Every 18 months or so, technology takes a giant leap forward.
From smartphones to game consoles, computers to healthcare and everything in between, humankind gets that much better at creating stuff to make our lives easier.
And camera technology is no exception, with new digital models offering some outstanding specs, including the latest in image stabilization.
But even so, the good, old fashioned camera tripod is not obsolete just yet.
In fact, quite the opposite, as if you really want to take your travel photography to the next level, a tripod is an essential part of your kit.
In spite of all the new fangled gadgetry that’s around these days.
So, let’s take a look at the best travel tripods of 2020 to find out which one is right for you and your budget.
Professional looking photography is well within everybody’s grasp.
- TOP 18 Best Travel Tripods 2020
- Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod
- PicsClix Travel Tripod
- AmazonBasics Lightweight Tripod
- Zomei Compact Travel Camera Tripod
- Dolica Proline Tripod and Ball Head
- Tycka Rangers Compact Travel Tripod
- Bonfoto Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
- Mactrem Lightweight DSLR SLR Tripod
- Sirui 3T-35 Video Tripod with Ball Head
- Zomei Aluminum Alloy Camera Tripod
- Joby GorillaPod 5K Kit
- Vanguard Alta Pro Aluminum Tripod
- Zomei Z699C Carbon Fiber Portable Tripod
- Coman Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
- Benro Adventure 2 Series Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Leofoto Carbon Fiber Tripod Kit
- Feisol Elite Rapid Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Gitzo Traveler Series 1 Carbon Fiber Tripod
- What to Look for When Choosing the Best Travel Tripods of 2020
TOP 18 Best Travel Tripods 2020
Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod
Review: Let’s start small – quite literally – with this mini tripod from Manfrotto. Designed for more compact and lighter cameras for desktop and hand use, the PIXI is a useful inclusion in your kit if you’re really short of space.
It features a push button locking system for an easy set up, an attractive and sleek design and comfortable hand grips for when you’re on the go or shooting video.
It’s lightweight, compact, and versatile, compatible with many different devices; while the ball-head design is ideal for travel and ensures super-fast repositioning when and where required.
It has a load capacity of 2.2 lbs while the unit itself weighs just 8.2 ounces.
- Small and lightweight.
- Sleek, smart design.
- Excellent price.
- Solid, stainless steel build.
- No extending legs.
- Not for larger camera systems.
PicsClix Travel Tripod
Review: With its flexible ‘mount anywhere’ leg design, this is an excellent compact travel tripod that lends itself to a variety of situations and environments.
Designed more for phone use, sports cameras or lighter digital models, the tripod’s legs are durable and anti-crack which allow dual angles, while you can extend the frame even wider by adjusting the dial.
Another ball-head design, it’s very portable and comes with smartphone and GoPro adaptors, a soft carry case and an extremely useful wireless remote for use with iOS and Android devices.
The aluminum ball-head also allows for portrait and landscape shooting – which is often rare in this class. For the features and the sheer versatility, it might be the best compact travel tripod around.
- Mount anywhere.
- Portrait and landscape shooting.
- Wireless remote included.
- Excellent price.
- No extending legs.
- Not for heavier cameras.
AmazonBasics Lightweight Tripod
Review: We move into the first of our telescopic tripods now with this budget effort from AmazonBasics. It’s very lightweight at just 3 lbs, with rubberized feet that can extend from 25 to 60 inches – if you adjust the center post to its full height.
The maximum recommended weight capacity is 6.6 lbs, and it has a useful feature of having two built-in spirit-levels and a three-way head to allow a range of movements through both portrait and landscape shots, while making sure the tripod base and camera are level.
There’s also a quick-release mounting plate to ensure a smooth transition between shooting modes. It comes with its own zippered carrying bag for ease of transport.
- Excellent price for what you get.
- Easy to use.
- Carry bag included.
- As basic as they come.
- Not the most durable tripod out there.
Zomei Compact Travel Camera Tripod
Review: Manufacturing quality lens filters, lights and other photography equipment, Zomei also specializes in tripods. This model comes with its own carrying case, and can be fully extended to 58 inches high from 19 inches when folded.
