Writing a post on the best travel tripods of the year is a difficult one. You see, travel tripods, (or just tripods for photography in general), don’t have a great deal of differentiating factors to compare.
Unlike a camera or a lens for example, tripods are rather basic tools with one main purpose – that is, to hold your camera steadily.
However, the more I delved into researching the best travel tripods, the more I realised that there’s more than meets the eye with these 3-legged objects. Whilst most tripods can do their job of supporting cameras quite adequately, there are certain factors that separate these ‘adequate’ tripods from the very best tripods on the market.
Let’s look first at why you may need a travel tripod.
Why the Need for Travel Tripods?
Packing your camera bag for your next trip, whether professional or for pleasure, always brings with it certain limitations. Whether you plan to take your camera gear as carry on or check in, weight limits and luggage size limits will always be an issue (check out my travel tips for photographers to see some handy workarounds).
Because of this, big, clunky tripods aren’t always top of the list when it comes to packing for travel. Unless you’re a landscape photographer who needs tack sharp shots, or a fashion blogger needing to set up the camera for selfies, it’s unlikely that you’ll use a tripod for more than 5% of your photography while away.
However, it’s that 5% that some photographers are concerned with!
Having a the best tripod at hand on your next trip could mean mailing a beautiful long-exposure shot of a stream cascading down a valley, or a pin-sharp shot of the stars at night, rather than walking away with a blurred mess!
It could also be the best way to document your travels, allowing you to produce a well composed photograph of yourself in front of a sweeping vista.
Whatever the reason, it’s with you traveling photographers in mind that I’ve been on a search for the best travel tripods in 2017.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, first we should define what exactly I mean by a travel tripod.
What is a Travel Tripod?
A tripod is a tripod, right? It has 3 legs and it supports a camera!
Well, yes and no. I’d define a travel tripod as a tripod that’s not only more compact and lighter weight than a regular tripod, but ideally is also affordable, easily adjustable and flexible (being able to be used in different situations, I mean).
Most manufacturers deliberately don’t name their tripods specifically as ‘travel tripods’, since this would mean less sales to photographers who don’t travel!
After all, a travel tripod can perform very well as an everyday tripod used in a variety of photographic situations.
However, through researching this post, we found that some tripods function very well ‘on-the-go’, and thus are more suited to those traveling than their rivals.
Now let’s have a quick look at what we define as making a good travel tripod.
How we Found the Best Travel Tripods
The criteria we used when searching for the best travel tripods of the year were what we considered the fundamentals for our three-legged friends.
Factors such as ‘affordability’ are completely subjective (what’s expensive to a beginner photographer may be cheap to a pro photographer, for example), but we still decided to include them.
Assuming that most travelers are aiming to travel within a tight budget, a travel tripod purchase needs to take into account prices.
The factors we deemed important for travel tripods were:
- Size when folded – preferably as small as possible, but definitely less than 55cm (21″), the length limit of most budget airlines’ carry on bags.
- Size when extended – for comfort of use, being able to extend to around 125cm (50″) is preferable. Obviously this criterium is irrelevant for tabletop travel tripods.
- Weight – whilst the lighter the better, travel tripods still need to have enough weight to them to prevent camera shake. Ideal weight is between 1-1.5kgs.
- Materials – carbon fiber is king here, for its combination of light weight and strength. However, it is more expensive, so other materials were also considered.
- Leg Quality – after extending/compacting multiple times around mud/salt water, do they still function well? Are the legs strong and sturdy?
- Head Quality – the head is what attaches your camera to the tripod. It needs to be strong, lightweight and compact, allowing the tripod to be folded down to a smaller silhouette.
- Overall Sturdiness – we tested the maximum listed carrying capacity of each tripod, then made a judgement on how much it wobbled under normal circumstances.
- Affordability – is the travel tripod within the budget of most consumers, not just working pros.
Only those tripods that excelled in all 8 categories were listed below as one of the best travel tripods in 2017.
So without further ado, let’s see the best of the bunch! Bring out the tripods!
A Review of the Best Travel Tripods
Joby GorillaPod Focus Specifications
Collapsed Height: 11.4″ (29 cm)
Extended Height: 11.4″ (29 cm)
Weight: 1 lb (28.3 g)
Maximum Load: 11 lbs (5 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
Joby GorillaPod Focus Review
Arguably the best portable tripod ever produced, Joby really rewrote the rule book with their Gorillapod range of flexible tripods. Whilst every other tripod mannfacturer was concentrating on making lightweight tripods with rigid legs, Joby turned the rules upside down and released a tripod that was built to flex.
The Gorillapod tripod is a way for photographers to attach their cameras to almost anything. Rather than be used to stand upright on its legs, the Gorillapod’s legs can be bent and shaped to wrap around static items, securely holding your camera in previously unimagineable spots.
The GorillaPod Focus is the most popular portable tripod in the range, offering a maximum load of 11 lbs (5 kgs) – enough to support even a pro-body dSLR, zoom lens and flash! (e.g. Nikon D5 +70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens + SB-910 flash = 8.4 lbs (3.85 kgs)).
