Battle-Proofing Your Tripod

May 06, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Tired of dinging up your expensive tripod? Battle-proof it!

I recently shelled out the bucks for a slick Gitzo 1-series mountaineer tripod. After taking it into the field for the first time I noticed that I had put a big white scuff up and down a section of its leg, incurred by brushing up against an old, white-painted metal fence post. Being primarily an outdoor photographer, I'm well accustomed to my gear taking the brunt of the elements from time to time...but not my brand new, exorbitantly-priced tripod!

This got me thinking about ways to protect the carbon fiber of its legs. Modern multi-section tripod legs have tight tolerances between lower leg sections so there's no hope in shielding the lower sections, but the upper sections that are exposed 100% of the time can be covered. After researching a bit the only real solution I found on the market was the neoprene LegCoat wraps made by LensCoat. They come in all sorts of snazzy camo patterns and look pretty slick, but I saw a few weaknesses in their offering:

  • The thickness of the neoprene would prevent the tripod from fully folding down onto the center column, creating a slight flare in the closed position
  • The neoprene wrap, although rubber backed, will likely shift with use; I've got enough gear to fidget with!
  • The neoprene will likely absorb water and become slick when wet; why carry a damp, slippery tripod?
  • They cost $50; I'm already deep in the hole from my new purchase

After considering multiple options and spending way too much time browsing materials on industrial suppliers' websites I came across my holy grail: textured shrink tubing. This material negates all of the weaknesses of the LegCoat product mentioned previously:

  • The material is approximately 1mm thick
  • Once it's shrunken into place, it's there to stay; and when it gets worn out a small nick with a knife will allow it to be peeled off and replaced
  • The most common use for this material is fishing rod grips; it's made to perform in wet conditions
  • All-in it only set me back about $20

I cut the lengths slightly longer than the upper sections of the tripod itself to allow for a slight overlap onto the metal fixtures for extra protection. After hesitantly taking a heat gun to my precious new tripod the tubing locked securely into place. My tripod came out unscathed, and the diamond pattern looks excellent!

As I first laid a hand on it I instantly became confident that this is far and away the best solution to toughen up tripod legs. The textured surface feels far better than the slickness of carbon and gave me extra confidence when carrying or manipulating my tripod, and the bulk is negligible. It may not be padded, but the tough material will protect against dings, and the grip is unparalleled. 

The only drawback is that the manufacturer is located in the UK and exclusively accepts bulk orders. There are a few distributors in the US, but their markup is pretty severe. So this stuff ain't exactly easy to get your hands on (although it feels superb when you do lay a hand on it).

Want to battle-proof your tripod as I did mine? I'd be glad to make a bulk order to distribute this awesome material in the US - just email me or post a comment below.

And now for a few pictures of the final product - let me know what you think!

 


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