The feet and legs are self-adjusting to ensure a very steady platform while you’re shooting. It’s made from a lightweight aluminum alloy, with three flip locks on each leg to adjust the height.
The center column also features a hook that you can hang extra weight on should you need it to be even more stable in certain conditions.
The tripod utilizes a pan and tilt head, which offers precise movements along each axis. The unit will support up to a maximum of 11 lbs in camera weight.
- Affordable price.
- Professional look and feel.
- Stability hook.
- Choice of colors available.
- Pan and tilt heads are on the bulky side for travel.
Dolica Proline Tripod and Ball Head
Review: Based out of California, this American company manufacture a variety of photography based products, including this ball-head design, with a quick-release plate and bubble level.
It’s made from high-quality aluminum, and the telescopic legs can extend to offer a maximum height of 62 inches. It features quick-release leg locks and rubber feet for extra stability, and will offer support to cameras and devices weighing up to 13.2 lbs.
It’s marketed for use for both indoor and outdoor photography, specifically targeted at point and shoot or DSLRs.
Dolica have put together a professional-looking piece of kit here that won’t break the bank for the amateur or beginner alike.
- Affordable price point.
- Sturdy build.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Professional-looking design.
- Not the best for tilting and panning in video.
Tycka Rangers Compact Travel Tripod
Review: This 56 inch travel tripod from Tycka offers the rather ingenious feature of being able to invert the axis for shooting smaller subjects with your macro lenses.
Low angle shooting is enabled with the inclusion of a 3.5 inch attachment, but the tripod is packed with other bells and whistles too, including a 360 degree rotating ball head, bubble level, and a tripod fork that is is crafted using precision CNC machining to ensure the highest quality construction.
And it just might be the best hiking tripod around, as the foam padded leg can be detached to use as a camera monopod or hiking pole.
That’s a big plus point for backpacking travel photographers everywhere. The maximum load capacity is 26.5 lbs and you do have the option of adding extra weight for more stability with your shooting.
- Inverted axis option.
- Professional, polished design and build.
- Monopod and walking pole incorporated.
- Carry bag included.
- Quick release attachment sold separately.
- Legs on the narrow side.
Bonfoto Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
Review: This Bonfoto aluminum tripod offers a 360 degree horizontal swivel and 90 degree vertical platform with its three-way head allows you to take photos at any angle, which helps to ensure fast transitions between shots.
It has a maximum height of 55 inches, with a load capacity of 17 lbs, and is designed with double telescoping center columns, which are ideal for ensuring a compact unit while at the same time maintaining excellent stability when extended.
It weighs just 2.6 lbs, with an additional hook should you wish to add more weight if required.
The quick-release plate is suitable for most cameras and video recorders, and the tripod is versatile for multiple uses indoors or out – with an inverted macro photography option included as well.
- Lightweight and versatile.
- Inverted axis option.
- Double telescopic center shaft.
- Carry bag included.
- Should have offered a monopod/walking pole option.
Mactrem Lightweight DSLR SLR Tripod
Review: Constructed of a premium, lightweight aluminum alloy, this travel tripod from Mactrem offers an excellent 33 lbs of maximum load weight, making it ideal for heavier cameras and lenses.
It’s a ball-head design, with three locking knobs to enable a wide range of movement. The center column can be adjusted to fix your chosen viewfinder height, and it can also be completely removed and used as a monopod with height options ranging from 32 to 64 inches.
The center axis can be inverted for macro photography, while each telescopic leg has four shafts all with quick-release locks.
The tripod weighs just 2.9 lbs and comes with its own carrying bag – and an additional bag for your phone.
- High weight capacity.
- Premium materials and build quality.
- Stylish color and design.
- Inverted axis option.
- Ease of use.
- Might still struggle with longer lenses.
Sirui 3T-35 Video Tripod with Ball Head
Review: Another desktop tripod now with this offering from Sirui. It’s compact and lightweight, with a ball head design to minimize bulk.
