Best Lightweight Travel Tripods For Photographers (Complete Guide)

Best Travel Tripods for Photography
Best Lightweight Travel Tripods Review
Travel Photography Gear

Tripods are a fixture of a good travel photographer’s toolkit. These are the best lightweight travel tripods for capturing stunning landscape photos or video with your camera.

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

Whether it’s hiking in the mountains of Afghanistan, or wandering the streets of Paris. My travel tripod joins me almost everywhere I’ll be planning to shoot photos.

I seriously can’t imagine traveling without a good tripod!

Today I wanted to share some of the best lightweight travel tripods available, and review my favorites along with which tripod I personally pack with my camera.

My Travel Tripod Review Guide For 2019

We’ll get to the juicy stuff in a second (I promise!), but before that, it’s important to understand a few high-level concepts about what makes a tripod good for travel.

Why Listen To Me?

Experience! I’ve been traveling around the world for the past 9 years working as a professional travel photographer & blogger, selling images to travel brands & magazines. This guide is also completely independent.

Travel Tripods for Photography
Why Should You Use A Tripod?

Why Are Travel Tripods Important?

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

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

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

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

Astro Photography With Tripods
Tripods Are Great For Star Photography!

Key Travel Tripod Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel Tripods for Hiking
Hiking in Italy with my RRS TCQ-14

Best Budget Travel Tripods

Sirui T-1205X – Best Value Tripod

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

Cheaper/Heavier Aluminum Version: Sirui T2005X TX

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

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

PROS
  • Affordable
  • Super lightweight
  • Sturdy
CONS
  • 5 section legs
  • Ball head not included
This is the tripod I owned for many years before upgrading to a more professional model recently. Loved using it for all types of photography situations. Fantastic value, and well-rounded.

Check Price On Amazon →


Manfrotto Befree – Super Lightweight Tripod

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

Cheaper/Heavier Aluminum Version: Befree Aluminum

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

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

PROS
  • Very lightweight
  • Extends tall
  • Affordable
CONS
  • Low load capacity
  • No ballast hook
  • Not very sturdy
Low maximum weight capacity makes the Manfrotto better suited to mirrorless camera kits. While it was the least sturdy tripod, it’s also the lightest (with included ball-head). I’m not a big fan of the Manfrotto RC2 style camera plates either.

Check Price On Amazon →


3 Legged Thing Leo – Most Sturdy Travel Tripod

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

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

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

PROS
  • Super stable
  • Monopod feature
  • Ballast hook
CONS
  • Relatively heavy
  • 5-section legs
This is the heaviest combination on the list, however, it’s also the most stable. A great option for videographers, or photographers who need a super stable tripod for long-exposure night photography. The monopod feature is slick!

Check Price On Amazon →


Joby GorillaPod 5K – Top Travel Vlogging Tripod

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

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

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

PROS
  • Flexible gripping legs
  • Very lightweight
  • Affordable
CONS
  • Light load capacity
  • Short maximum height
  • Metal/plastic construction
The gripping legs mean you can set it up almost anywhere for great photography, including attaching it to fences and trees. It’s especially good for taking selfies and vlogging (video blogging).

Check Price On Amazon →


Best High-End Travel Tripods

RRS TQC-14 – Professional Travel Tripod

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

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

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

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

PROS
  • Carbon Fiber
  • High load capacity
  • Ballast hook
CONS
  • Expensive
  • Ball head not included
While the TFC-14 is the most expensive tripod here, there’s no question you get quality for your money. The design is rock solid, easy to use, and gives a lot of height. Out of all the tripods I’ve used, this is my favorite.

Check Price On RRS →


Gitzo Series 1 Traveler – Best Designed Tripod

Tripod Weight: 3.2 lbs.
Build: Carbon Fiber
Maximum Load: 24 lbs.
Extended Height: 52.4”
Folded Length: 14.4”
Ballhead: Included
Price: Click Here For Latest Price
Gitzo Traveler Tripod

The Gitzo Series 1 Traveler is a rugged carbon fiber tripod weighing in at 2.8 lbs. This tripod also includes a ball head with Swiss Arca-style quick release plate. It uses a reverse folding leg design when stowed to ensure it fits even into overhead flight storage.

The twist-lock design of the legs is quick, smooth, and secure. Gitzo makes a few different versions of the Traveler, for example the Series 2 is much taller and slightly heavier.

PROS
  • Integrated ballhead
  • High load capacity
  • Lightweight
CONS
  • Expensive
The Gitzo Series 1 is also not cheap. However it’s very sturdy and compact thanks to the cleverly designed ball head. Gitzo tripods are the choice of many professionals worldwide.

Check Price On Amazon →


Travel Tripods for Photography
How To Choose A Tripod For Traveling

Which Travel Tripod Is Best For You?

