The best thing about photography is that you can take with you wherever you go. In fact, many photographers double as quite the adventurers, carrying their gear with them to capture never-before-seen sights and wonders all around the world.
Essential to capturing moments both near and far is a reliable tripod. We can all agree that lightweight travel is much more convenient than carrying around something that’s bulky, heavy, and awkward.
For your best travels, you need the best lightweight tripod. After nailing down some need-to-know information, we are going to take a look at some of the best tripod travel gear that will take the load off and make your job that much easier.
Why Are Lightweight Model Tripods Useful?
In most cases, lightweight models are travel tripods. The best travel tripod for travel will serve one primary purpose: to make your trip easier.
Consider that lots of photographers – both professional and hobbyists – do a lot of traveling to get that perfect shot. You might find yourself hiking up a mountain to capture the view, or flying around the world to create memories.
When you use a travel tripod, you can easily carry it around with you wherever you go. They’re super lightweight, so it’s not a burden to grab it and go. Plus, many of them fold down to small sizes, so you can pack it in your suitcase or backpack in a flash.
Additionally, travel tripods are perfect for solo trips. If you’re on a hike by yourself, you can’t get a good picture of you with the glorious mountains in the background without your handy-dandy travel tripod.
Even if you’re not alone, not everyone is super excited to take your camera and capture moments all the time. In fact, other people may not even know how to operate your fancy camera. Finally, lots of photographers like to set up the shot themselves, so travel tripods are useful in handing over all the control.
Not every shoot is going to take place on a mountain top or in another country. Sometimes, you just need to grab your travel tripod and head down the street for a local photoshoot. Even in those cases, it’s nice to have a small and lightweight travel tripod that you can pack up along with your other equipment.
Essential Light Travel Tripod Features
Like with any other tool or professional product, there are certain qualities and features that are critical to getting the job done right. Features such as lightweight, height, materials, and ease of use can make or break the overall usefulness of even the best travel tripod option.
Since we’re on the hunt for a lightweight product, it makes sense that a key feature to look for is how much the product weighs.
Finding the right weight is a bit of a balancing act. You want to buy a travel tripod that’s easy to carry and won’t add unnecessary pounds to your pack, but you also need to avoid something that’s super flimsy.
The best travel tripods might weigh next to nothing, but are they going to be able to hold the weight of your high-tech camera with the giant lens and special flash?
The best tripods for travel and carrying are typically somewhere between one to three pounds. When made with the right materials and reliable construction, a travel tripod weighing one pound can actually be an incredible tool.
We’ll dive more into what specific materials you should look for a little later one. For now, consider how much weight you’re willing to carry in addition to anything else you’ll have with you.
Size & Height
A common mistake made when purchasing any kind of tripod is misconceptions about size and height. Many individuals look only at maximum height. While it’s essential to find a travel tripod that extends to a workable height, the best travel tripods also have crucial minimum heights.
Consider the types of shots you’re used to taking, along with different kinds of angles that you want to try out someday. If you’re looking for a travel tripod for a particular trip, brainstorm some of the views and locations you have on your shot list.
Each picture requires a different setup. If you find a travel tripod with a wide range of height settings, you open yourself up to more framing options. Not only will this diversify your portfolio overall, but it will also make it easier to set up the perfect shot.
Some lightweight travel stands measure as low as three inches, while others can reach as high as six feet. You probably don’t need that much range, but it sure would be pretty cool.
You also need to consider the folded length—many tripods for traveling folded lengths that other general tripods don’t.
A minimum folded length can be both a pro and a con. On the one hand, a folding travel tripod is compact and easier to pack. You can stick it in a hiking backpack or a suitcase, no problem.
On the other hand, the best travel tripods usually have less height range and are not as sturdy as other tripods. For this one, you’ll have to decide which is more important to your unique situation.
Best Composition & Overall Quality
The most commonly used materials to construct tripods for travel on the market today are aluminum and carbon fiber. Not only have these sturdy materials, but they’re pretty lightweight. They give most tripods a solid combination of reliability and poundage.
