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Best Lightweight Travel Tripods For Photographers

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Travel Tripods for Photography

Best Lightweight Travel Tripods

Photography Tips

Tripods are a fixture of a good travel photographer’s tool kit. These are the best lightweight travel tripods for capturing stunning landscapes around the world.

Working as a professional adventure travel blogger, I rely on a lightweight and sturdy travel tripod to create epic landscape and adventure images from my trips around the world.

Whether it’s hiking in the mountains of Afghanistan, or wandering the streets of Paris. My travel tripod joins me almost everywhere.

I seriously can’t imagine traveling without one!

Today I wanted to share some of the best lightweight travel tripods currently available, and reviews of my favorites (pros, cons) along with the one I pack with me most.

Ultimate Travel Tripod Guide:

  1. Why Are Tripods Important?
  2. Travel Tripod Features
  3. Best Budget Travel Tripods
  4. Best High-End Travel Tripods
  5. Which Tripod Is Best For You?

Travel Tripods for Photography

Why Should You Use A Tripod?

Why Are Tripods Important?

Do you really need a tripod? Well, not everyone one does. Tools like sensor based image stabilization and optical lens stabilization make them less mandatory than ever.

But if you want to capture professionally sharp landscapes, stunning sunsets, time-lapse video, flowing waterfalls, low light situations, or star photography during your travel adventures — a good lightweight travel tripod is key.

I also use my tripod for shooting selfies if I’m traveling solo. For video and vlogging too. Because not everyone wants to wake up at 5am during their vacation to help you hold the camera!

If you enjoy creating smooth curtain effects with waterfalls, sunset time-lapse footage, or climbing mountains to shoot the Milky Way, you’ll need a lightweight tripod that can take a beating in the field and keep going.

Astro Photography With Tripods

Tripods Are Great For Star Photography!

Travel Tripod Features

BUILD MATERIALS – Aluminum and carbon fiber are the most common materials for travel tripods. Carbon fiber is stronger, lighter, and resists rust in wet conditions, but it’s more expensive too.

HEIGHT – Not only how high does the tripod extend, but the minimum height as well. Some can get as low as 3” from the ground while others can extend up to six feet high. Smaller tripods weigh less, but they can also limit your framing options.

FOLDING SIZE – How small can your tripod fold up? Will it fit in a backpack? A tripod that folds down small makes it easier to travel with. But small folding tripods often have to sacrifice maximum height and sturdiness.

WEIGHT – If a tripod is too heavy, you won’t want to lug it around all day through a city, or hiking in the backcountry. Lightweight tripods are usually more expensive. The key is to find a balance.

STURDINESS – A sturdy tripod is important when shooting long-exposure images, when any small vibration can blur the photo. You can generally get an idea of a tripod’s sturdiness by looking at its weight capacity.

SECTIONS – The fewer leg sections a tripod has, generally the sturdier it is, and the quicker it will be to set up.

LEG LOCKS – Some photographers prefer twist locks because they’re low-profile. Others prefer lever locks, because you can visually see that they’re secure. Both are quick to use with practice.

Travel Tripods for Hiking

Hiking in Italy with my RRS TCQ-14

Best Budget Travel Tripods (2018)

Sirui T-1205X Tripod – Super Value

Tripod Weight: 1.8 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 22 lbs.
Extended Height: 51.4”
Folded Length: 13.4”
Ballhead: Not Included
Weight With Ballhead: 2.8 lbs.
Price: $230
Sirui T-1205X Travel Tripod

Cheaper/Heavier Aluminum Version: Sirui T2005X TX

The Sirui T-1205X mixes carbon fiber and aluminum to create a lightweight marvel. It’s aluminum components are anodized to increases the corrosion resistance and hardness of the metal.

The center column is reversible to suit your composition needs, plus it comes with a shorter center column for shooting as low as 5.1” from the ground. It’s one of the lowest priced carbon fiber tripods on the market, and insanely lightweight.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Super lightweight
  • Sturdy

CONS

  • 5 section legs
  • Ball head not included

This is the tripod I owned for many years before upgrading to a more professional model recently. Loved using it for all types of photography situations. Fantastic value, and well-rounded.

Manfrotto Befree – Hiking Friendly

Tripod Weight: 2.4 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 8.8 lbs.
Extended Height: 59.5”
Folded Length: 17”
Ballhead: Included
Price: $269
Manfrotto BeFree Travel Tripod

Cheaper/Heavier Aluminum Version: Befree Aluminum

The Manfrotto Befree is a favorite for many travel photographers. It’s very lightweight, even with the included ball-head. However it’s not the most stable tripod in this group.

Lever leg locks are easy to engage, and the whole system packs down very small. Stable enough for most situations, however it might not be great in strong winds or when placed in a river or the ocean (which I sometimes do).

PROS

  • Very lightweight
  • Extends tall
  • Affordable

CONS

  • Low load capacity
  • No ballast hook
  • Not very sturdy

Low maximum weight capacity makes the Manfrotto better suited to mirrorless camera kits. While it was the least sturdy tripod, it’s also the lightest (with included ball-head). I’m not a big fan of the Manfrotto RC2 style camera plates either.

3 Legged Thing Leo – Sturdy Beast

Tripod Weight: 3.8 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 66 lbs.
Extended Height: 51.5”
Folded Length: 13.75”
Ballhead: Included
Price: $349
3 Legged Thing Leo Travel Tripod

The 3 Legged Thing Leo is an extremely high maximum load capacity tripod, with a 23-degree leg angle. It makes it the sturdy tripod of choice for videographers and other gear-heavy photographers. The legs and center column all come with twist-lock sections for extra security.

