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In a hurry? If you’re looking for the best travel tripod all-around, I highly recommend checking the MeFOTO Classic Roadtrip Tripod/Monopod Kit. Its construction is sturdy enough to hold most DSLRs with small and medium lenses and the tripod extends high enough for most situations. On top of that, it can be converted into a monopod, and it comes in multiple colors allowing you to pick your favorite.
If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you might know that I am a big fan of night photography. I love the fact that – whether it comes to general travel photos or aircraft photos – a camera can produce a crisp image of things that even the human eye cannot see.
To do so, however, a good travel tripod is a must.
With hundreds of models on the market, it can get quite difficult to choose the right one. In this article, I’ll introduce what I think are some of the best travel tripods for a variety of different uses. I will also tell you how I arrived at those results and what criteria you should consider when choosing one.
Finally, I will give you answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about travel tripods in general.
Before jumping into the reviews, though, below is a table summarizing the featured picks for each category.
KN AVIATION TOP PICK
MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip Travel Tripod
Only 15.4 inches collapsed, but extends to more than 61 inches. Can accommodate most DSLRs. Available in multiple colors.
Manfrotto Compact Advanced Aluminum Tripod
Comes with a 3-way head. Weighs just 3 pounds. Offers good balance of size, functionality, and price.
AmazonBasics 50-Inch Lightweight Tripod
Comes with a carrying case in spite of its very cheap price. Can extend up to a shooting height of 50 inches.
BEST FOR PROFESSIONALS
Gitzo Lightweight Series 2 Traveler Tripod
Top-of-the-line carbon fiber tripod. Weighs just 4 pounds but can support equipment of up to 26 pounds. Very expensive.
BEST AFFORDABLE CARBON FIBER TRIPOD
Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod
Weighs less than 3 pounds but is very sturdy. A good option if you want carbon fiber construction but have a limited budget.
BEST MINI TRIPOD
Measures just 7 inches and so it’s easy to carry around. Works well with compacts as well as (with an adapter) smartphones.
BEST MULTI-FUNCTIONAL TRIPOD
JOBY GorillaPod 3K
Very versatile, can be used to attach your camera to trees and other uneven surfaces or as a selfie stick among other things.
KN Aviation Top Pick: MeFOTO Classic Aluminum Roadtrip Travel Tripod/Monopod Kit (A1350Q1K)
While there is a carbon fiber version of the MeFOTO Classic Roadtrip travel tripod, I decided to feature the aluminum version as the top pick. I believe it offers a better cost-performance and also that carbon fiber tripods are not worth the additional cost for the vast majority of photographers.
The tripod is, at just 15.4 inches of length when folded and 3.6 pounds of weight, very compact. Yet, it offers a shooting height of up to 61.6 inches when fully extended and can accommodate cameras up to 17.6 pounds. This makes it sturdy enough to hold not only compact and mirrorless cameras, but also most DSLRs – even with some of the heavier lenses.
Besides being a tripod, it can also be converted into a 64-inch monopod. That can come in handy in places where tripods are not allowed but monopods are, like some museums.
The kit includes a ballhead that’s equipped with a quick-release plate and a bubble level. There are also head and pan locks which make this tripod great for shooting 360-degree panoramas.
This product is available in almost a dozen different colors – including brighter ones likes blue, green, and red – and comes with a carrying case.
Things I Like About This Product: It’s very compact when folded yet offers respectable capacity and stability. It’s versatile both in terms of shooting height as well as thanks to the fact that it can be used as a monopod.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: While the product has received generally very positive reviews, some users experienced issues with the quick-release plate not locking into place and with some of the controls failing. The latter, as long as not caused by your fault, should be solvable using MeFOTO’s five-year warranty, though.
Runner-Up: Manfrotto Compact Advanced Aluminum 5-Section Tripod with 3-Way Head
Manfrotto is, as you likely know, one of the most reputable tripod brands. As such, it’s no surprise that it’s featured on this list multiple times. I chose the Manfrotto Compact Advanced Tripod as the runner-up since offers a good balance of size, functionality, and price.
At just 3 pounds, it’s lighter than the top pick. However, at 18.5 inches when folded, it is slightly less compact. It has a maximum load of 6.6 pounds. As such, it won’t be able to accommodate the heaviest DSLR + lens combinations, but should work fine in most other cases.
This Manfrotto tripod can be extended up to 65.75 inches.
It comes bundled with a 3-way pan/tilt head equipped with a quick release plate and a carrying case. A kit with a ballhead is available as well if that’s what you prefer.
Things I Like About This Product: It’s made by one of the most respected brands in the field. At only 3 pounds, it’s quite light, yet it can accommodate small and medium DSLRs.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: Some of its users reported that the build could be a bit sturdier and the legs could be a bit easier to extend. Also, while the carrying case itself is of a decent quality, it coms with a drawstring rather than a proper shoulder strap.
