I was hiking in Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park on Sunday. The trail was rough and steep. I had my trusty LowelPro Slingshot 202 bag, the Nikon D200 and 18-200mm lens, Lumix DMC-LX3 and Canon video camera. The D200 was around my neck and I put two bottles of water in the Slingshot. I really love the Slingshot, it fits me like a glove and it’s not too big that I don’t want to carry it. The D200 with the 18-200 lens is not too heavy but as we hiked for several hours I realized that I needed support. Between the exertion and altitude when I brought the camera up to take a shot I realized I was breathing harder than normal. My Manfrotto monopod was 1200 miles away. I realized my fingers were swollen from hiking and wished I had a hiking stick. This is not the first time I’ve done this to myself. So how to resolve this problem? My current monopod doesn’t support enough weight but it does collapse down to 18″ and can be stowed with my Slingshot under the seat on an airplane. But because it doesn’t support enough weight I left it at home. So I’m in a beautiful place and can’t take a shot until my heart rate slows down. I’m missing my monopod!

So now I’m back home and planning my next adventure. What do I need for an effective monopod that can double as a hiking stick? First let’s start with my requirements. The pod has got to be able to snuggle up to my Slingshot and fit under an airplane seat. So let’s get the measurements for that to start. Underseat: 8 x 16 x 21 inches. So the pod can’t be any longer than 21 inches. The next requirement is that the pod must be able to support a DSLR and a 200mm lens.  Obviously the ability to support more weight will be better. So the minimum support needed should be 11 pounds just to be safe. The pod’s cost should not make me choke when I buy it. So now I’ve got my requirement, on to product selection.

After some research I’ve come up with the following candidates to review:

  1. Trek Tech TrekPod II
  2. Manfrotto 682B
  3. Manfrotto 680B
  4. Gitzo GM1130MT Monotrek Hiking Stick/Monopod
  5. Induro AM25 Alloy 8M AM-Series Aluminum 5-Section Monopod
  6. Giottos MM9750 Monopod
  7. Benro MA-91EX Monopod

Here are seven monopods with slightly different configurations. Let’s see which ones can be eliminated by evaluating them against our requirements:

  • Must support 11+ pounds – the two tripods in the group that don’t meet that requirement are the Gitzo and Manfrotto 682B. The list is down to 5
  • Must be 21″ or less when folded – the Trek-Tech is comprise of two 35″ sections. The list is down to 4, the Manfrotto 680B, Induro, Giottos and Benro.  Time for a closer look at those four monopods.

Here are the Pros and Cons on each monopod from my perspective:
InduroPros: Shortest folded length, supports 22lbs – Cons: Shortest maximum height, 57″, 5 leg sections and uses twist locks on the legs
Gittos –  Pros: Cheapest cost – Cons: Twist leg locks, only supports 11lbs
BenroPros: Flip lever leg locks, tallest maximum height, supports 39lbs – Cons: Most expensive
Manfrotto 680BPros: Flip lever leg locks, supports 22 lbs, spike feet option – Cons: Heaviest
At this point it’s between the Benro and Manfrotto 680B.  The Benro supports more weight but the Manfrotto has the spike foot option. All of the monopods appear to be solid performers but in this case it’s all in the details to make the right selection. Since I plan to use the monopod as a hiking stick the bottom foot may be a bigger factor as well as the ability to get a spike to replace the foot.

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