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Ultimate Guide: Best Lightweight Travel Tripod – 10 Options

Our Ultimate Guide includes our favorite budget, mid-range, and premium lightweight travel tripods.

If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best lightweight travel tripods are then I’d recommend the following:

Tripods are not the most fun camera product to research or invest in, but they definitely have an important place in your toolset when you’re traveling.

The most important thing to remember is that everyone’s needs and uses are different. What might be a good tripod investment for one person might not make sense for you and vice versa.

This article is long, so if you want to jump straight to a specific topic, the Table of Contents will take you straight there.

Why Trust Me?

As with all of the Ultimate Guides I create, I have poured countless hours of research into this article to make sure I give you as much information as possible to help you make the best decision.

In my opinion, to truly understand what makes the best travel tripods, you need to have used them day in and day out in a variety of different situations.

I’ve been a professional travel photographer and filmmaker since 2018 and have been lucky enough to work on projects all over the world with brands such as Alaska Airlines, Kayak.com, Prague Tourism, Visa, Airbnb, and many more. If you’re curious to see the full list of companies we’ve worked with, just head over to our Work With Us page

When I first started, I always just bought the cheapest tripod I could find. However, after learning more about the different tripod options and missing my fair share of shots because of a low-quality tripod, I eventually invested in professional-quality tripods.

Most importantly, I’m just a message away. So, if you have any questions, just leave a comment below, email me at tom@witandfolly.co, or send me a DM on Instagram @tom.shu.

P.S. I answer every question that is sent

In-Depth Reviews of my 10 Favorite Travel Tripods

1. 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 Carbon Fiber Tripod

If you’re not familiar with 3 Legged Thing, they are an innovative tripod manufacturer based out of the UK.

The Leo 2.0 Tripod is a carbon fiber construction tripod that sits in the company’s professional tripod line. Out of its professional tripods, I think the Leo 2.0 is the best lightweight travel tripod option with its combination of small folding size (14.7”), lightweight (4.1lbs), and strength (maximum load capacity of 66 lbs). With this combination, you’ll have an extremely portable tripod that will support almost all camera sizes and lens combinations. 

The 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 also improves on the original Leo with additional travel-friendly features found in the the company’s 2.0 line of products. These upgraded features make this an even more appealing lightweight travel tripod at the mid-range price point and include the following:

  • 3 Removable Legs: All 3 legs of the tripod are detachable. You can use one leg as a monopod and the other 2 legs as booms for mics or even lights. There is also the option to buy the VANZ footwear option, which can turn this tripod into a small tabletop/low-level tripod after removing the legs.
  • Stronger Leg Locks: The previous locks already worked very well, but they improved on them and made the locks in version 2.0 even stronger.
  • Refined Contours: The contours of the 2.0 design have been rounded which should prevent the tripod from catching onto your bag as much as the previous version.

Other than the new 2.0 features, this tripod has 3 different locking angles (23°, 55°, 80°)  and its center column can also be removed or reversed if you want to get closer to the ground. At its lowest height, the tripod can get 8.2” off the ground. 

PROS

  • One of the best travel tripods given its combinations of portability and strength with a tripod weight of 4.1 lbs and folding size of 14.7”.
  • It’s a carbon fiber tripod.
  • A center section that can be reversed or removed which gives you more flexibility in adjusting the lowest height of the tripod.
  • A minimum height of 8.2” will give you a low angle close enough to the ground for increased depth of field or macro shots.
  • 3 adjustable leg angles at 23°, 55°, 80°, which will give you more flexibility than the tripods with only 2 adjustable leg angles.
  • All 3 legs are removable which is nice to have in case you need a monopod or extra boom pole.
  • It has a maximum load capacity of 66 lbs, which is the heaviest load capacity out of all the tripods in this article.
  • The AirHed Pro Lever Ball Head is quick, easy to use, and smooth. Most importantly, it uses a clamp design which makes it less likely that you’ll loosen a mounted camera accidentally.
  • Is Arca Swiss compatible.

CONS

  • With a maximum height of 57.7”, it’s more than 16” shorter than the 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian Tripod.
  • It doesn’t have a center bottom hook to add additional weight which could be a problem if you’re shooting in strong winds.

2. 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian Carbon Fiber Tripod

If you like what you see with the 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 Tripod, but you want a more affordable, lighter weight, and taller option, the Punks Brian Tripod might be the better fit.

