Best Travel Tripod
The Manfrotto Befree Advanced is about as good as it gets in the world of travel tripods. The Befree has a great quick release system for the metal mounting plate, making it as easy as can be to attach or remove your camera. When it comes to head performance, the Befree is top-notch. This model has a resistance knob for tightening down the ball socket, which allows you to set and forget the resistance and tighten and loosen the primary knob. During our stability assessments, we found this model to be very solid. Also, the Manfrotto Befree Advanced is generally easy to use.
One drawback that we found with the Befree is that it lacks a level — a feature that we have become accustomed to seeing on many top models on the market. Also, we are not the biggest fans of plastic leg clamps. Many travelers are demanding on their gear, and plastic poses an added risk for breakage during transit or in the nasty elements. Still, if you're looking for a high-performance travel tripod that is stable, smooth, and easy to use, we think that the Manfrotto Befree Advanced is a solid choice.
Another fantastic product that scored well during our assessment is the MeFOTO RoadTrip Classic Lightweight. This model includes spiked feet to be used when terrain gets nasty that are easily swapped out with the all-purpose rubber feet without the use of tools. Another tool-free feature that the MeFOTO RoadTrip Classic possesses is converting from a tripod to a monopod. When it comes to panning with this model, the designers have thought to include a dedicated drag knob that keeps the resistance the same even if you absentmindedly loosen the primary knob. We are fans of all-metal construction for products such as this that will be primarily used for travel as plastic can break much more quickly during transport or exposure to the elements. With a maximum height of 62", this is one of the tallest travel tripods that we've reviewed.
We didn't find much to complain about while testing the MeFOTO RoadTrip Classic Lightweight, but we found it to be one of the heavier models while conducting our assessment. Without the bag, it weighs 3 pounds 10-⅝ oz. However, with the bag on the scale, it weighs 4 pounds 5-⅝ oz, so it is not ideal for packing lightly. We think it's a fantastic product despite the weight, and we'd recommend the MeFOTO to those looking for a top-notch travel tripod.
If you're shopping for a travel tripod on a budget, it'd be hard to top the TYCKA Rangers 56" Compact Travel Tripod. Not only is the TYCKA affordable, but it's also light making it ideal for backpacking or other adventures during which every ounce counts. Despite its featherlite weight, we were impressed to learn that the TYCKA is rated to support 26.5 pounds. This model also offers some bonus features such as a bubble level, angle marks for panning, and comfortable rubber grips. It's also nice that this model easily converts to a monopod for those instances where you don't require all three legs' maximum stability.
We did find a few flaws while testing the TYCKA. The leg closure levers do not have adjustable tension, so they will likely wear out over time. We didn't find the panning action on this device to be particularly smooth — if you're going to be shooting video, you may want to go with a more stable model. The all-metal construction is nice, but when our TYCKA arrived, the tension knob was seized open. We were able to pry it loose with a pair of pliers, but it could have been a serious bummer if we didn't have tools readily available. Despite the drawbacks, we still think that this model is ideal for those looking for a light and affordable travel tripod that can support a lot of weight.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod has many attractive features that might make it the perfect choice for you. First of all, it comes with both a bag and a hard case, so you have options to protect your investment depending on where you're headed and what you'll be doing. Hard cases can be a crucial accessory when it comes to certain types of travel. We love the design of the Peak Design model. It can adjust to position the camera angle be very low to the ground thanks to its wide footprint, and it has a nifty shoulder strap. It's easy to set up and take down than many models we've tested, and we found the phone mount to be innovative and useful. The Peak Design Travel Tripod is one of the more stable models that we've tested, so if you're going to be shooting video, this one is an excellent choice.
The biggest downside to purchasing this model is the price. For many applications, a cheaper model will do the trick. It's also a bit heavy and bulky compared to other travel tripods on the market, especially once it's in the hard case. Regardless, we think the Peak Design Travel Tripod is an excellent purchase for those looking for a stable tripod with many luxurious extras that is also easy to use.
