Many of the best photo opportunities are nowhere near a road – that is a good thing in my opinion. Anyone who has done much hiking or backpacking knows first hand the effect weight can have on the enjoyment of the experience! To save weight, the tripod is usually the first thing left behind, but now it does not have to be.
I used to carry my entire camera bag and heavy tripod whenever I did any hiking. My thought process was – I never knew what in the bag I might need, and I just had to have a sturdy tripod, so I just toughed it out and brought everything. Well that attitude left me with a very painful shoulder injury that cut an extended trip short last fall, and sent me on the hunt for a better solution.
When it comes to tripods, I’m happy to report, I found the perfect solution: The
Gitzo G1058 carbon tripod along with a Really Right Stuff BH-25 Ballhead. (Update: Gitzo has replaced this lightweight tripod with the Gitzo GT-0540 which has 4 leg sections, and the Gitzo GT-0530 for the three leg section version.)
This Gitzo / Really Right Stuff combination is reasonably steady – rated for a 9 pound load, while weighing in at just about 2 pounds. Friend, fellow photographer and backpacking guide Carl Donohue said he keeps his tucked behind his ear for easy access. Of course Carl was joking, but the point is well made. The thing is so light that I never think twice before packing it.
This is a new version of Gitzo tripod, they call their new carbon fiber tripods ”Carbon 6x”. One of the best features of the new series is the Anti-Leg-Rotation System or ALR. Most Gitzos use twist locks for extending and locking the legs. These are quick and easy to use, and don’t snag on vegetation and other obstacles. The complaint with Gitzos in the past is that the entire leg rotated requiring the photographer to use a careful process that included tightening higher sections tighter then lower and extending the legs in a specific order. Long story short, this is all a thing of the past with these new tripods. Extending and retracting the legs on this little guy is fast and easy, and you can do any section in any order. Unfortunately, they haven’t applied this new technology to their larger tripods such as their popular 3 series size.
The Gitzo tripod models ending with the number 8 are 4 leg section tripods. (Update: Now Gitzo seems to use a 30 for 3 section legs, and a 40 for 4 section. Their model numbering seems to always change and continues to be confusing.) Normally I opt for 3 sections for added stability and speed of setup / take-down. For a lightweight hiking / backpacking tripod, 4 sections are nice because it allows the tripod to collapse a little shorter than the 3. Typically 4 sections take longer to set up, but not with the ALR system – setup is nearly as fast as with 3 sections.
Really Right Stuff has been making specialized photography gear for years – I have many of their camera plates. For a small, light weight ball-head, the BH-25 does a great job. I wouldn’t want to use either of these with a long telephoto, but for wide angle to short telephoto use, this combination is hard to beat. It won’t replace my everyday tripod, but it will now go with me on all hikes, even ones where I might not have taken a tripod at all.