Overall, carbon fiber is generally the best option. It’s the lightest and most durable material you can find, so you know it will be a breeze to pack up and can take a little bit of a beating.
On the other hand, aluminum is a perfectly acceptable alternative. It’s definitely sturdy and lightweight, though it does tend to run a little heavier than carbon fiber.
The main difference between these two operations will likely be the price. You pay for what you get, in all circumstances. Carbon fiber is the superior of the two, but it’s going to cost you a little more. Aluminum is a great option for someone who desires quality but has a bit of a budget restriction.
Maximum load capacity also goes hand-in-hand with durable, reliable materials.
The average DSLR camera rarely weighs more than a couple of pounds. However, every photographer has their favorite accessories, such as straps, lenses, filters, and external flashes. When you add all those things together, the load can get a little heavy.
Each travel tripod you research should have their maximum load capacity listed, so you’ll know exactly which one is right for you and your equipment.
If you’re still not sure what to look for, you can go by a general rule of thumb. Your travel tripod should have a maximum load capacity that’s around three times the weight of your camera plus all the accessories on it. That way, there’s no second-guessing whether your expensive equipment is safe.
There is so much complicated equipment that can go along with photography. The last thing you need is to complicate your travels with a tripod that takes too much time and effort to set up and take down to its folded length.
Even if you’re interested in complex setups and fancy tools, you will thank yourself later one when it comes to fast-paced shoots and locations with a minimalist setup to work with. The photo studio is one thing, but travel tripods should come with a quick and easy setup.
A good rule to work with on this one is how many sections the legs have on a tripod. The fewer sections, the quicker it is to set up. Additionally, few sections usually mean the tripod is sturdier than those with more.
Additional Helpful Features
When it comes to maximum load capacity, we mentioned that it’s a good idea to have a tripod that can hold much more than the weight of your equipment. The higher load capacity is critical because as you toy with your tripod and try out different stances and angles with the legs, the load capacity actually diminishes here and there.
An additional feature that can help with this issue is a hook on the crown of the tripod. Some travel tripods sport this small detail so that you can hang things from it and ultimately add weight to the center of gravity. Subsequently, your tripod becomes much more stable.
Another side feature you can consider is the type of leg locks used on your equipment. The two main kinds of leg locks are lever locks and twist locks. These two locks are exactly what they sound like.
To operate a lever lock, you pull a small lever back to release the adjustable leg. Once the leg is in the place you need it to be, you flip the lever back down to lock it in place.
Likewise, the twist lever works like a nut and a bolt. You twist it to the left to loosen its grip on the leg when you need to adjust it. When it’s at the ideal height, twist it back to tighten it up.
This is typically a non-issue with most photographers; however, some prefer the twist-lock because it’s slightly lighter than the levers, and they can control the tightness.
At the end of the day, as long as you have a quality product, this component really isn’t highly important to the performance of the travel tripod.
Finally, make sure your tripod has a good handle with a nice grip that lets you easily control your angles and leveling. A built-in liquid level and several knobs on the ball head will complement a quality handle as well. Even if you like to work by sight, it’s always nice to have that little bit of reassurance and accuracy.
Best Tripod Options on a Budget
Anyone who has a strict budget knows how frustrating and disappointing the buying process can be. Check out our top-rated tripods that don’t break the bank.
Manfrotto Befree Advanced – Most Options on a Budget
The Manfrotto Befree Advanced is an excellent tripod when you want to travel on a budget because of the various options it offers. When you choose this option, you get to select between aluminum and carbon fiber materials, as well as lever locks and twist locks.
Obviously, if you’re going for the cheaper route, you can choose the version made with aluminum. You still get the same design with just a slightly different look, but you’ll pay less than you would for the carbon fiber.
At the same time, choosing the twist locks makes this tripod even more travel-friendly, bringing its weight down to just below three pounds. The three different sections on the legs quick release to let you extend your height to 59 inches, with a minimum height of 16 inches. Its folded length is a little over 15 inches.
