How do the best travel tripods differ from any other set of sticks? Well we all like to travel light, and conventional full-sized tripods tend to be big, heavy, and unwieldy – so we often leave them at home, which is a surefire way of making them completely useless.
By contrast, the best travel tripods literally take a load off. They’re made to be compact and lightweight but, in the past, they’ve often been notorious for being flimsy, relatively unstable, and too small to offer a useful operating height. The new breed of travel tripods aims to give you the best of both worlds.
The vast majority have legs that swing upwards for stowage, so that the head is encircled by the feet. This typically reduces the folded height by as much as 4″ / 10cm. Some also include as many as five sections in each leg, and a two-section extending center column, reducing the folded height even further, while still enabling reasonably lofty shooting. The downside is that setup takes longer, at least for taller operating heights, as there are more clamps to release and refasten.
Most travel tripods are sold as kits, complete with ball heads. Again, there’s a space-saving advantage with ball heads, as they bypass the need to have multiple locking levers that stick out from the head or need to be removed to pack the tripod away. Even so, they’re not short on sophistication – and many feature independent panning locks and adjustable friction dampers, in addition to the main locking knob. Here are some of the best buys on the market right now…
Best travel tripods: Our top picks
Best tripod overall
1. Peak Design Travel Tripod
It’s the first tripod Peak Design has ever made, but it’s the best travel tripod I’ve ever seen! There is an aluminum version that’s a massive 40% cheaper, however, which has all the same design features but just a little less vibration resistance.
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Best for versatility
2. 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 + AirHead Pro Lever kit
This is no ordinary tripod; it folds down to just 35cm, opens to a height of 146cm, and has a huge 30kg payload. Its detachable monopod leg can be used as a mic or camera boom, and it has a Tri-Mount system for adding accessories.
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Best budget tripod
3. Benro MeFoto RoadTrip Pro Carbon Fiber
The Benro’s 6-in-1 billing could fool you into thinking that it’s all about versatility, but it’s a very good travel tripod. Even at full height, it’s impressively stable, and it packs extra features that could come in handy whether shooting on a camera or a phone.
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Best for low angle
4. 3 Legged Thing Punks Corey 2.0
If you love shooting at low angles then this will give you the flexibility you need to make dramatic shots without the fuss.
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Best for selfies
5. Vanguard VEO 3GO 235CB
If you love taking selfies as much as you do shooting landscaped this all-in-one kit could be right up your street.
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Best for hybrid use
6. Manfrotto Befree 3-Way Live Advanced tripod
If you love taking stills and videos of stunning landscapes while out hiking this is your best bet with a built-in three-way video head.
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Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World’s principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners!
His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related.
In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.
The best travel tripods
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Best travel tripod: Best tripod overall
The Peak Design Travel Tripod may be the first tripod that Peak Design has made, but it’s hands-down the best travel tripod that I’ve ever used! There is an aluminum 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 space 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 our full Peak Design Travel Tripod review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best for versatility
The 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 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 improved AirHed Pro Lever ball head.
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-around versatility, make it one of the best.
Read our full 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 + AirHead Pro Review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best budget tripod
The 6-in-1 billing of the Benro MeFoto RoadTrip Pro could fool you into thinking that it’s all about versatility, but it’s also a very good travel tripod. Even at full height it’s impressively stable for its build, and it packs a few extra features that could come in handy whether you’re shooting with a camera or a phone.
It’s an excellent travel tripod, and the built-in monopod and mini tripod are genuinely valuable additions. It’s great that things like the hex key, small tripod legs, and smartphone clamp are contained within or attached to the tripod, because you’re unlikely to forget or lose them – but it does mean that the tripod is a little heavier than it needs to be.
Read our full Benro MeFoto RoadTrip Pro Carbon Fiber review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best for low angle
All of the Punk tripods from 3 Legged Thing are travel-friendly, but the Corey 2.0 is the smallest and easiest to pack for the journey. It has swing-up legs with five sections in each, plus a two-section head, enabling a decent maximum operating height but a very small stowage size.
It ticks another two boxes on our wish list by easily converting to a monopod, and enabling ultra-low-level shooting with the option of attaching the ball head directly to the canopy (leaving the center column out of the equation). All three legs are removable, and Vanz footwear (sold separately) transforms the Corey 2.0 into a stylish tabletop tripod.
