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Tripods for Canoeing and Kayaking

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I make my living via photography and primarily through teaching photography, and I take a lot of photos. If you’re into photography and like to make great photos on your trips, you may have experimented with various tripods over the years. If so, let me know in the comments on what model you settled on. I’ve had a chance to try a lot of tripods, and I’ve come up with three different tripods based on how light I’m going and how fast I’m going. They range in weight from 1 pound to 3 pounds.

L Brackets

When dealing with lightweight ball heads which are what these tripods come with, it’s worthwhile to consider using an L Bracket on your camera. I always have one on mine.

An L Bracket is a quick release plate that wraps around the side of your camera so that you can mount the camera horizontally and vertically on the ball head. That way you aren’t flipping the ball head onto its side where it has the least holding power.

I use Kirk L Brackets, which are made in the USA and high-end. As an example of the added weight, it’s 3.4 ounces for the bracket that fits my Nikon Z 8 camera. If your camera is smaller, such as a Nikon Z7 II, then the weight goes down to 2.36 ounces.

Amazon offers universal L brackets for cheap. I’d get a good one from Kirk, but I know that’s not for everyone. This one at this link is under $20. I can’t vouch for the quality, but it’ll give you any idea of what is available at the low end.

Northstar canoes on a beach next to a river with mountains in the background.

One-Pound Tripod

This is one that I haven’t tried, but I’ve seen it recommended by YouTuber Darwin on the Trail. Fully extended this tripod goes to 28 inches, so it isn’t going to get high off the ground. It shrinks down to 14 inches. It weighs 1.1 pounds. It claims its capacity is 5.5 pounds, so you aren’t going to be using this with heavy gear. It may hold more when using a L Bracket, but it probably won’t hold much more.

This tripod is going to have a lot of compromises to get down to 1.1 pounds. The main compromises with most of these light tripods are height and stability. So, you have to be willing to accept that. I would only buy this one if I needed a tripod on a trip where I was going ultralight and super fast, and if I still needed to get good sunrise and sunset photos.

I want to try this tripod, but haven’t been able to mentally justify the $90 just to save a pound.

Get it at Amazon at this link.

A guy portaging a canoe on a small rock island under the Milky Way

Garage Grown Gear is a Minnesota-based online store that sells lightweight gear from small and cottage brands. They carry a lot of hard-to-find and unique gear.

Give them a try at this link.

Two-Pound Tripod

At the 2-pound level, stability and height increases, but I’d still consider this level a situational tripod. It’s where I know I’m not going to get the best stability at full height nor in the wind. That means that I have to be willing to accept that I might not be able to set it up at full height on windy days.

Still, there’s something alluring about this tripod, and I carried it with me on last fall’s bikepacking trip across northern Minnesota. It fits great on my handlebar bag or inside my frame bag. It’s 50 inches fully extended and packs down to 18.3 inches. It has five sections. The bottom section is almost as small of a width as a pencil. You’re going to want to be extra careful with this tripod when fully extended.

All the said, it was a fine compromise that I was willing to make to get a tripod that could be setup high-ish and still fit on my bike. For paddling, I’d lean towards the 3-pound version of this tripod which is also make by SIRUI. But depending on the trip, I would consider this one. This is especially true if I was carrying a lighter camera and a small lens. On the bikepacking trip, I carried a Nikon Z 7II with a Z 24-120 f/4 lens. That was at its limit.

Get the M-225 Carbon Fiber Tripod with B-00K Ball Head at this link.

A waterfall long exposure in the Boundary Waters

Three-Pound Tripod

At three pounds, tripods get more stable or they gain height. In this case, this tripod gains more stability. It’s max heigh is 47 inches plus the ball head. It packs down to 17.3 inches plus the ball head. I bought this as a set of legs and then put a different ball head on it that I had. With the included ball head it’s right at about three pounds.

You could buy just the legs and beef up your ball head with this one. It’s 1.1 pounds for the ball head, which puts this setup just over three pounds. It also saves a little money and you may get away with not having a L bracket. There are other ball heads, such at the Benro IB2 or the Innorel N36 or N44, which will likely work well and save you a little money compared to the A-10R that comes with the tripod. I haven’t tried the Benro or Innorel, but they seem in the ballpark. The advantage of the A-10R ball head is that it has a pano rotator on the click release, which makes it easier to make multi-image panoramic shots.

Compared to the two-pound tripod, one of the upgrades that you get here is that the legs are thicker, and it goes to a four section leg system over a five section leg system. This makes it more stable. And it’s stable enough that in the right conditions I’ve used it with a 70-200 f/2.8 and a 100-400 f/4.5-5.6. That latter is pushing the tripods a bit too much, but if it isn’t windy it works.

I have no problem hauling or using this tripod anywhere. In strong winds, I’m probably going to use it at a lower height and be careful, but I do have a friend who uses this as his main tripod now. On most paddling trips, this is the tripod that I bring.

This is also a great travel tripod to bring on flights and such. I highly recommend this one. Many of my photo workshop students have gotten this tripod due to my recommendation and my friend’s recommendation.

Get the AM-254 with the A-10R at Amazon at this link.

two lightweight tripods on a table
The top tripod is the two-pound tripod, and the bottom tripod is the three-pound tripod.

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