About this project
Missed Kickstarter? No problem. Head on over to Trail-Pix.com!
“... TrailPix is an exquisitely made pocket-sized solution that cleverly leverages trekking poles that I already carry. This is a must have piece of gear for every backpacker that carries a camera....”- Brian Green, founder of Brian's Backpacking Blog
"I used the TrailPix on a month-long expedition to climb an unclimbed mountain in the Himalayas. .... It's my tripod of choice when I'm traveling light and fast." Jonn Jeanneret, Adventure Photographer
“I've tried various tripods for outdoor use and generally what it boils down to is that they're either functionally useless or too heavy to bother carrying, so ultimately they simply don't get used. TrailPix seems a clever solution to the problem. I can't wait to give it a go. Jon Doran, Site Editor, Outdoor Magic
"I am surprised how light they are!... I cannot wait to try the TrailPix, I see it easily having a permanent place in my hiking bag.” Josh McNair, OPadventure.com
"..a clever little accessory that converts most common trekking, ski or tent poles into mono-, bi- or tripods." Felix Esser, thephoblograper
"I like that he has created something that is simple, and relies on other gear that I already have..." Chad Poindexter, Stick's Blog
TrailPix Ultralight Tripod is the first full-size tripod you will actually enjoy carrying and using when you are in the great outdoors. TrailPix weighs less than an iPhone, is DSLR capable to 4 lbs., and is incredibly fast to set up. These features make it easy for you to capture more of your memories in the great outdoors, and in better ways.
What is TrailPix?
TrailPix is an incredibly lightweight, modular platform that allows you to use the trekking, ski, or tent poles you already have to form an ultralight tripod, bipod, mini-boom, or surface mount. Or:
I call TrailPix the ultralight tripod, but as you can see it is really much more.
If you only have one set of trekking or ski poles and you want to make a tripod, be sure and choose a package with the accessory pole.
TrailPix is machined from solid aluminum in the USA on advanced 5-axis machining centers.
What can you do with TrailPix?
TrailPix will allow you to take better pictures and video in numerous ways:
1) Group shots
2) Time-lapses, HDR shots, and long exposures from your smartphone
Smartphones can do some amazing things, and incredibly easily:
3) Better low-light pictures - It was nearly dusk when these shots were taken, but with TrailPix the shot is still nice and crisp.
4) Beautiful long-exposure shots
5) Rock-solid video
Tired of looking at shaky video footage? The entire TrailPix video was shot with TrailPix - it makes a big difference. And, when was the last time you were in a video?
Custom or Universal TrailPix?
TrailPix comes in two flavors, custom and universal. Since both are offered at the same price and in the same packages, you do not need to decide on a type in order to initially pledge.
The simple choice is the Universal. It is designed to work with any combination of commercially available trekking, ski or tent poles and there is no overhead involved in ordering it.
However, if you are inspired by elegant, minimalist design, take the time to check out the custom TrailPix, machined to exact specifications for a specific pole tip diameter and taper. The custom is available for most most major trekking pole brands (Leki, Black Diamond, REI/Komperdell, Outdoor Products, and others). To order, you must download the fitment pdf to insure that your pole tip is compatible with one of the custom designs.
Both units share the same impeccable build quality and attention to detail made possible by being manufactured on the latest 5-axis machining centers. They also share the patent-pending innovation of placing all of the pole tips on ones side of the unit, allowing unfettered access to the ballhead on the opposite side.
The Universal TrailPix is designed to work with all known commercially available pole tips. To demonstrate this, the photo above shows the Universal forming a tripod with the unlikely combination of a Leki trekking pole tip, a ski pole, and a standard backpacking aluminum tent pole (not the accessory pole). Many people have used the poles of a hiking or skiing partner together with their own. In practice, any poles sized between .26" and .54" in diameter will be compatible.
Where the Universal TrailPix is the master of flexibility, the Custom TrailPix is the picture of simplicity. I thank Brian Green of Brian's Backpacking Blog for pushing me in this direction. Once I designed and built it, I fell in love with the simplicity and had to put it out there for everyone to try. The outer holes are custom machined for your pole type and the inner hole fits perfectly with the accessory pole. Just slide everything together and it's set. A slight twist of the poles and the natural taper in the tip will seat to the matched taper in the TrailPix, creating a solid, comfortable connection. To order, download the fitment pdf, find and note your brand and pole tip, and I'll get the perfectly matched universal TrailPix out to you.
Can't decide? - Check the FAQ for a quick table of pros and cons.
Packages & Add-ons
The picture below summarizes the options available for purchase.
Packages are summarized in the table below.