For photographers who need stability on the move the center column can also be attached to a single leg to create an instant monopod. It’s not the lightest of the bunch, but it’s rock-solid.

PROS

  • Super stable
  • Monopod feature
  • Ballast hook

CONS

  • Relatively heavy
  • 5-section legs

This is the heaviest combination on the list, however it’s also the most stable. A great option for videographers, or photographers who need a super stable tripod for long-exposure night photography. The monopod feature is slick!

Joby GorillaPod 5K – Vlogging Tool

Tripod Weight: 1.55 lbs.
Build: Stainless steel, aluminum, plastic
Maximum Load: 11 lbs.
Extended Height: 15.2”
Folded Length: NA
Ballhead: Included
Price: $155
Joby GorillaPod Travel Tripod

If portability is your #1 consideration, the Joby GorillaPod is the smallest tripod here. At only 1.55 lbs. with included ball head, it fits into anyone’s photography kit. This model is built for large cameras & large lenses, but there’s a 3K version for smaller mirrorless systems.

Mixed construction materials of the GorillaPod help keep the tripod inexpensive yet sturdy enough for most shooting conditions. It’s a wonderful option if you’re visiting tourist attractions that prohibit the use of full-size tripods.

PROS

  • Flexible gripping legs
  • Very lightweight
  • Affordable

CONS

  • Light load capacity
  • Short maximum height
  • Metal/plastic construction

The gripping legs mean you can set it up almost anywhere for great photography, including attaching it to fences and trees. It’s especially good for taking selfies and vlogging (video blogging).

Best High-End Travel Tripods

RRS TQC-14 – Built To Last

Tripod Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 25 lbs.
Extended Height: 58.5”
Folded Length: 17.7”
Ballhead: Not Included
Weight With Ballhead: 3.3 lbs
Price: $935
RRS TQC 14 Travel Tripod

The Really Right Stuff TQC-14 is my favorite high-end travel tripod. Ratcheting angle stops control the angle of the legs. The legs are extended using twist locks, and designed to secure and undo instantly.

A ballast hook on the center column allows you to add weight in unstable or windy conditions. This actually isn’t the lightest tripod of the group, however I’ve found it’s the easiest to use, and is tall enough (with the quick-column version) that I don’t need to bend over to look through my viewfinder.

The extra height also helps when I’m shooting video of myself, so the camera is at eye-level, rather than below looking up. A much more attractive angle for video.

PROS

  • Carbon Fiber
  • High load capacity
  • Ballast hook

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Ball head not included

While the TFC-14 is the most expensive tripod here, there’s no question you get quality for your money. The design is rock solid, easy to use, and gives a lot of height. Out of all the tripods I’ve used, this is my favorite.

Gitzo Series 0 Traveler – Clever Design

Tripod Weight: 2.8 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 24 lbs.
Extended Height: 52.4”
Folded Length: 14.4”
Ballhead: Included
Price: $860
Gitzo Traveler Tripod

The Gitzo Series 0 Traveler is a rugged carbon fiber tripod weighing in at 2.8 lbs. This tripod also includes a ball head with Swiss Arca-style quick release plate. It uses a reverse folding leg design when stowed to ensure it fits even into overhead flight storage.

The twist-lock design of the legs is quick, smooth, and secure. Gitzo makes a few different versions of the Traveler, for example the Series 1 is much taller and slightly heavier at 3.2 lbs.

PROS

  • Integrated ballhead
  • High load capacity
  • Lightweight

CONS

  • Expensive

The Gitzo Series 0 is also not cheap. However it’s very sturdy and compact thanks to the cleverly designed ball head. Gitzo tripods are the choice of many professionals worldwide.
Travel Tripods for Photography

How To Choose A Tripod For Traveling

Which Tripod Is Best For You?

Each tripod here offers photographers and videographers a unique set of creative features. While I can share my personal favorites based on MY needs, every photographer is different.

If you’re looking for the ultimate lightweight, full-size hiking tripod that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, I’d probably go with the Manfrotto Befree.

If you want the best all-around tripod that’s a combination of lightweight, sturdy, and affordable, I’d pick the Sirui T-1205X.

If you don’t think you’ll need a tripod that often, or do a lot of vlogging, the Joby GorillaPod is your best bet.

If you have money to burn and want nothing but the highest quality gear, both the RSS TQC-14 (often on backorder) or Gitzo Traveler will make you very happy.

Whatever lightweight tripod you decide to use, they will certainly help you improve your travel photography skills in all sorts of different landscape and low-light situations.

Best Travel Tripods Review

Win This Gitzo Traveler Tripod!

Free Travel Tripod Giveaway!

If you don’t have a travel tripod yet, but want one, here’s your chance to win one of the best available for your next travel adventure!

I’m giving one lucky reader their very own Gitzo Series 0 carbon fiber tripod (worth $860 USD).

This high-end carbon fiber travel tripod is easy to pack, lightweight, durable, and will help you take your landscape & adventure photography to the next level.

UPDATE: We Have A Winner!
Dee Hanbury has won the free Gitzo Travel Tripod.
Dee Hanbury

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Best Lightweight Travel Tripods. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE TRAVEL TIPS

How To Choose The Best Travel Camera
17 Useful Travel Photography Tips
This Is How I’m Paid To Travel
How To Photograph The Northern Lights

Any questions about how to choose a travel tripod? Do you have a favorite? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

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