Read our full 3 Legged Thing Punks Corey 2.0 review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best for selfies
With five sections in each swing-up leg and a two-section center column, this Vanguard folds down to just over a foot long yet gives a reasonable maximum operating height. It’s also very lightweight although, as expected, the alternative aluminum version is a little heavier. The bottom leg sections are quite spindly, with a diameter of just 11mm, but stability is pretty good even at full stretch.
As well as giving a typically quick and easy change to monopod configuration, the Vanguard is more unusual in coming complete with a smartphone adapter. This enables the monopod mode to double up as a selfie stick.
Read our full Vanguard VEO 3GO 235CB review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best for hybrid use
The Manfrotto Befree 3-Way Live Advanced is a lightweight photographer’s travel tripod paired with a three-way video head. The fluid head uses a hydraulic damping system to make it easy for smooth, fluid camera movements. The tripod, meanwhile, provides a good balance between capacity, weight, and price. It’ll take 6kg of kit and only weighs 2kg itself. We’ve tested lighter and stronger tripods, but they tended to be more pricey than this one.
It’s not as tall as some of the other tripods on this list, and we did find during testing that sometimes the design interfered with routine operations like changing the camera battery. But, for the vast majority of purposes, this is an impressive all-around package and merits serious consideration for any traveling photographer or videographer.
Read our full Manfrotto Befree 3-Way Live Advanced tripod review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best small but stiff
The Benro Rhino FRHN05CVX20 is the smallest of Benro’s four new Rhino travel tripods, but we found that 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, such as a lower working height and longer ‘unfolding’ time, but this goes with the territory and we can’t criticize the Rhino for this.
This 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 our full Benro Rhino FRHN05CVX20 review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best for compact use
The Vanguard VEO 3T 235CBP has an 8kg payload rating and a compact 41cm closed length, while carbon construction keeps total weight down to a reasonable 1.6kg. The included head has a removable pan handle to allow greater control while filming, and a new Arca-compatible quick-release plate can hold a camera or smartphone up to 85mm wide.
It packs down quickly and neatly for easy transport, the leg locks feel great and do their job perfectly, you get spikes to swap out for the standard rubber feet, plus there’s even a Bluetooth remote control for iOS or Android.
Read our full Vanguard VEO 3T 235CBP review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best for full frame
The Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist is all about travel but offers extra support compared to most similar products. Its safety payload tops out at 9kg, though in our tests we found that it was able to take an awful lot of gear – we’re talking full-frame cameras with heavy lenses. Still, its key feature is that it weighs a mere 1.49kg, and when packed up it’s just 40 cm long (though its ball head adds another 14cm). That’s compact enough to fit into most luggage.
The Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist comes bundled with Manfrotto’s compact Advanced 494 aluminum center ball head, which has three independent ergonomic controls. Factor in the super-sturdy center column – complete with a locking mechanism – and this travel tripod has an excellent ability to remain solid and steady.
Read our full Manfrotto Befree Advanced Twist review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best for serious shooting
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, 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.
Best travel tripod: Best for vlogging
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 with no problem. With a maximum 160cm height, it’s also taller than many travel tripods – making it perfect for presenting to the camera at near head height.
Best travel tripod: Best looking
Gitzo tripods are the Rolls Royce of camera supports, and the Traveler series combines light weight, superb build and design, and disarmingly simple operation. The GT1545 Series 1 model has 4-section legs, but there is a GT1555 version with 5-section legs – it all depends on whether you favor a speedy setup (fewer sections) over a shorter folded length (more sections).
The prices don’t look too bad until you factor in the cost of the admittedly brilliant Gitzo 82TQD center 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?
Best travel tripod: Best for video
It’s not just stills photographers that need travel tripods! The Jay and AirHed Cine are a pretty specialized combination, but they cater to a growing population of serious videographers and one-person filmmakers who don’t need a massive professional video tripod but still require 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 leveling 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.
Best travel tripod: Best unusual design
Unlike many current travel tripods, this Manfrotto doesn’t feature swing-up legs. It also has four rather than five sections in each leg, and a single-section center column. The upshot is that it doesn’t fold down particularly small, but is relatively quick and easy to set up.
It’s also unusual for a travel tripod in featuring a pivoting center column, which you can use as a horizontal boom. That’s good news for macro photography, really low-level shooting, and for ultra-wide-angle shots. It’s generally sold as a set of legs with no heads but is available in some regions as a complete kit with a high-performance Manfrotto 494 Ball Head. Either way, both aluminum and carbon fiber versions are pricey but a top buy.