Sturdy and reliable, this lightweight travel tripod has a maximum load capacity of 17 pounds, letting you hold a decent amount of weight. Its center ball head offers three different knobs to precisely control your angles quickly and easily, allowing you to capture the perfect shot at a moment’s notice.
Of course, this tripod has a sleek and cool design. While this doesn’t lend to the overall function, it’s still nice to have attractive equipment.
Peak Design Travel Tripod – Overall Best Light Tripod
The Peak Design Travel Tripod suits both those on a budget and those who aren’t; you have the option to buy either the aluminum or the carbon fiber version.
The aluminum version is cheaper by a significant amount, making it an excellent wallet-friendly choice. Though not the superior material, it is still incredibly reliable and sturdy with the weather- and impact-resistant build. In fact, it even comes with a padded weatherproof case and a lifetime guarantee.
The impressive design boasts five leg sections, allowing you to achieve an incredible maximum height of 60.2 inches with the center column raised. On the opposite end, you’ll be just as impressed to see how incredibly low the inverted position can get.
When it’s all packed up, this travel tripod has a folded length of 15.2 inches long. However, it’s the diameter that sets it apart from other tripods. The innovative design makes the folded diameter just 3.125 inches, which is basically the size of an average water bottle. Plus, it’s super easy to fold up and set back up in a snap.
Not only can this strong tripod hold up to 20 pounds of weight, but its ball head attachment is ideal for most cameras, binoculars, and even a cellphone. The head allows for a wide range of movement, while the hook on the column lets you hang your camera bag for additional weight and stability.
Weighing in at 3.44 pounds, you get a lot out of such a small package.
AmazonBasics 60-inch Lightweight Tripod – Best Basic Affordable Tripod
If you’re not a full-time photographer who absolutely needs top-notch, high-end equipment, then this AmazonBasics tripod is an excellent choice for you. Sometimes you just want something for a specific trip or purpose, so you don’t want to fork over hundreds of dollars. This affordable option gives you everything you need for cheap.
This aluminum tripod weighs just 3 pounds, making it ideal for lightweight travel. Plus, it comes with a handy carrying bag to keep it safe. Although its maximum load is only 6.6 pounds of weight, it is compatible with most cameras, video cameras, smartphone adapters, and even GoPro devices.
Its minimum height isn’t too impressive at 25 inches, but it does climb to a maximum height of 60 inches for exceptional visibility. The center column even expands up from the center, which contributes to its tall reach.
The bubble level pairs nicely with the ergonomic handle that allows you to swivel, title, and angle your camera. A second vertical bubble level delivers excellent precision, and the knobs on the ball head also let you lock your shot into place once you find the right spot.
All in all, this tripod is incredibly easy to use and is perfect for beginners or specific travel purposes. With a center post and an attached hook, you can ensure stability and reliability – even at a low cost. The lever locks are easy to function for quick release and adjustments to the leg sections, and the rubber feet keep your product locked in place on the ground.
It may not have all the bells and whistles of a truly professional travel tripod, but it certainly gets the job done in a flash. The folded length also isn’t ideal, but the carrying bag helps out.
3 Legged Thing Leo – Best for Durability
Not only does the 3 Legged Thing Leo have a unique name, but it also features a very interesting and eye-catching design different from most other tripods.
This carbon fiber tripod is intensively strong, with the ability to hold as much as 66 pounds of weight. That makes it suitable for all kinds of large cameras, including various lenses and other accessories.
That being said, its compact design also makes it great for travel. It competes well against other travel tripods at 3.35 pounds, but its extra features make it worth the additional weight.
One of its most unique design components is the sectioned center column. Not only does the column extend upward, but it features twist locks and two sections for even more precision and height flexibility.
Likewise, the legs are all removable to reveal a 3 legged tabletop option and a minimum height of 4.9 inches. The folded length is just 14.7, so it’s easy to pack up for your next adventure. Unpack it and set it up to reach a maximum height of 57.7 inches.