The Punks Brian Tripod as the name suggests is a carbon fiber tripod that sits within the Punks line of tripods. These tripods are the entry-level offerings by the company, but don’t let the word “entry-level” fool you as they include all the most popular features that they offer.

The Punks Brian Tripod features one of the best maximum height to overall weight ratios out of all the tripods we cover. It has an incredibly flexible max height of 74” all in a package that weighs only 3 lbs. Add in the fact that it has a minimum height of 7.5” (0.7” shorter than the Leo 2.0 Tripod) and you have a very flexible height adjustment range.

Like all other 3 Legged Thing Tripods, the Punks Brian has the same 3 locking angles (23°, 55°, 80°) and one of its legs is a convertible monopod. Its center section can also be removed or be reversed to allow you to get closer to the ground. 

There are some tradeoffs with this tripod, though. Given the lighter weight, it’s not as stable as the Leo 2.0 and has half the maximum load capacity at 30.9 lbs. Additionally, the Punks line has not been updated, so you don’t get any of the 2.0 features.

PROS

  • Another one of the best travel tripods available given its big minimum to maximum height adjustment range of 7.5” to 74”.
  • At 3 lbs and a maximum height of 74” it has one of the best max height to weight ratios out of all the tripods we cover.
  • A center section that can be reversed or removed which gives you more flexibility in adjusting the lowest height of the tripod.
  • Lowest working height of 7.5” will allow you to get even closer to the ground for increased depth of field or macro shots.
  • 3 adjustable leg angles at 23°, 55°, 80°, which will give you more flexibility than the tripods with only 2 adjustable leg angles.
  • It has a maximum load capacity of 30.9 lbs so it will be able to handle most camera setups even when using zoom lenses.
  • One removable leg which converts to a monopod that can be nice to have.
  • The AirHed Pro Lever Ball Head is quick, easy to use, and has a single bubble level that can be used for reference. Most importantly, it uses a clamp design which makes it less likely that you’ll loosen a mounted camera accidentally.
  • Is Arca Swiss compatible.

CONS

  • Because of its lighter weight, it’s not as stable as the Leo 2.0 Tripod.
  • Although its maximum load capacity is above average, it’s still half of the Leo 2.0 Tripod.
  • Doesn’t include the 2.0 features found on the more expensive 3 Legged Thing Tripods.

3. Peak Design Travel Tripod – Carbon Fiber

The Peak Design Travel Tripod is the most innovative and unique compact travel tripods in this article.

Unlike most other tripod companies who have used the same industry design for years, Peak Design has created a completely new design made specifically with travelers in mind. 

When you look at the design of most lightweight travel tripods, they rely on a reverse folding mechanism that wraps the legs around the ball head. This was a nice innovation when it first came out as it allows the tripod to be compact when folded. However, there are two main problems with this design:

  • The legs are reverse folded around the tripod head and to set the tripod up from this position you will have to reverse the legs again. It’s not a big deal, but it does take longer to set up.
  • Since the legs are reverse folded, there will always be extra space between the folded tripod legs. Because of this, tripods with a reverse folded leg design will never have the slimmest form factor.

These issues have been solved in the Peak Design Travel Tripod. With their new design, the ball head recesses perfectly into the body and the legs fit perfectly together when the tripod is closed. This eliminates all wasted space and allows the tripod to be packed down to the diameter of a water bottle. This allows it to easily fit in the side pocket of most backpacks.

When it comes to the ball head design, there is nothing else like it on the market either. The ball head connects directly to the center section and relies on adjustment rings instead of knobs and levers. This also cuts down on wasted space and the lack of knobs will prevent the tripod from being caught on anything.

Other than the new design, the travel tripod also includes all the features that you would expect from a premium lightweight travel tripod and more.

The carbon fiber version of the tripod weighs only 2.8 lbs and has a minimum folded length of 15.5”. It has a very flexible adjustable height range from 5.5” to 60”, a reversible center section and center bottom hook to weight the tripod down. There is even a hidden phone mount smartly contained in the center column in case you ever need one..

The big downside with this travel tripod is the premium price. The carbon fiber version is almost double the price of the 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 and the aluminum version is still around the same price. However, If you can get over the premium price point and would benefit from a super-compact tripod with intuitively designed features then this tripod is worth looking into.

