In our continuing series on travel photography, this time we tackle a lightweight travel tripod. In this article we optimize a Gitzo GT3542LS "eye-level" systematic tripod to fit within hard-sided carry-on luggage (see Figure 1).
Many photographers store their tripod in their checked luggage, and carry their delicate optics and cameras onboard. For photographers with 3-section tripods that are 26" or 27" long when folded, this is a necessity, other than a specialized long tripod bag. However, if you try taking your long tripod on an airplane you are at the mercy of the Flight Attendants. Even though there are supposed to be exceptions for camera gear, most airlines say that your tripod must fit within a standard-sized carry on bag.
The newer 4-section tripods from Gitzo are more stable than they used to be. The difference between 3 and 4 section pod stability is now so close as to be moot (although the 3 section pods offer the ultimate in stability, and larger final leg diameters). To avoid damage, theft and the threat of lost luggage some photographers elect to carry on their precious tripod. A well-selected 4 or more section tripod less than 21" or 22" folded should fit within a full-sized 24x14x9 carryon diagonally. Choose your carry on bag wisely however, the ones with wheels may not fit a 4-section tripod (do the math).
We recommend removing any spiked feet from your carry on tripod to avoid any entanglements with the TSA. Substitute rubber feet (which are shorter) and put your spiked feet in another bag or ship them to your destimation. If your tripod won't quite fit with rubber feet, remove the feet to buy 3/4" of length. Removing the spiked feet saves about 1.25" off your tripod's stock folded length.
For longer hikes and more restrictive airline weight limits, we wanted a lighter tripod than the 4-series GT4552TS travel tripod to take on trips for medium format photography. The Gitzo 3-series systematics looked like a good match (see Table 1). After testing the new GT3533LS and GT3543LS tripods, the author found the legs to be wobbly even after tightening the new G-Lock Ultra leg locks. The previous model GT3542LS (4-section, version 2) eye-level tripod had virtually no leg wobble when the leg locks were tightened.
|Gitzo Model||Sections||Height||Folded||Weight||Max Load|
|GT3532LS||3||58.9"||26.9"||4.4 lbs||55 lbs|
|GT3533LS||3||59.8"||26.4"||4.5 lbs||55 lbs|
|GT3541LS||4||57.5"||21.7"||3.8 lbs||39.6 lbs|
|GT3542LS||4||57.7"||22.6"||4.3 lbs||55 lbs|
|GT3543LS||4||57.5"||22.4"||4.5 lbs||55 lbs|
While the stock GT3542LS tripod just fit within both a Pelican Air 1525 and Pelican Air 1535 hard case, there wasn't room for any padding. Even with the spikes removed it was a tight fit due to the large top spider which is more than 5" wide (see Figure 2).
|GT3542LS + Gitzo Spikes||4||56.75"||22.25"||4.3 lbs|
|GT3542LS + TH-300 + Gitzo Spikes||4||56.94"||22.5"||3.8 lbs|
|GT3542LS + TH-300 + Rubber Feet||4||56.437"||21.75"||3.787 lbs|
|GT3542LS + TH-300 - No Feet||4||-||21"||-|
The newly optimized Gitzo GT3542LS fits within both the Pelican Air 1535 carry-on case (see Figure 4) and the Pelican Air 1525 with padding (see Figure 5). The 1535 has slighly less interior length and width than the 1525, so the updated tripod fit but with little room for padding (although without the rubber feet, thin padded dividers may work). In the 1525, after removing the rubber feet from the modified Gitzo GT3542LS there is just enough room to fit within the padded dividers. The new tripod fits diagonally with one leg within the padding and the other two resting on top of the padding. Note the older GT3541LS is 0.9" shorter when folded (see Table 1), and would probably fit all three legs within the padding.
With the tripod placed diagonally within the case there is still room left for 2 lenses, some filters, and some clothing. The 1525 case plus padding with the updated tripod, ball head, filters and rubber feet weighs in at 14.2 lbs, well within airline guidelines. The nice thing about using a hard case is if you are forced to check your bag, you can remove any delicate lenses and check it with confidence. Tripods are pretty tough, and the padding will protect it from knocks and dings. The Pelican Airs have stainless steel hasps that you can lock with a TSA or standard lock.
Finding a sturdy tripod that will fit within a hard case carry-on is a challenge. With the help of third-party parts we were able to upgrade a Gitzo GT3542LS 4-section tripod to fit within a padded carry-on case.
By website optimization on 5 Feb 2018 AM