A versatile piece of equipment, the quick release plate offers several different-sized threaded holes to accommodate various devices. There are also plenty of spots for accessories, too.
The parallel locking system provides impressive torque and a reliable grip, while the carbon fiber tripod has superior strength. With unbeatable features and a 5-year global warranty, it’s harder to justify not buying this tripod than buying it.
Top Professional Lightweight Travel Tripods
Whether money isn’t an object or you have a designated photography fund, we know some of you like to go all out with only top of the line products. Feed your passion here with some of the best professional travel tripods that won’t weigh you down.
Vanguard VEO 2 265CB Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod – Best Fast Travel Tripod
One of the best, most professional 3-legged tripods for travel out there is this Vanguard model. This beauty features the looks and functionality that any traveler needs to capture breathtaking scenes seamlessly. It’s potentially the best travel tripod you can find.
Let’s start with the material. As a carbon fiber tripod, you know you’re getting the best of the best in strength and reliability. Some travel tripods can only take so much, but the Vanguard VEO is made to hold up during long sessions with lots of movement and adjustments.
The carbon fiber legs feature twist-style, quick release locks, making it easy to use quickly. Unlike other tripods that have three or four sections, this one has 5 section legs to give you precision maximum height up to 59 inches.
The lightweight travel product weighs just 2.9 pounds, and its folded length is 16.4 inches. Even with such a lightweight, you can trust this tripod to carry up to 17.6 pounds of weight. The ball head is multi-action, offering three knobs to help you obtain the perfect setup.
Finally, this product’s center column system is so unique that it allows you to set up the 5 section legs and column in under 15 seconds – no more waiting around with a lingering creative spark. With this tripod, you’re good to go in mere seconds.
Sirui T-025X – Best Lightweight for Hiking and Travel
Weighing just two pounds, the Sirui T-025X is an excellent choice for travelers dedicated to their artwork. Not only does the weight make it super easy to pack and carry along, but its folded length is a small 12.2 inches – even with the head attached.
With a load capacity of 13.2 pounds, this isn’t the strongest tripod in the game. However, it’s perfect for someone hiking or traveling with a lightweight camera with smaller lenses, or even a camcorder.
The carbon fiber makeup puts your mind at ease, knowing your tripod can take a few hits and still hold out. Likewise, the twist locks allow for trusted precision one leg at a time on even the most uneven surfaces.
The center column on this tripod is completely removable, so you can adjust your tripod to get low angle shots at a minimum height of 4.1 inches. Of course, you can attach the column back on to achieve stability at a max height of 58 inches.
The Sirui’s ball head lets you adjust, tilt, and even pan easily. Easy to use, reliable, and incredibly lightweight, travelers can’t go wrong with this lightweight, stylish choice.
RRS TQC-14 – Best Professional Use
While this tripod might look basic, its features are anything but. The RRS TQC-14 series 1 is a superb lightweight travel model that promotes professional use with expansive options and impressive capabilities.
To start, the carbon fiber design supports several leg sections 4 to be exact, and can hold an incredible 25 pounds max, allowing photographers to utilize as many accessories and any cameras they want. The twist-style locks let you extend to max height with security and precision, while integrated wipers keep dust and dirt out.
The minimum height is just as impressive as the max height, with a range of 3.3 inches to 58.5. This height is made possible with the expandable column that provides a few extra inches as needed.
Even with such strength and capabilities, this series 1 tripod still only weighs 2.6 pounds, making it super easy to carry along. Each leg features a teardrop-shaped foot. This unique design actually prevents the legs from hitting the ground at lower points and helps you get odd angles without damage. You can also switch out the rubber feet for metal spikes for different terrains.
At the bottom of the column, you’ll find a convenient hook. You can hang weight here to stabilize the tripod at maximum heights, anchoring it at its center point.
Perhaps the only downside to this tripod is that the ball head is super basic with not a lot of room for adjusting angles or tilts. However, you can buy additional head attachments if you prefer to have various knobs and handles for more control.