We’d recommend you pay a little extra for the Gorillapod Focus + Ballhead X attachment, which makes the Gorillapod much more versatile. The 360 degree pan and 90 degree tilt knobs on the Ballhead X tighten independently allowing you extra-versatility as you capture your image or pan your video footage.
This means that you can wrap the legs of the GorillaPod Focus around your chosen object, then use the knobs on the Ballhead to fine tune your composition.
The Ballhead X fastens to the camera with a high-quality Arca Swiss quick release plate, which many photographers choose to leave in place for an entire shoot (if not forever), allowing a quick interchange with the GorillaPod Focus.
If your shot doesn’t require this level of fine-tuning, you can remove the Ballhead completely for an even more lightweight travel tripod setup.
The GorillaPod Focus lives up to its ‘gorilla’ namesake, providing stength just where you need it. With machined aluminum sockets, German TPE joins, rubberized foot grips, Zinc-Aluminium and stainless steel plates, your camera gear will stand strong even on the roughest terrain.
One of the reasons why I love the GorillaPod Focus + Ballhead X combo is that you can carry your camera set up quite comfortable by the Gorillapod legs with the camera still attached. I’ve seen photographers do this a lot, holding the Gorillapod by the legs and letting the camera dangle beneath, ready to deploy the Gorillapod as soon as necessary.
For all you photographers who also shoot video, the GorillaPod Focus + Ballhead X actually makes a great grip for your camera, especially when shooting yourself (popular YouTuber Casey Neistat uses a similar set up to shoot his unique first-person POV videos.)
If you’re interested in using the GorillaPod Focus for video, Joby has produced a useful video of tips for handheld filming here.
There are many cheap imitations of the GorillaPod Focus on the market, and I must admit I’ve purchased one in the past too. However, I would strongly advise not being tempted by the cheaper prices like I was.
For the build quality and strength to be as good as the GorillaPod Focus, there needs to be a certain price tag attached, and I soon learned the hard way that a cheap imitation wasn’t up to the task of securely holding my camera! :-(
We’ve opened this roundup of the best travel tripods in 2017 with the GorillaPod Focus since it’s my favourite of the bunch. It’s small, lightweight, strong and incredibly versatile, allowing you to be 100x more creative with your tripod-assisted photography than a regular tripod. We highly recommend you consider investing in one for your next trip.
MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip Travel Specifications
Collapsed Height: 28.3″ (72 cm)
Extended Height: 61.6″ (156 cm)
Weight: 3.6 lbs (1.6 kg)
Maximum Load: 17.6 lbs (7.9 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip Travel Review
MeFOTO is a relatively new brand in the photography industry but has quickly positioned itself as a maker of some of the best lightweight tripods in 2017.
At present, MeFOTO offers one style of tripod in 3 sizes – the BackPacker (S), the RoadTrip (M) and the Globe Trotter (L). As you can tell by the names, all 3 are travel tripods, aimed at the photographer who wants to ensure a steady shot on their next trip.
We’ve chosen the mid-size MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip to include in this list of the best travel tripods, since in our minds it offers the best balance of size, portability, price and functionality of the 3.
It should also be mentioned at this point that the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip is available in 9, yes NINE different colours! As if MeFOTO wasn’t making the choice between the 3 sizes and 3 materials (aluminium, titanium and carbon fiber) of its travel tripods hard enough, they have to throw in 9 different colours too! :p
The MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip is not that smaller in height than its bigger brother the Globe Trotter, but the build is significantly thinner. This means it can’t hold as much weight, but on the flip side, the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip is much lighter and more portable.
The MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip can hold a maximum load of 17.6 lbs (7.9 kgs). By way of example, a great travel camera set up such as the Fuji X-T2 + Fuji 23mm f/1.4 (or other lightweight Fujifilm X lenses) weighs in at only 1.7 lbs (803 g), so it’s clear that the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip is made for both mirrorless cameras as well as their heavier dSLR counterparts.
Folding up the the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip is a simple task of sliding each leg into itself, then folding it vertically 180 degrees (back on itself).
One thing that you may have to get used to with a tripod that folds away in this manner is that you’ll no longer be able to grab a tripod leg to pick up the tripod when it’s laying down in its folded state. This is because the leg will start unfolding on itself, rather than stay in place like other tripods whose legs don’t fold in this way. It’s a good job the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip comes with an attractive carrying bag, or you can always just grab it by two of the legs at once.
The MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip‘s legs extend via a twist mechanism. Larger tripods often use a flip-lever mechanism that some photographers prefer, but the twist mechanism is way more practical for travel tripods due to the size and weight advantages. It’s also faster to extend all legs in a column at once by twisting all the fastenings at once.
The stand out feature of the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip is that it doubles as a monopod. By unscrewing one of the legs and removing the middle section from the base, both can connect to make an impressive monopod.
