Lightweight Tripod & Quick Release

Tripod Head With CameraSmall, lightweight cameras with long zoom lenses are constantly getting better. The good news: touring bicyclists can carry an excellent lightweight camera for catching that once in a lifetime wildlife photo on the other side of the marsh bed. The bad news: it is difficult to get sharp images while hand holding a long zoom lenses camera. Vibration reduction technology helps, but even this has it limitations, and tripods can be heavy and bulky. Enter the Davis & Sanford Quick Connect tripod.

The D&S tripod weighs 11.5 oz, the collapsed length (with ball head folded over) is 15.5”, and the maximum extended height (ground to top of ball head) is 44.5”. The diameter of the collapsed folded tripod legs is 1.75” and the folded width at the top of the ball head is 3”.

Davis & Sanford TripodI also purchased a Tamrac Zipshot Quick-Release kit to allow easy removal of the camera from the tripod; the ball head attachment weighs 0.4 oz, the small camera attachment weighs 0.2 oz, the large camera attachment weighs 0.4 oz, and the cell phone attachment weighs 0.9 oz. The quick release mechanism does quite well with my small camera; it is plastic which can be subject to breakage if excessive pressure is placed on the disconnect arms.

Even though I don’t use the cell phone adapter I did attempt to ‘try’ it out, but neither my Galaxy 2 nor Galaxy 4 phone would fit the holder. The maximum cell phone width that it would accommodate is 2.25”, which seems fairly small by today’s standards; the maximum length it would hold is more than adequate.

I use the tripod/quick release adapter system with a Samsung WB250F camera which weighs 7.5 ounces. Advertisements for this system indicate that its ‘maximum load capacity’ is 3 lbs. In my opinion, there is a big difference between maximum load capacity and functional load capacity.

I have a Nikon DSLR that weighs (with the small zoom lens) 2.73 pounds which I attached to the tripod. The tripod appears somewhat unstable with that much weight on top. There are a couple of tricks which improved the stability: when the camera was vertical I kept the lens weight over one of the tripod legs, when the camera was tilted at 90 degrees I kept the camera weight over one of the tripod legs, and I spread the legs out so they were slightly bowed inward which placed them in tension. These items made the set up somewhat more stable but this is not an arrangement that I would use with any confidence.

The ball head allows 360 degree horizontal rotation of the camera as well infinite vertical angles between 0 – 90 degrees.  I had trouble keeping the ball head screwed tight to the tripod; a little Permatex THREADLOCKER BLUE gel (medium strength) took care of that problem. I also used the gel to attach the quick release base to the ball head.

ElkThe tripod legs are connected to the tripod base with hinge pins. The tripod base/ball head will be somewhat loose if you just spread the legs out. As mentioned above, I place one leg on the ground, and then pull the remaining two legs back toward me so there is a slight inward bow on all three legs. Viola’, the tripod base/ball head is nice and stable.

Small bungee cords hold the individual leg sections together as well as holding the legs to the tripod base. As advertised, all you need to do is hold the tripod base and shake to get the legs to snap into position; most of the time it works. The leg bungee cords could be shortened and one of the 11.25” leg sections removed which would save a little weight; the overall height would be reduced to 32.5”, and the stability would be improved slightly. I have given this some thought, but haven’t actually done this.

Collapsed TripodWhen collapsed, the entire bundle is held together by two self contained bungee cables. These are easily wrapped around and attached, or unattached. It was a nice thought. When collapsed, I turn the top of the all head sideways to minimize the chance for damage with it sticking straight out.

For my purposes, this system has worked very well. I have used it on various types of ground and pavement with different slopes. I have even folded one leg section up to set a short tripod leg on a steep hillside. I have used it in light to medium wind with good results. My camera has a fairly sensitive picture button so there has not been an issue with camera vibration, however, the timed release feature could be used if taking the picture results in blurry images.

The Samsung camera has an 18X optical zoom feature which is more than I can hand hold for sharp pictures. This tripod system has worked well at the maximum zoom. At times, stability has been an issue taking pictures close to the road when big trucks pass by (road vibration and wind turbulence), on flimsy wooden structures such as decks (people walking around), and during more than moderate winds.

JavelinaOne item to be aware of: the thumb knob that locks the ball head in place has no retention device and can easily back out and fall loose. Unfortunately, the thumb knob threads are 6mm metric which might not be that easy to replace if lost when on the road.