Features include 10 cm long, rubberized feet that can be folded down 180 degrees and used for handheld video, and a telescopic center column that can be extended up to 8.5 cm or removed altogether.
It also offers a useful carabiner so you can clip the tripod onto a belt or backpack, while the whole setup is made from premium quality aluminum.
It weighs just over seven ounces, and it’s compatible with an Arca-Swiss style quick-release mechanism. This excellent tripod is ideal for GoPro (or similar) users, and you should check out these awesome GoPro photography tips if that’s what you’re going to be shooting on.
- Super lightweight and compact.
- Sturdy, solid build.
- Ideal for GoPro/action cameras.
- Carabiner is a nice, practical touch.
- Versatile use.
- Not suitable for heavier cameras.
- Might topple in windy conditions.
Zomei Aluminum Alloy Camera Tripod
Review: Another entry here from Zomei, the tripod legs can be inverted and folded back 180 degrees, giving it a compact size of 18″ to save you space and make it small enough to carry everywhere.
It’s a two-in-one design that can be easily converted into a monopod with the removal of the center column, which also includes a hook to add more weight if required.
Made from a combination of magnesium and aluminum alloy, it offers a height range of 18 to 65 inches, with a high load capacity of 33 lbs while weighing just 3.7 lbs itself.
The sturdy ball head lets you shoot in 360 degrees, while the axis can be inverted for macro and close-up photography. For the quality to price ratio, this could well be the best backpacking tripod there is.
- Packed with features.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Premium design and construction.
- Inverted axis option.
- Choice of striking colors available.
- Leg locks are plastic – not a major issue but noticeable.
Joby GorillaPod 5K Kit
Review: The unmistakable legs of a Joby tripod feature in this desktop model, which offers the ability to wrap it anywhere. It’s tough and durable, giving you peace of mind for attaching your camera equipment to just about anything.
It’s super-stable too, with over two dozen leg joints with rubberized ring and foot grips that will allow you to bend and rotate 360 degrees for increased stability in difficult terrain.
It boasts full compatibility with the Arca-Swiss system which stays connected to your camera for a swift set up. Featuring a 360 degree panning bed and 90 degree tilt, with a bubble level for optimal position control, and weighing just 1.6 lbs.
This is a top-quality travel tripod you can take anywhere and do just about anything with.
- Attach to anything.
- Solid, durable construction.
- Name to trust.
- Looks like a sex toy.
- Not waterproof.
Vanguard Alta Pro Aluminum Tripod
Review: The Alta Pro from Vanguard offers 26mm, three-section aluminum alloy legs that adjust to 25, 50, and 80 degree angles to enable extreme low angle photography, with quick flip leg locks and rubber feet with retractable spikes for added stability.
It has a smooth ball-head that rotates 360 degrees and includes a quick-release plate and bubble levels.
With a folded height of 28.2 inches, the Alta Pro can extend to up to 68.2 inches and weighs in at 5.4 lbs.
The load capacity is a generous 15.4 lbs, while the instant swivel “Stop-n-Lock” (ISSL) system can securely reposition the central column in one simple movement.
Made from premium magnesium with a die-cast canopy, removable accessory hook, and anti-shock ring; this is a top-drawer tripod offering ultimate flexibility.
- Quality build materials.
- Super flexible and versatile.
- Available in a carbon fiber version.
- Useful “Stop-n-Lock” system.
- Inverted axis option.
- A little on the heavy side – try the carbon fiber model instead.
Zomei Z699C Carbon Fiber Portable Tripod
Review: This is an excellently priced carbon fiber travel tripod from Zomei that is packed with features in a premium quality construction.
It’s versatile, monopod option allows you to convert it to use just the center column when you’re on the go – which can also double as a hiking pole and can be inverted for close up shots on the ground.
The tough telescopic legs can be independently locked depending on the terrain for a more sturdy and stable shot. Folded up it has a height of 13.8 inches, but it can extend to a maximum of 60 inches and it weighs just 3.3 lbs.
The carbon fiber has the added advantage of being temperature resistant, so it’s not going to get impacted by the weather conditions as much as other materials will do.