PROS  

  • An innovatively designed tripod that makes it the best lightweight travel tripod option for those who have the budget.
  • An ultra lightweight tripod with an overall tripod weight of 2.8 lbs (the aluminum version is 3.4 lbs) and a folded length of 15.5”.
  • A flexible minimum to maximum height range from 5.5” to 60” will give you the ability to shoot from a variety of different heights and angles.
  • Has a center bottom hook which is nice to have in case you ever need to weigh your tripod down.
  • Has a hidden phone mount that is stored inside of the center column.
  • A refreshing redesign of the ball head which uses adjustment rings instead of multiple knobs and levers.
  • It has a maximum load capacity of 20 lbs so it will be able to handle most camera setups.
  • Works with most Arca-compatible tripod plates.

CONS

  • Premium price point for both the carbon fiber and aluminum models that might not be in everyone’s budget.
  • You will need the included hex wrench to connect the quick release plate to your camera and to change the center section for low shooting mode. This could be an issue if you lose the hex tool.
  • There are only 2 different leg angles so it’s not as flexible as the tripods with 3 different angles.
  • Spiked feet are not included so you will have to purchase them separately if you need them.

4. MeFOTO Roadtrip Aluminum Travel Tripod

This tripod is a nice lower-middle price range option if you’re looking for a sturdy reliable tripod but don’t want to break the $200 price point. The MeFOTO has all the features you would expect from a solid travel tripod. It comes in at a reasonable size to carry around all day with an overall tripod weight of 3.6 lbs and a folded height of 15.4”. There is also a center bottom hook in case you need to weigh your tripod down in windier conditions.

Its legs have 2 different adjustment angles which aren’t as flexible as the 3 leg angles found on the 3 Legged Thing Tripods, but in combination with its max height of 61.1”, you should be covered in most situations you’re shooting in. 

Like many other tripods, my biggest complaint is that you can’t attach the ball head directly to the tripod. Because of this, the minimum height of the MeFoto is 15.4”, so you won’t be able to get as close to the ground as other tripods like the Peak Design Travel Tripod. With that said, one way around this is to reverse the center section and attach your camera below the tripod, although this doesn’t always work the best out in the field.

PROS

  • Solid lower-middle range price option for a sturdy tripod with all the features you would expect from a good travel tripod.
  • It’s a reasonably sized tripod that you can carry around all day with an overall tripod weight of 3.6 lbs and foldable height of 15.4”.
  • One of the legs can be removed and converted to a foam grip monopod by combining it with the center section.
  • It has a maximum load capacity of 17.6 lbs so it will be able to handle most camera setups.
  • Has a recessed center bottom hook which is nice to have in case you ever need to weigh your tripod down.
  • Spikes for the feet are included.
  • Is Arca Swiss compatible.

CONS

  • You can’t attach the ball head directly to the tripod so the minimum height is about 15.4”. The workaround is to reverse the center section and attach the camera that way but this isn’t always the best option in the field.
  • The legs have 2 lock angles which doesn’t give you as much height adjustment flexibility as the tripods with 3 lock angles.
  • The locking mechanism for the ball head quick release plate uses a knob mechanism so there is a chance you may accidentally loosen a mounted camera.
  • It’s aluminum so you don’t get the performance benefits of a carbon fiber tripod.

5. Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod – Aluminum

This travel tripod is very similar in design to the MeFOTO Roadtrip and are both quality choices under the $200 price range. With that said, there are some slight differences between the two tripods that are worth considering if you’re thinking about getting either one of these. This tripod is slightly expensive, so it will likely come down to whether or not you think the differences in the feature set are worth paying more for.

Here are the primary differences between the Manfrotto Befree Advanced and the MeFOTO Roadtrip are:

  • Lock Angles: The Manfrotto has 3 different lock angles versus the 2 lock angle of the MeFOTO. This will give you more flexibility when adjusting the tripod height.
  • Leg Locking Mechanism: The Manfrotto gives you the choice between twist locks or lever locks. The MeFOTO is only available with twist locks.
  • Ball Head Friction Knob: The ball head of the Manfrotto features a control knob that allows you to control the friction making it easier or more difficult for the ball head to move.
  • Convertible Monopod: Surprisingly the Manfrotto can’t convert one of its legs to a monopod. You’re able to do this with the MeFOTO.
  • Center Bottom Hook and Spikes: The MeFOTO has a recessed center bottom hook and the ability to change the rubber feet to spiked feet. The Manfrotto doesn’t have either of these features.

