As photographers, we often hesitate to grab an essential part of any toolkit, the tripod. And the last thing you want while traveling is to lug around a bulky tripod. But, even with the advent of stabilized sensors, sometimes our hands alone aren’t stable enough. And they’re definitely not stable enough to shoot a long exposure, star trails, or time-lapses. And in these situations, a tripod is the perfect aid.
Thankfully, there are plenty of lightweight options that make the results worthwhile. And better yet, they also fold down small enough to stow into a camera bag. But, the amount of “travel” tripods on the market right now is just obnoxious. And like the full-sized market, this segment is also flooded with knock-off brands, most of which aren’t durable and trustworthy. For years, these so-called traveling tripods were notoriously short and flimsy.
But, since 2016, manufacturers have gotten serious about this segment. And with recent innovations, things have changed. With that, we’ve created a complete guide on what to look for when shopping. And we’ve also compiled a list of the top ten best travel tripods in today’s market.
Jump to a Section
- 10 – Sirui T-025SK
- 9 – Sirui W-1204
- 8 – Vanguard Veo 2 Go 265HCBM
- 7 – 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian Carbon Fiber
- 6 – Benro Slim Tripod Kit
- 5 – MeFOTO GlobeTrotter S
- 4 – Joby GorillaPod 5K
- 3 – Peak Design Travel Tripod
- 2 – MeFOTO RoadTrip S
- 1 – Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod
- Buyers Guide
- How to choose the best travel tripod?
- What is a travel tripod?
- Tripod Head Types
10 – Sirui T-025SK
Sirui’s T-025SK is the evolution of the older T-025X. Released in 2019, they offer this tripod in either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions and two sizes.
When collapsed, the carbon fiber variant measures 13.4 inches (34 cm) with a minimum height of 12 inches (30.5 cm) and a maximum height of 51.2 inches (130 cm) with the center column extended. This variant is also incredibly lightweight at 2.2 lbs (1.005 kg), including the ball head. However, it supports a maximum payload of 13.2 lbs (6 kg). It uses 5-section legs with three locking angles and twisting leg locks with full weather sealing. Sirui’s also redesigned the legs with this model. And they now use an 8-layer carbon fiber construction, increasing stability, and the semi-automatic selector for quick adjustments.
The locks are well-positioned, making releases easy and quick with a single hand. It also uses a 2-staged rapid center column, increasing height. But it’s removable for low-angle macro shots. Sirui also includes the B-00K ball head, which offers independent pan and friction controls. Other bonuses include three foam grips, a quick-release plate, a center-column hook, a built-in level, and a carrying case.
Overall, Sirui’s T-025SK is ideal for looking for a simple package with maximum portability.
9 – Sirui W-1204
Sirui’s W-1204 is the lightest option in their W-series tripods. Released in 2016, this series offers two sizes, and either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions.
The carbon fiber variant folds to 19.3 inches (49 cm) with a minimum height of 5.7 inches (14.5 cm) and a maximum height of 64.9 inches (165.1 cm) with the center column extended. And it remains surprisingly lightweight at only 3.0 lbs (1.4 kg) while offering a maximum payload of 33.1 lbs (15 kg). It uses 4-section legs with three locking angles and twisting locks. And these legs feature Sirui’s Waterproof Sealing System (WPS) with 10-layers of carbon fiber for full weather sealing and smooth adjustments.
The smallest legs also have a scale, saving time adjusting the horizontal height without guessing. Its center column also separates, converting the whole tripod into a 63.7-inch extendable monopod. Plus, it also inverts, and SIRUI installed a detachable short mode, both of which are perfect for macro photography. It even has both 1/4 and 3/8-inch screws for attaching a head or camera directly. Other bonuses include two foam grips, a built-in level, a center-column hook, spiked replacement feet, and a carrying case.
Overall, Sirui’s W-1204, while not the lightest option, is undoubtedly sturdy and supports enormous payloads for a tripod of its size. Given its versatility, it’s quite the workhorse of a tripod and a solid all-rounder for the price.
8 – Vanguard Veo 2 Go 265HCBM
With the release of the VEO 2 Go series, Vanguard’s upped their game. Released in 2019, the 265HCB aims to be a direct competitor to Manfrotto’s BeFree Advanced. They offer this tripod in two sizes with either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions.
When collapsed, the taller carbon fiber variant folds to 16.1 inches (40.9 cm) with a minimum height of 9.5 inches (24.1 cm) and a maximum height of 65.5 inches (166.4 cm). While heavier than its siblings, this variant remains quite lightweight for its range at 3.12 lbs (1.4 kg). And it supports a maximum payload of 22 lbs (10 kg). It uses 5-section legs with three locking angles and rubber twist leg locks. Vanguard’s also redesigned the legs with a new leg angle adjuster with easy to use spring levers.
