Traveling light with a tripod – Gitzo G1058 and the RRS BH-25

Ron Niebrugge Equipment 28 Comments

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.

Comments 28

  1. Alan Eldridge

    Ron:
    Thank you for your recommendations. I am going on a Grand Canyon backpacking trip in April 2008 for 48 miles and backpack the Colorado Trail in July/August 2009 for 500 miles. I am looking at a light weight tripod that will support my Canon 20D and 16-35mm f2.8 or 24-70mm f2.8. I was seriously looking at the Gitzo G1058 because of it’s light weight but wasn’t sure if it was stable enough. Your article gives me the advice of experience. Since I already own the RRS BH-25 my rig will be just like yours.
    Again, thank you.
    Alan Eldridge

  2. Alan Eldridge

    Ron,
    Woops, I meant to say the tripod will be a Gitzo GT0540. I also wasn’t sure to go with 3 or 4 legs. 3 legs are more stable and quicker to set up but 4 legs is taller and packs smaller. I will go with your advice and get the 4 leg model. Tripod and ball head total weight is about 2.4 lbs.
    Thank you,
    Alan Eldridge

  3. Post
    Author
  4. Valerie McElroy

    Hello Ron. I’ve really enjoyed your site. And your photos are gorgeous.

    My husband and I are both serious amateur photographers/backpackers here in Colorado and are looking for what you have described as your lightweight combo.

    Could you tell me how small it folds up? We’re trying to find a new tripod combo to replace our heavy Bogens, not only for backpacking but also to be able to carry on in our luggage to go hike the Alps in May(a lifelong dream). Also, we’re really into being able to get close to the ground for our macro photography as well as wide angle shots with large flowers in foreground and mountains in background. (Muench like photos). Does this tripod allow you to get low to the ground for these kinds of shots?

    Thanks. We’re almost befuddled with all the tripods available today, so your comments have been very helpful.

    Valerie

  5. Post
    Author
    Ron

    Hi Valerie,

    I used to use Bogens as well – for the price, they are hard to beat, but this Gitzo setup is much lighter! I will measure it tomorrow and comment here.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  6. Post
    Author
    Ron

    Hi again,

    If I fold the clamp to the side, it is just under 20 inches long. If you remove the small head, it is just under 18 inches.

    As far as going low, the legs will spray straight out so that they are parallel to the ground, but mine has a 9.5 inch center column that prevents it from going to ground level. I have not looked at removing the center column, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Really Right Stuff made an attachment so that you could remove the column. I suppose you could also cut it, but it is made of carbon fibre – don’t know if cutting that is a problem or not.

    Hope that helps.

  7. Valerie McElroy

    thank you SO much for taking the time to help. It’s a blessing to us that you would consider “befriendiing” a fellow photographer who wants to grow! It sounds like the perfect combination. I did note on some web sites that they are having “close out” sales on it, so guess they have discontinued the 1058. I’ll call RRS and see what they say.

    Again, thank you.

    Valerie

  8. Post
    Author
  9. John

    Note that the 0530 and 0540 have now been replaced with the 0531 and 0541. No significant different, as I far as I can tell.

  10. Post
    Author
    Ron

    Thanks John, I will update my write up.

    Gitzo sure doesn’t seem to keep a model number around for very long.

    Ron

  11. Alan Eldridge

    Ron,
    Again, thank you for your tripod recommendation. I completed the one week Grand Canyon backpacking trip last April 2008. It was wonderfull. The tripod was so light that my entire pack, water and food included, weighted only 41 pounds. By using the tripod I took some fantastic sunset shots and also the orange glow during and after twilight that reflects off the canyon walls. Yes, in part you helped me capture these wonderful pictures.

    Help:
    I find myself wanting to carry this tripod, Gitzo GT0540, more and more, but don’t want to carry a light day pack, like for walking around town and at community festivals. Do you have any recommendations on how to carry the tripod without a day pack? Is there a special tripod strap or something I can sling around my back or shoulder? I feel if I had a tripod constantly with me it would give me more shooting options and better pictures.

