A Layman’s Guide to Travel Tripods

A Layman's Guide to Travel Tripods: what every photographer must know

What are the different features of travel tripods, and do you need one? In our latest Layman’s Guide we answer the common questions beginner photographers may have about these essential accessories.

A Layman's Guide to Travel Tripods

What are travel tripods?

Regular tripods often weigh in at around 3.5kg, eating into your baggage allowance and being heavy to lug around. Travel tripods are smaller and much lighter in weight, typically weighing around 1kg to 1.5kg.

How do travel tripods work?

Most travel tripods fold down to about 40cm to 50cm in length, making them convenient to carry. However, they usually have either four or five sections in each leg, enabling them to stretch to a useful maximum operating height of around 160cm. Typically, travel tripods with a slightly heavier carrying weight will also have a higher maximum load rating. This can be as little 
as 1.5kg or as much as 8kg.

Who makes travel tripods?

For good build quality and value for money, popular makes include Benro, Giottos, Hama, Manfrotto, Slik, Vanguard and Velbon. In some cases, carbon fibre tripods are available as well as aluminium models. The carbon fibre tripods do give a further reduction in weight, being about 25 per cent lighter than comparable aluminium models,  but typically come at much higher prices.

A Layman's Guide to Travel Tripods: what every photographer must know

Many camera bodies or lenses feature highly effective image stabilisation, but this is of little benefit for very slow shutter speeds as can be seen in the shot above left. The picture on the right has been taken with a travel tripod, showing how useful they are for capturing long exposures on holiday

Any trick features?

Most travel tripods include multi-angle legs and centre columns that you can invert for low-level shooting. They’re usually sold as complete tripod kits, often including a ball head. This is a more compact option than a conventional three-way head.

How do I attach a travel tripod to my DSLR?

Up-market travel tripod kits usually have heads that include a quick-release plate. You can therefore leave the plate attached to your camera for quick and easy mounting and removal from the tripod.


8 common mistakes all photographers make on holiday
79 travel photography tips you shouldn’t leave home without
Best budget tripods: 6 top models tested and rated
Camera Shake: the ultimate cheat sheet for using tripods, monopods and shooting handheld