When looking at candidates for “Gear Legends”, we’re looking at many possible variables. Has it been around for a significant period of time? Is it still viable? In its product category, how does it rate and how much impact did it have? Did it change the game?
It could be argued that no product in the western hunting industry has had as much impact and profound change in the way we actually hunt as the Outdoorsmans Tripod has, and it happened in two ways: 1) It helped convince legions of hunters that packing a tripod on a consistent basis was a legitimate and useful idea; and 2) it played a big part in turning the average western hunter from a still-hunter into much more of a patient, glassing, spot-and-stalk hunter. It changed the game.
Glassing from a tripod while using binoculars became a thing. It allowed hunters to have a completely steady view to easily pick up movement and also to comfortably and effectively glass for longer periods of time.
I sat down recently with Chris Denham to get his thoughts on the concept, production, and legacy of the Outdoorsmans Tripod. Here’s what he had to say.
“Back in the 1990s, I was an independent sales representative in the outdoor industry. One of my best friends, Floyd Green, owned the Outdoorsmans, which happened to be one of my largest accounts. At the time, conservation trade shows like WSF (FNAWS back then), RMEF, and SCI were becoming big destination events for serious hunters. So, we put together an Outdoorsmans booth and drove all night back and forth from Reno, Denver, Portland and just about every major city in the West each winter.
“During the drive home we had hours to decompress and brainstorm about what we sold and didn’t sell, and new product ideas. The only tripods we sold at the time were a few models from Monfrotto. Customers liked the quality, but they always complained about the weight. Tripod glassing was very new at the time, so convincing a guy that he needed to pack an extra four pounds was asking a lot. Everybody wanted a lighter tripod, but lighter back then meant cheap plastic parts with flimsy connections and very short lifespans.
“We dreamed of making our own tripod out of machined aluminum with strict tolerances. The dream starting to become a reality when Floyd pitched the ideas to our friends at RCM in Arizona. Mike and Marty were expert machinists and hunters, and they immediately embraced the challenge. ”
“I still remember seeing the first prototype. I was speechless. I couldn’t see a single thing I would change. Of course, they did anyway, and months later production began.
“The first order was for 20 tripods if I remember correctly, and we had no idea if anyone other than our best friends and customers would buy one. This new tripod was more than twice as expensive as any other tripod on the market.
“I would like to say that the new Outdoorsmans tripod was an immediate success. However, they trickled out, with the most demanding mountain hunters deciding to give them a try. Slowly but surely the word spread (keep in mind this was pre-internet) about the quality and performance. Sales grew accordingly.
“The first few hundred tripods were anodized in green, but it was too difficult to keep the color consistent from one batch to the next. Black is black, so black was the new color. If you compare the original green Outdoorsmans medium tripod to a brand-new current production model, you won’t be able to find any substantial changes. Basically, they got it right the first time.
“This is less a story about a tripod only, and more of a story about a tripod system. As soon as the leg design was done, RCM began designing a pistol grip head that weighed in at about ¼ of any other model available. Then came the binocular adapter and stud systems, pan head, the tall tripod, compact medium, micro pan head and more. Before long, even the most financially conservative hunters realized that buying an Outdoorsman tripod is actually a good long-term investment.”
Twenty years later, unparalleled performance and popularity are still proving its legendary status. It’s also still standing firmly atop its category as the premier tripod system for hunters across the world. For more information, visit www.outdoorsmans.com.