PROS

  • Solid middle-range price option for a sturdy tripod with all the features you can expect from a good travel tripod.
  • It’s a reasonably sized tripod that you can carry around all day with an overall tripod weight of 3.28 lbs and foldable height of 15.75”.
  • Has 3 adjustable leg angles (22°, 54°, 89°) which will give you more flexibility than tripods with only 2 adjustment angles.
  • It has a maximum load capacity of 17.6 lbs so it will be able to handle most camera setups.
  • It’s one of the only tripods that gives you a choice between twist locks and lever locks.
  • The friction control knob in the ball head is a nice touch that will allow you to more easily make minor adjustments. You don’t always see this.
  • Is Arca Swiss compatible.

CONS

  • You can’t attach the ball head directly to the tripod so the minimum working height is about 15.75”. The workaround is to reverse the center section and attach the camera that way but this isn’t always the best option in the field.
  • You can’t convert one of its legs to a monopod.
  • It’s not possible to replace the rubber feet with spikes.
  • It’s an aluminum tripod so you don’t get the performance benefits of a carbon fiber tripod.

6. Manfrotto Element Traveler Small

If you’re looking for one of the cheapest lightweight ultra-compact travel tripods then the Manfrotto Element Traveler Small might be a great fit for you. This aluminum tripod comes in a very small package with an overall tripod weight of 2.5 lbs and a folded length of 12.6”. 

At first glance, it’s easy to overlook this travel tripod because of its cheap price and small size, but this tripod packs a punch and includes many of the same features found in more expensive tripods.

The tripod has a surprisingly good maximum height of  52.8”, which is just about 5” shorter than the much more expensive Leo 2.0 tripod, and its tripod legs even have 3 different locking angles.

Given the lightweight and compact design, overall stability is the biggest potential issue. Since the tripod is so light, it’s not as stable as its heavier travel tripod counterparts. Additionally, it has a rated load capacity of 8.8lbs, so, if you have a heavier camera or tend to use bigger zoom lenses frequently, another tripod might be a better fit.

Here’s what I’ll say. If you’re a professional, semi-professional, or even an amateur travel photographer who takes their photography very seriously, then this tripod might not be the one. However, if you just need a tripod to do its job while you travel or you need a solid secondary tripod for things like timelapses, then this tripod is a great one to look into.

PROS

  • Great value lightweight travel tripods since it has so many features at its low price range.
  • It’s a carbon fiber tripod.
  • It’s an ultra-compact tripod with an overall tripod weight of 2.5lbs and a folded length of 12.6”.
  • Has 3 adjustable leg angles which will give you more flexibility than tripods with only 2 adjustment angles.
  • The maximum height of 52.8” is surprisingly good for such a small tripod. 
  • The Arca-type ball head with included quick-release plate is plus at this price range.
  • You can change the rubber feet for spikes in case you ever shoot in uneven terrain.
  • Is Arca Swiss compatible.

CONS

  • The Manfrotto Element Big Traveller Tripod might be a better option as it’s just slightly more expensive, but has a taller maximum height and is more stable.
  • Because of its lightweight, the tripod may not be very stable in windy conditions and will not work the best with a heavier camera and lens combos. It’s rated maximum load capacity is only 8.8 lbs.
  • It has a minimum height of 14.2” so you will not be able to achieve a low angle close to the ground. One workaround is to reverse the center column and attach the camera below the tripod, but this doesn’t always work the best in every situation.
  • It’s aluminum so you don’t get the performance benefits of a carbon fiber tripod.
  • The locking mechanism for the ball head quick release plate uses a knob mechanism so there is a chance you may accidentally loosen a mounted camera.

7. Benro Slim Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod

The Benro Slim Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod is another ultra-compact travel tripod that is a great option if you’re looking for a small form factor with carbon fiber legs at under $200. This tiny package comes in at an overall tripod weight of 2.35 lbs and a folded length of 12.9”, which makes it the lightest tripod in this article. It is .3 inches longer than the Manfrotto Element Traveler Small, but you’ll probably not notice this in real-life use.  

For such a small tripod, the Benro Slim has a very impressive maximum working height of 57.1”, which is just 0.6” shorter than the more expensive and heavier Leo 2.0 carbon fiber tripod. Its tripod legs also have 3 different locking angles for added flexibility and it has a built-in recessed center column hook in case you need to weigh the tripod down in the field.