Monopods are usually a confusing item for newcomers, but those who use them, swear by their versatility. Aside from providing a stable yet mobile alternative to the cumbersome tripod, they can also be used by assistants as mobile lighting stands.
I often see wedding photographers backlighting their subjects on the dancefloor using a remote flash attached to a monopod, for example.
The legs of the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip lock in two stages – one very close to the ground and one at a more standard height. This means that you are forced to use either of the leg heights which may be an annoyance to some. However, we didn’t mind the standard height which seemed to serve most purposes, and the second lower height was fine as an alternative.
The included ballhead is a simple twist and pan set-up, offering fast opening/closing via twistable knobs. The pan mechanism is smooth to operate, allowing sports photographers to get stable panning shots which seem to be so popular on the motorsports circuit.
The Arca Swiss plate requries a screwdriver (or coin) to tighten, something that annoyed me a little since I don’t always have these items on me. I found myself using the tip of my house keys when in a pinch. This type of tripod plate closure is the most common, so it’s something we need to get used to.
To get a closer look at the opening/closing mechanism as well as the other functions of this tripod, take a look at this great review that our friends over at SLRLounge produced a few years ago – despite the age of the video, all the information still stand correct.
The other massive advantage of the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip is its weight, or rather its strength:weight ratio. As I mentioned earlier, it can carry a decent load, but still manages to be a lightweight travel tripod at only 3.6lbs.
We chose the Aluminium Roadtrip over the carbon fiber model purely due to the price difference, but you can shave off another half a pound for an extra $140 or so if you go for the MeFOTO Carbon Fiber Roadtrip.
On the question of price, the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip really is great value. When you consider you’re getting a well-made, colour-cordinated, lightweight tripod which doubles as a monopod and includes a bag, the MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip really is one of the best travel tripods available today.
Manfrotto BeFree Specifications
Collapsed Height: 12.3″ (34 cm)
Extended Height: 56.6″ (144 cm)
Weight: 3.1 lbs (1.4 kg)
Maximum Load: 8.8 lbs (3.9 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
Manfrotto BeFree Review
What is it with travel tripods and multiple colour options?! The Manfrotto BeFree aluminium travel tripod continues the trend of jazzing up your camera bag with its 5 colours, but don’t discount it as a kids toy – Manfrotto has long been the name in tripods.
The Manfrotto BeFree uses Manfrotto’s traditional flip-levers to open and lock the legs. I much prefer this style over the more popular ‘twist’ mechanism, since I find it easier to control with my large hands, and I like being able to easily tell if a leg is unlocked just by looking at it.
I also find it easier to open multiple legs at once (by flipping all levers together), but many photographers argue the same with the ‘twisties’ – I’d recommend you have a try yourself to see which you prefer.
Angling the legs on the Manfrotto BeFree uses a rather unusual rotating latch locking mechanism with 3 positions – folded, normal angle and wide. Similar to other travel tripods, this limited functionality may take some getting used to, but you’ll soon realise that it’s fine for 99% of situations.
As its name suggests, the main draw card of the Manfrotto BeFree is its size and weight – having such a portable tripod allows you to be… free!
However, in order to shave pounds off the size of the Manfrotto BeFree, there had to of course be some compromises in the build and height.
When fully extended, the Manfrotto BeFree stands at 144 cm, which means you’ll be bending over or crouching down a lot. I find that using a flip up LCD screen and live view to be perfect for composing in this situation, though not all cameras have this functionality.
In addition, the bottom section of the Manfrotto BeFree‘s legs are rather spindly, so you’ll need to make sure you’re sticking to well within the maximum load capacity of 8.8 lbs.
For those of you who want to use the Manfrotto BeFree in stronger winds, or more unstable surfaces (like grass for example), I’d recommend using a shutter release cable, infrared remote, or simply your camera’s self-timer mode to get the most stable exposure possible.
The head of the Manfrotto BeFree is very lightweight, but in turn, very basic. Those used to the tank-like construction of other tripods in the Manfrotto lineup may be disappointed, but it’s important to remember that this is a portable travel tripod first and foremost.
The RC2 quick release system consists of a lever which opens and locks the tripod plate of the camera in place. To twist the camera around its axis, you loosen a plastic knob on the side of the ballhead. Again, the build isn’t exactly bulletproof, but lightweight it certainly is.
The feature I like the most about the Manfrotto BeFree after its size/weight is the way the legs fold up neatly around the ballhead. After sliding each leg into itself and rotating it 180 degrees back on itself, the legs nestle neatly into the grooves of the sides of the ballhead. this kind of design is unique to the Manfrotto BeFree, and is testament to the attention of detail of Manfrotto products.
Once the tripod is folded up, you can sling it into your backpack or use the included carrying bag – the extra padding makes it easy to pack in your checkin luggage while protecting it from damage.
However, the Manfrotto BeFree is clearly aimed at travellers who want to shave every last ounce off their carry on limits. Due to its size limitations, we’d recommend sticking to usage with mirrorless cameras or even compact cameras, many of which produce image quality just as good if not better than heavier dSLRs.