It also has a 2-section center column with the new Low Angle Adapter (LAA), reducing the height. Plus, it also detaches, converting the tripod into a monopod with an extended height of 66.9 inches. Vanguard bundles the T-50 ball head, which has dedicated friction, lock, and pan controls. And other bonuses include a foam grip, a quick-release plate, a center-column hook, spiked replacement feet, a built-in level, a ten year extended warranty, and a carrying case.
Overall, Vanguards Veo 2 is an excellent refinement over earlier models. It’s stylish, but its lightweight, robust construction quickly stands out from competitors. And it delivers usability that makes for a reliable go-to everyday tripod.
7 – 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian Carbon Fiber
3 Legged Thing’s Punks Brian expands their existing range of travel tripods as the flagship travel option. And like the Corey, it’s an adaption of the original Punks tripod with added features.
When collapsed, it measures 16.1 inches (41 cm) with a minimum height of 7.5 inches (19.1 cm) and a maximum height of 73.6 inches (187 cm) with the center column extended. It’s lightweight at 3.0 lbs (1.45 kg) and manages payloads 10x its weight at 30 lbs (14 kg). Like the Corey, it uses 5-section legs manufactured from 8 layers of carbon fiber. These legs use twist locks with three locking angles and detachable feet. And it also uses a dual center column, which detaches, converting the tripod into a 75-inch monopod, adding versatility.
The center column is also reversible for low-angle shooting. Plus, it doubles as a camera or microphone boom arm. 3 Legged Thing ships this tripod with the AirHed Neo ball head, which has dedicated pan and friction controls. And other bonuses include a center-column hook, a quick-release plate, a built-in level, a five-year warranty, and a carrying case.
Overall, 3 Legged Thing’s Brian supplies everything you’d want from a travel tripod. And it’s massive working height rivals tripods many times its size and price. With this release, they’ve created a real travel tripod that impresses and sets new benchmarks.
6 – Benro Slim Tripod Kit
Benro’s Slim aims to sway users with affordable, high-quality options. Released in 2017, the Slim series expands with two new models, in either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions, that are ideal for travel.
When collapsed, the carbon fiber variant measures 20.1 inches (51 cm) with a minimum height of 15.7 inches (40 cm) and a maximum height of 57.6 inches (146.3 cm) with the center column extended. This variant is also incredibly lightweight at 2.2 lbs (1.01 kg), including the ball head. But, it supports a maximum payload of 8.8 lbs (4 kg). The tripod uses 4-section legs with twist locks and three locking angles. And these locks unlock with a single half-turn, making quick teardowns efficient and easy.
It also uses a rapid center column, which additionally is reversible for ground-level shots. Benro includes the N00 ball head, which features an oversized ratchet control knob and a panoramic scale. Other bonuses include a quick-release plate, a built-in level, a center-column hook, and a carrying case.
Overall, Benro’s Slim is the ideal option for those hesitant with using a tripod out in the field. It’s both affordable and lightweight, neither bogging down your kit or your wallet. And it’s only slightly more expensive than the cheapest models on the market at its current price. But, it offers a superior build quality from a trusted brand designed to last.
5 – MeFOTO GlobeTrotter S
MeFOTO’s GlobeTrotter is the biggest option in the MeFOTO family, but it remains a solid go-anywhere tripod. Released in 2018, they offer this tripod in aluminum or two carbon fiber constructions and five different colors.
When collapsed, the Carbon Fiber S variant measures 15.7 inches (39.8 cm) with the same minimum height and a maximum height of 61.6 inches (156.4 cm). And considering its range, it’s quite lightweight at 3.5 lbs (1.6 kg) and supports a maximum payload of 26.5 lbs (12 kg). It uses 4-section legs with twisting leg locks and a 2-section center column, which converts into a 64-inch monopod. MeFOTO also provides the Q2G ball head with separate pan and locking knobs. Other bonuses include a textured foam grip, a quick-release plate, and a carrying case.
Overall, MeFOTO’s GlobeTrotter is light considering its versatility. And it’s a nice compliment to the traveling pro as a durable option.
4 – Joby GorillaPod 5K
Joby’s GorillaPod 5K comes as an update over the original GorillaPod lineup with a new design and the strongest option to date. Released in 2017, it’s aimed at users wanting to take advantage of their flexible tripod designs with a full-frame DSLR and pro lens setup.