Similar to other ultra-compact tripods like the Manfrotto Element Traveler, overall stability and maximum load capacity is the biggest downsides you should consider. 

On the stability side, the good thing about the Benro Slim is that it has a recessed center bottom hook, which will help. However its maximum load capacity is listed at 8.8lbs so if you do have a heavier full-frame camera or if you tend to use zoom lenses frequently, this might not be the best option.

PROS

  • Good value carbon fiber tripods given its ultra-compact size, feature set, and under $200.
  • It’s incredibly small and lightweight with an overall tripod weight of 2.35 lbs and a folded length of 12.9”.
  • The maximum height of 57.1” is very impressive for such a small tripod.
  • Has 3 adjustable leg angles which will give you more flexibility than tripods with only 2 adjustment angles.
  • Has a recessed center column hook which is nice to have in case you ever need to weigh your tripod down.
  • One of the tripod legs can be removed and converted to a monopod.
  • Is Arca-Type compatible.

CONS

  • It has a minimum height of 12.4” so you will not have the flexibility of a low angle close to the ground. One workaround is to reverse the center column and attach the camera below the tripod, but this doesn’t always work the best in every situation.
  • Other than the carbon fiber legs, many of the other tripod components are made out of plastic.
  • Because of its lightweight, the tripod may not be the most stable in windier conditions unless it is weighted down. It also might not work the best with a heavier camera and lens combos as it has a maximum load capacity of only 8.8 lbs.
  • The locking mechanism for the ball head quick release plate uses a knob mechanism so there is a chance you may accidentally loosen a mounted camera.

8. Manfrotto Befree GT XPRO Travel Tripod – Aluminum

The Manfrotto Befree GT XPRO is a more advanced tripod that could be a great fit if you take a lot of macro type photography, like to get as low to the ground as possible, or also need a tripod for product/studio photography when you’re at home.

The key differentiating factor with this tripod is that it has the Manfrotto’s 90° center column system which allows you to easily change your center column to a lateral position which is horizontal to the ground. This feature allows you to shoot at extremely low and unique angles that are not possible in other tripods without this feature. At its lowest setup height, the tripod has an incredible minimum working height of only 3.5”, which is the lowest minimum height in this article.

Other than the unique 90° center column system, you also get many of the same benefits found in Manfrotto’s Befree line of travel tripods such as the 3 different leg locking angles with side-pull selectors for easy height adjustments and friction control knob in the ball head.

The big downside with this tripod is that it’s 1.12 lbs heavier than the Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod and it’s at a significantly higher price. There is a carbon fiber version, but that increases the price even more.

PROS

  • The Manfrotto 90°center column system is incredibly versatile and will allow you to shoot at extremely low and unique angles not possible with other tripods.
  • At its lowest setup height, the tripod has a crazy good minimum working height of only 3.5” off the ground.
  • It’s a reasonably sized tripod for the features it has with an overall tripod weight of 4.4 lbs and foldable height of 16.9”.
  • Has 3 adjustable leg angles (22°, 54°, 89°) which will give you more flexibility than tripods with only 2 adjustment angles.
  • It has a maximum load capacity of 22.1 lbs so it will be able to handle most camera setups.
  • The friction knob in the ball head is a nice touch that will allow you to more easily make minor adjustments. You don’t always see this.
  • Is Arca-Type compatible.

CONS

  • It is 1.12 lbs heavier than the Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod at an overall tripod weight of 4.4lbs. There is a lightweight carbon fiber version but that increases the overall cost. 
  • It’s at a higher price than the Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod, so if you won’t benefit from the 90° center column system, then the Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod might make more sense.
  • You can’t convert one of its legs to a monopod.
  • It’s not possible to replace the rubber feet with spikes.
  • It’s an aluminum tripod so you don’t get the performance benefits of a carbon fiber tripod.

9. ZOMEI Z699C Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod

As I write all my articles with the beginner in mind, I wanted to include the ZOMEI Z699C as a budget alternative to the other tripods in this article. The ZOMEI Z699C isn’t going to win any design awards, but what it does do is include all the features you would want in a carbon fiber travel tripod at an extremely affordable price.

It has an overall tripod weight of 3.2 lb and a folded length of 15”, which makes it light and compact enough to carry around all day. The center column is reversible and there is even a center bottom hook that you can use to weigh the tripod down if needed. 

