You can get some of your best pictures when you go travelling, but this is exactly when you want to cut your kit to the minimum and leave that bulky tripod at home, right?
But do you really want to risk blurry shots from those once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities? Of course not! That’s when you need a specially designed ‘travel’ tripod small enough to pack and tough enough to keep your camera steady for night shots, selfies and amazing interiors. (The good news? There are a lot of cheap camera deals right now, so it's a good time to bag a bargain.)
UPDATE: We’ve updated our guide to include not just regular tripods that fold down to suitcase sizes, but even smaller tripods that might fit in a shoulder bag or backpack and table-top tripods for a coat pocket. We’ve even got you covered if you use a smartphone!
We start off our list with full size tripods specially modified for travel. To shrink the stowage size, the best travel tripods feature legs that swing upwards, so that the feet encompass the head, slashing about 20cm off the carrying length.
We’ve also list smaller models designed for a small folded size and light weight. Some are only about the size of a drinks bottle when folded down.
If that’s still too much, then at least consider a table-top tripod. These can take the weight of a small DSLR or mirrorless camera and are perfect for emergencies. You can rest them on a table (er, obviously), on a wall or even on the ground if you don’t mind a low-angle shot.
So there's a lot of choice out there. Read on for our pick of the best travel tripods right now...
Read more: Best tripods
1. Benro GoPlus Travel FGP18A + B0
Robust, versatile and portable, this is the best serious travel tripod right now
Material: Aluminium | 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 only two tripods in this list to feature a pivoting centre column, the implementation of which is better than in the Kenro tripod, as it enables a range of locking angles in small increments, through a complete 180-degree arc. Bubble levels are fitted to the tripod platform and head, for easy levelling, 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. This is a fantastic travel tripod, and our top recommendation if you’ve got the space to pack it.
2. Kenro Karoo Ultimate Travel
Matches the Benro's features but not its finesse
Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 168cm | Folded height: 48cm | Weight: 1.95kg | Feet: Retractable spikes | Leg sections: 4 | Max load (legs, head): 10kg, 8kg
The Kenro Karoo Ultimate Travel Tripod has an identical weight to the Benro above, and the same maximum load capacities. A further similarity to the Benro is that you can pivot the Kenro’s centre column for use as a horizontal boom. However, the Kenro’s pivot mechanism is more clunky in its design, and it doesn’t enable you to lock the column at alternative angles apart from vertical or horizontal. Again, the Kenro features an Arca-Swiss compatible quick-release plate in the head, along with independent locking, panning and adjustable friction knobs. All-in-all, the Benro might beat it in the travel tripod stakes, but the Kenro Karoo is a more versatile tripod with very good rigidity at all heights. For innovative design and all-round usefulness, the Karoo takes the crown.
3. Vanguard VEO 235AB
Very compact when folded though this does limit maximum height
Material: Aluminium | Extended height: 147cm | Folded height: 38cm | Weight: 1.5kg | Feet: Retractable spikes | Leg sections: 5 | Max load (legs, head): 6kg, 9kg
The Vanguard weighs in at 1.5kg and measures just 38cm long when folded. However, despite having five sections in each leg, rather than the usual four, it only reaches 147cm at full extension. What really makes the Vanguard stand out as one of the best travel tripods out there is that it’s designed differently to all the other tripods here. Instead of the legs swinging up around the centre column when folded, the centre column pivots down. It’s just a shame this mechanism couldn’t be adapted to offer a horizontal boom mode. Plus points include retractable spikes within the rubber feet pads, and a ball head with a separate panning lock.
4. 3 Legged Thing Eclipse Leo Airhead Switch kit
Small and mighty, the Leo justifies its price tag
Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 146cm | Folded height: 35cm | Weight: 1.75kg | Feet: Pads (interchangeable) | Leg sections: 5 | Max load (legs, head): 30kg, 30kg
This is a lot to spend on a travel tripod compared to some of the others on our list, but 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 centre column. You can buy the legs on their own but we’d recommend getting it as a kit with 3 Legged Thing’s Airhead Switch ball head.
5. Gitzo GK0545T-82TQD Series 0 Traveler kit
The Rolls Royce of travel tripods is built to last a lifetime
Material: Carbon fibre eXact | Extended height: 133cm | Folded height: 30.5cm | Weight: 1.285kg | Feet: Pads (interchangeable) | Leg sections: 4 | Max load (legs, head): 10kg, 11kg
Gitzo tripods are revered in some quarters and reviled in others. They are hugely expensive but beautifully made. The GK0545T-82TQD probably won’t hold your camera any steadier than other travel tripods costing a quarter as much, but it’s very light, very small and a pleasure to use. It comes in different sizes and configurations, but the Series 0 featured here is the cheapest and lightest, and the four-section legs are a good compromise between folded length and setup speed. The maximum height is lower than similar rivals but that’s because it comes with a short centre column for easier low angle shots – longer columns are available at an extra cost.
6. Manfrotto Befree
Some of the features are a bit basic, but it’s small, light and affordable
Material: Aluminium | Extended height: 144cm | Folded height: 41cm | Weight: 1.5kg | Feet: Pads | Leg sections: 4 | Max load (legs, head): 4kg, 4kg
Unlike most competitors, the Manfrotto Befree uses clip rather than twist locks, and with a folded length of 41cm and a weight of 1.5kg, is one of the smaller and lighter travel tripods here. The Manfrotto head is basic, with a single adjustment knob and no panning lock/release or variable friction damper. There are no spirit or bubble levels, no retractable spikes in the feet, and only two lockable leg angles to choose from. The upside of the relatively basic design is that the Manfrotto is quick and easy to set up, and to fold down again after use.
7. MeFoto RoadTrip Air
Tiny when folded and perfect for smartphone users
Material: Aluminium | Extended height: 156cm | Folded height: 28cm | Weight: 1.1kg | Feet: Pads | Leg sections: 5 | Max load (legs, head): 6kg, 6kg
The MeFoto Air is the lightest tripod here, at just over 1kg, and folds down the smallest, to a length of just 28cm. Nevertheless, it stretches to a decent maximum operating height of 156cm, thanks to having five sections in each leg, plus an extending centre column. A selfie stick can be created by combining the extending centre section with the supplied smartphone holder. The kit also comes with a Bluetooth remote control you can pair to your smartphone. For using ‘proper’ cameras, the small ball head features an independent panning lock/release and an Arca-Swiss type quick-release plate. Despite its light construction, the MeFoto doesn’t feel flimsy and is reasonably resistant to flexing.
8. 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!
9. 3 Legged Thing Iggy Mini Action Tripod + Phone Holder
It’s not just for cameras, but smartphones and action cams too
Material: ABS plastic | Extended height: 14cm | Folded height: 18cm | Weight: 0.15kg | Feet: Flat | Leg sections: 1 | Max load (legs, head): 1.2kg, 1.2kg
The Iggy doesn’t have the two-section legs of the PIXI EVO or the variable leg angles, but its fold-out legs are just as quick to use and they fold back in to form a handy, er, handle for holding a camera, smartphone or action cam. Speaking of which, it’s definitely worth getting the kit that includes a GoPro adaptor and cradle phone holder. It doesn’t add much to the price but it makes the Iggy even more versatile. The 1.2kg payload is enough to cope with a compact camera or a small DSLR/mirrorless model, and the ball head locks with a big rotating colour in bright orange. It’s easy to grip and you can’t miss it.
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.
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