Sony VCT-R100 – Best Compact Pro Tripod
When you’re traveling, a compact tripod is essential. The Sony VCT-R100 folds down to a tiny 13.98 inches, making it ideal for packing in suitcases, carry-ons, and even hiking backpacks. Additionally, it weighs a tiny 1.5 pounds. It’s likely that the water bottle you’re bringing on your hike weighs more than this tripod!
The product has multiple leg sections 4 exactly, and expands to a maximum height of 39.37 inches. Compared to other products, that’s not that tall. However, what it lacks in height it makes up for in the conveniences mentioned above. This is a compact model, so its goal isn’t to be the tallest on the market.
This particular tripod features lever leg locks to hold the legs in place after adjusting. Its simple design makes it easy to operate, so it’s appropriate for both novice photographers and professionals in their free time.
The handle on the ball head makes it easy to control where your camera is looking, and you can adjust the tilt as well for the ideal angle. If you’re planning a trip, this might be your go-to option.
Overall Choice for Best Compact Tripod for Novices
Everyone has to start somewhere. If you’re new to photography and just want a good place to start, try this tripod that’s excellent for beginners.
A trusted brand in the industry, Manfrotto offers this lightweight yet sturdy tripod with a classic design to eliminate the guesswork. Any beginner can easily operate the twist locks on the leg sections quickly, leaving the hassle to other travel tripods.
Classic clashes with modern in this latest update to the travel model with all of the fancy features it comes with. For example, it comes with a column that is built right into the top casing. When you need some extra stability, all you have to do is swing it out with just one finger.
The 190go also has an Easy Link attachment, which lets you attach other accessories like lights and reflectors.
The aluminum design is light and reliable, weighing around 3.7 pounds. When folded closed, it’s just 17 inches long. Once set up, you can adjust your height to as low as 3.45 inches with a maximum height of 57.48 inches. It also has a weight capacity of 15.43 pounds.
FAQs: Choose the Right Tripod for You
We’ve talked a lot about some of the best features involved in high-quality lightweight designs, but the ultimate question comes down to what you need for yourself and your art. Take a look at these commonly asked questions to help steer you in the right direction.
Do I need a tripod that’s lightweight?
The first question to answer is: do I need a tripod, period? Most professionals have a tripod in their closet of camera equipment. But if your photography is more of a hobby, then you might be able to squeeze by without making this purchase.
Of course, owning a tripod opens your photography up to so many more options and releases you from restrictions. For example, you can easily capture photos of yourself or group shots when there’s no one else around to click it.
Tripods also help you shoot in low lighting, which is excellent for sunsets, sunrises, and nighttime photography. You can also get a little more creative with the use of a tripod.
For the most part, using travel tripods is key to achieving quality, diverse photographs. Beyond that, a tripod that’s lightweight is convenient for any kind of travel, whether you’re going hours away or just walking through a field of flowers. In situations where you’re moving around a lot or traveling, you’ll never regret purchasing a lightweight model.
Does every tripod work for every kind of camera?
In most cases, your camera should work with different travel tripods just fine. Most travel tripods, in general, attach to your camera using a screw connection on the quick release plate.
In the very worst-case scenario, you may need to purchase a special mounting plate that matches the connection on your camera. However, that’s rarely the case, and you should be fine with the screw connection that comes on almost all cameras.
Which material is better: aluminum or carbon fiber?
Both aluminum and carbon fiber are materials often used in a wide variety of products, from travel tripods to kayak paddles. The reason they’re both so popular is that they are very sturdy yet lightweight.
Carbon fiber is considered the best because while it’s incredibly strong, it’s not dense. A lower density means a product will be lighter, and that’s generally the goal with these travel tripods. It is also usually stiffer than aluminum of the same weight, making it really reliable.
Of course, aluminum is still a great option. It’s very strong and still reliable, but it will likely weigh a little bit more than carbon fiber.
However, aluminum remains a strong competitor in the race because it does not cost as much as carbon fiber does. If you’re looking for the highest quality, go with carbon fiber. If you’re on the hunt for a good product within a budget, aluminum is a solid option as well.