CAMPING & HIKING

Best Backpacking Tripod: Things of Three

Best Backpacking Tripod
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Think about the significance of things of three. How many things can you remember? I think of childhood stories: The Three Bears; Three Blind Mice; Three Little Kittens; Three Little Pigs; Three Billy Goats Gruff; and Three Musketeers.

Then, there are things such as a three-corner hat; three-legged stool; a three wheeler; three holes in a bowling ball; and three-ring notebooks. What about phrases: Three-dog night; three coins in a fountain; three’s a crowd; three sheets to the wind; and a three ring circus. Today we are going to focus on another three-legged device: the best backpacking tripod.

Whether you are backpacking through Europe or on the Appalachian Trail, you are going to see some great scenery. It could be ancient castles that sit high on mountain ridges, or it could be a moose eating in a secluded lake. Either way, you are going to want to get some great photographs of your journey.

Photographer is standing with his camera on tripod

In the case of wildlife, the use of a tripod is going to be helpful. It will give you stability and opportunity to be steadier as you direct the camera lens toward your target. A tripod is a great addition to your gear if you are a photographer, wildlife watcher, hunter and more.

Most tripods will accommodate a broad range of cameras, scopes, binoculars and video cameras. These hiking tripods are great because they are smaller in size and weight and can be used in a variety of situations.

Typical Features: Three to Get Ready

When choosing a tripod, there will be some standard features and some extras you will want to check out to ensure you are getting the best hiking tripod for your needs.

Weight

Most likely we don’t have to mention weight, but depending on where you are hiking and the length of your hike, the weight will be significant. Compare several tripods and see if they fall in a range that suits you.

Traveler with backbag and tripod

Folded Dimensions

Similar to weight, the folded dimensions will be necessary. You will want to make sure it fits in your pack or can strap on to your pack without any trouble.

Tripod and backpack

Max Safe Load

Most tripods have a particular weight they can hold. If you know the weight of the camera or scope or device you will be using, you can check to make sure the tripod can accommodate that weight. Don’t forget to factor in the weight of the lens as well.

Camera on tripod in studio

Platform/Mount

Flexibility will be the name of the game. It will be well worth investigating the type of mount the tripod has and how many angle adjustments can be made. You want to have the best panoramic views (360º); the most vertical tilt (+/- 90°); and the most horizontal range (+/- 20°). The most common mount is a ¼-20 female thread screw. Before you buy a tripod, make sure your device will use the same size mount.

Silhouette of photographer with tripot at sunset

Frame

The structure itself needs to be adjustable on all legs so that it will accommodate slopes and unlevel spaces. Frames are made of a variety of materials. You will want one that is durable and can withstand hiking trips such as the ones you are going to make. You will want it light weight and rust proof. You want it to be easy to set up and use.

Pakpod packable tripod

Use

Another thing to consider is how you will use the tripod. Will it only stand on table tops? Will you use it propped up on the slope of a mountain? How about strapped to a tree or pole or rail? It may be used under water. Make sure the tripod you choose will accommodate your intended purpose.

Underwater tripod

Warranty

How well is this product backed up and supported by its brand? Is there a 1-year, 2-year or lifetime warranty? These are questions you need to ask yourself, plus you need to decide if it matters. Some tripods are inexpensive, and you may be happy if they last just a season or two. It is up to you.

There you have a rundown of the features we are going to look at for each of our selected three-legged gear buddies. There is quite a range here so be in mind of how each tripod will meet your requirements and fit the bill for what you need in a tripod.

Camera on tripod

Tripods: Three-Legged Race

So, the race is on to tell you about our selected tripods. We’ve done our research and bring you the best hiking tripods out there. Check out our selection and see if you can find just the right one for you.

Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight

Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight Camera Tripod

Weight: 4.2 oz.

Folded Dimensions: 7″ x 2″ x 2″

Minimum Height: Unknown

Maximum Height: Unknown

Max Safe Load: 6 lbs

Mount: Ball and socket; quickly adjusts to any angle; 360° pan; +/- 90° tilt; +/- 20° angle

Platform: any device with ¼-20 female thread.

Frame: 30% glass-filled nylon resin

Warranty: Lifetime

Best Use: Will set on table top, and attach to trees, rails, bars with Velcro strap

The Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight will leave you standing amazed at its stability and versatility for such a small piece of gear. Not only will it set on a table top, but you can use the handy Velcro strap to attach it to a tree limb, a bench, a railing and such.

Or, you could attach it to a trekking pole and have a monopod in a snap. It is small enough to fit in your pack or even your back pocket easily. Don’t let its size fool you. The ball and socket mount adjusts quickly to practically every angle. There is a thumb screw for attaching your device.

There is a larger screw mechanism for tightening it in the position you need. Each of the legs has a rubber foot which helps it stand securely on slick table top surfaces.