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

  • If you’re looking for the ultimate lightweight, full-size hiking tripod that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, I’d probably go with the Manfrotto Befree.
  • If you want the best all-around tripod that’s a combination of lightweight, sturdy, and affordable, I’d pick the Sirui T-1205X.
  • If you don’t think you’ll need a tripod that often, or do a lot of vlogging, the Joby GorillaPod is your best bet.
  • If you have money to burn and want nothing but the highest quality gear, both the RSS TQC-14 (often on backorder) or Gitzo Traveler will make you very happy.

Your Top Tripod Questions Answered!

What Is The Best Tripod For Photography?

It really depends on what kind of photography you’re doing, and what your budget is. For normal travel photography, you want something lightweight that packs down small. But if you’re doing super-long exposure astrophotography, you may want to bring a bigger, heavy tripod.

Do I Really Need A Travel Tripod?

If you are not shooting low-light situations that often (sunsets, sunrises, night) and are not trying to capture photos (or video) of yourself, then you probably don’t need a tripod. Just try to shoot with fast shutter speeds. However, I believe using a tripod DOES improve your images, as you slow down and pay more attention to details and get more creative with your images.

Do Tripods Work For All Cameras?

Yes travel tripods will work for most cameras, as long as they can be screwed into a tripod head mounting plate. There are different types of plates available, like my favorite, the Arca-Swiss plate. Most cameras have the screw hole at the bottom for a tripod plate, but some, like the GoPro camera, need a special accessory.

What Is A Monopod?

A monopod is just a single leg for you to steady your camera on. It’s not completely free-standing, you need to keep at least one hand on the camera. If you’re moving frequently, like for sports or action photography, it doesn’t always make sense to lug a full tripod around, which is why those photographers use monopods. It’s often better than no support at all.

What’s The Best Travel Tripod Head?

Each tripod brand will have its own ball heads. Generally, I recommend just using the ball head that was designed for your tripod. Ballheads can come in different sizes though, depending on how heavy your camera setup is. You want a light one, as long as it can handle your gear. For example, if you use a large 70-200mm lens, you may need a bigger tripod head.

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

Good luck, safe travels, and happy shooting! ★

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Best Lightweight Travel Tripods. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Best Lightweight Travel Tripods. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide on the best lightweight travel tripods! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

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

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Leave a Comment

Comments (74)

  1. Thanks for the comparison.
    I have a Canon 5D and I need a tripod I can use with the Canon zoom lens (70-200mm), so I am looking for a lightweight but sturdy tripod. Have you tried the Manfrotto Element?

  2. I was looking for a travel tripod and foundation your post via Google.

    It helped me a lot and I’ve now ordered the Sirui T-1205X with the K-10X ball head.

    I will use it on my upcoming trips to Majorca, Crete, South Africa and Zanzibar.

    Looking forward to follow you on fb and insta.

  3. Hi Matthew, I found your site by chance. Spent a whole day reading lots of your articles, like this one about travel tripods. I’ve been in the Amazon jungle for the past 11 years. Our internet sucks! We have internet via radio. When it rains or there are huge rain clouds, we lose the signal.

    Your job is so important to people like me that don’t know anything about new products. I had a Manfrotto tripod (carbon fiber) a bit of mud ruined my tripod. Here photographers don’t own a tripod. They don’t even know what shooting in Raw is. Well, I don’t know how to spell their name nor know who the Kardashians are for that matter.
    I have trouble with footwear. With the humidity & heat the front part of the shoe unglues. The same thing happened to my Canon SLR. The mirror unglued. I glued it back again. My Canon 70-200 2.8 lens that has a seal to weatherproof the lens, didn’t handle the heat or humidity. My expensive lens was ruined within two years. I stored my lens & camera in plastic bags then in their cases with silica gel. I thought I was being careful.
    I need more info on mirrorless cameras, the pros & cons, please. I’m sooo in love with your site. Have a wonderful New Year! Cheers!

    • Hey Marly! Glad you’re enjoying the site so much. That’s crazy you’ve been in the Amazon for so long! I know from experience how wet & humid places can destroy cameras. I spent some time in Panama’s Darien Gap and had all kinds of problems.

      If you’re looking for a new camera for traveling, check out my big guide here: https://expertvagabond.com/best-travel-camera/

  4. What an informative post, Matthew. Taking photos is a staple in our every adventure so having a lightweight tripod for our travels is a great plus. It is nice to know that I can easily find what I am looking for from reading your list. I will definitely take a look at each one and hopefully find something I desire. Thank you!

  5. I use a Velvon Cube. not the best one, but it folds so small that I can travel with it in my purse.
    Nice post!

  6. Awesome post! Last year I asked you on Instagram for a recommendation of a good tripod with lightweight, you recommended the Sirui one, I bought it and I am very happy with it.
    Thank you!!!

  7. Thank you for publishing this guide. Tripods are perfect for when there’s no one around to take your picture. I would love to win and take the tripod with me to Iceland.