The height range this tripod has isn’t too bad either with a minimum height of 13.8” and a maximum height of 60”. It also has multiple leg angles which will give you increased flexibility for height adjustments.

Overall, if you’re serious about your travel photography, this tripod might not be the best fit for you. However, if you just need a tripod to do its job on your trip or you’re looking for a secondary tripod, this might be a great fit. For its price and height adjustment range, you definitely can’t go wrong.

PROS

  • Very cheap price point for a tripod with carbon fiber legs.
  • It has all the features you would look for in a travel tripod including compact size, lightweight, and a flexible height adjustment range.
  • One of the legs can be removed and converted to a foam grip monopod by combining it with the center column.
  • It has a maximum load capacity of 33 lbs so it will be able to handle most full-frame or mirrorless camera setups.
  • Is Arca-Type compatible.

CONS

  • The twist locks are made out of plastic which some people have reported breaking over time.
  • You can’t attach the ball head directly to the tripod so the minimum working height is about 13.8”. The workaround is to reverse the center column and attach the camera that way but this isn’t always the best option in the field.
  • The locking mechanism for the ball head quick release plate uses a knob mechanism so there is a chance you may accidentally loosen a mounted camera.

10. Sirui W-1004K10 River Runner Tripod Kit – Aluminum

If you’re always shooting near bodies of water or find yourself shooting in rainy conditions, this waterproof tripod from Sirui might be a good fit. This tripod is the only one in this article with a waterproof sealed leg design that will allow you to submerge the legs in water without having to worry about water seeping in. 

Other than it being waterproof, the Sirui W-1004K10 also includes many features that make it a travel tripod to consider. It has an overall tripod weight of 3.7 lbs, and has one of the best height adjustment ranges out of all the tripods with a minimum height of 5.7” and a maximum height of 65”. You will also find 3 different leg lock angles for more flexible height adjustments and a center column hook in case you need to weigh the tripod down. It also has one removable leg which also converts into a monopod in case you need it.

There are 2 big downsides with this tripod. First, the folded length of the tripod is 19.3” which is the longest out of all the tripods in this article. Secondly, at its current price point, it’s a pretty expensive aluminum tripod. For a little less money, you could get the 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian, which is a very nice carbon fiber tripod.

Either way, if you can get over these negatives or could benefit from a waterproof system, this could be a great choice for you.

PROS

  • It’s the only tripod in this article with a waterproof sealed leg design.
  • A flexible minimum to maximum height adjustment range from 5.7” to 65” will give you the ability to shoot from a variety of different heights and low angles.
  • 3 different lock angles will give you more flexibility than the tripods with only 2 locking angles.
  • One of the legs can be removed and converted to a foam grip monopod by combining it with the center column.
  • Has a center column hook which is nice to have in case you ever need to weigh your tripod down.
  • The friction knob in the ball head is a nice touch that will allow you to more easily make minor adjustments.
  • The rubber feet can be switched out for spikes.
  • Is Arca-Type compatible.

CONS

  • The folded length is 19.3” so it’s not as compact as most of the other tripods in this article. Additionally, if you fly with Asia based airlines or with a budget airline, you could run into some trouble if you plan to carry it on.
  • The locking mechanism for the ball head quick release plate uses a knob mechanism so there is a chance you may accidentally loosen a mounted camera.
  • For an aluminum tripod, it’s at a high price point. For a little less money, you could get the Punks Brian carbon fiber tripod.

Important Information to Consider Before Buying a Travel Tripod

Do You Really Need a Travel Tripod?

Before buying a portable tripod for travel, take some time to think about what you will use it for and if you need one. To be honest, most people who take photos on their trips probably don’t need a tripod or won’t use it that much even if they bring it along.

There are many reasons why, but mainly because they’re a hassle to carry around and many tourist sites around the world actually don’t allow the use of tripods

Additionally, with the high ISO range and built-in stabilization in most cameras now, it’s surprisingly effective to shoot handheld.