Some of the reviews on Amazon do mention usage of the Manfrotto BeFree with pro body dSLRs, but it all depends on the conditions of the ground the tripod is standing on and the amount of wind.
To summarise, if you’re a traveller who needs to attach a mid-sized tripod to their backpack on long hikes, or simply someone who wants to be able carry their camera bag for long periods, the lightweight and compact Manfrotto BeFree should definitely be on your shortlist. The only problem now is deciding on the colour…!
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Specifications
Collapsed Height: 28.2″ (71.5 cm)
Extended Height: 68″ (173 cm)
Weight: 5.38 lbs (2.44 kg)
Maximum Load: 15.4 lbs (7 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Review
As popular gear testing website the Wirecutter put it, “the Vanguard Alta Pro has all the features you could want in a tripod at one of the lowest prices around, giving you the best bang for your buck.”
Even before I read this, this popular travel tripod was on my radar as I noticed it had over 700 positive reviews on Amazon.
I often look to the impartial user reviews on Amazon for reassurance for these ‘best of’ posts, and seeing so many happy owners of the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100, I knew it had to be a candidate as one of the best travel tripods of 2017.
You can purchase the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 without a ballhead, but we’d recommend going for the tripod kit which offers the best value for money.
In fact, the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 offers some unique features that are not often seen at this price point.
Whilst several of the travel tripods in this roundup only offer limited positions at which you can move the central column , the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 offers a Multi-Angle Central Column (MACC), allowing you to move it from 0-130 degrees in multiple vertical and horizontal positions without the need to remove it from the tripod.
In practice, this makes it much easier to get the tripod in the right position for everything from macro photography to wide-angles.
The MACC can also be flipped a full 180 degrees to suspend the camera upside down, allowing the camera to get even closer to the ground.
Anyone who does product or macro photography will love the low minimum height of just 27cm of the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100.
Here’s what pro macro photographer Mike Moats had to say about this tripod: “As a macro photographer I need a tripod that has the ability to maneuver my camera into all kinds of angles, and also be able to get my camera right down on the ground if I need. The Vanguard Alta Pro is the perfect tripod for accomplishing this task.”
Another innovative feature is the Instant-Swivel-and-Lock (ISSL) mechanism which allows photographers to move and lock the central column in one simple movement. By twisting a locking lever and pressing a button, you can slide the central column up or down, then use another switch to tilt the column to the perfect position for your shot.
The inclusion of a bubble level on a travel tripod at this price is a welcome feature, and the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 has not one but three of them to help you find a perfectly flat position.
Although many cameras offer a spirit level function within their menus these days, it’s nice to have a visual reference on the tripod itself for efficiency.
The legs of the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 have settings for 25, 50 and 80 degrees, with easy-release buttons for quick set up.
Other welcome inclusions that are unusual on a travel tripod for under $150 are retractable spiked rubber feet, a spring-loaded, retractable weight hook and even a carrying bag.
The spiked rubber feet are invaluable on grass and other non-solid ground types (of which travellers encounter many), and combined with the some form of ballast hung on the weight hook, the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 provides one of the most stable operating platforms of any of the lightweight tripods on this list.
Vanguard actually includes a ballast bag (essentially somewhere to place a weighty object, such as stones), which can be secured to the lower portion of the tripod’s legs, providing even more stability to your shot.
In terms of build quality, the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 sports a premium magnesium die-cast canopy with aluminum allow legs (again, we recommend aluminum over the carbon fiber model unless you have the spare cash or really need to shave off the weight).
Another great feature which highlights the excellent build of the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100, is the anti-shock rubber ring, which provides padding for when you inevitably ‘drop’ the central column back in place.
The Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 isn’t billed specifically as a travel tripod, and as such isn’t a particularly lightweight tripod, tipping the scales at (5.38 lbs/2.44 kg).
This is by no means heavy for a tripod, but travelers who need to save every last ounce from their carry on luggage may prefer one of the specific lightweight travel tripods on this list.
The weight of the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 is in part due to its tall maximum standing height of 68″ (173 cm), which means comfortable usage for the average photographer.
If you’re due to be using your tripod frequently, the maximum standing height is one of the most important factors to consider – you’ll quickly grow tired of stooping, even just a little bit, every single time you need to get that stable shot.
With a maximum load capacity of 15.4 lbs (7 kgs), the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 is firmly placed in professional camera gear territory, meaning it can carry pretty much any regular camera/lens set up with ease.
The combination of extreme low-angle photography options, decent maximum height, unique features and excellent value for money makes the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 the best all round tripods available today.
Whilst it’s not the absolute best travel tripod by any stretch, it will appeal to many photographers, whether you choose to take it on holiday or merely use it locally.
Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228 Specifications
Collapsed Height: 12.5″ (30 cm)
Extended Height: 53″ (134 cm)
Weight: 2.6 lbs (1.17 kg)
Maximum Load: 10 lbs (4.5 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228 Review
Continuing on the theme of the best travel tripods with ridiculous names, the Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228 is our choice for the best portable tripod for the majority of photographers in 2017! (I say ‘majority’ since some photographers want ultra-portable tripods such as the aforementioned Gorillapod.)
