One of the new gadgets I tried out on my recent motorcycle camping reporting trek was a tripod field desk. You can buy a version of this a few places, but everything that's out there seems ill-suited to camping. I needed something lightweight, easy to stuff into the top box of motorcycle, and cheap. I did some Googling and found [this riders] tripod table. Seemed like a brilliant design, so I set to work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLtXSe0M00g
I have a cheap and relatively lightweight Manfrotto tripod with a quick-release system. I wanted to be able to use the tripod as, well, a tripod, so I didn't want to permanently alter the thing. I ordered another quick-release plate, which is the part that you screw into the bottom of the camera that then slides into the tripod head and locks. The plate, of course, was ridiculously expensive relative to the tripod (which was only $40 or so), but I decided to give it a try.
I went to Walmart and bought a couple cheap cutting boards, one bamboo and one plastic. After fiddling with each, I decided the bamboo would be best, both for rigidness and size. I drilled a couple holes in the quick-release plate. I then drilled corresponding holes in the cutting board. The quick release plate has that 1/4 inch/20 thread for the bottom of your camera, so I also drilled into the cutting board to accommodate that.
I didn't want my laptop sliding off, so I pulled a corkboard tile off my wall. You can buy these in any office supply store, and they're cheap. A bit of wood glue and I had a my desk surface. The quick release plate slides right into the tripod head. It takes a second to assemble and disassemble, and it packs down to the size of ... well, a cutting board and a tripod. Here it is all put together.
I put the cutting board in the bottom of my top box (which is just a Pelican case), and lashed the tripod, along with a portable camping stool, to the lid of the case. It worked like a charm! I used this in conjunction with my Antigravity Micro-Start portable battery, which recharges my laptop once fully.
There's some room for improvement. The quick release plate and tripod head are plastic, so the lateral strength isn't great. A better tripod with an aluminum or steel head would be more stable. But all-in-all, this is a fantastic addition to any rustic writer's retreat. I usually work at a homemade standing desk, and the tripod easily gets to the height my 6'4" frame needs to comfortably work standing up. The ball joint in the tripod head lets me work at any angle, and the retractable tripod legs mean I can work on uneven surfaces. the other day I did some transcribing in a set of bleachers by propping two of the legs on the bench in front of me and one on the next bench down. Pretty snazzy!