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walking stick monopod?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by flamingfish, May 1, 2014.

  1. flamingfish

    flamingfish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    771
    Nov 16, 2012
    Emily
    I'm going to be doing some traveling where I'll be doing a fair bit of walking on uneven ground. I have a troublesome knee, so I'm going to want some sort of stick, primarily for balance. I've seen a number of products that claim to be combination walking sticks/monopods. Anybody have any experience with such devices? Are they an example of one item trying to do two jobs, and doing neither of them well?

    Any recommendations -- or warnings -- would be much appreciated.
     
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  2. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim
    Hi Emily!

    I've recently replaced my Canon model 100 monopod with a Manfrotto 560B-1. The Manfrotto is marketed mostly as a video monopod - it has a fluid base, includes a head and quick release plate and is lightweight aluminum. It has the advantage of having three short retractable feet:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002NZH40O/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    The feet fold up against the monopod proper when not in use, and fold down when extra support is desired.

    I can't vouch for the video usage but over the last few weeks I've had a chance to work with the monopod and an E-M5 and have found it quite nice.

    It is stable enough to use as a stick (I have a bit of bother with knees as well and find a bit of support welcome).

    Caveat - on quite soft ground a monopod can (and will) sink into the earth just like a walking stick but with the camera on board can be a bit more bothersome to pull out of the resulting divot hole.

    Pro - the quick release plate on the Manfrotto really locks down my E-M5 even with a 14-150mm super zoom attached and I feel quite comfortable in holding onto just the stick with the camera mounted on top.

    The 560B comes with a small strap that can be used as a wrist strap, or one can substitute a longer strap if one wishes to have an 'over the shoulder' strap. I use the wrist strap when walking. There is a foam rubber (not as cheap/fragile as the term makes it sound) grip so that in cold climates one doesn't experience discomfort when holding onto the stick.

    Over the last few years I've gotten used to using a monopod both as a walking stick and camera support and find them very useful. The Manfrotto is leagues beyond what I experienced with the Canon as far as being comfortable having the camera on the monopod while holding onto just the stick. With the Canon I preferred to have at least one hand on the camera, the Manfrotto not so much.

    (Neither stick is very stylish, I'm afraid :biggrin:).

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,

    Jim
     
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  3. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    if you have an REI nearby, try there. Good products competitive prices, and if you join the co-op, 10% back in store credit at the end of the year. If you want more support, you can try trekking poles (I have a set I use when I have a heavy pack). A big selection of both types is here:
    http://www.rei.com/c/trekking-poles-hiking-staffs
     
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  4. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    680
    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    Scott
    My 2C ....

    i also have have the Manfrotto 560B. For me it's clumsy as a walking stick. Good as a monopod, however the video feet don't add a lot of value in my usage. If I were buying again I'd get one without the feet. They also don't really get in the way except for a little weight.

    I also have treking poles which I use for hiking. They're very light, and strapping a 1-2 pound camera and lens on top would make them unbalanced. And since they're pretty short compared to a monopod, I can't really use them with a viewfinder or LCD that doesn't tilt. I'm about 5'11".

    My advice - and what I do - is use real treking poles for the walking part, and bring a lightweight tripod for the camera if you think it will be useful. I use the monopod mainly for shooting kid's sports with long tele lenses, and a tripod for landscape.
     
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  5. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I use this:

    http://www.photographybay.com/2009/10/20/gitzo-g-1560-monotrek-monopod-review/

    I added a rubber DIY tip using automotive hose and a cane rubber tip for when it is used mostly on pavement and rock. I'm not an avid hiker though... just something I use to steady myself on short to medium hikes. If I were going on a long hking trip, i would agree with bassman. Get the right tool designed for the job. Get a good pair of hiking poles and a lightweight monopod. Monopods don't make good walking sticks. Most are too heavy. Most walking sticks don't necessarily make good monopods (too short). The monotrek is a hybrid compromise of both....

    Also, I bring some large heavy rubber bands and or bongo ties. 2 sticks plus a monopod/monotrek lashed together with the rubber bands makes for a good tripod.
     
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  6. mcasan

    mcasan Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 26, 2014
    Atlanta
    Second on REI. The wife and I got one set of hiking sticks and share them. They are collapsable carbon fiber and were on sate.
     
