Black Rapid Tripod Jacket: Hands-On Real Review


I have tested dozens of camera bags, and even more camera straps, over the years.  I was testing out one of my favorite straps from Black Rapid several months ago when they contacted me about an interesting new product-the Tripod Jacket.  (If you are in the market for a seriously awesome camera strap, you should check my favorite camera straps, including the Black Rapid Retro).

What is the Tripod Jacket?  The Tripod Jacket from Black Rapid is a “jacket” that wraps around your tripod legs and has a group of pockets to hold all your extra gear, that would usually go in a backpack, right on the tripod for easy access.

The reason I was interested in the Tripod Jacket is because there are a lot of times I am shooting where I don’t want to have a backpack.  The most common occurrences are when I am driving long distance and want to be able to pull off and shoot from the roadside, or when I am driving to one single location to shoot where there isn’t much hiking or anything involved.  In these situations, I wanted to see how the Tripod Jacket would work to have all the gear I want to shoot with accessible on my tripod so I could just hop out and start shooting.

Overall, the Tripod Jacket was great for this limited use, but I wouldn’t use it too far beyond that as it can be a bit bulky to carry.  So, while it is great for the uses I wanted it for, it would not be a permanent backpack replacement for me.

The above image was convenient as I needed to change to a more wide-angle lens and I quickly pulled it out of the lens pocket on the tripod jacket, made the change and added a filter without ever moving from where I was crouching, and without having a backpack.

Design

The Tripod Jacket is almost like a big piece of fabric that wraps around the neck of your tripod and then wraps around each leg of your tripod.  On this big piece of fabric, there are three large pockets, one small pocket and one zippered tablet pocket. One of the pockets is specifically designed as a lens pouch to carry a 24-70.  Another is specifically designed to fit a strobe. The Tripod Jacket also has several nylon webbing loops where you can attach additional items.  

Honestly, I was quite surprised at just how much gear can be put in the tripod jacket.  In terms of space, it could easily replace what you fit into a small camera backpack.  Having the different sized pockets is also great for organization.  The things I usually want when I am shooting one scene on a tripod are a separate lens or two, my set of filters, a remote cable, spare battery, spare memory cards and a cleaning cloth.  That is about it.  There are plenty of separate pockets on the tripod jacket to keep that gear neatly organized and easy to access.

How to Set Up the Tripod Jacket

I am not going to lie-I didn’t look at how to set up the Tripod Jacket before I loaded it with gear and threw it in my car for a weekend trip.  I was at a shooting location guessing how to wrap it around my tripod, and there was more to it than I expected.

Once I actually looked at how to set it up (see the video below).  It went a lot smoother. You should have your tripod set up to start.  Then wrap the Jacket around the legs of the tripod and fasten the top tightly around the neck of the tripod.  From there, you take each end of the jacket and wrap them around a tripod leg and tuck it in so you can Velcro it.  On the final leg, there is a Velcro strap you can use to wrap the leg. Then tuck the mesh away into the pocket. Finally, tighten the fastener again around the neck as tight as you can.  From there, just fill the pockets with whatever you want. When you want to move to a new location, just wrap the nylon mesh around the whole thing and seal it. This video will help walk you through it.

Build Quality

As you would expect from a Black Rapid product, the build quality on the Tripod Jacket is excellent. The fabric is 100% honeycomb rip-stop fabric that feels both very durable and fairly weather resistant.  The pockets are sturdy (although there isn’t padding so you would want your lenses in a separate lens case most likely.  I use the Peak Design Range Pouch and love it way more than any other lens case) with good stitching and are not going to wear out anytime soon.  I have no fear using the Tripod Jacket is dusty, rocky or rainy conditions. I also am comfortable with it being thrown around my car without fear it is going to snag and rip or suffer other damage.

General Review

My first experience with the Tripod Jacket was not a good one.  I didn’t have the jacket tight enough around the legs or the neck of my tripod and it was slipping all over the place.  I was also using a small travel tripod from Oben whose legs were barely longer than the jacket. This meant I couldn’t access the  twist knobs on the tripod legs easily.

Luckily, I like to use products for a good amount of time before I write a review  because first impressions are not very often indicative of the actual quality of a product.

After that first experience, I took the time to watch the video on how to set up the tripod jacket, learning i had made a couple errors in my earlier rush.  I also tried using the tripod jacket with some bigger tripods.  I also used it on the same Oben tripod with the legs extended out a few inches so all the twist knobs were always easily accessible.

Through additional use, the Tripod Jacket has become much easier to use and I have really enjoyed it for certain situations.  I will not use the jacket when I am going to be doing any hiking or when I am going on a long trip and want more versatility. This is not a backpack replacement for me and won’t be going on any airplanes.  But, that does not mean it isn’t going to keep a spot in my camera gear and get regular use.

The Tripod Jacket is awesome for occasions where I expected I would use it-those times where you want extra gear, but don’t want to carry a backpack.. It is great to hold a spare lens, spare battery, remote trigger and filters–all the stuff I like to have when I am shooting.

When I Use the Tripod Jacket

The times where I use the jacket the most are when I am driving in the car and want to have my camera on the tripod in the passenger seat so I can pop out and shoot scenes along the way.  I have always done this, and then ran back to my car if I wanted a different lens or filter and so on. Having all that on my tripod when I get out of the car to explore is so much nicer than having to take a backpack as well.  

The other time I use the Tripod Jacket a lot is when I am going to one specific location to shoot on a tripod.  For example, I might be going out at night to catch a shot from one location of the Las Vegas Strip, or I might be taking my kids to play at the Seven Magic Mountains where I can set up my camera to do a long exposure shot to get rid of the crowds.  In these situations it is nice to just have my camera and tripod without a backpack. The only downside is the tripod gets a bit bulky with those bags filled and isn’t the easiest to carry. I would have loved for the tripod jacket to come with some kind of shoulder strap just to make carrying it a bit more convenient.

I set my camera up here to take lots of images while I played with my kids, without worrying about carrying a bag around.  See more about how I easily made hundreds of tourists disappear in this image.

Conclusion

The Black Rapid Tripod Jacket is a specialized piece of gear that is unique in the industry.  It is awesome for any photographers that spend a lot of time on their tripod, but don’t need a backpack.  The ease with which you can explore a scene making different compositions, changing your gear as you go, without moving around and digging through a backpack is a game changer in those situations.

If you are interested in trying your own Black Rapid Tripod Jacket, check the current Amazon price on the Tripod Jacket with this link.

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