We have all seen the stunning travel images of a beautiful starry night above the mountains, or magnificent cityscapes with the lights twinkling at night and wondered, how can I capture an image like that?
The essential piece of photography equipment to get these gorgeous photos in low light or night time conditions is a travel tripod. The travel tripod provides the stability needed to get crisp pictures at slower shutter speeds, giving you unique destination images that are sure to amaze your friends.
The problem is that tripods tend to be a bulky piece of equipment that may not initially seem worth the space in your travel bag to carry. Luckily, the market has spoken, and the travel tripod is the answer.
Made from lighter materials with a more packable design, you no longer have to worry about the unmanageable studio tripods that will tip the scales at the airport.
However, as with any piece of gear, not all travel tripods are equal. So, here are a few things to consider before purchasing your travel tripod.
Top 5 Travel Tripods
-Quick and easy setup
-Two lockable angles
|3 Legged Thing Eclipse Leo Airhead Switch kit|
-Two section center column
|Manfrotto PIXI Evo|
-Table top Tripod
-Small enough for coat pocket
|MeFoto RoadTrip Air|
-Built in Selfie Stick
|Vanguard VEO 235AB|
-Rubber feet pads
Quick Answer: Best Travel Tripods
- Best For Everyday Use: Benro SystemGo Plus Aluminum Tripod
- Best Value: Dolica AX620B100 62-Inch Proline Tripod and Ball Head
- Best Flexible Leg Tripod: JOBY GorillaPod 1K Compact Tripod
- Best Versatility: MeFOTO GlobeTrotter Classic Aluminum Travel Tripod
- Best Compact: Manfrotto PIXI Evo Tripod
- Best All-Weather: 3 Legged Thing Punks Travis Magnesium Alloy Tripod
- Best Aluminum: Manfrotto Befree Tripod
- Best Carbon Fiber: Manfrotto 290 Xtra Carbon Fiber 3-Section Tripod
Best Travel Tripod Variables to Consider
Weight vs. Cost Ratio
Weight is arguably the most important aspect when selecting a travel tripod. It is was sets these tripods apart from their studio counterparts and is what allows you to take it just about anywhere without weighing you down to much.
Due to this, this feature is also what makes a travel tripod more expensive. The lighter the travel tripod, the more money you are going to be shelling out.
That is why it is important to determine your weight to cost ratio. Lighter travel tripods around the 3 lb range can run you around $200 while the bulkier options of around 5 lbs will be around $50.
So, if you plan on walking miles upon miles in the day carrying your camera equipment, it may be in your best interest to spend the extra money, but if the tripod will likely just be transferred from your luggage to a shooting site you might be able to save some money by getting something heavier.
You also need to consider the overall weight of your camera equipment outside of the tripod. If you plan to travel with a smaller camera with only one lens, you can get a heavier tripod because the base weight is slimmer.
When you are buying a product that has the job of holding up thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment you want to make sure it isn’t going to buckle or fall over at the slightest breeze. That is why stability is second only to weight when it comes to choosing the perfect travel tripod.
When talking about stability there are two main factors to consider: how stable the tripod is on its own and how much weight it can support. The stability of a tripod on its own comes from a few things.
A center column will distribute the weight more evenly giving much more stability. Also, the locking mechanisms used for the legs will keep it from toppling over.
While twist locks give you a faster set up, they aren’t always as reliable as flip locks which take a little more force to be knocked out of place.
Next, when considering a tripod’s camera support weight, you do NOT want to simply use the base weight of your camera and lenses. This can put too much pressure on the tripod and leaves no room to grow your equipment.
Consider a travel tripod that can support at least one pound over your heaviest gear weight to make it can accommodate your needs both now and in the future.
When it comes to the size of your tripod, you need to consider the type of setting you will be shooting in. For example, if you plan to be shooting on busy streets or crowded areas, the minimum height of your travel tripod should be 59 inches.
This will give you enough height to shoot over crowds while maintaining the ability to pack down to less than 17 inches. At this fold down height, you will easily still be able to fit your travel tripod in your carry on and on your camera pack without issue.
If you plan on shooting more landscape photography while you travel, you would be able to get away with a shorter tripod of a maximum height of about 50 inches which will naturally pack down a bit further.
Ease of use
Ease of use may be a hard thing to quantify in the realm of travel tripods especially if you are buying online. However, it is definitely something you should take into consideration, especially if your travels are not intended to center around your photography.
Ease of use is determined by how easy it is to set up, break down and adjust. This will save you some aggravation if you are on a trip with your family and they don’t want to wait 5 minutes every time you want to get a shot.
Twist locks are a favorite in the travel tripod genre because they allow you to easily twist and slide each section of the legs with minimal effort. However, there are many flip locks that can stand on their own in the ease of use category. It is a matter of testing them out and seeing which you may prefer.
You will also want to look for a travel tripod that includes quick release plates. These plates allow you to attach and detach your camera quickly and easily from the tripod screw mount.
However, if you find a tripod that fits all of your travel needs but does not include a quick-release plate you don’t need to worry. Many plates can be purchased aftermarket to fit multiple tripods.
Carbon Fiber vs. Aluminum
The majority of travel tripods you will find are made from either aluminum or carbon fiber. The reason for this is that they are both durable, can withstand the elements, and have an inherent lightweight nature. Although there are some differences between the two.