Check the price on Amazon

Manfrotto 3-Section Tripod

Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055 Aluminium 3-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column

Weight: 5.5 lbs

Folded Dimensions: 5″ x 5″ x 24″

Minimum Height: 3.54”

Maximum Height: 66.93”

Max Safe Load: 19.8 lbs

Mount: No mounting head included

Platform: Any device with 3/8” screw

Frame: Aluminum with three leg sections

Best Use: Can be utilized almost anywhere

The Manfrotto tripod has everything you would need in a tripod. The legs have three telescoping sections with quick release locks that are ergonomic in that you need only one finger to operate them.

The legs will position in a variety of angles from the center allowing it to spread out and be placed lower to the ground. The center column is versatile in that it can move freely in a vertical fashion, but also can be positioned in a horizontal plane as well.

The center column also has an easy link connection for attaching accessories such as lighting or reflectors for example. The legs have rubber tips giving them a gripping ability when on slick surfaces. The top disc plate has an integrated rotating bubble level.

However, you will need to purchase a separate mount for your camera or device as this tripod does not include one. The top plate has a 3/8” stud for attaching the head. For backpackers, there is a bit of a trade-off here, a little more weight for an excellent tripod.

Check the price on Amazon

Pakpod Packable Tripod

Pakpod Packable Tripod

Weight: 15.5 oz.

Folded Dimensions: 3″ x 4″ x 12.75″

Minimum Height: 2.375”

Maximum Height: 17.75”

Max Safe Load: 5.5 lbs. with legs extended; 11 lbs. with legs retracted

Mount: Can accommodate a 3-way head

Platform: Any device with ¼-20 female thread

Frame: ABS plastic and stainless steel

Best Use: Will set on table top, patented stability stakes for sand, turf, and snow; can be utilized anywhere

The patented stake feet of Pakpod Packable Tripod remind me of a creature waiting to pounce! This little tripod will help you jump on some of the best photographs of your life.

It has versatile positioning power, and the stake feet will help it stand in sand, dirt, snow and other fewer stable foundations. The telescopic legs have 36 preset rigging points.

This tripod is easy to deploy with snapping locks on the legs and feet. This tripod does not come with a mounting head but can handle a 3-way head. Your device will attach directly to the tripod with the mounting screw but will have little range of motion, getting a separate head will improve this tripod significantly.

Amazon does have bundle pricing to include a head. This little number is approved to be carried on airplanes as well, so if your adventures take you far afield, this tripod can easily join you.

Check the price on Amazon

Dolica Ultra Premium 60-Inch

Dolica LX600B502DS Ultra Premium Professional 60-Inch Lightweight Aluminum Alloy Tripod

Weight: 4.5 oz.

Folded Dimensions: 4″ x 5″ x 25″

Minimum Height: 21”

Maximum Height: 60”

Max Safe Load: 20 lbs

Mount: Ball head with panoramic angle; 360° pan; +/- 90° tilt; quick release; bubble level

Platform: Any device with ¼-20 female thread.

Frame: Aluminum with anodized finish for durability

Best Use: Will set on table top, and can be utilized almost anywhere

This Dolica tripod has some nice features. For starters, the mount is a ball joint with full panoramic range as well as a 90º tilt up and down. The head has a quick release as well as an integrated bubble level.

There is also an integrated screw on the plate where you could add accessories such as lighting or reflectors. This ball head is removable and can be replaced with other devices or heads as you see fit.

There are large knobs and grips for ease of use. The telescoping legs each have four sections and have twist locks. The center pole also has telescoping sections and can be completely removed from the tripod to be used as a monopod.

The center pole can also be attached to the tripod in an upside down manner to get shots that are very low to the ground. This versatile tripod comes with a very nice zippered carrying case as well.

Check the price on Amazon

CS 50 Tabletop Mini Tripod

CS 50 Tabletop Mini Tripod with Swivel Ball Head

Weight: 3.2 oz.

Folded Dimensions: 1.69″ x 1.69” x 7.25″

Minimum Height: 4”

Maximum Height: 7.25”

Max Safe Load: 3 lbs

Mount: Ball and socket; quickly adjusts to any angle; 360° pan; +/- 90° tilt

Platform: Any device with ¼-20 female thread.

Frame: Solid aluminum

Warranty: 100% Lifetime Guarantee

Best Use: Will set on table top or other sturdy surfaces

The CS 50 Tabletop Mini Tripod has sturdy legs made of solid aluminum. The legs are not telescoping, but this tripod is perfect for setting on table tops and other firm surfaces.

Your device will attach very easily to the ball and socket head which will give you the full panoramic range of motion and well and horizontal and vertical. There is a large locking screw that will lock the ball in place, so your camera will be sturdy and secure.

This head is not removable from the tripod; however, it is compatible with a broad range of gear. If you are looking for a reliable tripod that will hold your camera sturdy for some micro-shots, look no more, this tripod can easily do the job.