  7. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Been there, done that. My experience is this: A monopod will work well as a walking stick. A walking stick will probably not work well as a monopod and, really, is not as good a walking stick as a monopod is.

    First, walking sticks: The ones I have seen claim monopod status by simply adding a 1/4-20 threaded stud on the top of one pole. All that I have seen are really too short, forcing you to bend uncomfortably to shoot. Also, almost all walking sticks are quite long when collapsed, like too long to go into a carry-on size (22", 24") bag. My wife has a pair from REI that collapse to 22" but she said they are no longer in the catalog.

    Monopods: It is easy to find a monopod that collapses to under 20" and still extends to put the camera at a decent height. I had a good Gitzo aluminum monopod that collapsed to about 17" and worked great doing dual duty in lots of places, including the Galapagos. It's recently been replaced by a Benro tripod with a monopod leg. On a Central America trip in February I didn't bother with the tripod at all --- just carried the monopod leg, again doing double duty.

    I have a Gitzo combination rubber/spike end ( GS5030VSF) on my Benro monopod so it can suit any terrain.

    Regardless of what you buy, I strongly suggest getting a small ball head with a quick-release attachment, like the Manfrotto 484RC2. First, it is a PITA to get the threads lined up to just screw the stud directly into your camera and with your camera mounted that way, you restrict yourself from a lot of shots, like everything looking downward or upward. No shooting the frenetic parade of leaf-cutter ants for you! I recommend the RC2 because the plate automatically locks into the base as it is inserted -- no latches or screws to mess with. Screw-lock bases (i.e., Arca-Swiss) work well on tripods because you have one hand for the camera and one for the screw. With a monopod, you have one hand for the monopod, one for the camera, and no hands left over to fiddle with latching. It's a good recipe for dropping a camera.

    It's a mystery to me why people are saying that a monopod is clumsy as a walking stick. They are fatter and stiffer, so maybe they don't look so svelte but if you get a lightweight one (carbon is nice) with twist type leg logs rather than the bulky flip-locks I just don't see why there would be an issue. I guess YMMV applies.
     
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  8. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Here's my old Gitzo, complete with comfortable paracord grip for dry weather walking and a grip-tape (aka skateboard tape) section for wet weather:

    monopod.
     
  9. ex machina

    ex machina Mu-43 Top Veteran

    806
    Jan 3, 2014
    Northern Virgnia
    Glad you started this thread -- the problem that I have with all the suggestions so far is that none of the monopods appear to have ergonomic handles, meaning, handle grips that are canted a bit off the vertical axis. This relieves stress on the wrist and is imho an absolute requirement in a comfortable walking stick, and thus, why I haven't bought one yet. ;) Look forward to everyone's suggestions!
     
  10. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I've been on a long (for me) hiking trip and used a common aluminum monopod (old Manfrotto) as a walking stick. Your arms do begin to tired. Walking sticks are at time 1/5th to 1/10th the weight of a typical monopod. If you do a little search on avid hiker/camper forums, you would be surprised at the lengths they go to save every little ounce of weight. Even worse, this weight isn't close to you center of gravity (as in a backpack) its far from it.. at the end of your arm. You don't want to add weight there. Now throw in a decent sized with quick release head. You have moved heaviest portion of the stick is above your hand in addition to even more weight. There is a reason why Gitzo designed the monotrek with one of their smallest ball heads.

    So the next option would be to find the lightest weight monopod possible. I have one of the lightest, Gitzo 5 section carbon monopod "traveler". Extremely light weight. Due to the 5 section design paired with the carbon fibre tubing, it provides a nice stiff platform. But it doesn't take lateral stresses very well. Its does flex when horizontal force is placed near center. Furthermore carbon fibre doesn't break... it shatters. The material is brittle. When it breaks the resulting shards are SHARP and pointed. I've seen people with early carbon fiber mountain bikes get seriously injured way back in the early 90s. They quickly corrected it. Now I'm not sure the specific material of the Gitzo but I doubt that manufacturers take into consideration the use case of a hiking trip into their design.

