The best travel tripods have a different job to do compared the ordinary sort. All the usual requirements apply – they should be sturdy, adaptable, quick to use and so on – but there are two more vital things to look for.
1) A travel tripod needs to be small enough to pack and carry around
2) A travel tripod needs to be light enough to carry around all day
As you'd expect, something's got to give. Travel tripods may not reach the same maximum height as regular tripods, they might not offer the same levels of stability and because they will typically use carbon fiber and a larger number of leg sections to achieve light weight and portability, they will typically cost more.
And what one photographer considers the perfect compromise between size and stability could be very different to someone else's opinion. That's why the best travel tripod won't be the same for everyone, and why we'v covered an especially broad range of prices and sizes.
Travel tripods come in all sorts of sizes, designs and prices. Full size travel tripods reach more or less the same height as a regular tripod, but fold the legs up and around the center column and tripod head to save space when you pack them away. Tripods with more leg sections will fold smaller but take a little longer to set up, and carbon fiber tripods cost more than regular aluminum tripods but are lighter to carry.
Alternatively, you can get mini-tripods and table-top tripods that still support the camera (or a smartphone) and let you adjust the angle, but they're small enough and light enough to fit in a bag or a jacket pocket. You need to use these on a table or a wall, for example, (or at ground level if the composition still works) but they still let you get shots that would be impossible otherwise.
So there's a lot to think about, but if you choose right, you'll get an invaluable travel companion that doesn't get in the way when you don't need it, but offers valuable support when you do, and one that will stay with you for years to come.
Read on for our picks of the best travel tripods right now...
The best travel tripods in 2020
1. Benro GoPlus Travel FGP18A
This is the best travel tripod for serious photography, but it's not small
Material: Aluminum | Extended height: 165cm | Folded height: 46cm | Weight: 1.95kg | Feet: Pads + spikes | Leg sections: 4 | Max load (legs, head): 10kg, 8kg
Ticking just about every conceivable box on our wish list, the Benro GoPlus has a modest folded length and generous operating height, coupled with a hefty maximum load capacity. It’s one of a handful of tripods to feature a pivoting center column which, enabling a range of locking angles in small increments, through a complete 180-degree arc. Bubble levels are fitted to the tripod platform for easy leveling, and interchangeable rubber feet and spikes are supplied, along with a padded soft case. One leg can be unscrewed to use as a standalone monopod. However, while it was once sold as a kit with a head, you'll now need to order a ball head to go with it (if you don't have one already). The Benro B0 or IB0 would be a good match.
Spectacular for both its design and its folded size, but not cheap!
Material: Carbon fiber or aluminum alloy | Extended height: 153cm | Folded height: 39cm | Weight: 1.27kg/1.56kg | Feet: Pads (spikes optional extra) | Leg sections: 5 | Max load: 9kg
It's the first tripod Peak Design has made, and it the carbon fiber version we looked at costs more than practically any of its rivals except a Gitzo, so it had better be good. There is an aluminium version that's a massive 40% cheaper, however, which has all the same design features but just a little less vibration resistance. A couple of the other tripods here will go higher, but the Peak Design will still go to eye level for an average-height person, and it packs down to just 39cm in length. It's designed to cut out the 'dead volume' between the legs and the column when packed, which means it's not just short when folded but very slim too – you could put this IN your camera bag or cabin bag as well as strap it to the outside. The low profile ball head is simple but brilliant, there's a phone holder hidden inside the center column and best of all, for its size, the Peak Design Travel Tripod feels rigid as heck.