With that said, you would probably benefit from having a good travel tripod if you think you’ll find yourself in any of these situations:

  • Timelapse: timelapses are a great way to capture moments from a trip that a single picture would not be able to capture. To shoot a timelapse, you will need to keep your camera stable and in the same place for an extended period of time. 
  • Low Light / Night Photography: even though many cameras can produce high-quality images at higher ISOs, there will still be times when it’s too dark to take sharp photos handheld. 
  • Sunrise or Sunset Landscape Photography: the best way to capture the landscape at sunrise or sunset is to use a smaller aperture (for example f/11), a slower shutter speed, and a low ISO to keep the entire image sharp. Since there is not very much light at sunrise or sunset you will probably get much better results with a tripod.
  • Long Exposure: blurring movement such as water flowing, clouds moving, or crowds walking is a great way to make your image more interesting. To do this, you will need to keep your camera stable during the exposure.
  • HDR/Exposure Bracketing: if you ever find yourself in a high contrast scene using HDR mode or bracketing your exposures is a great way to make sure you don’t blow out your highlights or crush your shadows. When you do this, your camera takes multiple images at different exposures, so you will have to make sure the camera remains in the same place.
  • Focus Bracketing: there will be times when focus bracketing is the only way to keep your entire image sharp from front to back especially if there is a considerable amount of distance between your foreground and background elements. Similar to exposure bracketing, you will need to take multiple images with the camera in the same position.
  • Telephoto Shots: the longer the focal length you use, the more exaggerated each movement of the camera is. If there is not very much light and you need to use a slower shutter speed, you would benefit from a tripod.

Why You Should Invest in a High-Quality Tripod?

With tripods, you usually get what you pay for and the best travel tripods are usually more expensive. In my opinion, if you think your travel photography would benefit from a travel tripod, then you should get the best one that you can afford. 

The reason I say this comes from my experience of using a budget tripod on many different projects. After switching to a professional tripod, I found that they are much easier and versatile to use and made me excited to carry one around.

Here are some key differences between the best travel tripods and budget travel tripods:

  • Professional tripods are made of lightweight, stable, and durable materials which will make it easier to carry around and are stable enough for most conditions. They also last much longer and can take a beating.
  • Professional tripods are much easier to set up and use standardized quick release plates that allow you to quickly mount or remove your camera.
  • Many professional travel tripods come with ball heads which are easier to use and more compact than other types of tripod heads. All the tripods in this article have ball heads.
  • They’re much more customizable. For example, some professional travel tripods have the flexibility to angle the legs outward so you can set up extremely close to the ground. Additionally, you can also remove one of the legs and convert it into a monopod.

Features to Look for in the Best Travel Tripod

Overall Tripod Weight

All of the tripods we cover in this article are under 4.5lbs so they are all considered “lightweight” travel tripods. Just remember that although 4.5lbs might seem light when you’re just looking at the number, it gets pretty heavy when you combine that with all the other camera equipment you’ll be carrying around. As you know, when it comes to travel, every bit of weight you save helps.

So, when you travel, if you tend to carry all your equipment for long periods at a time, you might want to go with the lightest tripod you can find. On the other hand, if you only need a tripod in certain situations and don’t need to carry it with you throughout the day, then a tripod close to 4.5 lbs might not be a big deal.

Personal Note: From personal experience, I have recently been using the 3 Legged Thing Leo Tripod which weighs 4.1lbs. I have no problem carrying it with me all day if I only have my Sony a7RIII and my 70-200 lens. However, once I load up my entire backpack with my laptop, drone, and external hard drive too, it’s pretty hard to carry around for a long period of time.

Carbon Fiber Vs Aluminum – Which Material is Better?

In general, carbon fiber tripods are stiffer, more durable, easier to handle in the cold, and are lighter than aluminum tripods. The big downside is that they’re usually much more expensive than an aluminum version . If budget is not an issue for you, then I’d recommend you looking into a carbon fiber tripod.

However, if you’re like me and need to stick to a budget, then you need to ask yourself if the performance gains from the carbon fiber tripod are worth the additional cost.

Like all camera equipment, you should not only invest in equipment for the present but also your future self. If you aspire to be a professional photographer or already are one, then investing in a carbon fiber tripod makes sense. On the other hand, if you only plan to use the tripod casually, then an aluminum tripod will be a great fit.

Notes From The Field: We will cover some budget-friendly carbon fiber tripods. The cost savings are nice, however, the trade-off with these budget tripod models is that many of the other tripod components other than its legs are made out of plastic.

