Gear Review: Ultradyne UD Carbon Tripod and UD Orbit Ballhead

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Ultradyne Carbon Tripod and Orbit Ballhead (Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.)

It’s rare that I walk out the door to hunt without a tripod anymore and for range days, the tripod is never left behind. Over the last 20 years, nothing has changed how I hunt and shoot like a good, solid tripod. With their new UD Carbon Tripod and UD Orbit Ballhead, Ulradyne has released the best tripod/ballhead combination I’ve used yet.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Like everything I’ve seen from Ultradyne, the UD Carbon Tripod and UD Orbit Ballhead are well-made, well-engineered, and extremely versatile.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

This is a full-size tripod, capable of holding whatever rifle and optics you’re likely to shoot. Ultradyne says the tripod is rated at 50 lbs. It will hold far more than that. How much? At least 90 lbs. of kettlebells hanging off the center column. More importantly, it can handle standing tall and steady while a 200-pound man leans in hard on 20-plus pounds of rifle and gear, all day long.

A buddy of mine and I took the tripod and ballhead out for a day at The Ranch TX. The legs and ballhead handled hundreds of rounds from the new SIG Cross Magnum in 300 WinMag, as well as 100 rounds of .338 Norma Magnum from my buddy’s heavyweight bolt gun. No matter the rifle or spotting scope, no matter the weight or the length of the gun, the UD Tripod held it all rock-steady.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Despite the robustness of the tripod, it weighs only 4 lbs, 2 oz. Ultradyne says it’s made of “multilayered carbon” (aren’t we all?). I assume that’s some sort of stacked carbon fiber sheet, but whatever it is, the strength-to-weight ratio is outstanding.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

It also packs up small. It comes in a sturdy fabric carrying case, but in the field or at a competition, it will most likely be carried in hand or strapped to a pack. It’s light enough and compact enough for either. Even cased up it’s only 21″ long, so packing it in your luggage for flights is no problem at all.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

The total height available with the UD Tripod is ridiculous. With all the leg sections fully extended and deployed and with the center column fully raised, I can almost stand underneath a rifle mounted to the tripod with the UD ball head…and I’m not short. If you’re currently playing in the NBA and you love precision marksmanship, this is the tripod for you.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

For most folks, there are two big advantages to that much available height. The first is that part of that extension comes from the 12-inch center column. A center column that long allows you to keep the legs at one height setting, but still get a good foot of variability in the total height. That means multiple deployments on varying heights are faster. That’s great for gamers.

For hunters, that extreme height means you can mount the tripod on the reverse slope of a hill or ridge, with the center leg shorter and the rear legs fully extended. That will get you above the terrain immediately in front of you while keeping most of your body hidden from the game, all with a solid shooting position. It’s ideal.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

The problem with most long center column tripods is that while they’re great for getting tall, they prevent the shooter from getting low enough to shoot from the prone. Not so with the UD Carbon Tripod.

The center column is removable and detaches with just a twist. With the center column out, the tripod can get down to less than 7 inches off the ground, perfect for shooting from the prone.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Each of the tripod legs deploys with a simple, short turn of the lock/release. If you think you’re tightening the leg and it spins around a few times, stop…you’re loosening it. From locked-in to loose enough to deploy isn’t much more than a single turn.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

There’s also a quick-detach leg to use as a monopod. Take that single leg off with a twist and attach the top mounting plate and it’s ready for whatever ballhead or saddle/grip you’d like to install. There’s probably limited value for shooting like this (after all the tripod weighs barely 4 lbs. altogether) but it would work really well for mounting binoculars or a camera.

The UD Carbon Tripod comes with all the tools you need to tighten the leg hinges as the need arises, as well as a set of spikes for the replaceable/removable feet. (Pro tip: if you’re on a hunting trip, use some removable thread-locker for your tripod feet.)

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Paired with the UD Carbon Tripod is the UD Orbit Ballhead. I’ve run three different ballheads over the last few years and I’ve tried a lot more. Hands down, this is the best I’ve seen yet.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

The UD Ballhead has several different mount options. You can choose a simple ARCA Swiss attachment, a Pic rail mount, or both with a UD’s DynaLock system as well. I reviewed this model, the ARCA/Pic/DynaLock option. With this option, beyond just using the ARCA mount to tighten down on your rail, the user can push those two pillars in the barricade stop up and into the corresponding holes in the Ultradyne UD Chassis forened.

That allows for a secondary hold from the ballhead into the firearm. For light recoiling rifles, that’s unlikely to be necessary. But if you’re taking repeated shots with a magnum powered bolt gun like the Cross Magnum, the extra surety of the Dynalock is appreciated.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Other than the mounting options, the biggest difference between the UD Ballhead and others is the tension adjustment wheel. Right behind and near the bottom of the mount, facing the shooter, is one big horizontal wheel. Now, with your non-dominant hand, you can simply reach forward (your hand’s probably there anyway) and adjust both the mount tension of the rifle to the ballhead and also the release/grip of the balllhead.

That’s valuable when your rifle is mounted and you want to change its position, but it’s even more important when it’s something that doesn’t weigh as much or have as much leverage on the ballhead, like a spotting scope. Without moving the non-dominant hand from its natural position, you can release the tension, make fine adjustments, and then tighten it back up again. It’s very quick and very smooth.

Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com

Once locked down, whatever you’ve mounted isn’t going anywhere. Recoil from that 338NM rifle didn’t budge the ballhead’s position. Beyond that, I could mount the SIG Cross Magnum and pick the whole rile and tripod up, reposition it, and set it down again without the ballhead moving a bit.

In the configuration as reviewed, the UD Orbit ballhead is priced about what I’d expect to pay. The UD Carbon Tripod, however, is a bit less than its competitors.

With the UD Carbon Tripod and Orbit Ballhead together, Ultradyne has developed an ideal combination. The tripod is strong, but light in weight and, like everything from Ultradyne, feature-filled. The ballhead is rock-solid and designed for fast, natural use.

Specifications: UD Carbon Tripod

Mounting studs: 3/8″-16 and 1⁄4″-20 included
Weight: 4 lbs. 2 oz
Dimensions In Case: L x W x H : 21” x 4.5” x 6.5” 4
Leg Section Diameters 1.26”, 1.14”,1.02”, .87”
Leg material: multilayered carbon fiber
Maximum Load: 50 lbs.
Min-Max Height: 6.75” – 69.75”
Price: $399

Specifications: UD Orbit Ballhead + Arca-Pic Clamp+ Dynalock

ARM17S compatible
Weight: 16.3 oz
Length: 3.85”
Width: 2.49”
Height: 4.75”
Threads: 3/8” – 16.0”
Materials: 6061, T6 Aluminum 416 SS
Finishes: Hardcoat Anodize Nitride
Price: $189 – $387 ($387 as reviewed)

Rating (out of five stars):

Overall * * * * *
Ultradyne never stops impressing me. The UD Carbon Tripod and UD Orbit Ballhead both are outstanding in quality and ingenuity. The tripod is of especially high quality considering its mid-tier price.

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