Davis & Sanford is made by Tiffen, whose name may be more familiar to photographers. Tiffen produce bags among other products, including several camera bags featured in the best camera bags of 2017.
The main benefit of the Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228 is its unique ability to collapse to only a foot in length (roughly 30cm). It achieves this by inverting the tripod legs 180 degrees so that the ball head is concealed within the legs.
For those who’ve never handled a travel tripod before, take it from us that reaching this amount of compactness is an impressive feat.
Weighing in at only 2.6 lbs (1.17 kg), the Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228 is firmly placed as a portable tripod for travelers, whilst still offering a more than adequate maximum load of 10 lbs (4.5 kg).
To give you an idea of weight, a Nikon D500 with a heavy zoom lens such as the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 weighs in at around 3.8 lbs (1.76 kg). Travelers will of course usually have an even lighter set up that this.
The ballhead of the Davis & Sanford Traverse tripod features a locking knob to control the ball movement and a separate locking knob for the panning movement, which we found buttery smooth in practice.
The ballhead also features a calibrated base and bubble level, helping photographers achieve a precise set up.
The Arca-Swiss compatible release plate can be quickly removed from the ballhead, and is lightweight and low profile, perfect for cameras of all sizes.
The solid ballhead sits on top of 5-section aluminum legs which have twist locks, allowing for quick adjustment to your preferred height.
There are 3 different locking angles at which to stand the Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228. The 5-section aluminium legs feature simple to operate twist locks, allowing for quick height adjustments up to 53″ (134 cm).
Lightweight tripods such as this one tend not to be as stable as their heavier counterparts. That’s why the inclusion of a ballast hook, allowing you to hang a weight (such as your camera bag), is such a useful feature on the Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228.
By adding more weight to the centre of the tripod, you can maximise stability with heavy loads, on uneven ground, or in windy conditions.
At around one hundred dollars, the Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228 is a high quality, remarkably compact travel tripod that should suit most budgets.
If you’re not bothered by the relatively modest maximum height when fully extended, this is a tripod that can fit in any traveler’s backpack.
Whether you’re a professional or an amateur photographer, it’s always important to be able to travel as efficiently as possible (see here for other travel tips for photographers). If you really must take a tripod with you to achieve a certain type of shot, we’d always recommend choosing the smallest, lightest one that you still feel comfortable using.
For its combination of affordability and compactness, the Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228 is a definite consideration for the best travel tripod, and one that should be included on your shortlist.
ZOMEI Z699C Specifications
Collapsed Height: 13.7″ (35 cm)
Extended Height: 59.4″ (151 cm)
Weight: 3.25 lbs (1.47 kg)
Maximum Load: 33 lbs (15 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
ZOMEI Z699C Review
Up until this point we’ve only been recommending aluminium or plastic tripods for traveling photographers.
Even though carbon fiber is stronger, lighter and more durable, its price usually puts it out of reach for most photographers. The ZOMEI Z699C however, turns all that on its head.
I’d usually not recommend a photography product made by any of the lesser-known manufacturers, especially when it’s a product that needs to support expensive camera gear.
However, after reading so many positive reviews of this impressive little lightweight tripod (see over 130 of them here), I knew I had to take a closer look to see what all the fuss was about!
Dubious brand name aside, it’s hard not to be impressed by all the ZOMEI Z699C has to offer.
Top of the list is the carbon fiber construction, offering more durability and less weight than aluminum alloy, but at a surprisingly affordable price (there’s currently a discount here at Amazon).
Measuring in at a traveling-photographer -riendly 13.7″ (35 cm), the ZOMEI Z699C can be packed away easily in your carryon luggage, or simply in the included tripod bag if you prefer.
Despite its relatively small folded footprint, the ZOMEI Z699C can extend up to an impressive 59.4″ (151 cm) – not an ideal height for taller photographers, but still useful for most situations.
The ballhead features precision markings around the circumference for panoramic photography work, and a smooth panning motion via an adjustable side knob.
The ballhead can be panned and tilted around its axis, and release of the tripod plate is via another twistable knob.
A neat addition is the tiny spirit level, which ensures your camera is set up perfectly flat. The humble spirit level is a hugely underrated feature on tripods, and in my opinion it should be present on all of them.
What’s really impressive about the ZOMEI Z699C is its carrying capacity. Thanks to its carbon fiber construction, this lightweight tripod offers a maximum load of 33 lbs (15 kg), making it the strongest in our roundup.
Most photographers are unlikely to reach even half of the maximum load, with even the bulkiest regular dSLR + zoom set up tipping the scales at far less than 15 kg.
Monopods are often misunderstood by photographers, but they’re actually very useful, allowing some of the stability of a tripod, as well as a lot more mobility.
The central column can be removed completely and flipped upside down to provide an inverted tripod set up, perfect for macro photographers.
