tripods in other price ranges?

Say the 200-400$ range and the 400-600$ range?

Some people here will probably beginning to get sick because I'm posting my link again...but anyway.

Have a look at Feisol tripods. I've got a small, light and sturdy Feisol CT-3442 Tournament (1.05kg, 1.5kg with head) carbon fiber tripod thats sturdier as comparable Gitzos of the same weight class while costing about 1/2 to 2/3 of a Gitzo and a big Feisol CT-3471 carbon fiber tripod for 'serious stuff' (2.3kg, 3.5kg with head) costing about 1/2 of a comparable Gitzo.

That said if the Gitzos where better I would had bought Gitzo carbon fiber tripods regardless of cost.

And here is the link: http://marcschlueter.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/the-perfect-tripod/
--
Marc
http://marcschlueter.wordpress.com/

Huzzah, backup has arrived! I appreciate the link, Marc. To the OP: Marc's CT-3442 is just slightly beefier than my CT-3441S. The difference lies mostly in the top plate, which is of larger diameter and can accept a leveling base for the ballhead, and the lack of a standard extension tube, which is usually a bad idea anyway since it permits more vibration.

I've got the Feisol levelling base but its kind of crap with the Tournament series. Too heavy and too big in diameter preventing the legs to fold over the head. For the bigger Feisols like the CT-3471 on the other hand it's very nice to have.
Better get a Acratch levelling base for the CT-3442 Tournament.
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Marc
http://marcschlueter.wordpress.com/

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GDB
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to twan, May 15, 2012

All I know is the Velbon 530 is solid. However, try looking at other Velbon's. They make several.

Gary

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pyhl
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to speediq99, May 20, 2012

Anyone used or reviewed the 3 Legged Thing tripods; especially the Brian for light weight, travel?

Thanks,
PLee

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Alpha Doug
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to pyhl, May 20, 2012

I second the Velbon suggestion. I have had a carbon fiber Velbon for several years, and it is a delight to use and easy to carry. 3 section legs, full height, and verry durable. Not sure of the model numer but it is in the "El Carmagne" series. Comes standard with a really nice and light studio head. Cost $265.

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Only my opinion. It's worth what you paid for it. Your mileage may vary! ;-}

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mosswings
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to pyhl, May 20, 2012

pyhl wrote:

Anyone used or reviewed the 3 Legged Thing tripods; especially the Brian for light weight, travel?

Thanks,
PLee

Check BHphoto for some of the reviewer comments. The Brian may be too light and wobbly. 5 leg sections and a 4-section center column/monopod? Shudder. Remember that for best stability the tripod is heavier than what's mounted on it; that means usually that you need to hand your camera bag from the tripod hook and the tripod needs to be beefy enough to handle the load.

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shep3
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to speediq99, May 24, 2012

I have a Dolica carbon fiber with a ball head I purchased it from Costco, I recently saw a similar sale at Adorama for a similar Dolica in the 100 - 140 range. This is a good tripod for the price less than 150. I am not so sure if it going to fit in your bag, but they are lightweight.

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NancyP
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Re: Feisol largest tripods 3372, 3471, and Feisol leveling base LB-7572
In reply to Marc S, May 24, 2012

Marc S.

1. Is the Feisol leveling base sturdy and does it tighten securely onto the tripod? Its 30 degree range of motion seems large for a leveling base.

Gitzo systematics have had a problem with the standard platform, and I presume the leveling base as well, being prone to popping loose. An aftermarket reinforcement plate is supposedly necessary for heavy loads.

2. I am looking at the chunkiest Feisol carbon fiber tripod CT-3372 or the CT-3472 to be combined with the leveling base LB-7572 (no center column) and medium weight gimbal and 6 lb camera/lens combo 400mm f5.6 plus Canon 60D. Have you tried either of the larger Feisols?

Gitzo has had some quality control issues recently. RRS is almost twice the price as Feisol, although well rated by just about everybody. I haven't seen an RRS versa 3 series tripod in person, nor have I seen a Feisol.

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Sante Patate
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Re: Lightweight Tripod for hiking - recommendation needed
In reply to speediq99, May 24, 2012

Where small and light were the No 1 priority I have used the Manfrotto 209 with a RRS BH-25 ballhead ( http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/554004-REG/Manfrotto_209_209_Tabletop_Tripod_Legs.html ) with good results. You can usually find a rock to put it on, and it is seriously light, compact, and because the legs are solid Al with no joints, very robust and secure.

An L-plate is really useful because the legs are short enough that a heavy camera can over-balance if you use the drop notch on the ballhead.

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