FIRST IMPRESSIONS / UNBOXING.
The Vortex Optics Switchback carbon tripod kit comes in a neatly packed and well organized box with a handy soft case.
Vortex supplied this tripod at MY request to review it and Vortex has provided zero expectations with the outcome of this review. I will provide a completely unbiased review.
I am an avid western hunter; often hunting miles over rough terrain hunting coyotes and deer. I also night hunt coyotes yearly here in Kansas during the winter. I have used several tripods including Manfrotto, Bogpod Deathgrip, and Predator Tactics Deadeye over the years.
Here are my thoughts as well as PROS and CONS:
PRO- Its very light. The Switchback only weighs 4.6 lbs. which is about half the weight of similar
tripods from other companies. This tripod is perfectly suited to light backpack hunting and night vision hunting. I found that carrying it in the field during several coyote hunts and prairie dog shooting trips was comfortable. Using this tripod while standing or seated was a breeze.
PRO- It's very sturdy despite the light weight. This tripod is 4.6 lbs. but can hold up to 44 lbs. The average weight of the rifle setups tested with this tripod was about 12.5 lbs. Initially out of the box we had a small amount of difficulty tightening the release lever on the ball head as the adjustment knob was very tight and stuck. After a small amount of adjustment it would hold a large rifle easily. When deployed to full height the tripod had a small amount of flex in the legs but I did not find the flex to be detrimental to precision shooting.
PRO- The ball head is very simple and easy to use; even with gloves on. Other tripods have several knobs to tighten and loosen to move the tripod. Here's my take. Simple and reliable is king especially in darkness while hunting. I found the large lever on the head intuitive and easy to use throughout the review process.
PRO- The Switchback is equipped with Arca-swiss system which is a very sturdy and easy to use clamp system that allows the user to slide the accessory back and forth on the handguard easily. The Arca-swiss system is nearly industry standard in high end professional photography as well as precision shooting sports and hunting. Vortex did well by including this option on the tripod right out of the box.
PRO-The leg locks on the Switchback are easy to loosen and lock. They require less rotation to lock and unlock vs. many of similar tripods on the market. This means that if you need to deploy the tripod quickly these features are very helpful. After 20+coyote stands the legs never slipped and remained locked throughout.
PRO- The Switchback is durable. It was knocked over one time on concrete and it was still 100% functional. It rode in the back of the pickup bed for literally hundreds of miles in the dirt, dust and grime. We used this tripod a lot and did not take it easy on it. It passed the our durability test with flying colors.
PRO- The Switchback comes with the amazing Vortex optics customer support and unconditional lifetime warranty. Rest assured that your investment is protected by a company that actually cares about their customers, answers the phone and is based in Wisconsin, USA.
CON- Out of the box the head of the tripod required a small amount of oil to stop it from making a sliding or squeaky noise when you move it side to side with the pan function. For the price this tripod should not have this problem. I realize that the design of the ball head negates the use of the pan function and it for the most part is unnecessary but the noise was still annoying as a hunter. Don't let this problem be a detriment to you purchasing this tripod as it was easy to rectify. This gripe is more aimed at Vortex as they could just add a dab of grease and the problem would be solved.
CON- The screw in the head came loose while in the field. Thankfully, I had an Allen key set available and was able to tighten the Arca-swiss clamp back down. It could be catastrophic if you happened to be backpack hunting and did not have a way to tighten this. Don't let this problem be a detriment to you purchasing this tripod as it was easy to rectify. This gripe is more aimed at Vortex as they could just add a dab of thread locker and the problem would be solved.
CON-The elephant in the room...COST. Vortex lists the Switchback carbon MSRP at $799.99. Street price will be about $599.99. That is a big reach for some folks during high inflation in 2023. Customers at our store often choose to buy overseas brand tripods off of Amazon for less money. So, is the Switchback worth it? I say yes. The overseas brands do not offer a lifetime warranty, they typically offer a limited warranty and very limited customer support. But, ultimately we'd like to see an similar aluminum version offered as well that is much cheaper for the average hunter.
A high quality tripod is a necessary and often overlooked piece of gear. If you are a backpack hunter or a night hunter the Switchback is a great option; especially if you are wanting one that is a great balance between sturdiness and light weight. I liked this tripod so much for my style of hunting I bought one with my own money for myself. I give it two thumbs up.