If shaving grams is the goal, the K&F Concept 61" Carbon Fiber Camera Tripod is our recommendation. Weighing a mere 2 pounds 4-⅛ oz without the bag, this model is perfect for throwing in the backpack while heading out on a backcountry adventure or your duffel bag while flying to avoid extra baggage fees. We like that the K&F has both a bubble level and a compass to keep your shots perfectly oriented. Our team of expert consumer product analysts found this model to have exceptionally smooth panning as well.
Along with the extremely light weight provided by the construction of the K&F Concept 61" Carbon Fiber Tripod brings a bit of a lack of stability when compared to metal models. Despite the smooth panning action, you'd better have a steady hand so as not to flex the legs while shooting. We are also not the biggest fans of the plastic mounting plate, but if weight reduction is the goal, we think plastic is the way to go.
We found the GEEKOTO 58" Compact to be very light during our assessment, weighing in at only 2 pounds 12-¼ oz. Although it's not the most lightweight travel tripod that we've gotten our hands on, we found it to be impressively stable while compared to carbon fiber models that only weigh a few ounces less. The GearLab team also agreed that this model has a very smooth panning action, an attractive element for videographers. We like that the GEEKOTO quickly converts into a monopod, which provides an alternative way to shoot in a matter of seconds.
We found the main flaw with the GEEKOTO is that the mounting system is a bit of a pain. A couple of nubs on the mounting plate keep the mount from sliding around, but those nubs also make it difficult to remove. There are also several plastic components on this model that add to a bit of questionable durability. These include the lever locks on the legs as well as the mounting plates. However, if you're looking for a travel tripod that is both light and stable, the GEEKOTO 58" Compact is a good choice.
If weight is your ultimate deciding purchasing factor, you can't get much lighter than the YoTilon Camera Tripod. We like the easy-to-use 90-degree tilt function on the head that this model offers. It has a large and comfortable handle with a thick foam sleeve. The brass accents on the YoTilon give it a sleek and stylish look, making it a good choice for those shooting special events. The spring-loaded hook allows you to easily anchor extra weights for instances in which wind or children playing may pose a risk of knocking your investment to the ground.
Unfortunately, we didn't find the YoTilon Camer Tripod to offer much in the way of stability. This model also has a system for lowering and raising the central column that we think is harder to use than models with a crank. But if weight and style are high up on the list of elements that mean the most to you, this model is the way to go.
With an exciting innovation, the Torjim 60" Camera Tripod designers have thought to include a Bluetooth remote that links to your phone and a phone mount on one of the tripod legs. You cannot only attach your photo or video camera to the main mount of this model, but you can also simultaneously record video or images from a distance with your cell phone and either start or stop the filming or snap a photo with the remote.
If you want a tripod with the option to invert to get your camera closer to the ground, this model, unfortunately, does not possess that capability. The Torjim 60" Camera Tripod has a very low load rating, so it really can only be used for lighter cameras. But if having your travel tripod double as a smartphone tripod or selfie stick with a Bluetooth remote, the Torjim is the way to go.
The K&F Concept 62" DSLR Tripod has an attractive feature or two. We like that it has a comfortable foam handle that fits quite nicely in your hand. It includes a bubble level, metal release buttons for the legs, and an automatic rebound weight hook.
Regrettably, we found that the K&F Concept 62" DSLR Tripod is especially unstable when compared to the best models, which can defeat the purpose of having a tripod at all. Also, the ball and socket on this version can randomly get sticky and jerk around a bit. We'd recommend that our readers go with a higher quality model.
Why You Should Trust Us
To test travel tripods, we used our In-House Review Editor Ross Patton and our In-House Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer. With a combined 15 years of professional product reviewing between the two of them, you can rest assured knowing that they have created top-notch experiments that deliver world-class results. Ross has been using travel tripods since the days of 8mm tapes and Firewire cables while making films in the realm of actions sports. Austin has researched and tested an impressive variety of consumer camera products ranging from gimbals to printers and everything in between.
At GearLab, we take pride in buying all of the products that we test from the same retailers as our readers to eliminate any chance of bias. We never accept freebies or demo products from manufacturers, so you can be sure that monetary incentives or free products do not sway us in any way. Once developing a test plan, we put each product through a series of experiments and assessments that delineate each model's strengths and weaknesses.