    Also, I’m now starting to plan for my five week long Colorado Trail backpacking trip next summer. Yup, the tripod will be coming with me.

    Again, thank you,
    Alan Eldridge

  12. Post
    Author
    Ron

    Hi Alan,

    Great to hear about your experiences! That must have been an awesome trip. 41 pounds for a week – you were doing very well.

    I don’t have a good recommendation on a day pack – unfortunately mine doesn’t have a place to carry a tripod, so I’m not much help. I usually keep mine in my hand.

    I would suggest looking at climbing day packs. They often have a spot for an ice ax or snow shovel – that spot would work for a tripod as well.

    Thanks for coming back and sharing your experiences – Colorado sounds like a great trip! You might have to add Alaska to your travels one day.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  13. Alan Eldridge

    Howdy Ron,
    Thanks for replying. I’ll have to do more research on how to carry my tripod when in town and try out different methods.

    You’re right, I do have to explore Alaska some time. The colors there seem so vivid and the people unassuming.

    You’re pictures are fantastic. You give me a standard to try to achieve. Much like the average weekend sports warrior I keep on trying but know I’ll never measure up without commiting serious time, dedication and effort. I watch in awe professionals like you demonstrate their talents. Yup, I’m impressed.

    Until later,
    Alan

  14. Post
    Author
  15. Julia

    Hi, Ron,

    Thank you for your article about light tripod options. I wonder this combination, GT0541 and BH25 would not support a Nikon D700+ 70-200mm/2.8? How about Nikon D700+ 24-70mm/2.8? I have been looking for something light for traveling. Thank you!

    Julia

  16. Post
    Author
    Ron

    Hi Julia,

    That combination will hold a fair amount of weight it you are careful as it will be a bit top heavy. In addition, I try to always use a two second shutter delay and mirror lockup to minimize the shake. I also try not to extend all the leg sections with heavier loads – the last section is really skinny.

    Hope that helps,

    Ron

  17. Julia

    Thank you, Ron!

    Your suggestions make perfect sense. I am planning to use a cable release if I buy this ultra-light combo. Thanks again!

  18. Jared

    I have been using the Gitzo GT0530 since 2007, it seems to hold a Canon 1Ds Mark II with a 24-70mm f/2.8L USM just fine. That is a pretty heavy camera lens combination. If you extend the center column, it can get pretty shaky, but it can still be done as long as it is not too windy. I recommend using an L-Plate on your camera body with this tripod, as it will keep the camera’s weight centered over the three legs. I also second the use of a cable release and mirror lock-up for the sharpest images.

    Jared

  19. Post
    Author
  20. Steve

    Ron,

    A bit of a blast from the past, but google dug up this post as I’m looking at the 0541 + bh-25 ballhead combination. Just wanted to get your thoughts on stability, especially with the legs fully extended (center column down, though). I’ve read other people say that they often won’t extend the legs fully to add to the stability – but thought I’d see what your experience has been.

    I’m planning to use the unit with a 5dm2 + 24-105 (or 70-200f4, no IS at most).

    Best,

    Steve

  21. Post
    Author
    Ron

    Hi Steve,

    It isn’t a very stable combination, but it is better then nothing and usually my only other option when weight is an issue. I try not to extend the legs, but I have used a 5d II and a 24-105 on the tripod – when I do, I use the self timer and mirror lockup and that works well.

    Good luck,

    Ron

  22. Wendy louise sells

    I like all wild animals along with the mammals but what I dont like is people killing all of the wild anaimals like the wolfs and bears and lions and black panthers (wild animals) and the black bears at all because if the willd animals were gone all of the new generatin would be asking people where is all of the wild animals as well as the mammals as well from wendy sells

  23. Post
    Author
    Ron

    As far as I know, it is about as light of a setup as you can find. Everyone’s ability to hike and carry stuff is different, so that is hard to answer.

  24. Post
    Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.