Aluminum tripods are the most popular. This is because of how cost-effective they can be. If you are doing part-time photography that isn’t going to be banging your tripod up a mountain or shooting inside of extreme rains or snows aluminum is a great option. They can handle a decent amount of wear and tear while maintaining their stability and your pocketbook.
Carbon fiber travel tripods are the upper class of the tripod world. These are used most by professional travel photographers or those with enough money to throw at the best tripod money can buy. These travel tripods can last a lifetime and can take a beating much better than their aluminum cousins.
While this article is meant to focus on travel tripods, we can not leave out the monopod from the discussion. As the name suggests, this camera stabilizer comes with one extendable leg which you hold in one hand while you shoot with the other.
The monopods are naturally cheaper and lighter in weight than the traditional tripod which makes them a fun option. Of course, they don’t offer the same stability, but if you are looking to get great quick shots without the shakes, you may want to consider the monopod. These are especially great for hiking, fitting into your carry on, and exploring cities.
Best Travel Tripod Recommendations
MeFoto RoadTrip Travel tripod
The MeFoto RoadTrip travel tripod is the perfect tripod for those with high-level heavy-duty equipment. With a huge load capacity, great packability and large maximum height you are able to have a tripod that has the ability to grow with your gear, skills, and travels.
Also, it’s the ability to convert to a monopod in a pinch makes it one of the most accessible and well-rounded travel tripods there is on the market.
- Maximum height 61.6”
- Folded height 15.4”
- Weight 3.6lbs
- Load capacity 17.6lbs
- Smartphone clamp
- Built in Selfie Stick
- Twist lock legs
- 5 year warranty
Check MeFoto RoadTrip Air price at Amazon
Manfrotto Befree Live is a compact travel video tripod kit, dedicated to videographers and vloggers who want maximum performance, even when they are on the go.
It fulfills an increasing demand for a lightweight, ergonomic travel tripod that is easy-to-carry. It is designed for video recording with DSLRs, compact system cameras or small camcorders up to 8.8 lbs.
The new generation of Befree Live (V2) has significantly improved features on the tripod legs: stronger core for extra stability, Easy Link (1/8″ attachment) to mount accessories and ergonomic angle selector with 3 angle options instead of 2.
- Extended Height=56in
- Folded Height=16in
- Quick and easy setup
- Two lockable angles
Check Manfrotto Befree Tripod price at Amazon
3 Legged Thing Eclipse Leo Airhead Switch Kit
3 Legged Thing’s Leo is the first-ever professional micro-traveler. Packing an unprecedented level of functionality and capability, Leo transcends the divide between compact travel and professional tripod systems.
Gritty, determined, and anti-establishment, Leo challenges the very fabric of our understanding of conventional tripod technology.
Our patented Tri-Mount plate offers multiple threaded connections and three hollowed spurs for accessory attachments. 3 Legged Thing’s unique Parallel Locking system provides better leverage, and greater rigidity, without the hassle of accidental disassembly.
Leo, like all 3 Legged Thing tripods, comes with a detachable monopod leg that can also be used as a microphone or camera boom.
- Carbon Fiber
- Extended Height=57in
- Folded Height=14in
- Detachable monopod
- Two section center column
Check 3 Legged Thing Eclipse Leo Airhead Switch kit price at Amazon
Manfrotto PIXI Evo
Two leg angle positions and two leg sections with intermediate steps for a larger footprint that adapt to non-level surfaces and enable ground level shooting.
The increased payload lets you use your PIXI EVO with a wider range of cameras with larger, heavier lenses. Follow your inspiration; feel free to shoot in portrait mode with the peace of mind of great stability and precision for the most accurate pictures.
- Extended Height=7.8in
- Folded Height=7.8in
- Weight= 0.58lbs
- Table top Tripod
- Small enough for coat pocket
Check Manfrotto PIXI Evo Tripod price at Amazon
Vanguard VEO 235AB
The VEO tripod collection is the industry’s first traveler tripod with the all new, patented rapid column rotation feature allowing the VEO tripod to fold into a super compact travel size and helps you set up more quickly.
Even with its remarkable portability, VEO tripods do not sacrifice sturdiness. Equipped with tension adjustable extra strong leg locks, VEO tripods have a higher loading capacity than others of its kind.
- Extended Height=57.8in
- Folded Height=14.9in
- Retractable Spikes
- Rubber feet pads
Check Vanguard VEO 235AB price at Amazon
Not finding what you are looking for? Check out our favorite places to go shopping for travel gear.
- Shop Columbia: The industry leader in outdoor apparel and products; You can find anything from great jackets, gloves, hats, shirts and travel pants.
- Shop REI: They offer some of the best outdoor gear around. We love REI since they have a year Love it or hate it no questions guarantee.
- Shop Moosejaw: Has a huge selection of outdoor gear at killer prices.
- Shop Sierra Trading Post: You can get some of the best prices on outdoor camping goods here, but most items they have are last year models for about 40% off.
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- GoPro Dome: How to Choose the Best One & Take Epic Photos
- Common GoPro Mistakes Adventure Travelers Make
- Choosing the Best Camera Strap: Know Your Options
- Best Compact Binoculars for Outdoors & Travel
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