All in all, it could be the best travel tripod for mirrorless camera – certainly at this price point.
- Excellent price for carbon fiber.
- Quality build and materials.
- Carry-bag included.
- Legs could be thicker for more stability.
Coman Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
Review: Designed for professionals and amateurs alike, this tripod from Coman has a height range from 21.7 inches to 70.8 inches, and it can be used with binoculars, so check out these best binoculars for safari and use a pair in conjunction with this tripod for ultimate stability.
Like most products in this class, it can invert the central column for macro shooting, and it has a removable column that can become a monopod or alpenstock outdoors. Quick-release legs allow super-swift adjustment when required, while the fluid head design offers excellent tracking and smooth video pans with dampened vibration during sudden movements.
It weighs 5 lbs on the nose and can support a maximum weight capacity of 13.2 lbs.
- Liquid filled head.
- Inverted axis option.
- Removable pan bar handle.
- Not too sturdy if used at maximum height.
Benro Adventure 2 Series Carbon Fiber Tripod
Review: This is a super-lightweight carbon fiber tripod that is perfect for travel, weighing just 3.2 lbs. It can extend from 20.7 inches up to 61.4 – which in my book is the perfect size and all you need as a travel/hiking photographer.
Flip locks hold the four sections of each leg together and can be operated independently. The 3/8″-16 thread on top of the tripod allows you to attach any compatible tripod head of your choice, so you can easily adapt it to your personal preferences.
It’s marketed at both location shooting and studio use, so basically versatile for any situation.
Monopod, alpenstock and inverted shooting options are all included, but it’s the eight levels of carbon fiber that offer excellent strength to weight ratio which really sell the product. It will hold 26.5 lbs of camera weight at maximum capacity.
- Versatile head.
- Quality carbon fiber build.
- Other products in the range available.
- Make sure you’re getting the right product – the choices can be confusing.
Leofoto Carbon Fiber Tripod Kit
Review: We’re starting to move into the realms of the professional equipment here so expect a serious price hike from this point on.
Chinese company Leofoto design high-end photographic equipment and accessories, such as this carbon fiber offering which is made from premium, top-quality materials. It offers a maximum height of 62.4 inches, while its folded length is just 20.9 inches.
A special leg-lock system allows easy, super-swift adjustment of the legs with a simple ¼ turn, and the removable feet can be replaced with steel claws, spikes or any other necessary accessory to aid stability depending on your terrain.
It will take a maximum load of 26.5 lbs, and includes an LH-30 low profile head and QR Plate, add-on center column, carry case and spike set.
- Top quality construction.
- Stylish design.
- Removable feet.
- One-piece shims for durability.
- No inverted axis ability for macro shooting.
Feisol Elite Rapid Carbon Fiber Tripod
Review: The real difference when we reach this end of the spectrum is going to be just how sturdy these professional tripods are.
The Feisol Elite model is made by a company that specializes in the manufacture of carbon fiber tubes, now a world leader in camera tripod technology.
The tripod itself is made from the highest grade materials, with a maximum load capacity of an astonishing 66 lbs – it blows just about everything else out of the water.
The trade-off is usually the weight, but this manages to come in at just 3.92 lbs which isn’t bad considering the rock-solid build. It has a maximum height of 59 inches, but even more so if you use the optional center column.
This will take some beating for what you get here.
- Professional quality build.
- Outstanding weight capacity.
- Super-lightweight considering its strength.
Gitzo Traveler Series 1 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Review: Gitzo make probably some of the finest camera tripods in the world, and well they should, considering they’ve been at it since 1917.
This particular model is made from the very best materials, a compact support system with legs that fold around the center column and optional head. The folded length is just 16.7 inches, yet it can fully extend to 60.2 inches in height with a rock-solid, stable base.
The tripod will hold up to 22 lbs worth of camera equipment, and it can be adjusted with the included center column for macro shooting.
The whole package has been expertly designed specifically with the traveler in mind. If there’s a better travel tripod out there, we’ve yet to see it.
- Top quality manufacture.
- Name to trust in the business.