Unlike traditional tripod designs, the 5K uses Joby’s acclaimed flexible ball and socket legs with rubber grips made from a hybrid of aluminum, plastic, and stainless steel. This ball joint design allows the tripod to bend and wrap around objects and mount virtually anywhere. The tripod measures 15.2 inches (38.6 cm), and combined with the included BallHead 5K, it weighs only 1.6 lbs (0.73 kg). Yet, it supports 11 lb (5 kg) payloads. Joby ships the tripod with the BallHead 5K, which has separate pan and friction controls and a quick release plate.
Overall, Joby’s GorillaPod 5K is a fitting piece of gear that’s ideal for the traveling pro looking for the flexibility it offers over traditional tripods. Many assume locations will lack a mounting surface. But, this is a rare scenario in real life. Sure, there are trade-offs compared to other travel tripods. But, the benefits in portability and the unique angles available are worthwhile. And as their flagship, it’s reliable. You can have confidence mounting thousands in professional gear to even the riskiest surfaces.
3 – Peak Design Travel Tripod
Peak Design’s Travel Tripod is their latest Kickstarter backed project. Released in 2020, they’ve redesigned this tripod from the ground up rather than knocking off the same design synonymous with the category. And they offer this tripod in either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions.
When collapsed, the tripod folds to 15.2 inches (38.5 cm) with a minimum height of 5.5 inches (14 cm) and a maximum height of 60.2 inches (153 cm) with the center column extended. The aluminum variant weighs 3.44 lbs (1.56 kg) and supports 20 lb (9.1 kg) payloads. Peak Design spent four years developing this release. And they’ve specifically designed the tripod to remove all unnecessary bulk, maximizing space.
It uses 5-section legs with hooked lever locks for added security. And these legs fold closer than traditional designs, making the entire package only as wide as a water bottle. They also include a ball head with a built-in level, and it’s also reversible, allowing you to shoot straight down. Other bonuses include a quick-release plate, a center-column hook with a mobile mount, and a carrying case.
Overall, Peak Design has reinvented the traditional design for travel tripods with this release. And they’ve innovated, creating the ideal traveling companion for its size and strength.
2 – MeFOTO RoadTrip S
MeFOTO’s RoadTrip S is their mid-tier option of the MeFOTO family. Released in 2018, it marks a refresh over the original RoadTrip with reduced weight and an updated design. MeFOTO offers this tripod in two variants of either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions and five colors.
When collapsed, the carbon fiber variant measures 13.9 inches (35.50 cm) with the same minimum height and a maximum height of 61.6 inches (156.5 cm) with the center column extended. And at 2.93 lbs (1.33 kg), it’s quite lightweight, yet still offers a maximum payload of 17.6 lbs (8 kg). Like the original model, this tripod uses 5-section legs with twisting leg locks. But, they’re redesigned with deeper ridges for a solid grip. The tripod also uses a 2-section center column, which attaches to a leg and converts into a 61.4 inch (156 cm) monopod. And MeFOTO ships it with the Q1 ball head, which has separate pan and friction controls. Other bonuses include a textured foam grip, a quick-release plate, a center-column hook, and a carrying case.
Overall, MeFOTO’s RoadTrip continues the traditions behind the line and remains inexpensive, compact, and stylish. And it’s an excellent travel and an everyday option for those wanting maximum portability at an affordable price.
1 – Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod
Manfrotto’s BeFree Advanced is their latest release and the successor to the original models that initially popularised the travel category. Released in 2018, Manfrotto offers this tripod in either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions and two leg locking styles.
When collapsed, the carbon fiber variant measures 16.1 inches (40.9 cm) with the same minimum height and a maximum height of 59.1 inches (150.1 cm). And it weighs 2.75 lb (1.25 kg), making it a leader in the ultra-lightweight category. And it still manages a 17.6 lb (8 kg) payload, doubling its predecessor in this regard. The tripod uses 4-section legs with twisting M-locks and three locking angles. And the legs have interchangeable feet for quick replacements to spiked feet when needed. Manfrotto also ships this tripod with the 494 ball head with dedicated lock and friction controls. And this tripod has the new Quick Link Port, which allows you to attach accessories such as flashes or reflectors. Other bonuses include a ten-year warranty, a quick-release plate, and a carrying case.
Overall, Manfrotto’s BeFree Advanced offers notable upgrades that make a superior refinement over the original model. And it redefines this genre as the best all-rounded tripod to date. It stands as the perfect option for traveling photographers wanting both superior performance and rigidity in a compact package.
How to choose the best travel tripod?
Before we continue, let’s first cover some basics about travel tripods.
What is a travel tripod?