Check the price on Amazon

Sirui T-005KX 52″ Aluminum Alloy

Sirui T-005KX 52 - Aluminum Alloy Tripod

Weight: 1.9 oz.

Folded Dimensions: 7″ x 2″ x 2″

Minimum Height: 4.3”

Maximum Height: 54.5”

Max Safe Load: 8.8 lbs

Mount: Ball head; quickly adjusts to any angle; 360° pan; +/- 90° tilt

Platform: Any device with ¼-20 female thread.

Frame: Aluminum alloy (aircraft grade)

Best Use: Will set on table top or other sturdy surfaces

This Sirui T-005KX 52″ Aluminum Alloy offers a lot of versatility in a small package. Just think, able to extend 4½ feet from a mere 7″. Each leg has five telescoping sections with a twist lock system for easy changes.

There is a center column that can be completely removed and the device attached just to the legs to achieve and extremely low-level shot. The center column also has a hook on the bottom if you need to weigh it down a little bit in windy conditions. One drawback is the center column cannot be adjusted; it is either on or off the tripod, there is no vertical movement.

The ball head will quickly adapt to any angle. There is a camera plate that can be used or removed. When using it, there is just a screw element to lock it in place. Take extra precaution to make sure it is locked in.

There is a lot of versatility, stability, and durability in this little tripod. It is perfect for a lot of applications. It comes with a nice little bag and will fit in your pack easily.

Check the price on Amazon

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Tripod Kit

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod Kit

Weight: 5.38 oz.

Folded Dimensions: 30.75″ x 5.1″ x 4.7″

Minimum Height: 10.375”

Maximum Height: 68.125”

Max Safe Load: 15.4 lbs

Mount: Ball and socket; quickly adjusts to any angle; 360° pan; +/- 90° tilt

Platform: Any device with ¼-20 female thread.

Frame: Aluminum

Best Use: Will set on table top, stand alone and many types of surfaces

Of all the tripods we have looked at Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Tripod Kit is probably the largest, most heavy duty. It can support devices up to 15 lbs. safely. It extends well beyond five feet, but yet it also shrinks down low for those close-up shots.

Each leg has three telescoping sections. Each section utilizes a quick flip locking mechanism that will hold the legs in place and then quickly unlock and retract back when ready. There are rubber feet that can be removed to reveal retractable spikes. Each leg has 25-, 50- and 80º angles to reach the low shots.

There is also a center column that moves 180º, which gives you more versatility in your angles. It has a stop and lock system that allows for quick, smooth adjustments of the center column.

The size will be something to plan for if you are going to take it hiking. It weighs just over five pounds, but the 30” length may be the limiting factor. Depending on your pack, you should be able to strap it to your pack and make weight adjustments accordingly.

If you like to take a lot of photographs of scenic views, it will be worth carrying this tripod along so you get the clearest pictures you can.

Check the price on Amazon

Pedco UltraPod Lightweight

Pedco UltraPod Lightweight Camera Tripod

Weight: 0.9 oz.

Folded Dimensions: 4″ x 1″ x 1.25″

Max Safe Load: 3 lbs

Mount: U-Ball and socket; quickly adjusts to any angle; 360° pan; +/- 90° tilt; +/- 20° angle

Platform: any device with ¼-20 female thread.

Frame: Fiberglass reinforced nylon with aluminum threaded components

Warranty: Lifetime

Best Use: Will set on table top, and attach to trees, rails, bars with 12” Velcro strap

This little Pedco UltraPod Lightweight tripod is quite a wonder at all that it can do. It works best with small cameras and devices up to 3 pounds. It can stand nicely on a table top.

It can also be used on a variety of unique spots like the handlebar of your bicycle, a tree branch, a park bench, a tent pole, virtually anything that it can strap to with a 12″ Velcro strap.

The ball and socket mount allow for viewing in a wide range of angles from 360º panoramic, 90º vertical up and down, and a 20º tilt on the other axis. The 4” legs make this one of, if not the smallest tripod in its class. It is small enough you can stick it in your back pocket. It is a very portable unit to take with you on your next hiking trip.

Check the price on Amazon

Conclusion

Tripods big and small are available for your activity. The heaviest weight tripod on this list is still less than 6 pounds. If you are a serious photographer, that will be nothing compared to some other camera equipment.

The smaller tripods that will fit in your back pocket don’t have quite the versatility as the bigger one, but still, do a fabulous job holding your camera steady for that perfect shot. All of these tripods could hit the trail with a few minor adjustments.

Woman tourist holding a photo camera on tripod and taking picture

The key takeaways from this article are 1) get a tripod that will meet your needs. 2) Make sure the mounting head has a full range of motion. 3) Look for something with ease of use locks on leg joints and head adjustments. 4) Put it to use and enjoy its features.

One last thing about “threes” before we close this article, here is one strong reminder: “leaves of three let them be.” Be careful where you place your tripod! Don’t be itching to get that award winning photo! Happy viewing!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

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