3. 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 + AirHead Pro Lever kit
Small and mighty, the Leo 2.0 has cool features to match its cool looks
Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 147cm | Folded height: 35cm | Weight: 1.85kg | Feet: Pads (interchangeable) | Leg sections: 5 | Max load (legs, head): 30kg, 30kg
The Leo is no ordinary tripod. It folds down to just 35cm in length, but opens out to offer a maximum height of 146cm and a huge payload capacity of 30kg. It has a detachable monopod leg which can also be used as a microphone or camera boom, a Tri Mount system for adding accessories and an innovative two-section center column. You can buy the legs on their own but we’d recommend getting it as a kit with 3 Legged Thing’s new and improve AirHed Pro Lever ball head. We love (we LOVE) the optional Vanz kit, a set of three replacement feet/legs. You unscrew the regular legs and screw these in to get the toughest, gnarliest table-top mini tripod you've ever seen. The Leo 2 is not the smallest travel tripod you can get, and not the cheapest, but its ratio of folded length to maximum height, combined with its all-round versatility, make it one of the best.
4. Vanguard Veo 2 Go 265HCBM
A really nice combination of weight, price, size and height
Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 166.5cm | Folded height: 41cm | Weight: 1.4kg | Feet: Rubber pads, spikes included | Leg sections: 5 | Max load (legs, head): 10kg
The Vanguard Veo 2 Go models are the latest versions of Vanguard's travel tripod designs, but there are a few variants. The Veo 2 Go 265HCBM model offers extra height (the 'H' in the name) and a detachable monopod (the 'M). If you don't need either of those things there's a shorter 265CB and a lighter payload but same size 235CB. Some outlets also have a 'Veo 3 Go' version which is adapted for smartphone users, with a smartphone clamp and bluetooth remote included. What we like about the Vanguard Veo 2 Go 265HCBM is its light weight, neat design, simple operation and a really good combination of folded size (41cm) and maximum height. You do need to raise the center column for chest-level shooting, but that's an acceptable compromise in a compact travel tripod. There's a removable monopod leg, spikes are included and a short center column for low angle shots. It's a really nice, neat tripod for the money and easily handles DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. It's actually a very close thing between this and the 3 Legged Thing Leo, above.
5. Manfrotto Element Traveller Big
The Manfrotto is packed with features and very affordable
Material: Aluminium | Extended height: 165cm | Folded height: 42cm | Weight: 1.62kg | Feet: Pads + spikes | Leg sections: 5 | Max load (legs, head): 8kg, 8kg
Manfrotto’s Element series of travel tripods has something for pretty much everyone. There are big and small sizes to choose from, each featuring aluminium kits in black, grey, red and blue, as well as carbon fibre editions. The ‘big’ aluminium option we've featured here is still fairly compact with a 42cm folded height, yet a strong 8kg load rating. The ‘small’ edition only has a 4kg load rating and no monopod configuration. Despite being fairly inexpensive, the Element Traveller Big certainly isn’t lacking in features, and the lack of a telescopic centre column in the larger edition pays dividends when it comes to rigidity. The ball head has an independent panning lock and two bubble levels, but no friction adjuster. In our tests, this tripod proved rigid and resistant to vibrations; it’s a good performer and easy to use. It's one of the best travel tripods in this price bracket.
6. Vanguard VEO 2 Go 204 CB
If small packed size is your priority, this is the winner
Material: Carbon fiber | Extended height: 130cm | Folded height: 32.5cm | Weight: 0.77kg | Feet: Pads | Leg sections: 4 | Max load (legs, head): 3kg
This is where the arguments will start. For some photographers, a 'travel tripod' has to be as stable as the regular sort but just pack away a bit smaller. For others, a 'travel tripod' has to be small enough to pack in a bag, otherwise it has no point. The Vanguard Veo 2 Go 204CB fits into the second category! It doesn't go very high, it feels flimsier than bigger rivals, but it is SO small, light and simple to use. It's also short enough when folded to slip into the bottom compartment of Vanguard's clever double-decker Veo Messenger Bags. How neat is that? The Veo 2 Go 204CB extends to an adequate height, especially if your camera has a tilting rear screen, and while it's a bit disconcerting that the center column is fixed it its extended position, there's not much wobble and there's a second section inside it for even more height. You wouldn't get the Veo 2 Go 204CB for stability or big payloads, but if you like to travel light, this might be the one tripod you're prepared to take with you when none of the others will do. There is a cheaper aluminum Veo 2 Go 204AB version, and some outlets have a Veo 3 Go version with a detachable monopod leg/selfie stick, smartphone holder and bluetooth remote included.
