Headed to Zion NP to do some backpacking in the Virgin Narrows and didn't want to lug a tripod around with me. Since there were two of us going (and 4 trekking poles), I figured I had enough poles for a last-minute tripod. Entire project done in the one hour before heading to the airport, including wandering the hardware store! I love living next door to Discount Builders!
2-6" Flexible Gas Conduit (about 3/4" in diameter)
2x 1/4-20x1" Hex Bolt
1/4-20 Long Nut
Metal Saw (Sawzall or hacksaw)
1/4-20 Tap/Drill Set
UPDATE: Just came across this design on the web, looks to be a bit sturdier though maybe 10x the weight. Either way, another option!
Step 1: Prep Conduit
I was originally planning on using some sort of flexible copper piping, but found this gas conduit instead. Unfortunately the tube cost $13 since it was a full assembly . . . I doubt any place would sell this stuff any other way (except at a junkyard of course!)
Pretty easy step here, cut the conduit to size and file any rough edges that may remain. I used about 4-inches since I wanted to be able to bend the tripod 90-degrees for portrait shots. As a note, I found this length to be a bit long for super-stable shots, as the weight of the camera "bounced" if you weren't careful. If you're using a heavy camera definitely go shorter! To dampen this bouncing, you might find it useful to fill the conduit with something like sand . . . but that of course adds weight!
Step 2: Epoxy Top Bolt
Next, take one of the 1/4-20 bolts (same thread for camera tripods) and fit it into one end of the conduit with the threads sticking out as shown. The hex head was slightly too large to fit in the conduit, so I put it in my drill chuck and filed it down until it did fit!
Once the bolt fits in the conduit, figure out how much thread you need to stick out in order to firmly connect your camera. Don't forget to do your test fit with a 1/4" washer in place.
Once you feel you have the correct amount of thread sticking out, epoxy the bolt and washer in place. I placed a dab of epoxy, let it dry, then filled the rest of the cavity in order to avoid messiness. Of course later I realized that I should've just plugged the conduit beneath the bolt (see next step)
Step 3: Epoxy Bottom Nut
Next epoxy the long 1/4-20 nut into the other end of the conduit. To keep things from getting too messy, I stuffed some kleenex down the conduit, and also into the end of the nut (to keep the epoxy from working it's way back up the nut thread) No need for a washer since this side screws into the trekking pole.
The reason I decided to use a nut on this side instead of another hex bolt was so that I could screw the camera directly into the trekking pole (to use as a monopod) I I wanted to.
Step 4: Drill and Tap Trekking Pole
Luckily, the end of my trekking poles were a pretty thick plastic. To make sure, i first removed the wrist straps by lightly tapping the press-fit pins out.
Next, tap and drill a 1/4-20 hole in the top of the trekking pole. Make sure you've got enough thickness for at least three threads! If not, you could easily end up stripping the plastic threads.
Once you've got your hole tapped, reattach your wrist-straps and connect the flexible conduit tube you just made!
To keep things light, I just tied the tapped trekking pole and two others together to create the three legs. This worked surprisingly well and was even stable enough for night shots!