Well, this will be a short post as I just returned from my trip to Alaska. I wanted to give a quick update on my use of the RRS TVC-34L tripod in the field and the things I liked and did not like (which are very few). First, my choice of the 34L for packing reasons was a savior. I had just enough space for the 34L that would have put me in a tight spot with the Gitzo. I hit the 50lb mark exactly going there and coming back with the RRS in the bag. I would have been about 2lbs over with the Gitzo should I have decided to take that instead (would have been an extra $100 in overage weight fees). I also decided to wrap the top legs in bicycle bar tape rather than a lenscoat or foam leg wraps, worked perfectly.
For the trip to Katmai I went with the minimal amount of gear I could (D3s, 600 VR, D300s, 24-70 and 70-200) along with the RRS TVC-34L tripod. The first thing I found out before I left for Alaska is that I did not extend the first leg (I know, first rule of keeping debris out of the leg locks). Reason is that I found too much flex in the tripod with the first leg extended. I feel that the thinness of the diameter of the first leg allowed too much movement and that I only extended the top three legs and left the first one retracted. It worked fine for me. Slight bending over, but nothing I could not handle. I did not more walking over the 5 hours I was there so the times I took shots, it was not for an extended period of time (which is too bad as I could have easily spent 10 hours there). I will work more on having the first leg extended and see if it really is an issue or not.
I walked with the 34L and the 3 legs extended with the wimberley, d3s and 600 VR over my shoulder the entire time. The compactness of the top plate and distance between the legs suited my left shoulder perfectly. I had never walked any length of time with a setup like this on my shoulder, but I perfected it in the time I was there. The 34L performed flawlessly while there and during the rest of my trip. The leg locks also were second nature and never thought about them, which is a great thing. raising or lowering the legs were simple and quicker than the Gitzo, but that is my personal opinion. Since I was walking so much, I did not have a chance to hang a bag off the hook and my gripe over the caribiner hook change was a non-issue. I actually received an email from Joe Johnson (President) from RRS alerting me to the change after reading my blog, assuring me that no caribiner would slip off with the new design. I tried it after the Katmai trip and sure enough, a non-issue. Thanks for the email Joe!
I can not be more happy with the 34L and glad I was able to get one for my trip, actually saved me some money having it! Not sure many people could say that about a tripod. The 34L took everything I threw at it in the wet fields and waters at Katmai and the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. I will have this tripod for some time and will be selling my Gitzo shortly. :)