7. Gitzo GT1545T Series 1 Traveler with ball head
The Gitzo Traveler is beautiful to use, but soooo expensive
Material: Carbon fiber | Extended height: 153cm | Folded height: 42.5cm | Weight: 1.06kg | Feet: Pads | Leg sections: 4 | Max load: 10kg
Gitzo tripods are the Rolls Royces of camera supports, and the Traveler series combines light weight with superb build and design and disarmingly simple operation. The GT1545 Series 1 model has four section legs, but there is a GT1555 version with 5-section legs – it all depends on whether you favour speedy set up (fewer sections) over shorter folded length (more sections). The prices don't look TOO bad until you factor in the cost of the admittedly brilliant Gitzo 82TQD centre ball head. It's an excellent travel tripod, but its price stops the Gitzo from getting to the top of our list, especially since there are a number of equally good tripods that don't have the glamor of the Gitzo brand but are a lot cheaper to buy. But secretly, we all want a Gitzo, right?
8. 3 Legged Thing Jay with AirHed Cine
A travel tripod for videographers. It's pricey, but it's the real deal
Material: Carbon fiber | Extended height: 111.2cm | Folded height: 40.5cm | Weight: 1.41kg | Feet: Pads | Leg sections: 5 | Max load: 14kg
It's not just stills photographers that need travel tripods. The Jay and AirHed Cine are a pretty specialised combination but they do cater for a growing population of series vloggers and one-person filmmakers who don't need a massive professional video tripod, but do nevertheless need a proper, portable support. The 3 Legged Thing Legends Jay has no center column (this is video, not eye-level stills photography), but it does have a levelling base – a huge time-saver for setting up panning shots and keeping the camera level. The AirHed Cine is as compact as the Jay and feels like the perfect partner. It has a firm but controllable fixed drag action and a screw on handle for precise control. The Jay is not too pricey on its own, but if you add the AirHed Cine the price takes a leap. The combination is really compact, though, and just oozes quality.
9. Manfrotto PIXI Evo
This is what table-top tripods look like in the 21st Century!
Material: Aluminium | Extended height: 20cm | Folded height: 20.5cm | Weight: 0.267kg | Feet: Flat | Leg sections: 2 | Max load (legs, head): 2.5kg, 2.5kg
If your experience of old fashioned table-top tripods has been the pain of screw-in legs and wibbly-wobbly camera mounts, welcome to the 21st Century! The PIXI EVO is an advanced version of Manfrotto’s original PIXI model and is just as fast to use – you flip out the legs to use it as a tripod or push them back together to make a camera grip – with a ball head that’s released and locked with a simple push button. What the EVO adds is two-section legs (yes, really) and two leg angles for low-level shooting. You can get an optional smartphone clamp but its ball head fits directly into regular camera tripod sockets, and it can support compact cameras and small DSLRs and mirrorless models. Yes, the maximum height is restricted, but it’s super-fast to set up and you can keep it in a jacket pocket! This, or a mini-tripod like it, is the best travel tripod for those who don't want to carry a full size version.
10. Adonit Photogrip
This combined smartphone grip and mini-tripod is sheer genius
Material: PC+ABS | Extended height: N/A | Folded height: N/A | Weight: 0.064kg | Feet: Flat | Leg sections: 1 | Max load (legs, head): N/A
If you do your travel photography with a smartphone, this is the gadget you need. It’s a spring-loaded grip that opens wide enough to fit even a fat smartphone and clamps around it securely. In the base is a tripod socket for a regular tripod or the tiny pocket tripod included in the kit – you can also use this with the legs folded in as a camera grip. In the top is a Bluetooth shutter button that’s actually built into a tiny remote you can slide out to fire the shutter remotely! You do need to position bigger phones carefully in the clamp to stop the tiny tripod from tipping over, but otherwise this is sheer genius.