Can't find the perfect combination of components? Take any package and add the appropriate amount for each add-on:
For example, if you wanted the Ultralight package with the quick release plate, you would order the Ultralight Package and add $20 for the quick release plate, for a total cost of $58. You will tell me what you want at the end-of-project survey.
TrailPix Design Story
The development of TrailPix has proceeded with the generous involvement of a passionate outdoors community. Over 20 reviewers on 3 continents have field tested prototype TrailPix units.The feedback has been invaluable and led directly to the current design; a platform that is Incredibly small, lightweight, and actually fun to use. And my US manufacturing team came through on the 5-axis machined aluminum, production intent prototypes.They are beautiful. I owe a great debt to my "worldwide development team."
In particular, I'd like to thank, in no particular order: Brian Green of Brian's Backpacking Blog, Chad Poindexter of Stick's Blog, Zachary Reiss-Davis, Jonn Jeannerret, Matt Naylor, Josh Rubin, and Jennifer Blaikie.
In product development, the marriage of the design and the manufacturing process is critical. As a professional engineer (PE) with 20 years of design experience in diverse fields such as construction equipment, gas turbines, solar installations, and next generation wind energy solutions, I have the experience to know how to bring a product to production.
Critically, the investment was made to machine TrailPix units at the production supplier, as shown in the video. This effort extended over several months and at least 5 geometry optimizations to get it right. But, the result is that the process has been validated and I'm quite happy with the results. Is there work left to do? Yes, we'll always be trying to optimize the process, but the big manufacturing risks are behind us. The fact is that I could turn on my US manufacturing base tomorrow and produce parts that work together as intended.
And, commercial agreements are in place for all the off-the-shelf components (ballhead, accessory pole, trekking poles, etc.)
Members of the Press:
You can find a link to high resolution pictures and the text from the press release here:
There are some important limitations with TrailPix to keep in mind.
1) Any pole baskets over 2.5" (63mm) in diameter (primarily these would be powder baskets for use in skiing fresh powder) may be problematic with the Universal TrailPix. 2.5" is pretty big, about the same diameter as the body of a coke can. A conscious decision was made to optimize the unit on weight and size, and the powder basket limitation is a casualty of that trade-off. It's not impossible to get larger baskets to work, particularly if you use something with a very small or no basket at all for the center hole.
2) Basket diameters over about 2" (51 mm) will be problematic with the Custom TrailPix, for the same reasons as above. 2" is still pretty big, about the diameter of the rim of a coke can. The vast majority of hiking baskets are smaller than this. If you have larger baskets, you can almost always take them completely off (I do) or replace them easily. Certain pole types may require smaller baskets - if so, these will be noted in the fitment pdf.
3) Stability: I'm biased, but I think the stability of the TrailPix is pretty good - tough to beat unless you are spending over $100 on a tripod. Often, less expensive conventional tripods look stable, but they cheap out on connections and release plates and you end up with quite a bit of rocking/instability. However, to get the most out of TrailPix you are going to want to use a shutter delay or remote trigger to avoid moving the camera when you press the shutter. This is good practice with any tripod, really. And, if you are expecting to take rock solid shots in 25 MPH winds, you might be disappointed. But, for the vast, vast majority of uses, I (and others) have found TrailPix to be very capable.
4) The ballhead: I really like the ballhead, but you can't expect miracles from something so small. I showed my Canon 5D with a pretty heavy lens in portrait orientation in the video, and this can be done, but you are going to have to muscle it, and this is the edge of the capability of the ballhead. The ballhead is more comfortable in landscape on larger cameras or with smaller DSLR's like a Canon Rebel in portrait. Having said that, Jonn used the ballhead on his expedition with that giant rig of his...
5) Pole tips: Some poles come equipped with a soft-tip adapter/cover. These can almost always be removed to reveal a hard tip as shown throughout this project page. Soft tips are not compatible with TrailPix.
6) Hard, smooth surfaces: TrailPix works best on rough ground (i.e. trails, woods, dirt.) If you set up TrailPix as a Tripod on very hard, smooth surfaces (ie hardwood flooring) and then put a decent amount of weight on it (Say more than a pound or two), the accessory pole in particular has a tendency to slide outward. The tripod is still quite usable, but something to bear in mind. In practice in the outdoors, I've never had this be an issue.
7) Fixed length poles: Traditionally, all trekking poles have been collapsible and thus almost infinitely adjustable in length. This type of pole works best with TrailPix. In the past several years, some manufacturers such as Black Diamond have introduced poles of more-or-less fixed length. Black Diamond calls these Z-poles. If you are planning to use these with TrailPix, some limitations become apparent.
