I bought one of these Gorillapod tripods last spring and finally made up my mind to take it out in the woods and see how handy it is for hiking.

Turns out it works pretty well — it stands on benches, grasps on branches, balances on rocks… there really are about a zillion configurations. It’s lightweight and easy to use, for the most part, but it’s got some limitations, such as:

  1. Your camera’s tripod mount can affect how well it works. Canon A-series cams like mine have the mount absurdly installed on the left-hand side, which makes balancing tricky because the cam wants to fall over to one side. Less of a problem on those really small compact cameras, assuming they have tripod mounts.
  2. Don’t be lulled by all the tricks it can pull. I set mine up on a rock looking down at a pool of reflecting water, set the timed shutter release (mandatory, I’ll get to that next) and waited. Not that I’m prone to seeing the dark side or anything, but suddenly the image of my cam falling into the creek flooded my brain. Didn’t happen, but I can see how it could. Bottom line: Keep your hands near the cam so you can grab it if it slips.
  3. Why timed shutter release is mandatory: Because it doesn’t hold your camera firm like normal tripod would. It’s kinda floppy. If you try to click the shutter yourself while the cam’s mounted on the Gorillapod, you’re apt to get enough shake to defeat the pod’s purpose. So, learn how your timed shutter release works and give it 10 seconds to let the cam stop shaking after you let go.

Overall it’s a handy little doo-dad for day hikes, but no substitute for a real tripod. There’s also a larger size for big-body SLRs, though I gotta say I’d be reluctant to rest a thousand-dollar camera on one.