Analysis and Test Results
We broke our review down into three key subcategories — stability, head performance, and features to evaluate travel tripods. The results of our testing process are outlined below.
For many photographers and videographers, stability will be the ultimate deciding factor when purchasing a travel tripod. If you're planning on running any time lapses or static video shots, having your tripod remain still is critical. If you plan on panning and shooting action video shots, this attribute becomes even more important. For this reason, we focused most of our efforts for this review on analyzing each product's overall stability. To test stability, we paid close attention to the smoothness and action of both lowering and raising the column. Then, our panel of expert research analysts subjectively judged each model's overall stability with a DSLR and 200mm lens attached to the mounting plate.
The Manfrotto Befree Advanced and the MeFOTO RoadTrip Classic topped our list as the most stable models. Our research team gave each of these tripods a score of 9 out of 10 while lowering the column down and each a score of 8 out of 10 while raising it. During our assessment, we found them to both be solid and stable in general.
Next, we gave the Peak Design a 7 out of 10 for this metric. This model has rigid metal legs that do not flex, and we love the rubberized feet at the base of each leg.
We found that the TYCKA Rangers 56" Compact is reasonably stable, so we awarded it a 5 out of 10 for this metric.
The mounting plate or head of the tripod can make a crucial difference in overall shot stability while shooting photos or video. A mounting system that is loose will allow for play in the panning of the shot, potentially ruining some otherwise fantastic content, whether it be a video shot of an action sport or a time-lapse of a beautiful sunset. Furthermore, the plate mounting system itself can play a critical role in the overall ease of use for these devices. While traveling, it can be assumed that much of the time, you'll be shooting out in the elements, so a plastic lever that could snap in the cold or a mounting system that won't work well if it gets some snow or sand in it might render your travel tripod useless. For this section, we carefully inspected these variables. Most importantly, we tested each model's panning action to determine the travel tripods that will provide a smooth shot and those that will not. We found the following models to offer the utmost degree of performance when it comes to mounting and panning.
While assessing the Manfrotto Befree Advanced, we were delighted to use the quick-release mounting plate and discover that the ball & socket is large and comfortable to get a grip on. The resistance knob is awesome — it's very handy so that you can just set the tension and not have to worry about the main knob. We also found that moving the ball and socket is exceptionally smooth and even.
The MeFOTO RoadTrip Classic Lightweight's mounting plate is similar to the Manfrotto Befree Advanced using a knob and clamp to hold the plate to the head. This model has rubber grips to keep everything secure and sturdy while panning, and the panning has angle marks. The MeFOTO has a knob on the head specifically dedicated to drag. This feature allows the user to loosen the primary head knob yet keep the action at the same resistance. Our testing team found this model to be very smooth, albeit not quite as smooth as the Manfrotto
If you're looking for a highly portable model that still offers smooth panning, we recommend the "K&F Concept 61" Carbon Fiber Camera Tripod. A simple tightening knob secures the mounting plate, and there is also only a single knob to tighten or loosen the head, but the wing-style thumb levers make it easy to tighten them down.
The bells & whistles on travel tripods range from a completely bare-bones device to models that offer comfortable foam grips, hard travel cases, and even cell phone holders. For the last portion of our score, we assessed the distinguishing elements that separate each tripod from the others.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod offers a few unique elements when it comes to attractive features. If you're going to be doing some rugged travel, it's nice to know that this model includes a hard case with your purchase. The Peak Design has a cell phone mount, which can be very handy for vlogging or time-lapses with your mobile device, and it features a spring-loaded weight hook to help stabilize the tripod.
The Manfrotto Befree Advanced has a threaded socket just below the head that allows for various accessories and configurations with multiple camera equipment pieces. This model has three locking positions, and the entire tripod can be inverted to have the camera lower to the ground to help get those perfect macro shots. If you are looking for a budget model capable of inverting, check out the TYCKA Rangers Compact Travel Tripod.
We take very much pride in our work, we do our best to provide you with the best guidance possible when you are looking to purchase a new product, but we also have a ton of fun in the process. We hope that having read this review that you will not only end up with the perfect travel tripod for you but that you will also have as much fun using yours as we did testing them.
— Ross Patton and Austin Palmer