Trekking Pole Tripod
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Peter Scherpelz
(kpscherpelz) - MLife

Locale: The Mountainless Midwest...
Trekking Pole Tripod on 05/07/2011 17:39:02 MDT Print View

Hey everyone,

After my wife discouraged me from the idea of bringing a full tripod backpacking, while I still wanted to have something taller and sturdier than the gorillapod SLR for my Canon XS (+ Sigma f/4-5.6 10-20, Canon 18-55, and Canon 55-250), I decided to invest some time in making a tripod out of three trekking poles (one of the advantages of hiking with someone!) My goals were to make something much lighter than a full tripod, available from inexpensive parts (rather than cutting down a tripod), and have it stable enough to take 30-sec+ pictures for star/night photography. I believe I succeeded on the first, and am close on the others!

The basic idea was to use small clamps to attach the tips of the three trekking poles to an aluminum base to form the tripod. I'd then mount a lightweight ballhead on the aluminum base, and attach the camera to the ballhead.

In case anyone wants to duplicate this, I ordered:
- Hexagonal aluminum piece, 0.7" tall x 1.75" "diameter" (side to side, not corner to corner) from OnlineMetals.com
- From McMaster.com, Loop clamps 8863T13 & T14 (correct diameter depends on trekking poles)
- Also from McMaster, 3/8"-16, 7/8" stainless steel screw for the ballhead, 1/4"-20, 1/2" length stainless steel screws for the clamp attachments, and 7122A22, a hex wrench for the screws. (Note that I tried thumb screws, but you can't exert enough torque on them without pliers - so the hex wrench is the lightest option I see).
(Also, if you're interested, I have plenty of extras of most of these things - PM me)

- From the cheapest source, the Joby Gorillapod Ballhead

Anyway, on to pictures!
These pictures show the finished aluminum piece. There is one large (3/8"), counterbored hole in the middle for the piece for the ballhead screw. There are three offset, 1/4"-20 tapped holes for the clamps to attach to. Additional grooves are milled in to provide a better seat for the clamps.

Aluminum Base


Aluminum Base Vertical

Here is the aluminum piece with ballhead attached.

Aluminum Base with Ballhead

Here the tripod is set up, with the clamps firmly screwed in to secure the legs at an angle.

Full Tripod

Tripod Closeup

Tripod with Camera

Finally, here is a _100% crop_ of a test shot in dim light, so a 25 sec. exposure. The result looks acceptably sharp to me, and only minimal sharpness can be gained with much shorter exposures or flash.

Test image

The main problem I've had with this tripod is on a slippery surface (hardwood floor or plastic). On these surfaces the trekking pole handles will slide outward slowly, either by rotating the clamps or bending themselves. However, on carpet (which should mirror dirt outdoors more, I would hope) the tripod is fairly stable. It is no match for a real tripod, certainly - but much lighter too!

The only "hard" machining part is milling the grooves - which were not done very exactly, and might help prevent slipping of the legs if done better. Other than that, all you need is a drill press and tapping tool.

Here are the weights:
All homemade parts - 4.9 oz
Ballhead - 5 oz
Grand total - 9.9 oz.

Breakdown of homemade parts:
17g Screw for ballhead
71g aluminum base
14g hex wrench
15g 1/4-20 screws for clamps
21g 3 clamps

Finally, a big thanks to Rod Java, the StickPic inventor, for supplying a free template to look at - originally I thought that would be a good way to attach the poles, but ultimately went with the clamps which I hoped would be more effective in preventing rotation of the poles. Also much credit to my friend and coworker Li-Chung for helping machine this piece and fix problems!

Let me know if you have any suggestions! For reference, here are the other similar projects I've found on the web, but all fairly different in concept from this one:
http://www.alphamountworld.com/forums/general-discussion/anti-gravity-tripod/2009-10/4447
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=14867
http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/xdpy/forum_thread/2028/index.html

Peter

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Trekking Pole Tripod on 05/07/2011 17:48:33 MDT Print View

Very elegant.
Nice job.

To halt leg creep, how about some form of a light cord loop gripping the handles?

Peter Scherpelz
(kpscherpelz) - MLife

Locale: The Mountainless Midwest...
Re: Re: Trekking Pole Tripod on 05/10/2011 14:03:25 MDT Print View

I think tying each pair of handles together with a taut cord would work - though one big loop wouldn't, because it could deform too easily with one leg extending while the others pull in a bit.

The other idea I have, which may simpler, is just to put a patch of a very "sticky" athletic tape on the top of the handles (tennis racket-type stuff) - as the foam handles right now are very slick.

Will Webster
(WillWeb) - M
Re: Re: Re: Trekking Pole Tripod on 05/10/2011 15:56:40 MDT Print View

If you carry an Ace bandage as part of your emergency kit it will hold the handles together very well, with enough stretch to let you adjust the leg angles. If one of the poles has a tripod mount on top you just add a small ballhead and you're ready to go. No point lugging a super-stable ballhead around if you're supporting it on three flexy trekking poles. With my Giottos I have a 3.5 ounce tripod for my DSLR.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: Trekking Pole Tripod on 05/11/2011 08:03:53 MDT Print View

I have noticed that GE II silcone or E6000 glue is a bit sticky after drying, A light coat on the pole handles that contact the floor may help with the slipping. I have thought about something similiar but using short tubes to slide the poles into creating a tripod. Unfortunately I use my trekking poles for my shelter and take low light pictures before I take down the shelter.

Peter Scherpelz
(kpscherpelz) - MLife

Locale: The Mountainless Midwest...
Re: Re: Re: Re: Trekking Pole Tripod on 05/11/2011 10:03:43 MDT Print View

Admittedly I both haven't tried the Ace bandage and my trekking poles don't have the tripod mount option anyway - but I would hope that my method is still a few notches up on stability, especially with the 2+ pounds of camera I'm using it for. The ballhead is placed right above the center of mass, rather than on top of one trekking pole, and the "creep" of the ballhead is much more noticeable than any drift from the trekking poles in non-slippery situations - so I don't think I'm taking unnecessary ounces in either the ballhead or the mount.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Trekking Pole Tripod on 05/11/2011 11:33:09 MDT Print View

Clever approach!

I would like to see a tripod made for use with trekking poles as two of the three legs. An offset clamp could be used for two legs and a conventional telescoping tripod leg could be used for the third.

What I have in mind for the clamp is like a short leg, attaching to the head like a conventional tripod leg, but the offset would allow using the trekking poles with the tips down, giving good traction and keeping the handles out of the dirt. I'm thinking molded/reinforced plastic like the Ultrapod II. The clamps should have 6" or so vee-shaped legs with a hinge and threaded lugs that could adjust to various sizes of trekking pole upper sections. The range of adjustment wouldn't need to be much--- most poles are close to the same diameter at the top, excepting foam extensions on handles. The offset would need to be 1.5"-2" to clear the handles. Someone might come up with a way to clamp directly on the handles, making for a shorter leg and less offset, with less stuff sticking up in the way of the camera.

If a trekking pole manufacturer got involved, the handles could have sockets for the short legs and of course the third leg would basically be a trekking pole sans the handle (it could be much thinner/lighter). A bayonet lock like the Komperdell snow baskets would be steady and strong. If you wanted to use poles with the tip up, snow basket locks would be easy. It could be supplied with a ball head or a 1/4" or 3/8" stud for use with existing tripod heads. Properly made, I could see this sort of product dominating the outdoor photography market.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Trekking Pole Tripod on 05/11/2011 21:57:03 MDT Print View

Try bracing the legs down by the first section.
tripod brace

maybe hook and loop will work for a fast set up.
Franco