Best Budget Travel Tripod: AmazonBasics 50-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag
I am a big fan of the AmazonBasics series since in a lot of cases it offers perfectly adequate products for very affordable price. And, that’s the case with the AmazonBasics 50-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag as well.
Even though this tripod is not the best one out there and is about as simple as it gets, chances are it will be more than enough for what you need.
The AmazonBasics tripod features a basic 3-way head with water level, and weighing at just over 1 pounds, it’s easy to carry around even for extended periods of time.
Its lightness, of course, reflects on its lack of stability and sturdiness compared to some of the other products in this list.
Collapsed, it measures 16.5 inches. As for its maximum height, it reaches up to 50 inches – not quite to an adult’s eye level, but high enough high for most situations.
It comes with a carrying case.
Things I Like About This Product: It’s very affordable yet it comes with a quick-release plate. It’s so light that you can throw it in your bag without worrying about its weight too much.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It doesn’t offer the best or sturdiest construction. As such, you should avoid using it with DSLRs – especially medium and large ones – as much as possible.
Best Professional Travel Tripod: Gitzo Lightweight Series 2 Traveler Carbon Fiber Tripod
Jumping from AmazonBasics to the very other end of spectrum, you can find the Gitzo Series 2 Traveler carbon fiber tripod.
While this one is an overkill for most people, if you are looking for something that will offer excellent functionality and last you pretty much a lifetime, you should most certainly check it out. That’s if budget is not an issue, though.
At 4 pounds, it is not the lightest tripod on this list. However, thanks to that, the tripod has a load capacity of 26 pounds. As such, you don’t have to worry about using it even with some of the heaviest DSLR + lens combinations. After all, this is a top-of-the-line professional product.
Thanks to its reverse folding legs, it only measures 17.5 inches including the ballhead when collapsed. That’s in spite of the fact that it can be extended all the way to 65.2 inches. Its lowest shooting height is 13 inches.
The tripod’s made in Italy.
Things I Like About This Product: More or less everything except for the price.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: Not much other than the price. Some customers also mentioned that the customer support is not perfect. That said, considering the tripod’s quality, chances that you will have to get in touch with the manufacturer or file a warranty claim are minimal.
Best Affordable Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod: Manfrotto Befree Advanced Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
If you want a carbon fiber tripod but don’t want to pay the exorbitant price of the Gitzo one above, make sure to check the Manfrotto Befree.
While there’s a noticeable difference in craftsmanship and build quality compared to the Gitzo, the Manfrotto can be had for just a fraction of the price. And, it’s still an excellent tripod.
The tripod weighs a little under 3 pounds, and can support camera setups weighing up to 17.64 pounds. As such, you don’t have to worry about using it with even heavier cameras. It measures 16.14 inches when closed, but can be extended up to the height of 59 inches.
It comes with a quality ballhead that’s compatible with Arca Swiss quick-release plates.
Things I Like About This Product: This tripod is quite light yet sturdy. It can easily hold even heavier cameras.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: Even though it’s cheaper than the Gitzo, it is still a very expensive tripod and unnecessarily advanced for most amateur photographers.
Best Mini Tripod for Compacts and Smartphones: Manfrotto PIXI
Sometimes, like when trying to take a photo of the group you are traveling with, you might not need a full-size tripod. In those case, getting a mini tripod like the Manfrotto PIXI is a good idea.
The tripod measures about 7 inches when folded and its maximum height is only 5 inches. As such, it will be mainly useful when set on a table or in other relatively high place. Because of its size, its maximum load is just 2.2 pounds. As such, you should try to only use it with compact cameras, with mirrorless cameras and DSLRs with small lenses at most.
In spite of its small size, unlike some of its competitors, the PIXI is equipped with a ballhead and so will let you easily adjust the angle of your photo.
While it’s a regular camera tripod, you can also get this adapter to use it with your iPhone or other smartphone.
Things I Like About This Product: It’s small and light enough to be carried around at all times. It’s designed well and features a ballhead for maximum flexibility when taking photos.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: This tripod will be, obviously, close to useless if you have no high platform (like a table) to put it on. Also, some customers reported the ballhead being too loose. Those seem to be exceptions, though, and can be solved by using the warranty and getting a replacement product.
Best Multi-Functional Travel Tripod: JOBY GorillaPod 3K
If you are looking for something that can not only hold your camera on a flat space but also attach it to a tree or serve as a selfie-stick, go with the JOBY GorillaPod 3K. While nowadays, there are many “knock offs,” the original JOBY product still offers the best quality.
I resisted getting one for the longest time in spite of hearing many good things about it. Earlier this year, though, I decided to buy it and it’s been an indispensable tool in my photography kit since then.
As the product’s name suggests, the GorillaPod 3K can support camera weighing a maximum of 3 kilograms or about 6.5 pounds. It measures less than 15 ounces and measures about 12 inches.
If that’s not enough for your needs, you can get the 5K version. Or, you can go smaller and get one of the 1K, 500 or 325 (grams) versions.