By definition, a tripod is a portable device that uses three legs for stabilization. And this platform creates a stable supporting surface against downward and horizontal forces. The tripod’s entire role is to stabilize your camera—the better the construction, the better the stabilization and long-term dependability.
However, when it comes to construction, several factors combine to determine a tripod’s overall reliability. And these are the factors you’ll want to consider while shopping around.
Today’s travel tripods come in three flavors of construction: aluminum, magnesium, or carbon fiber. Aluminum is the least expensive but typically weighs more. Carbon fiber weighs less but is generally more expensive. And magnesium is a hybrid between the two. The trade-off outside of just price is that aluminum does age quicker. And they can rust and degrade after only five years of use. In contrast, carbon fiber can easily last for decades and is more reliable long-term. And since they usually reduce weight by 25%, they offer distinct advantages for traveling shooters.
When choosing materials, consider how long you plan on using the tripod. If you only travel temporarily, look for aluminum options and save the money. Otherwise, if you travel a lot, consider carbon fiber and purchase your tripod as a long-term investment.
Standard travel tripods weigh less than 3.5 lbs. And options under 3.0 lbs are considered “ultra-lightweight.” When traveling, weight is a serious consideration. Ideally, you want the lightest tripod possible. But, lightweight tripods usually reduce the maximum payload, so there’s a trade-off here. “Maximum payload” refers to the general range of weight a tripod can withstand, ranging from 6-30 lbs. And it’s crucial to have a tripod that can adequately hold your camera’s weight. A tripod struggling under too much weight will shake, reducing sharpness and image quality. And it can also easily fall over, destroying your gear during high winds.
But, picking the best tripod isn’t just about getting the smallest one on the market, as the differences in weight are often unnoticeable during real-world use. And the “heavier” option on paper always creates a more stable platform.
For this, think about how heavy your setup is before deciding on an option. If you don’t need a tripod rated for over 10 lbs, skip them and get a more compact lightweight option. But, make sure to weigh your largest camera and lens combination beforehand, so you don’t make the mistake of purchasing the wrong one.
Tripod Head Types
In most cases, the ball head is detachable, so you can install other tripod heads if you’d like, such as Pistol Grips or Pan-Tilt heads.
For this, go with whichever style suits you.
The tripod’s height is crucial. This is measured by how tall it stands fully extended. Travel tripods come in all different sizes, and their minimum and maximum heights vary. Choosing the right one will depend on the working range that you need. But know, most travel tripods don’t reach the same heights of full-sized tripods, since taller tripods weigh more. In general, most tripods extend to 5-6 feet (60-72 inches), with the center column extended. If you’re tall, you’ll need to bend over slightly while shooting if you want to compose through the viewfinder. But, avoid anything under 50 inches, as you’ll have to stoop quite a bit while shooting, which will quickly become painful.
Another aspect here is the tripods folded or collapsed height. If you’re planning on packing the tripod on flights, you’ll want something that can easily fit into a carry-on backpack or suitcase. In general, look for options that collapse between 12-24 inches, as they’re safe for most airline carry-ons. Anything larger will become problematic, and anything smaller reduces stability and sturdiness.
For this, consider your current height so you can find an option that, ideally, allows you to compose using the viewfinder without slouching too much. Shorter options can quickly become dealer breakers for DSLR shooters. Though, they’re less of a problem for mirrorless users, especially if you can tilt the screen. But, they still limit maneuverability.
The legs are critical, as they stabilize the entire unit. Manufacturers construct the legs using either aluminum or carbon fiber, which both have pros and cons. And the legs are broken into sections. Travel tripods use more sections than their traditional counterparts, which allows them to fold small and stand tall. And the number of sections used determines their portability, the more sections, the more portable. They also determine the tripod’s stability, since each section is smaller in diameter than the one before. For this reason, 4-section tripods are more stable than 5-section tripods, especially during the wind.
The next question is how the sections lock, which occurs using levers or twist locks. Lever locks are usually more reliable, but they can be tedious to use depending on the design. Twist locks are slimmer and quicker to operate, but they’re more susceptible to dust and debris.
This section comes down to personal preference and price. Some photographers prefer twist locks others prefer 5-section tripods. Consider the amount of flexibility you want and how easily you need to break down the tripod.
This is important for traveling. Most manufacturers include rubber feet that are exchangeable, allowing you to attach spiked feet if needed. But, not all include the spiked replacement feet with the purchase.
Ideally, you want to look for options that include them or have retractable spikes.
Some tripods have center columns that rotate, invert, or tilt, which are great for macro shooting. Others offer counterweight hooks to mount weight for extra stability. For this, if these bonuses and extra features are important, consider them while shopping.