Other minor but welcome details on the ZOMEI Z699C carbon fiber tripod include gold accented leg joints, spong leg grips and a hand strap that could double as a place to hang a weight, to achieve a more stable shot.
It’s also worth noting that the carbon fiber used in the ZOMEI Z699C features 8 layers of weaving, making for an incredibly strong, lightweight traveler’s tripod.
For more than half the price of the ‘big-name’ carbon fiber tripods on the market, it’s hard to ignore the ZOMEI Z699C. They’ll always be photographers who refuse to trust any brand they haven’t heard of (especially if it’s made in China!), but my advice to them would be to look to the reviews for reassurance.
If you’re willing to try something new, the ZOMEI Z699C is the most affordable way to get a carbon fiber lightweight travel tripod into your backpack, and with an impressive feature set to boot, this is one of the best value travel tripods we’ve ever seen.
Sony VCT-R100 Specifications
Collapsed Height: 13.9″ (35 cm)
Extended Height: 39.37″ (99 cm)
Weight: 1.8 lbs (816 g)
Maximum Load: 2.2 lbs (1 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
Sony VCT-R100 Review
The Sony VCT-R100 is a lightweight compact tripod which has sneaked into our best travel tripods of 2017 roundup.
At first glance it appears to be a tripod aimed at only the newest amateurs, but upon closer inspection, it’s actually an almost ideal tripod for any level of backpacking photographer.
The first thing to note about the Sony VCT-R100 is that it has somewhat limited usage applications when compared to the other travel tripods in this post.
It seems to have been designed more for the newcomer videographer, with its fixed position tripod legs and panhead with lever.
However this doesn’t mean that it can’t be useful when used as a travel tripod for photographers.
Sometimes simple is best, and when all you need is a tripod to hold your camera steady, the Sony VCT-R100 does a great job of that task, albeit only up to 1 kg.
This carry capacity limits the Sony VCT-R100 to mirrorless or compact camera territory, or if you really need to use a dSLR you’d have to have to be using an entry level lightweight model and lens (such as these best dslr cameras for under $500).
There are no bubble levels, reversible centre columns, spiked feet or ballast hooks on the Sony VCT-R100, but instead you’re met with complete simplicity.
After you’ve attached your camera to the 3-way pan/tilt head, all you need to do is simply splay open the tripod legs to their one fixed position, then open the 3 levers on each leg at the same time to extend them to a maximum height of just under a metre.
The lever style panhead allows for smooth panning shots for video or long exposure sports photography, where you need to follow the action without moving yourself.
Due to its simple design, the Sony VCT-R100 is the quickest to go from collapsed to extended of all the travel tripods we tested. There’s no fiddling around with levers, latches or twist joints – you can pull open the legs to the braced position, then release all three legs and have them locked in under 5 seconds.
For the traveling photographer who needs to set up shot as quickly as possible, this tripod is ideal.
The Sony VCT-R100 weighs in at a lightweight 1.8 lbs (816 g), due in most part to its modest extended height. Clearly it isn’t a tripod that you’ll want to be using for extended periods unless you don’t mind stooping down to 1m frequently. This is a travel tripod designed to be deployed and retracted quickly.
The final feature to note about the Sony VCT-R100 compact travel tripod is its price. At the time of writing, Amazon was stocking it on sale for under $30 – you can click here to see if this is still the case, but even at full price, it still comes in at under $40 which is incredible!
It’s clear that the Sony VCT-R100 is aimed at a photographer who only needs the most basic and affordable travel tripod, but to that photographer, we think it is perfect.
As long as your camera set up is under 1kg in total weight, we couldn’t find a simpler tripod that just does its job then packs away in a flash.
If you want a no-nonsense, cheap travel tripod that can be slung into your backpack and forgotten about, grab a Sony VCT-R100 – you won’t regret it.
Dolica AX620B100 Specifications
Collapsed Height: 22.5″ (57 cm)
Extended Height: 60″ (152 cm)
Weight: 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg)
Maximum Load: 13.2 lbs (5.9 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
Dolica AX620B100 Review
Normally ‘budget tripod’ would be a no-no – after all, who in their right mind would skimp on the cost of the very thing that supports potentially thousands of dollars in camera gear?!
However with that said, there are exceptions to the rule, and the Dolica AX620B100 Proline travel tripod is one of them.
In fact, the Dolica AX620B100 offers many features not normally found on budget tripods, making it great value for money.
The foam padding on all 3 legs (most travel tripods only feature padding on 2 legs) helps not only with grip, but also for when you carry your tripod with camera attached over your shoulder. I’ve seen a lot of photographers carry their tripod/camera in this way, particularly if they expect to be shooting tripod-assisted shots in multiple close locations.
The 4-section legs are quickly extendable with lever locks right up to a decent height of 60″ (152 cm).
If you’re placing the Dolica AX620B100 on softer surfaces such as grass, a spike can be extended out from the rubber feet to aid with grip.
The tripod legs can be fixed into 3 positions using the leg adjustment locks, allowing the Dolica AX620B100 to sink down to a minimum height with the central column down of 21.5″ (54 cm).
