The best travel tripods need to perform a slightly different task to their standard issue cousins. They still need to be sturdy, adjustable, quick to set up and easy to use – but there are a pair of additional points:
1) A travel tripod needs to be small enough to pack in or on a bag
2) A travel tripod needs to be light enough to lug about all day
Understandably, then, something has got to give. Even the best travel tripods may not reach the same maximum height as regular ones, and they might not achieve the same levels of stability. On top of that, because their construction often consists of carbon fiber and a larger number of leg sections to keep them lightweight and portable, they will typically cost more.
Obviously, what one photographer considers to be the perfect compromise between size and stability is likely to be very different to another photographer's opinion. That's why the best travel tripod won't be the same for everyone, and why we've covered an especially broad range of prices and sizes.
What makes a travel tripod different
Travel tripods come in all sorts of sizes, designs and prices, but they have a key design feature – the legs fold upwards when you pack them away to enclose the center column and tripod head. This makes for a shorter folded length and a neater shape for packing.
Full size travel tripods reach more or less the same height as a regular tripod, but you also have to think about the number of leg sections and the materials used. Tripods with more leg sections will fold smaller but take a little longer to set up, and carbon fiber tripods cost more than 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...
Best travel tripods in 2021
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.
It's the first tripod Peak Design has made, and considering the carbon fiber version we looked at costs more than practically any of its rivals except a Gitzo, 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, this tripod feels seriously rigid.
Read more: Peak Design Travel Tripod review
The Benro Rhino FRHN34CVX30 is at the top and of the size spectrum for a ‘travel’ tripod, but its simplicity, rigidity and ease of use mark it out as a top choice for landscape shooters, hikers and any outdoor photographer who needs to travel light but still have the best support possible – and Benro’s VX ball head is just brilliant. If you need to pack a small camera support for city breaks and street photography, take a look at the Peak Design travel tripod, or the smaller Benro Rhino FRHN05CVX20, but if you need a portable tripod that doesn't sacrifice height or rigidity, the Rhino FRHN34CVX30 is the bee's knees.
Read more: Benro Rhino FRHN34CVX30 review
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.
This is the smallest of Benro’s four new Rhino travel tripods, but it’s remarkably stiff for such a compact tripod and Benro’s new VX ball heads and their secondary pan axis just under the camera plate are a triumph. Travel tripods have limitations – a lower working height and longer ‘unfolding’ time, but this goes with the territory and we can’t criticise the Benro for this. The Benro doesn't extend that high, and it soon gets wobbly if you use both center column sections, but with a single column extension or no center column it's as rigid as much bigger tripods.
Read more: Benro Rhino FRHN05CVX20 review
For vloggers and content creators, choosing the right tripod can be a real minefield. Unless you're well versed in photography accessories (and even if you are!), the sheer volume of tripods and heads can be overwhelming. Enter Joby, maker of the GorillaPod range, to provide creators with a straightforward solution that ticks all the right boxes. The Joby RangePod Smart is the manufacturer's first full-size tripod, and is a worthy travel offering in its own right. However, this aluminum number is ideal for those who shoot on their phones; it includes a phone clamp with a pair of quarter-inch attachment points to mount your phone horizontally or vertically, so you can quickly switch between regular recording and upright shooting for Instagram or TikTok. With a quick-release Arca-Swiss plate, it's just as adept if you're using a DSLR or mirrorless camera – and its 8kg payload means it can handle chunky lenses no problem. With a maximum 160cm height it's also taller than many travel tripods – making it perfect for presenting to camera at near head height.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.