  8. Such a great and thorough review of all the possibilities. Would definitely love to attempt some star or even milky way photo in the future so I’ll definitely be needing a tripod.

  9. Wow, I really wish to have this tripod, since I guess my next destination will require my photo shots use a tripod. Gonna use this on Bali, and my next plan to Europe. Gonna do my photo hunting thing to try that tripod, though ;)

  10. Hi
    You came up with this give away right when I was looking to buy a tripod as my older one broke.
    Hope that I win.
    P.s I will be needing it when u travel to USA next year.

  11. I would love to use one of these when I do a tour of the Norwegian fjords next year. It would be amazing for capturing the northern lights.

  12. This is super helpful, the number of options out there can be a bit overwhelming! I’ve been dragging around a super heavy old tripod so the sooner I can get a new one the happier I’ll be!

  13. What a great post! My tripod is so clunky and I barely use it anymore because it is a pain to lug around! But now I have all these options to chose from. ☺️

  14. I would definitely use one of these tripods on my upcoming road-trip across the country! I’m moving to California and plan to stop along the way in a few places and having a tripod would be amazing for my photography!

  15. My tripod is so heavy its annoying to take along. Heading to Spain in Sept. And could definitely use a new one. Great article. Thanks.

  16. This is a great guide with plenty of detail! How many tripods have you used while learning and what made you driven enough to keep looking for better tripods?

  17. It’s like you read my mind. I am in the market for a travel tripod and was planning on buying one in the coming weeks. Thanks for all the useful info!

  18. This helped out so much! I have the Joby but ive quickly run into its limitations that a traditional tripod can offer!

  19. A comprehensive review of all the models. Useful guide…
    Just a thought..
    You’ve mentioned the study ones and those that stand in good competition worldwide and which you might recommend but many newbies would like to buy a cheaper one.
    Maybe less than 100 $.
    What I am using is from Vagabond.. ESPOD CX.. Could you please compare write a few words about that too…

    Thanks in advance..

  20. I’ve been barely lugging around a slik one with me but mostly i would just leave it, treking with the extra pounds is killing me… A lighter one is a whole different ball game…

  21. Hi, First of all, I would like to say that I am really inspired by your journey as a blogger and it was the evident result of that I started out with my own little blog. (Thank you for that)

    And I recently, I did purchase RRS-TQC-14 and have to say that it works quite essentially fine.

  22. Thanks for the helpful article! I’ve been thinking about getting a tripod, but wasn’t sure if they were worth the money or not. We are thinking about going to Maine this fall to see the foliage and a tripod would come in handy. Thanks!

  23. Great post! I was just searching on Amazon for a replacement tripod today so this is hugely helpful! I need a new one before my Antarctica trip. Thanks for the guidance! :)

  24. Thanks for sharing this Matt! We currently use a MeFoto Classic Tripod for our travels, but have also been exploring options for a more lightweight choice for backpacking.

  25. Man I love when people put vlogs and blogs about travel gear..definitely my favourite 😎 thanks dude love your stuff

  26. I love the clarity you provide here on each item as well as a pronounced pros and cons list. Thanks so much! Awesome read.

  27. Thanks for the useful info. A good tripod does wonders. I went on safari in Namibia last year and stupid me left my trusted tripod in the room on check out…now my wife only allows me to buy the cheapest ones.

  28. Thank you for the article. You included much information to help make a decision up to an including multi level details to help with the tripod search.

  29. Thanks for sharing your review on tripods! I have a really cheap one that I brought to take sunset selfies at Horseshoe Bend and exploring in Antelope Canyon, but it gets to be a bit heavy at times!

  30. Perfect timing with this post! I’ve been in the market for a lightweight travel-friendly tripod. You covered all the ones I’ve been looking at and then some. Great article. Thanks!

  31. I love the way you highlighted the pros and cons of each one – super informative. I am travelling to Montreal this summer and would love one of these bad boys to take awesome photos of the cool cathedrals!

  32. Love the write-up–that Gitzo is beautiful. I’m planning a trip to Isle Royale NP later this year and would love to bring that thing along.
    Thanks for doing this!

  33. I’m brand new to photography and just signed up for my first workshop in August. I’ve been researching best travel tripods and this is so helpful! Thank you!!!

  34. Great info. I just bought a travel camera and have been learning the basics of photography, so this post came at the perfect time for me!

  35. Thank you for the great article. It really opens my eyes on so many of the great things tripods can off. Thank you. Going out to Belize and Guatemala in August. Any advice of places to go.

  36. Great blog…been looking into getting a tri pod for some time for my mountain adventures, thanks for the info

  37. I need to improve my travel photos and should add a tripod to my wish list. Thank you for the valuable information.

  38. Great review specifically geared toward travel tripods! I have a Gitzo that I really love, but I almost never take it when traveling because it’s too big and heavy.

  39. I’ve been looking at travel tripods for a while, but haven’t made a purchase. This article is very informative. I will be revisiting it again soon after my month in Asia!