How are the Legs Released? Lever Lock or Twist Lock

There are two different leg lock and release mechanisms you will find in most tripods. Which one is “better” will come down to personal preference as both types of leg release mechanisms have pros and cons:

Flip Lock (aka lever lock): 

  • A flip locks located at each leg section that you pull up to release and push down to lock.
  • Pros: For the most part, it’s slightly faster to use and you will always know if your legs are locked or not just by looking at each flip lock.
  • Cons: The screws of each flip lock tend to loosen over time, so you will need to eventually tighten them. Flip lock tripods are usually a little bulkier too so they’re a little harder to fit in the side pocket of your backpack.

Twist Lock:

  • A twisting mechanism located at each leg section that you twist in one direction to release and the other direction to lock.
  • Pros: They don’t loosen over time and are less likely to break if you drop your tripod. They also have a slightly slimmer profile which might make it easier to fit in the side pocket of a backpack.
  • Cons: They are slightly slower to use and you can’t tell if the leg section is locked or not unless you physically check them.

Folded Length

The minimum folded length of the tripod is especially important to consider if you plan to take your tripod with you in your carry on luggage. When flying in the US or with US-based airlines this won’t be much of an issue. According to the TSA, tripods are an allowed carry on item. Most importantly, the standard carry on luggage dimension is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches. This means that your tripod folding height could be up to 22 inches in length and there won’t be any issues. 

However, if you plan to fly with an Asia based airline or a budget airline their maximum luggage dimensions are much stricter.

For example with Eva Air, their standard carry-on luggage (free for economy passengers) dimension is 16 inches x 12 inches x 4 inches. This means that your tripod folded length has to be 16 inches or shorter. Even though all the tripods we cover are “travel tripods”, some of the tripod’s folded length exceed this 16 inches.

Minimum Height

Lower minimum height of a travel tripod is one of the most useful but least talked about characteristics to look for in a travel tripod. Having a lower minimum height will allow you to get closer to the ground to create more depth of field. Not to mention it gives you more range to adjust your tripod positions too. 

In my experience, I would consider anything from 9” and below and low minimum height. 

For your reference, you will usually find 3 different types of low height mechanisms on tripods. The tripods that have all these mechanisms will give you the most flexibility when you’re trying to set up low to the ground:

  • Legs that can splay all the way flat.
  • A reversible center column that allows you to mount the camera underneath the tripod
  • A removable or split center column will allow you to remove extra height from the tripod or mount the ball head directly to the tripod.

Additional Features

Other than what we have already covered so far, here are some helpful additional features to look out for too:

  • Counterweight Hooks: One of the biggest issues with lightweight travel tripods is that they may become unstable in strong winds. Some tripods like the Peak Design Travel Tripod and MeFOTO Roadtrip have center column hooks which you can hang additional weight from which can help stabilize your tripod even further.
  • Convertible Monopod: A few of the tripods we cover including the 3 Legged Thing Tripods, the MeFOTO RoadTrip, and the Benro GoPlus Travel have a removable leg which can be converted to a monopod. Not everyone uses a monopod, but if you do this is a nice feature to have.
  • Waterproof: Water, especially salt water  is one of the worst enemies of a tripod which can cause corrosion if not dried properly. If you plan to take a lot of oceanscape shots or often shoot in rainy conditions, you might benefit from a waterproof tripod such as the Sirui W-1204.

 

By Tom Shu

Hi! I’m a Washington State-based professional photographer and filmmaker. I quit my corporate job in 2018 to pursue this passion full-time and have been lucky enough to work on projects all over the world with brands such as Visa, Airbnb, and prAna. Here are examples of the work we do in case you're wondering. My goal with all these articles is to help you out, so if you ever have any questions just send me an email at tom@witandfolly.co, DM me at my Instagram @tom.shu or leave a comment on any of the articles!

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2 replies on “Ultimate Guide: Best Lightweight Travel Tripod – 10 Options”

> Why Trust Me?
> I’ve been a professional travel photographer and filmmaker since 2018

Wow… so about a year and half now.

Hi Ulder, it’s not about how long you have been in this profession, but your skill and the client relationships you build over time. I was going to ignore your comment, but I think this will be helpful to all the other readers of this blog. As a reminder to all aspiring photographers and filmmakers, you can make it if you set your mind to it. I started my professional career as a corporate healthcare consultant and studied finance in college. I’m self-taught and never took a photography or filmmaking class before. In 2018, I realized that career wasn’t for me and quit my job in 2018 to pursue photography and filmmaking full time after having some success with it part-time. It’s not an easy path, but if I can make it work, any of you can as well.

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