With the custom TrailPix and fixed length poles, a tripod becomes very problematic. The accessory pole is a fixed length (1280 mm/54 inches), which is longer than most fixed length poles. Because there is no means of adjustment in any of the three legs, it is difficult to make a flat platform. If the accessory pole were trimmed to approximately the same length as the fixed length trekking (or ski) pole (Which is very possible by a motivated person), you would at best end up with a tripod that works on more or less level ground.
With the universal TrailPix, you have some better options. You can push the accessory pole up through the center hole of the platform as shown in the picture below.
This method is a little troublesome as the pole sticks up into the area of the camera. The net effect is that you have some limitations on the angle that you can rotate the camera through, but it is still usable.
Risks and challenges
Risks and Challenges:
There are four main risks in product development - product risk, manufacturing risk, timing risk, and budget risk.
1) Product risk: Does TrailPix do what it says, and is it robust?
The design of TrailPix has proceeded through an incredible amount of iteration and field testing. It is not an exaggeration that hundreds of parts have been rapid-prototyped, many of them tested by 17 people on 3 continents. As a professional engineer and with 20 years of product development experience behind me, I can stand firmly behind the TrailPix.
As far as robustness, Jonn had the confidence in the rapid prototyped plastic TrailPix parts to trust his entire expedition's footage to it - The machined aluminum components are an order of magnitude more robust. NV8 Design will provide a lifetime warranty on the TrailPix unit.
2) Manufacturing Risk: Can the parts be made?
YES! As mentioned in the manufacturing plan above, the investment was made to find a production supplier that could also make prototypes. This process was long, harder than expected, and rather expensive, but it proved out the process. Some tweaks need to be made, but these are minor.
3) Timing risk: Will you get your TrailPix on time?
Because the manufacturing process has been validated, I'm quite confident that the ship dates are achievable. The fulfillment side of the equation (how the parts will be put into a box and shipped) is open, but this is low risk with multiple alternatives. There are no guarantees in life, but I think the timeline is pretty low risk.
4) Budget risk: Will it cost what I say it costs?
This risk is mine, not yours. I've provided the TrailPix at a remarkably low price point to encourage widespread, early adoption. It is my belief that this is an investment in the future of the product. Bottom line is I'll do whatever it takes to make the project happen.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The accessory pole is a 4-section 1280 mm (50.4 inch) pole with a smooth .260" diameter tip that is about 5/8" long. The pole is made of 7075-T9 aluminum, 8.5 mm OD, 0.72 mm wall.
If you would like to make your own pole for custom TrailPix, you would want a tip very similar to the one described above. With the universal you could use just about any tent pole with any termination.
The short answer is that I think anything more than a 4 lb. camera is pushing it. But, for completeness, here is some more information:
I figured a way to add weight directly to the center of the ballhead, and here are some approximate weight limits:
1) Universal made with (3) trekking poles: 30+ lbs (Probably significantly higher)
2) Universal made with (2) trekking poles and accessory pole: Approx 10-20 lbs. (limited by flex in the accessory pole)
3) Custom made with (2) trekking poles and accessory pole: Approx 20 lbs. (limited by flex in the accessory pole.)
The ballhead is placed onto the unit with a 1/4"-20 screw. The head of the screw has a D-ring that folds flat to make it flush with the bottom of the TrailPix unit. (A common type of screw in photography.) When you "open" that screw up, the D-ring is large enough to fasten some light rope to, so you can indeed hang some weight. I hung 40 lbs. from the universal made with THREE trekking poles, and the screw seemed fine (The manufacturer doesn't rate it for this application, I asked).
However, I would think 20 lbs. would be reasonably safe. I would limit the load to 10 - 20 lbs. for either the custom or the universal when made with the accessory pole as the pole is optimized for it's own weight, not stiffness.
Having said all that, I can't guarantee miracles for TrailPix in heavy winds. The torsional stiffness is not fantastic, a by-product of the way everything is hooked together. I find it perfectly usable, but someone used to a high-end tripod is going to notice a significant difference in stiffness.
Ultimately, a judgment call.
The Capture system from Peak Design is a wildly successful product that makes it extremely convenient to keep your photography gear at hand. If you are not familiar with the Capture product, please take a look here first: https://peakdesignltd.com/
The good news is that TrailPix and Capture can work perfectly together. Simply purchase the ARCA-style quick release base I offer as part of a package or as an add-on. Attach this adapter to the 1/4"-20 thread on the ballhead included in most of the TrailPix packages and you are ready to accept any of the capture clips. If you would prefer to buy your own ARCA-compatible quick-release base, Peak Design has a list of compatible units here: peakdesignltd.com/tripod
You can also use the Capture Pro system directly screwed onto the ballhead.
Keep in mind, I am NOT selling the Capture system itself, just making it easy for you to use TrailPix with Capture.
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