Other smaller details not normally found on a budget tripod include two bubble levels, one on the ballhead and one on the tripod leg, and even a miniature compass which may aid with finding the direction of the sun during sunset for example.
The ballhead is slightly plasticky, but that of course does help with the price and the weight of the Dolica AX620B100. However, since it is removable, you’re welcome to invest in a more robust ballhead if you prefer, although under normal usage we don’t think this is necessary.
In fact, if you read the reviews here about the durability of this budget tripod, you’ll see that very few users have any complaints in that respect.
Finally there’s a counter-weight hook on the central column which allows you to hang a small bag on to the tripod to provide an even more stable shot.
Also included is a good-looking carrying bag.
For a budget tripod that weighs just over a kilogram (13.2 lbs) to be able to support almost 6kg (13.2 lb) is very impressive. This puts the Dolica AX620B100 into the pro-body dSLR load-bearing category, meaning it’s an equally popular travel tripod for professionals and amateurs alike.
There’s even a 5 year warranty with the Dolica AX620B100, giving you the peace of mind that sometimes ‘budget’ doesn’t equal poor quality.
If you want a stylish, well-built budget travel tripod with professional features that’s priced for every photographer’s wallet, we’ve got to say that the Dolica AX620B100 Proline tripod is one of the best travel tripods we’ve ever come across.
You’re getting a lot of features only normally seen on tripods costing two or three times the price of the Dolica, and all packed into a lightweight tripod body that’s guaranteed for 5 years – what’s not to love?!
Pedco UltraPod II Specifications
Collapsed Height: 7″ (17.8 cm)
Extended Height: 6″ (15.2 cm)
Weight: 0.26 lbs (119 g)
Maximum Load: 6 lbs (2.7 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
Pedco UltraPod II Review
It would be remiss of us not to talk more about the ultra-compact tripod category in this roundup of the best travel tripods. After all, not everyone needs a travel tripod that can extend up to eye level.
The Pedco UltraPod II is an ultra-compact lightweight camera tripod that can be thrown in your jacket pocket, only to be removed and deployed in seconds whenever you need a stable shot.
It can hold more than some of the budget tripods on this list, with a maximum load of 6 lbs (2.7 kg), and is loved by both amateur and professional photographers alike (check out the hundreds of positive reviews of the Pedco here).
Sometimes referred to as a ‘desktop tripod’, the Pedco UltraPod II is the ideal travel tripod for a photographer who doesn’t want all the bulk of a full sized tripod.
It also provides much more flexibility than a regular tripod, thanks to a unique ‘D-ring Velcro cinch strap’. This allows the Pedco UltraPod II to be quickly and easily secured to posts, tree branches, railings, frames or any other (thin) sturdy object.
Similar to the Gorillapod line of tripods, this opens up a whole world of possibilities, for both camera and lighting positioning.
One popular usage of the Pedco UltraPod II amongt wedding photographers is to attach a flash to the base-plate, then to the tripod, then place it up a tree to be remotely triggered via the camera from a distance for a unique back-lit shot.
Due to its tiny stature, the Pedco UltraPod II is also perfect for macro photography, allowing a stable shot at a height lower than the other travel tripods in this roundup.
The ball and socket camera mount of the Pedco UltraPod II can be adjusted to any angle via a twisting knob, and the universal mounting screw (1/4″) fits the majority of cameras, camcorders and video lights.
Above all, being able to throw such a strong and lightweight travel tripod into any sized camera bag allows you to pack simply and move freely.
Weighing in at only o.26 lbs (119 g), the Pedco UltraPod II can remain in your camera bag forever, rather than having to be packed and unpacked only for shoots that require a stablised shot.
As for build-quality, the Pedco UltraPod II is made from a unique 30 percent glass-filled nylon resin frame with aluminum threaded components and non-slip vinyl feet – all of this adds up to a very robust little unit with a lifetime warranty. Yes, lifetime!
The best part about this impressive little desktop tripod is that if you manage to catch it on sale, you can snap it up for under 20 bucks! Click here to check the current price, but even if you missed out, the regular price of $24.99 is sure to appeal to every level of photographer.
This makes the Pedco UltraPod II the cheapest tripod available in 2017 out of all those that are recommended by multiple users.
In an industry where ‘cheap’ usually means ‘rubbish’, this lightweight travel tripod is a breath of fresh air, and in our opinion should be in everyone’s camera bag.
Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod Specifications
Collapsed Height: 7″ (18 cm)
Extended Height: 5.1″ (13 cm)
Weight: 0.4 lbs (190 g)
Maximum Load: 2.2 lbs (1 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod Review
Still in this rather interesting class of mini tripods that are longer when closed than they are when open (!), here’s a cute offering from the hgely popular tripod manufacturer Manfrotto.
Whilst the aforementioned Pedco and Gorillapod may win the battle for versatility, this Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI definitely takes the title when it comes to original design.
