The best Travel Tripods: Your Complete Guide!
Being a professional photographer and seasoned traveller I had to learn it the hard way: finding the best travel tripod is a pretty hard task! I’ve tested plenty of them from all different companies throughout the years, in more than 70 different countries of the world (yep – I get around a lot). To make the decision on the best travel tripod for you easier I’ve set up this page where you can easily compare the current tripods that perfectly fit to travellers’ needs.
Overview – Comparing the Features of the best Travel Tripods 2014:
I’ve compiled the table below to give you a complete overview of the best travel tripods 2014. It helps you compare the most important tripod features: Size/Length folded, the minimum operating height, the maximum operating height, the tripod’s total weight and the maximum load the tripod head can carry. Green means a good result, orange an “OK” result, red a rather mediocre result. By clicking each column you can easily sort them by the most important features for your decision:
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All these tripods are marketed as specialized travel tripods and are made by reliable companies. While all these models are not bad, some really excel at certain points. If you’re wondering why there are no cheaper models included: for a proper travel tripod you should at least spend 150 USD in my opinion, everything below has its drawbacks. You should definitely stay away from tripods that cost 50 US dollars or less as you will have some unstable plastic thingie to carry around then. The tripods in the list that feature the “Editor Pick” sign are the ones I can highly recommend based on its product features and cost-performance ratio.
Some Background Information on Travel Tripods
Well, what makes travel tripods different from regular ones? No matter if you’re a professional photographer or just a regular traveller taking photos with his DSLR camera – having a tripod is essential for taking proper photos on the road. The problem is though: regular tripods are often heavy and bulky! There’s not way to fit them in your hand luggage on a plane, or take them with you on long hiking trips through the tropical jungle. That’s why manufacturers of photography gear like Gitzo or Dolica started to develop tripods that fit specifically to the needs of photographers on the road. Today, there’s a big market of travel tripods out there – sometimes big enough to confuse even professional photographers!
What does a good Travel Tripod need?
Although many companies market their tripods as “travel tripods” there are certain deciding key factors you should know about. In the following bit I have listed the five essential features a travel tripod should score some points in:
|A travel tripod has to e compact enough to fit into each traveller's backpack or hand luggage. Therefore the folded size and length of a good tripod for the road needs to be as small as possible.
|When on the road, every additional pound of equipment will be hard to carry around. Many of us have multiple lenses and camera bodies with us, so a tripod needs to be as lightweight as possible.
|Your tripod needs to be able to cover all possible situations you come across on the road. That's why it's always good to have a low minimum height to operate, but at the same time a high maximum height as well.
|Taking proper travel photos requires at least a decent DSLR camera - and additionally one or two (or rather more) good lenses. As this can become quite heavy, good travel tripods need to be able to support all this (expensive!) weight safely.
|There's a huge gap between cheap tripods made of plastic and more expensive ones made of aluminum, steel or even carbon. If a tripod should carry thousands of dollars of equipment, it certainly needs a good build quality.
Aren’t there cheaper tripods on the Market as well?
Yes, there are – but even if you are regular John Doe hobby travel photographer you should stay away from anything below 50 US dollars. The reasons are quite simple:
- Cheaper tripods will not be as sturdy, lightweight and compact as the “real” travel tripods I’ve listed above
- Cheaper tripods are made out of plastic which will not be as durable as the ones made from steel or aluminum. Additionally, plastic will warp over time.
- Cheaper tripods will not be able to support the weight of your DSLR camera. Just imagine the following scenario: you’re putting your 1.500 USD Canon Eos with its 1.200 USD Canon lens on a 39 USD tripod made of plastic out in the forest. A little wind from the side comes in and boom – there goes your expensive camera gear because you saved at the wrong end.
The best travel tripods can last decades because of the great engineering behind them. All these years of great photographs make a good tripod really worth its pricetag.
What do I need a Travel Tripod for?
If you’re an experienced photographer or even a professional, you don’t have to continue reading here because you should know this one. A tripod is essentially needed when you have to hold the camera still for a long time. This can be needed for the following scenarios:
- Long exposure shots: For some photography scenarios you will want to use a longer exposure with a very slow shutter speed. This can happen if you want to capture a moment of “movement” in your photograph, e.g. when taking a shot of a waterfall or a car in a busy street.
- Photographs with little light / Night shots: This is the most important scenario where you will definitely need a tripod. When it gets darker outside or inside a building, you will need a slow shutter speed to let as much light as possible get into your camera sensor. Therefore the only way of getting a good shot of a skyline at night or the interior of a low-lit church is to use a proper tripod.
- HDR photographs: Some people hate HDR photos, some people love them. If you want to use this technology (taking multiple shots of the same motive with different exposures and combining them afterwards via software) you will definitely need a tripod as all shots have to show the exact same motive.