- Practical travel features.
- Super lightweight and portable.
- Even more expensive.
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Travel Tripods of 2020
It might be easy for the pros, but choosing the right travel tripod can be a tad tricky. I’m here to help with a detailed buyer’s guide and FAQ section below.
Tripods come in a variety of different materials all with their advantages and disadvantages.
Whatever the product is constructed from will affect how heavy the tripod is, how sturdy it will be, how much it can hold as its maximum weight capacity, how long it will last/how durable it is and how heavy it actually is itself.
You’ll find the vast majority of tripods – especially those at the budget end of the scale – will be made from an aluminum alloy.
They have a decent strength-to-weight ratio, are durable and long-lasting with an attractive price point.
However, they sometimes don’t perform so well in adverse weather conditions and can be cold or hot to the touch depending on your environment.
Carbon fiber tripods are by far and away the professionals material of choice.
They offer outstanding strength-to-weight ratios, are better at dampening vibrations, perform well in all conditions and will last a lifetime if they’re taken care of.
The obvious disadvantage is that they are usually exorbitantly expensive – although some bargains are there to be had. They also aren’t so tough when it comes to impact damage.
Wooden tripods are also still available, and while they do have a ton of advantages, they’re really not ideal for travel purposes, so there’s no need to cover them here.
Size and Weight
Probably the most important thing to consider when it comes to choosing your tripod is the size and the weight – especially if you’re on the go.
As mentioned, the material will affect the overall weight of the product, but so too will its general size.
Take into consideration how compact a tripod will be when it’s collapsed. Get a measuring tape out so you’re not relying on guesswork and can visualize the total size you’ll have to deal with when it’s in your carry-on backpack.
Then, look at the maximum height it is able to extend to. Some tripods can reach well over six feet – which might be too large for most travel photographers, but they’re ideal if you’re a bit more static.
Larger rigs tend to be more stable, but the trade-off is the obvious size and weight increase.
Top-of-the-range carbon fiber models will compensate for that, offering superb stability with ideal size and weight. You’ll probably end up paying through the nose for it, though.
Ask yourself what you’re going to be shooting and where, and you should be able to figure out the right size of tripod for you.
By far the most complex part of the tripod is the head itself – where you mount your camera equipment.
This can come in a variety of different designs, all with unique features. But I’ve outlined the two most common tripod heads below.
Pan and Tilt
Arguably the most familiar tripod head and most widely used – although less so when it comes to travel versions. It’s usually characterized by a panning/tilting arm – possibly more than one.
They are easy to use and offer precise movement, usually preferred for video/film cameras, or if you’re not going to be moving around so much.
Ball-head tripods are just that, a ball that is enclosed in a casing that can be loosened to offer a full range of directional movement and then tightened to hold the ball and camera still at the desired location.
They’re far more compact than other tripod-head designs, are super versatile and very simple to use.
There are many others, but the above two head designs are the most common when it comes to the best travel tripods.
Legs and Locks
You’ll notice that tripods have three legs – no surprises there. Each leg has a number of telescopic sections, how many of which will determine both the overall extended height and the tripod’s stability.
The higher a tripod can reach, the less stable it will be – so you need to account for that (see below).
Each leg section features a locking system that are likely to either be a twist-lock or a flip-lock.
Twist locks are screw bezels that you loosen or tighten in order to release or fix the telescopic leg.
They usually seal the section better and are less likely to break with fewer parts. However, they can be a bit more fiddly to use.
Flip locks are super-fast and easy to disengage and engage, but they’re much more likely to become inoperable due to damage or wear and tear.
Remember that through enough use, both types of lock will erode and their performance will decrease. At this point, it is advisable to replace the tripod rather than risk smashing up your expensive camera.
The Center Column
Tripods usually come with a center column that can be detached – but sometimes they’re sold separately. They’re most commonly used to add additional height to your tripod.
They can also be inverted 180 degrees so you can get super close to the ground and shoot some macro photography – sometimes from as close as three inches.
Aside from this, these center columns should also have a center hook at the base – on which you can add extra weight (such as a rucksack or bag of rocks) to add more stability to the tripod.