The GorillaPod comes equipped with a 360-degree panning and 90-degree tilt ballhead with a bubble level. It’s also equipped with a quick release plate.
Things I Like About This Product: It’s extremely light, I can barely notice it hanging off the side of my backpack. It’s about as versatile as a tripod can get.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It’s a bit difficult trying to get the joints straight after using the tripod. Also, because of it’s small size and inability to extend, in “tripod mode,” it’s only useful if you want a low angle shot or if you have some platform to put it on.
The Methodology: What I Considered When Picking the Featured Products
When coming up with the right pick for each of the categories, I looked at how the products that I considered did in terms of the criteria below. I also considered how important each of those criteria is to the specific category.
Price: Of course, I considered price as one of the ranking factors. However, I took it into account relative to each tripod’s performance overall. As such, the only category where was the main deciding factor was the “best budget travel tripod” where the AmazonBasics 50-Inch tripod was the winner.
Quality: The more important criteria to consider was the quality of the product – both in terms of the product’s build quality as well as sturdiness. The three main ways to assess a product’s quality that I used were: looking at the reputation of the brand that makes it, looking at the material it is made of, and going thoroughly through positive, negative, and neutral reviews. Overall, all of the products I featured in the list are of decent enough quality in relation to their price and intended usage. However, if I had to choose one product that stands above all in this regard, it would have to be the Gitzo Series 2 Traveler carbon fiber tripod.
Size and Weight: When it comes to travel tripods, in many cases, it’s finding the right balance between the maximum possible height and sturdiness at the lowest possible weight and folded size. As such, while the tripods featured in the list might not be the highest or sturdiest tripods on the markets, they offer the perfect balance for travelers. All of them are quite light and most of them extend to a respectable height of 55 to 65 inches. I think the top pick, MeFOTO Classic Roadtrip travel tripod, offers the best balance in this regard.
Capacity: Most people nowadays travel with a smartphone and a compact or mirrorless camera. Even when traveling with a DSLR, not many people lug around heavy lenses. As such, when looking at the tripods’ capacities, or maximum loads, I didn’t give it much importance past a certain point. Past a point where it could accommodate 5 or 6 pounds of equipment. That said, if you do travel with and use heavy lenses, the top pick as well as the winner in the “best affordable carbon fiber travel tripod” category can hold significantly heavier cameras.
Material: Generally, travel tripods are made either of aluminum or carbon fiber. While carbon fiber is relatively lighter – and so more suitable for lugging around – it is also more expensive. Because of that, for the general “non-carbon-fiber” categories, I decided to stick with aluminum tripods which are more than sufficient for most photographers in most situations.
Type of Head: Roughly speaking, there are two types of tripod heads – ballheads and 3-way heads. While the former offers easier control since you only have to loosen one knob to adjust the camera in all direction, the later offers more precision. Since it’s really a matter of preference, I tried to showcase tripods that come with both types of heads. In fact, some of the ones in the list, like the Manfrotto Compact Advanced Tripod, are available both in kits with either of the two types of heads.
The FAQs: Information About Travel Tripods You Might Find Useful
Below, I try to answer some of the questions and concerns I hear about travel tripods often. If you have any other questions, feel free to get in touch and I’ll try to answer them.
What is a travel tripod?
Let’s start with the basics – with what makes travel tripod a travel tripod.
The main criteria are size and weight. After all, a travel tripod is something that you will be lugging around with you. Something that you might have to carry for miles.
That said, what you consider a travel tripod and what I consider a travel tripod might differ. We might have different needs in terms of the tripod’s height and maximum load, we might have different requirements in terms of how sturdy it needs to be, and we might have different physical abilities in terms of what we consider light and what we consider heavy.
As such, the term “travel tripod” is very subjective.
Is a tripod allowed as carry-on?
Generally, tripods are allowed as carry-ons. However, you still have to – at the very least – adhere to the regular carry-on rules.
Some countries also have other restrictions on items like tripods.
As such, make sure to check with the airport you are departing from about those.
Should you get an aluminum or a carbon fiber tripod?
While in general, carbon fiber tripods are superior to aluminum tripods – they offer more sturdiness at less weight – they are also more expensive.
As such, whether you should get one or the other will really depend on your needs and budget.
For most purposes, I think aluminum tripods are more than enough.
Should you get a travel tripod with a ball head or a 3-way head?
This completely depends on your preferences.
Because with a ballhead you have to adjust your camera in all direction at the same time, it can get a little clumsy. At the same time, if you get used to it, it’s quicker than adjusting with a 3-way head.
A 3-way head, though, allows you to do much more precise adjustments.
Hopefully, reading through this article allowed you to find a travel tripod that suits your situation the best, whether you are an amateur or a professional, or whether you use a small compact or a large DSLR.
And, even if you didn’t find a tripod that you like in the list above, I hope the mentioned products gave you a good starting point and helped you in eventually finding one that you like.
If you are on a really tight budget, I would just order the AmazonBasics 50-inch tripod.