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How to attach tripod(s) to a backpack

The tripod is an essential accessory in landscape or portrait photography, but also in reportage, to make posed portraits for example. But who says report says mobility and agility. Hence this concern: how to attach one (or more) tripod to a backpack?

From my 10 years in the field, there are, in my opinion, three methods for attaching and transporting one or more tripods, but only one, method 3, solves all the problems.

Method 1 : Straps

Most camera bags have straps that allow you to attach a whole bunch of stuff like sleeping bags, sleeping mats, walking sticks, etc… and therefore a tripod, on the back of the bag or in a lateral position. The problem with the tripod is that it generally combines all the disadvantages of things to hang: there is not really a point of attachment, it is not soft and it is all in length. Even well strapped, a tripod is irresistibly drawn downwards (you know, gravity, 1/2 mg² etc.) and as it slides, it also tends to move at the same rate as the wearer. So if it works, the tripod doesn’t fall over, but it’s not very comfortable and rarely practical. If you need to add straps to the existing ones on your bag, I strongly advise you to take self-locking metal straps rather than plastic buckle straps.

Some backpack models partially alleviate these problems with special storage to slide one or two legs of the tripod and avoid swinging. This is the case of the Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW III model, but the storage does not allow you to attach a large tripod. Indeed the pocket for storing the feet forces the bottom of the tripod to be a little higher than the bottom of the bag, which raises the center of gravity of the bag and induces an imbalance.

In short straps, it helps out but it’s not magic.

Method 2 : Travel tripod

To avoid carrying your tripod strapped to your backpack or your bag like a Domke F2, you can opt for an ultra-compact tripod, often called a travel tripod. In addition to their reduced size, sometimes barely larger than a 1.5 L bottle of mineral water, these tripods are also very light. They can fit inside a backpack. For many years I have used a Nanomax 200 tripod from the German brand Cullmann and I have never regretted my choice. The only two downsides to these tripods are linked to their small size. First, they accept relatively low payloads, but it all depends on your gear. Secondly, they do not allow the camera to be raised beyond 1m30 / 1m50 without sacrificing stability, especially for long exposures.

Method 3 : MOLLE pouch

The MOLLE attachment system is a standard, from the military world and in particular from NATO, for attaching elements together. MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. As we saw in method 1, the main problem with attaching a tripod to a backpack with straps, either built-in or external, is that gravity has a tendency to cause the tripod to fall or slide down. The MOLLE pockets or MOLLE pouches, allow the feet of the tripod to be wedged and thus to avoid swinging and sliding movements during the portage. There are dozens of MOLLE pouch on the web. I recommend simple pockets large enough to accommodate 2 or even 3 legs of your tripod. I use a basic model from the Tinksky brand.

It is very simple, two compartments, one circular which is perfect for my Manfrotto tripods and the other on the front to put small tools such as a screwdriver or multi-function pliers. There are also two side storages which I never use.

Depending on your bag, you can attach a pouch to the front of the bag to attach a tripod in the central position:

or one on each side to carry two tripods in the lateral position:

Carrying two tripods in lateral position

The pouches are then lower than the bottom of the bag. This makes it possible to balance the masses as well as possible and therefore to preserve carrying comfort and stability.

And you, how do you wear your tripods?

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Nicolas Beaumont is a photojournalist, director and writer specializing in social and humanitarian photography. Among our clients are the French Red Cross, Emmaüs, Handicap International, Secours Mag, Dimatex, Actusoins. We make films, photographs and articles around the world on current topics: migration, war, displaced, natural disaster, flood etc...

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