However, for many photographers, the jury is still out on whether or not they’re actually useful, so consider your needs before making a purchase.
It’s very important to consider a tripod’s load capacity before you part with your cash. Many budding photographers (and even some professional ones) have learned this the hard way and lost equipment as a result.
It’s as simple as this – if you’re trying to attach something that’s 10 lbs to something that can only take 5 lbs – you’re asking for trouble.
For the most part, tripods will be able to comfortably hold the vast majority of standard DSLRs.
But if you’re looking into large, telephoto lenses, heavy video/film camera equipment or more professional camera rigs, then higher weight loads, coupled with extra strength and stability is key.
There are plenty of other bells and whistles to consider when choosing the best travel tripods, but first, check out these solo travel photography tips for some extra advice on improving your shooting skills.
This list is not exhaustive – but it will give you a decent starting point on what to look out for.
As you can probably see, the price range of the plethora of tripods on the market is outrageous.
You can pick something up for under ten bucks, or you can part with something in the region of two grand.
I always advise people to buy the best you can afford without breaking your budget, but in this case, a little more thought is required.
Assess your skill level when it comes to your photography. Also, think about where you want your photography to go and if this could be a good investment.
There’s no point paying thousands of dollars for a casual hobby, and likewise, no point paying peanuts if you’re a pro.
But, to each their own!
Do I Need a Tripod for Travel?
No, you don’t. That’s the simple answer.
However, I certainly took my best photographs ever when I brought along even the simplest, most inexpensive tripod.
I went from taking those frustratingly stale, point-and-shoot pictures that anyone and everyone has, to vastly improving the look and feel of my photography to the point that many could mistake them for professional work.
In short – it makes a massive difference to the finished product and if you’re at all serious about travel photography, it’s essential that you invest in a good travel tripod.
Can I Carry a Tripod on a Plane?
So long as you’re adhering to the airline’s rules and regulations for carry-on luggage, you’re not going to have a problem.
Larger tripods and equipment you’ll likely have to check-in, but you should be perfectly fine with these travel versions – particularly the desktop variety!
However, well before you fly, it’s worth contacting your chosen airline directly to make sure. Mistakes can be made and getting caught out at the check-in desk is something we could all do without.
How do I Pack a Tripod for Air Travel?
If the tripod is small enough to fit directly into your carry-on, then that’s probably the best way to go.
Failing that, I would advise covering it with something before securely attaching it to your luggage or backpack. If it comes with its own carry-case, then this is ideal.
Watch this informative video below for some awesome tips and tricks on how you can pack all your photography gear for any plane journey.
How to Travel with a Long Tripod?
With large tripods it becomes a little trickier to travel – particularly on an aircraft.
The chances are you’re going to need to check this kind of tripod in – unless of course, it can somehow still conform to carry-on regulations.
Again, check with the carrier to see what sort of limitation you might be up against.
And have a look at this video which has two great tips on avoiding checking in your gear:
For general travel with a long tripod, you should also make sure you have a good backpack, with plenty of options for attaching extra gear should it be required.
Check out these amazing hiking backpacks that are built for just that – you might find that it’s super easy to attach even a larger rig to the side of one of these portable houses.
At the end of the day however, I would strongly advise against traveling with large tripods – you simply don’t need it when the quality of the travel versions is so good.
What is the Best Carbon Fiber Tripod?
That’s a very objective question, and just because you might spend thousands of dollars on a carbon fiber tripod doesn’t mean it’s the best in the field.
It’s a matter of opinion, but I would personally look for companies that specialize in making carbon fiber tubing.
Either that, or keep an eye on what the professionals use – they can’t be too far wrong considering their wealth of experience.
There’s plenty of information here to arm you with some extensive tripod knowledge in your quest to find the best travel tripod of 2020.
Let me know in the comments section which product you prefer and why, and in the meantime, don’t forget to download my eBook on solo travel safety.
I have a friend who had his entire backpack stolen because it had a tripod attached to it.
Don’t be caught out like that idiot.
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