7 June 2012

Review: Eckla Beach-Rolly

Photographers, and especially wildlife and sports photographers with their long lenses, have a lot of gear to carry. When you have to carry it a long way, or for a long time, this can become very tiresome. So with a trip to the Bavarian Forest planned (where I really wanted to take both my 200-400mm and 600mm lenses), it was about time I had a look at some of the available carrying options.

Options

I could think of the following options for taking all my gear with me:
  • Limit the amount of gear to take, take only what I really needed.
    Great, but for this trip I was really going need my all long tele lenses, tripods, and bodies.
  • Prevent having to walk far/long with the gear. Take everything in the car and have it close.
    Nice, but this isn't always practical/allowed, and certainly wouldn't work “in the wild.”
  • Ask an assistant, partner, or friend to carry some of the stuff.
    Great option, but I don't always go everywhere with an assistant/partner/friend. Plus, this won't work if he/she is already carrying (heavy) gear of their own.
  • Use a cart to carry the gear.
    Hmm, interesting option, perhaps this would work!
To be any help, to the burdened photographer, a “cart” should be a) lightweight, b) easy to transport to and from location in e.g., a car, c) sturdy and rugged, d) low maintenance, e) suitable for almost any terrain, ranging from paved roads to uneven and difficult terrain like loose sand, forest floors, and mountains, f) able to carry all my gear, g) flexible in use (e.g., easy to access, stow, and use the gear), and, finally, h) not too expensive.

On an earlier photography trip I had already seen a so-called Beach-Rolly in action and that cart with its big wheels really seemed to fit the bill. I googled a bit for alternatives, but in the end found the Eckla Beach-Rolly to be the only one really suitable for my purpose. The fact that it was widely used by other photographers couldn't be for nothing either…

So I went to the websites of my favourite camera stores to see whether or not they had it in stock, and for what price. At ±€100, the Beach-Rolly is actually quite affordable and having looked at the available options, I decided to go for the Blue/Green version without a sunroof (I didn't expect to use this ever and if I really missed it, I could always buy one later). I also ordered the tripod holder and cargo net accessories as I deemed these very handy.

The next day, I received my order (it was in stock) and I immediately put the Rolly together. As it turned out, this was a breeze, with only a couple of things to put together this was a quick and easy thing to do. So now on to using the thing!

Using the Beach-Rolly

Loaded Beach-Rolly
As it was still a while before my actual trip to the Bavarian Forest, I first tested the Beach-Rolly locally. Loaded with my camera backpack, 600mm (I didn't foresee the use of my 200-400), and tripod, I set out to photograph some local wildlife. The Beach-Rolly behaved very well under these relatively easy circumstances with (mostly) paved roads, giving me high hopes for the real test in the Bavarian Forest.

I was not disappointed! Even loaded with two tripods, a full camera backpack, and both the 200-400mm and 600mm lenses, the Beach-Rolly proved a very good companion and had no problems with the sometimes quite uneven terrain. Sure, lugging 20+ kg of gear up a steep hill is still no breeze, but infinitely better to handle than carrying everything by hand/on your back.

In other words: I'm Very happy with the Beach-Rolly!

How good is it really?

The Beach-Rolly really met the requirements I had set:
a) Weight – Weighing only about 4kg, it is indeed a pretty lightweight solution.
b) Transport – For transportation you simply fold the “seat”, flattening the whole thing to ±125x75cm with just the wheels sticking out. If you want it smaller, you can fold the handlebar as well, reducing the size to ±80x75cm. And if that still isn't small enough for you, you can also easily remove the wheels, leaving the two wheels and a flat package of only a couple of centimetres thick. This should allow it to fit into the boot of even a very small car.
Efficient as I always strive to be, I actually simply fold the seat of the Rolly and put it behind the front seats of my (none too big) car. This allows me super quick loading and unloading. So, full score on this requirement!
Super easy to use linchpin for the wheel
c) Quality – The Beach-Rolly is well made, with a built quality we come to expect from Germans. I only found its creaks a bit when you pull it forward. Not a real issue I'd say.
d) Terrain – I had no trouble pulling the cart and keeping it stable on the sometimes quite uneven terrain of the Bavarian Forest. And while I haven't yet tried it on loose sand myself, I've seen it works very well there too. Again full score here.
e) Capacity – As mentioned, the Beach-Rolly easily held my two heavy tele-lenses as well as a full camera backpack.
f) Maintenance – With little moving parts and a simple design, I can't see much requirement for general maintenance, other than keeping it clean. The wheels are sturdy, but even if they wear out a replacement wheel can be obtained and fitted easily.
g) Ease of Use – The Beach-Rolly allowed me to have a camera mounted on the lenses, ready to be used. Excellent!
h) Price – Costing just below €100 in the Netherlands, the Beach-Rolly is not overly cheap, but certainly not very expensive either.

Some other thoughts and remarks

Together with the Beach-Rolly I also ordered the cargo net and tripod holder. Both I can recommend wholeheartedly. The cargo net is very easy to use and keeps your gear safe, and on the cart. It's usefulness (read: necessity) proven already: The one time I forgot to fasten the net over my gear I walked for only a couple of meters before I heard a noise and found my 200-400 + camera lying on the floor. Luckily they didn't fall very hard and suffered no damage. So in my opinion, the cargo net is a must have. Sure you can fasten your gear with other means too, but this is just so easy to use.

Tripod holder in action
At first I didn't really like the tripod holder (officially called the Multi-Holder), but after finding the best way to use it, I can now recommend it too. The trick is that you need to extend the legs of your tripod so that they fully reach the position of the holder on the bar. That way the tripod fits snugly and can be easily secured.

Another thing I didn't like about the holder bar is the fact that you can still turn it round, no matter how fast you tighten the screws on the side. This just didn't feel right and sturdy. Being able to turn the bar, has one advantage though, and that is that when you want to transport the Beach-Rolly, you can turn the bar so it doesn't stick out any longer. So, the flexibility is actually quite useful…

Besides the cargo net and tripod holder, you can also fit the Beach-Rolly with a sunroof, neck rest (you can also use the Beach-Rolly's loading area as a chair), bottle holder, or additional loading bar to extend the loading platform. If this all isn't enough versatility, Eckla also offers the Multi-Rolly, basically a Beach-Rolly without the side skirts, but with an additional chair at the back of the cart.

Conclusion

The Beach-Rolly is a great solution for photographers carrying heavy equipment over difficult terrain. It is no wonder that almost all the photographers with bigger lenses that I met in Bavaria used a Beach-Rolly for transportation!

I give the Beach-Rolly a score of 95 out of 100 and value it a “must have!”

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