For less than $20 this tripod is not the same as a sturdy expensive model; it is not designed to replace a Bogen or Gitzo. On the other hand, it is a LOT cheaper and weighs substantially less.  Overall, I have been very happy with this system. Images at the extended zoom (x18) have been clear and sharp. If you are toting a small, lightweight camera with a big zoom lenses it just may work for you, too.

Sea To Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks

sea-to-summit-dry-sackOn a recent 9 week 3,600 mile bicycle ride I used Sea To Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks to store the items that needed to be kept dry and/or organized. The bags come in many different sizes and colors. Note: you have no choice on colors when ordering, only purchasing directly in a store.

Past trips have taught me that regular plastic trash type bags will keep ‘stuff’ dry, but also will get caught in zippers or easily torn. In the past I tried to use Ziploc bags which are sturdier, but the zip slide eventually fails, leaving the bags open. While planning for this recent trip I discovered Sea To Summit Dry Sacks. A number of these bags weighed the same as the pannier rain covers so I decided to try them out instead of messing with rain covers.

I chose different colors for the same size bags with the thought of organizing my ‘stuff’ to make it easier to find things. Also, the different size and color bags made it less necessary to pull everything out of the panniers when looking for only one type of item. The bags have a roll up top with snap which provides a carry handle as well as keeping water out. Even though the bags do not have compression straps I discovered you can compress the contents pressing down before rolling up and sealing the top.

Many of the bags were used daily for 9 weeks and suffered no ill effects other than a few scuff marks.  I tended to pack my panniers so that these dry sacks were not up against sharp corners or edges of other items to minimize vibration wear. I also felt that the dry sacks conformed easily to the available pannier shape and space, thus conserving space.

They can be a little pricey ($22.95 for the 4.9 ounce x-large bag and $11.95 for the 1.4 ounce  x-small bag) but can be used for many trips if taken care of. Initially I purchased three bags to fit my clothing, tent, and sleeping bag, both to try the bags out and to save a little money. I  continued to use Ziploc bags for smaller items. Eventually I replace most of the Ziploc bags with the smaller dry sack sizes. When selecting the correct size bag remember to add about 5-6 inches extra length so there is adequate room to roll the top down and close the snap.

Do I recommend them: you betcha! Will I use then again: you betcha!

Norelco PQ208 Electric Shaver

phillips-norelco-pq208I recently carried the Phillips Norelco PQ208 battery powered shaver on a 9 week 3,600 mile bicycle trip. This razor worked well for shaving my beard and keeping my mustache/goatee thinned down. It was purchased at Walmart for $14 in May 2013.

This shaver uses 2 AA batteries. I used the razor 3-4 times per week to shave and once every 2-3 weeks to keep my mustache/goatee under control. The batteries typically lasted 3 weeks; they could have lasted longer but I chose to replace them when the shaver speed was noticeably slower or started pulling at the facial hair.

Over the years, I have not been a fan of electrical shavers. In general I didn’t find they gave a clean shave, or they chafed my skin, or they caused ingrown hairs, or they didn’t cut edges close to sideburns or beards, and lastly, they required a power source. This one did pretty well, though. Other than not trimming sideburns straight across it did a good job. I am not sure I would replace my blade razor on a permanent basis, but on a bike trip where lathering up is more difficult I would use this again.

The top was easily removable for cleaning. After dumping the hair out and blowing out any residue I would shake the end of the shaver and the top part in water to add a little further cleaning, and then wipe it off. The shaver body is not water proof or resistant, so I kept that out of water.

I lightly plunged the razor into my goatee/mustache to keep it trimmed, and the little shaver worked great, in fact, it worked much better than using scissors. It was surprising how the hair could be shaped and thinned using the razor in this way. As a matter of fact, I continue to use it for this purpose now that I am home.

The blades have some ‘float’ in them which helps to conform to the face. The blades can be removed and replaced; they appear to be the same ones used on other razors. There is a clear plastic cover that protects the shaver blades during storage.

The body is nicely rounded and comfortably fit in my hand during use. I would have preferred for the body to have some ‘pebble’ texture to improve the grip, but the lack of this was not a deal breaker. The slide switch that turns it on has a small release button in the middle which minimizes the chance that the razor will be accidentally turned on while stored. There was a small carry pouch which I did not use.

All in all, considering the price and portability, I was extremely happy with the razor. Will I take it with me on the next trip? Definitely.