    Also, most of these monopods are designed with specific weight ratings and have target collapsed size. There are compromises in design to achieve when it comes to photography. If the product was designed for the purpose of hiking, compromises that might have been unacceptable by the engineers. This is why many walking sticks are of a single pole or walking poles with at most two sections. Some have non-sliding folding sections so there's no possible way of friction locks could allow one section to slide into another. Most monopods are designed with 3 or 4 (or in my case 5) sections and designed to slide into each other... I wouldn't want one of those friction locks to fail under my weight.

    Two different purposes for two different things. Then again.. I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't use a monopod as a walking stick. I'm just saying that it depends on priorities; hiking or photography. For me, (its been a long time I've been on a long multiday hike) the monotrek is a fine compromise. It provides enough stability (I have weak ankles due to a bad injury as a child), my cameras tend to be small, and it works fine as a monopod.
     
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  11. dogs100

    dogs100 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    965
    Nov 12, 2011
    N Devon UK
    Geoff
    I am of the 'take both' school. I use a leki as a hiking pole and a monopod as a ... well, a monopod. The grip on monopds aren't at the right angle for me and put too much strain through the wrist.
     
  12. jjbigfly

    jjbigfly Mu-43 Regular

    89
    Sep 6, 2013
  13. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim
    I read once about hikers (climbers?) who cut their toothbrush handles in half to save the weight :eek:.

    I applaud their stamina and determination - but that type of hiking isn't for me anymore; I'm roughing it if room service closes before midnight :biggrin:. Like Emily I have a bad knee (two, actually) so these days I steer clear of rough terrain.

    The monopod works for me but obviously I don't go into remote locations for long periods of time and if a monopod is too heavy for the terrain...so am I :biggrin:.



    Regards,

    Jim
     
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  14. fsuscotphoto

    fsuscotphoto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    819
    Feb 15, 2013
    St. Cloud, FL
    Ron
    Just did a little searching on B and H. Most of the monopods will support something in the neighborhood of 30 pounds. If this is all that they will take with a camera and lens, I'm not sure I'd want to put much of my weight on it. I realize that the camera weight is a function what the parts can manage, but still.... It's especially tough for me because I need one that's at least 72 inches as I'm 6'4".
     
  15. JoJo

    JoJo Mu-43 Regular

    176
    Mar 19, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    JoJo
    I had a Benbo (made in England) monopod. I used to shoot for NFL Properties and had to travel but I NEVER checked my gear. The airlines were ok with my camera bag but "No way!" with a substantial monopod. One of my buddies made a handle to screw onto the protruding 1/8x20 screw. After that it became my walking cane and the attendant stored it up front.
    I still have that monopod....wonderful inverted design so you could stand in water.....very strong so I could actually lean on it. One twist knob so it was fast.
    When my gout flares up it comes in handy.
     
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  16. tm3

    tm3 Mu-43 Regular

    134
    Apr 17, 2011
    No personal experience, but this one looks interesting

    http://www.trek-tech.com/products/trekpods.html

    I started using a pair of Leki hiking poles about 10 years ago and they are the greatest hiking accessory I have. If I want camera support I carry a tripod in my pack.
     
  17. flamingfish

    flamingfish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    771
    Nov 16, 2012
    Emily
    Leki makes a photo version with a somewhat more ergonomic head: Link

    I can't speak to how well it functions in either role.
     
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  18. flamingfish

    flamingfish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    771
    Nov 16, 2012
    Emily
    I'm not going to be doing serious hiking, just touristing in places where I can't necessarily count on nice level surfaces. (Archaeological sites in Turkey.) My "pack" won't be much more than my camera bag and a water bottle, so I've been thinking that hiking poles might be overkill for this excursion.

    I'll check out REI to see what they have, and maybe at least get a feel for the type of thing I might prefer. Thanks!
     
  19. dogs100

    dogs100 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    965
    Nov 12, 2011
    N Devon UK
    Geoff
    I don't think a hiking pole is ever overkill, even for short(ish) distances they get addictive ... and I feel lost without mine.
     
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  20. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Jim
    O.K., now I'm jealous :biggrin:.

    I hope you have a wonderful time - and that you post some photos of the trip when you return!

    Regards,

    Jim