Just look at it! Available in four different colours, it almost deserves to be in a design museum…
Beautiful curves and angles aside, the Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI is a simple mini tripod that can be customised to suit your needs.
If you opt for the regular Pixi mini tripod which we’re reviewing here, you’ll get the standard ballhead which can be locked and released via a press of the Manfrotto logo’d button.
Featuring a standard 1/4″ screw, you can secure any camera/lens combination up to 2.2 lbs (1 kg).
The release button on the Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI is suitably stiff, and provides a quick (and fun!) way to quickly fine tune your camera placement.
The legs can then be extended to their one position, with rubber padded feet to aid with grip.
The shape of the legs of the Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI have been designed to make them easy (and a pleasure) to grip, allowing you to use it as a handheld grip for smaller video cameras, for example.
The Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI doesn’t offer the flexibility of the other mini tripods on this list but we still decided to include it as one of the best travel tripods for photographers who just require something simple that works.
Where mini tripods with flexible jointed legs are excellent for wrapping around objects, they fall short when you need them to be perfectly aligned at zero degrees, since the legs need to be extended precisely.
That’s where mini tripods such as the Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI come in, with their singular open position, giving you a flat alignment every time.
Take a look at how a still-life commercial photographer uses the Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI, and you’ll quickly understand how a tabletop tripod can be used more efficiently than simply positioning a regular tripod close to a table.
If looks matter to you, and let’s face it, us photographers are a visually-stimulated bunch, there really is no better looking mini tripod than the Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI.
We love the push button operation and the simplicity in design, and for that reason, we whole-heartedly recommend these attractive mini tripods.
AmazonBasics Lightweight Tripod Specifications
Collapsed Height: 23.8″ (60.5 cm)
Extended Height: 62″ (158 cm)
Weight: 2.73 lbs (1.2 kg)
Maximum Load: 6.6 lbs (3 kg)
Price: Click here to find the best price
AmazonBasics Lightweight Tripod Review
Don’t be fooled by this lightweight tripod’s ‘own-brand’ name – it’s by far and away the most popular tripod on Amazon, if not the most popular tripod everywhere in 2017.
Amazon has a habit of making affordably priced imitation products, but differentiating them just enough to remain unique. It seems like their design team borrows the best design elements from all the leading products in a particular niche, then produces their own bargain priced offering to beat the rest.
Below is one user’s review that we just had to include – it is by a man with no arms, highlighting the ease of use of this tripod (as well as his dexterity with his feet!)
The AmazonBasics Lightweight Tripod‘s legs have one fixed open position, held in place by a sliding brace which also serves to stabilise the structure.
Tripod leg braces are more common on tripods for videographers who traditionally have much heavier gear, but on a photographer’s tripod, they are still useful for additional reinforcement and stability.
The lightweight legs extend via two leg locks which can be easily opened at the same time, allowing the legs to literally fall to their extended position.
Set up is extremely fast, going from collapsed to standing in just a few seconds.
Extending the centre post via the crank arm brings the AmazonBasics Lightweight Tripod to its full height of 62″ (158 cm).
There’s one bubble level above the legs to let you know when the base is level, and another on top of the camera plate so you can see when your camera is level.
The panhead features a longer panning arm than the other travel tripods we tested, indicating that the AmazonBasics Lightweight Tripod is aimed more towards video shooters, or perhaps those that use panning photography techniques regularly (for panoramas or panned sports shots, etc.)
Aside from an included camera bag with no visible branding (going ‘stealth’ is best when carrying photography equipment), there really isn’t much more to be said about the AmazonBasics Lightweight Tripod… other than its excellent price of less than $25 (for the exact price, click here).
We included the AmazonBasics Lightweight Tripod in this roundup of the best travel tripods of the year, due to its simplicity of use, its value for money and its solid (albeit limited) features.
It just goes to show that it’s not always the big name brands that rule the roost when it comes to 3rd party photography accessories.
The Best Travel Tripods in 2017 – Conclusion
As we’ve seen, there are a quite a few stand out options for travel tripods for photographers available on the market.
Depending on your usage situations and travel limitations, you should be able to find the best lightweight tripod for you, without sacrificing quality.
Affordability is always a somewhat vague consideration, but all the travel tripods reviewed above should be within the average photographer’s budget.
One final word of advice – apart from the couple of cheap tripods reviewed above, it’s generally advisable to avoid any other tripod which seems too cheap to be true. It’s almost a running joke between photographers that almost everyone buys a cheap tripod initially, then spends a bit more money on a ‘real’ tripod soon after!
Invest in one of these best travel tripods and be safe in the knowledge that it will last your lifetime as a traveling photographer, and do its duty of supporting your camera safely and steadily.
As always, if you have a recommendation for a great travel tripod of your own, leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to review it… if it meets the standards of course ;-)
Disclaimer: all the products listed in this best travel tripods post have no affiliation with Shotkit. They have been chosen and reviewed based on their merit alone. Some products may contain Amazon affiliate links which simply helps to fund articles such as this and keep the Shotkit site running. The links in no way affect your purchasing price. Thank you for your continued support.