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Originally published September 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 27, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Getting in Gear

Camera stability, not songs, at the heart of this 'Pod

Backpackers and even dayhikers who enjoy photography face a dilemma: They need to keep their pack weight down, but they also need the stability...

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Backpackers and even dayhikers who enjoy photography face a dilemma: They need to keep their pack weight down, but they also need the stability of a heavy tripod when shooting in the field.

Fortunately, when the outdoor industry is faced with such a conundrum, someone invariably comes up with a solution. The good folks at TrekTech addressed this problem by developing a unique product: a monopod with three legs!

That's right, a tri-monopod. The TrekPod from TrekTech is a stout, extendible hiking staff with a camera mount at top, and a tough rubberized foot at the bottom. It can easily and quickly be used as a traditional monopod, but when you really need to freeze the action and calm the camera movement, the mono goes tri! The bottom of the 'Pod spreads apart into three legs to form a stable platform even on uneven ground.

In windy conditions, or really rocky terrain, the tripod configuration of the TrekPod proved unusable — the low-legs and long neck of the 'Pod weren't sufficiently stable for those extreme conditions. But when shooting a long exposure of a sparkling cascade at dusk — as I did at Mount Rainier's Spray Falls — the TrekPod's tripod base provide ample support for a heavy Canon dSLR body and mid-length zoom lens (35-135mm).

In addition to the unique tripod base on the TrekPod, the stout staff has an unusual head. Rather than a standard screw-on attachment atop the miniature ball-mount head, the TrekPod has a magnetic connection, dubbed the MagMount. A small magnetic disk screws into your camera's tripod mount hole, and this magnet then sits on its mate atop the ball head. I was very (!) skeptical about trusting my expensive digital cameras and lenses to a few magnets the size of a dime, but after playing with the connection a bit, I realized these were no ordinary magnets.

TrekTech utilizes the ultrapowerful Rare Earth Neodymium magnets in the connection, and these are nearly impossible to pull apart — you have to slide the camera off the mount. To further protect your equipment, a small clip can be popped off the MagMount base and onto the mounting shoe, locking the two magnets together with a physical lock, guaranteeing the two magnets won't separate.

The magnets don't affect any form of memory card or camera components, and by the end of testing, I was so impressed with the ease, speed and stability of the MagMount, I was ready to order them for all my tripod connections. I found I could drop the camera onto the MagMount faster than I could bring it up to my eye for a hand-held shot. I caught some remarkable waterfowl shots this way at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.

The TrekPod with MagMount comes in two versions: the standard and the GO! versions. The standard TrekPod breaks down to about 36 inches in length, and grows to 57.5 inches at full extension. The TrekPod GO! breaks down to just 23 inches long but has the same maximum extension, and includes a padded Cordura case.

The TrekPod II with MagMount sells for $109.99 while the GO! version runs $199.99. More information: www.trek-tech.com.

— Dan A. Nelson, special to The Seattle Times

Freelancer Dan A. Nelson, of Puyallup, is a regular contributor to Backpacker magazine, and an author of outdoor guides with The Mountaineers Books. For the purpose of review, gear manufacturers lend products, which are returned after a typical use of four to six weeks. There is no payment from manufacturers and they have no control over the content of reviews. Contact Nelson with gear-related questions at gearguy@adventuresnw.net.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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