3 Legged Thing travel tripod: As well-designed as they come

3 Legged Thing travel tripod: As well-designed as they come

3 Legged Thing X2.1 Eddie Evolution 2 CF Tripod System w/AirHed 2 Ball Head (Black)UK tripod maker 3 Legged Thing (3LT) has been around for awhile, but hasn’t attracted as much attention as some of its high-end competitors like Gitzo. I’ve been using for a few weeks, including on safari in Africa, and have been very impressed. Not only is the build quality as good or better than any Gitzo I have used, but the feature set is remarkable. A single device can be a tripod or monopod, and the reversible center column make the Eddie very versatile. As with most travel tripods, the small carrying size relies on having a head that can fit between the legs of the tripod when they are folded back on themselves. My Eddie came with 3LT’s own AirHed 2 in a bundle. The head was as solid and usable as you can expect from such a small unit…


Like Gitzo, the legs feature a “twist lock” style of section connector, with an anti-twist feature so that they are easy to loosen as a group. There are also several different locking positions for the legs, allowing options for stability versus height. The fittings are all industrial strength, and the bolts are shipped tight, so you can set the tripod legs to a desired width and then carry the tripod ready for use. For me that is a crucial feature in any tripod that will be used for wildlife or even some sideline sports shooting. If the legs are always collapsing, you waste time (and go nuts) constantly re-adjusting them when you need to setup.


For me, 3LT is a winner for light and solid travel tripods

I had no problem using the Eddie with a variety of camera bodies and short-to-medium length lenses. With the center column retracted (or nearly retracted) it even performed reasonably well with my . However, if you are planning to use a long lens you’re certainly better off with some type of either large, gimbaled, head, or at least the smaller that I use with the ,  and my 80-400. However, the larger the head, the harder it is to fold the tripod up with the head attached.

The 3LT is about 2/3 the weight (4 lbs. vs. 6 lbs.) and size
of my 3-series Gitzo & RRS-55 ballhead – and 1/3 the price.
Of course, it isn’t quite as rock solid, especially for large loads.

NOTE: Too late for me to review, 3LT has updated its product line with a new version of its flagship travel head, the AirHed 3, and has added the Nigel tripod. You can get the new . If I was purchasing a new Travel Tripod, I would definitely get one.

Specs on the Eddie & AirHed, new Nigel model

The Eddie features a 65-inch maximum height, supports 26.5 pounds, is 16-inches long folded, has 8-core carbon fiber construction, weighs 2.9 pounds without head, or 4 pounds with an AirHed 2. The AirHed 2 is a competent travel head, with separate panning control, and Arca-style QR clamp. It worked well with the several different RRS & Wimberly plates that I used with it. The bundle ships with a really-solid, great-looking case, although of course that adds to the packing size if you choose to use it.

If you are willing to spend a little more to get a slightly-beefier unit, the .  If you need to go taller, the , with a maximum height of 80 inches at a weight of 4.25 pounds with AirHed 3.

Caveats on travel tripods

There is a lot of confusion about travel tripods. I am constantly asked for recommendations on a lighter, smaller-packing, tripod for travel use, followed by the question of “will it hold my long lens as well as my mega-sized Gitzo and super-huge gimballed head?” Of course not! If you want the ultimate in stability, a serious legset like the or , and a rock-solid head from Wimberly or RRS or Arca-Swiss or similar will do a better job for you. But that setup weighs a lot more, won’t pack as easily, and will set you back well over $1K.

Speaking of budget, the next question I get asked is, “that’s a lot of money, is there something cheaper?” Of course. You can get aluminum leg versions of almost every carbon fiber tripod on the market, and save a bunch. That’s fine if you don’t use it too often (and don’t mind it getting too cold or hot to touch in extreme conditions). But it will be heavier, and probably not hold up as well. So if you are making an investment for the long term (I have three Gitzo legsets, and all have lasted well over a decade with only periodic re-greasing and cleaning) then it is worth doing it right.

Travel tripods are also 4 or 5 leg segments. That makes them inherently less-stable than 3-section versions that don’t fold as small. Fortunately, most lenses now have some form of Image Stabilization (aka VR or IS), so for reasonable-length exposures this isn’t as big an issue as it used to be. However, they still don’t do a great job of holding heavy DSLRs connected to long telephotos (no matter what their “sticker” weight rating is). If you want the ultimate long-lens tripod, you’ll want something beefier.

About 3LT’s crazy naming

Gitzo doesn’t have the easiest-to-understand model numbering scheme for its tripods, but 3LT’s quirky naming scheme sets a new standard for inscrutability. There are plenty of models, with just about every possible combination of leg construction, legset features, and heads, but it is very difficult to figure out which model does what you want. I’m sure loyalists enjoy knowing the trivia for each model, but it makes shopping for one painful. For me, I think the effort is ultimately worth it, as the products stand up to hard use and are excellent performers, but I’d love to see a more coherent product naming scheme from them. Or, if they want to keep the cutesy people names, then provide comprehensive comparison charts with descriptions to make it simpler for buyers.