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photo courtesy Kitty Terwolbeck, 1/13/2018. Photo was taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kittysfotos/

If you’ve been tent camping for any length of time, you’ve found that there are a few items in your equipment list that stand out as being both indispensable and indestructible. Sometimes it might be a tent that’s gone through every weather pattern imaginable. Or maybe it’s an article of clothing that you just love to wear whenever you camp. For today’s entry, I present an item that my wife and I use regularly, our friends use and actually got for free, and my parents had used when I was a kid. What is this magical device that can cook food and hold a lantern? The humble tripod!

What Is A Tripod?

First, let’s describe what we mean when we use the word tripod. This device has 3 legs of approximately the same length. They are typically arranged to form a teepee, or upside down cone shape. Often you will have something that ties the 3 legs together at the top, such as a chain or a plate that the legs fit through. What metal tripods typically offer is a way to run a small chain down through the center of the metal plate that the legs fit through at the top, and this often runs down one of the legs and allows what ever is hung from the chain to be raise and lowered. Sometimes, tripods are made out of wood, often sturdy branches that have been cut off a live tree as they will not burn as easily as dry branches. For these wood tripods, a chain or rope is usually wrapped around the top of the legs to keep them together, and you can still hang a chain from this down the center of the tripod. For this discussion today, I’ll primarily be talking about the metal tripod with a chain that can be easily raised and lowered. Regardless of what you tripod is made from, or whether you make it yourself or buy it from a store, there are several great uses for your tripod, and you’ll want to make sure you have it with you whenever you go tent camping.

The Tripod Chain

The simple chain that is most common on tripods is the easy first step in how to use a tripod. From this chain will often hang a dutch oven; in fact, in old Western films and books, this image is what is used for cooking and how the people eat. This actually isn’t far from the truth in many cases, including even today. At the end of the chain over the fire, there is an S hook that connects to the chain and the dutch oven’s handle. With this setup, you can easily raise and lower the dutch oven over the fire, making it easier to add ingredients during the cooking process (not having to be directly over the hot coals/fire because the oven is raised up) as well as being able to stir the contents and check the progress of the dish. Being able to raise and lower the oven also means you can slow down or speed up the cooking process as needed.

This is also a great way to heat up large amounts of water while you are doing other chores around camp. If you have a second pot with a handle, you can use that to heat water while you eat your tasty dinner from the dutch oven.

photo courtesy careercoachbethany, 11/10/2016. Photo was taken from: https://pixabay.com/en/users/careercoachbethany-2725836/

The Tripod Grill

Now that you’ve gotten the basic chain and S hook mastered, you can now add another piece of equipment to the tripod setup to give yourself even more cooking options. While the dutch oven is a great utility player for cooking – soups, stews, pasta, cupcakes, cakes and more – there are other food items or cooking methods that can be included when you couple your tripod with a grill. The grill that you have will need to have chains connected to it from at least 3 points, and they will all meet in the middle to balance the grill from the center chain of the tripod. Now you’re ready to really get cooking!

So, what can you cook using this suspended grill? Whatever you can grill at home! Hamburgers, hotdogs, brats, chicken, fish, turkey, veggies, steaks, foil packets and more. Because the grill is essentially free floating, you can easily turn the grill to ensure that everything gets heated through no matter where they are on the grill. One of the added benefits to cooking on a grill over the fire is that you get that special smoked flavor with your food.

The Tripod Light

So, it’s obvious that using a tripod over the fire is a great way to cook your food. But this isn’t the only thing that you can use your tripod for. When things get dark and you need to shed some light on the subject, the tripod can be converted to a lantern stand. Just like your dutch oven (or other pot with a handle), you can hang your lantern from the S hook on the center chain of the tripod (see post about Gas versus Propane). You can raise and lower the lantern like you do the dutch oven to have the light reach more or less of the campsite. What is nice about using the tripod for your lantern is that you can position the tripod where ever you need or want the light; you aren’t limited to just the picnic table or a tree.

Featured Image photo courtesy Zhang Yu, 5/6/2012.  Photo was taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yeekeer/

The Camera Mount

Another option for your tripod is to use it as a camera mount. In this case, there are 2 versions of this option for you to consider. This is best used with a GoPro-style camera that doesn’t have a full camera tripod setup (or perhaps you forgot it before you left for your camping trip), but you might also be able to use it with other cameras, or even your phone. You’ll need to find a way to secure the camera to the tripod, and there are several ways to go about this which I won’t detail here. But once you have it secured to the tripod and positioned how you like it, you can then start taking pictures or even recording video. You’ve got a nice stable platform to work from so you don’t have to worry about camera shake.

The other option is a take off from the tripod setup above, but in this case only requires one of the tripod legs. This instance is often referred to as a monopod setup, as you only have one leg on which you are mounting your camera. Using this setup, you are more mobile as its easier to move the camera around, but you maintain much of the stability of the tripod. You won’t have all of the stability of the tripod, but it will be enough to take good pictures and videos.

Wrap Up

The camping tripod is a very useful tool to have with your camping gear. Not only can it be used to help cook your meals, but it can do work as a lantern hangar and as a crud camera mount in 2 different forms. These tripods also break down for easy transport and storage, so they won’t take up much room in your vehicle or in storage.

Got some feedback on this topic? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below, send me an email or share it on social media! Happy Tent Camping!

Featured Image photo courtesy Virginia State Parks, 3/13/2016.  Photo was taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vastateparksstaff/

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