Best travel tripod: Best for monopod mode
Unlike some in the Manfrotto Befree range, the 2N1 is only available in aluminum, but you can choose between clip locks and twist locks for the 4-section legs. We prefer the ‘M-lock’ clamps of the twist-action edition, which have a very simple and speedy action.
The tripod has good build quality and an appealing finish, along with a smart ball head that features an adjustable friction damper. It also boasts an Easy Link socket for attaching accessories and has a refined locking mechanism for its multi-angle legs. The quick-release plate is specially shaped to be Arca-Swiss compatible but the ball head platform isn’t, instead being designed to accept Manfrotto’s popular 200PL plate.
Best travel tripod: Best tabletop tripod
If you’re looking for a versatile tabletop tripod that isn’t solely confined to a tabletop, look no further than the Benro Tablepod Flex. It has flexible legs stored inside its metal legs that enable you to secure it to surfaces that aren’t flat – and can also be used to simply extend the length of the legs.
It packs down really small, can be used as a selfie stick or monopod, and is suitable for either a small mirrorless camera a compact or a smartphone (a phone mount is included). If you like to shoot video it also comes with two accessory arms, which means you could attach an additional light or microphone. It’s more expensive than most tabletop tripods but it does so much more – so we think it’s worth it.
Read our full Benro TablePod Flex Kit review for more details
Best travel tripod: Best phone tripod
The Pixi Evo is an advanced version of the original Manfrotto 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. It’s one of the best phone tripods.
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.
How to choose the best travel tripod
It’s good to be choosy when picking your perfect travel tripod for your needs and budget. Here’s a few things to bear in mind…
Carbon fiber is pricier than aluminum, but is it worth the extra?
Up-market tripods are usually made from carbon fiber instead of aluminum. They have a more luxurious feel, a smarter looking finish, and can be slightly more resistant to vibrations. Carbon fiber can also feel less cold to the touch. But the main advantage of carbon fiber is that it’s more lightweight than aluminum, giving it a clear advantage when you’re trying to shed weight. However, there can be diminishing returns. Although the weight-saving can be substantial in full-sized tripods, it’s much less noticeable in relatively small tripods. For many travel tripods that are available in both aluminum and carbon fiber options, the latter typically only saves around 200g in weight, little more than 10 per cent. Considering that the carbon fiber editions are often about 50 per cent more expensive to buy, aluminum travel tripods can be more cost effective.
How small is the tripod when folded?
A decade ago, the Giotto’s company launched a series of Vitruvian tripods, named after Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing, ‘The Vitruvian Man’. As in the drawing, the legs swing upwards but, in the case of the Giotto’s tripods they swung up completely, adopting a vertically upright orientation for stowing away. The trick was that, by fully extending the center column before swinging the legs up, the tripod head no longer extended beyond the length of the legs, making the carrying size much smaller. Many recent travel tripods fold down small enough to fit inside a bag or backpack, rather than needing to be tethered to the outside.
Can I save space by using a tripod as a monopod as well?
A neat trick of many recent travel tripods is that you can unscrew one of the tripod legs, detach the center column, and join the two together for use as a monopod, complete with ball head. That can be a real space saver if you like using a monopod as well as a tripod, as you only have to carry one bit of kit.
What’s so good about multi-angle legs?
Pretty much all travel tripods these days have legs that can be locked at multiple angles to the center column. Typically either two or three alternative angles are available, in addition to the legs being able to swing up vertically. This can help when you’re shooting on uneven terrain, or when there are obstacles in the way. For example, you might need to use one or two legs in a near-horizontal orientation and place the feet on a wall or table to get into your desired shooting position. Another bonus is that, by splaying the legs to a wider angle when shooting at low operating heights, you can increase stability and reduce the risk of the tripod toppling over if knocked.
How low can you go when shooting with a tripod?
Multi-angle legs help to reduce the minimum shooting height but the limiting factor is generally the point at which the center column touches the ground. The minimum height is therefore the height of the center column plus the ball head. A two-section extending center column can help to further reduce the minimum operating height, as well as the carrying height. Some tripods are supplied with a short, stubby ‘low angle adaptor’. You can attach this to the tripod head and use it instead of the center column. The center column is also removable in most tripods, so you can invert it and shoot from between two of the legs with the camera upside down, right down at ground level.
What’s best for feet, pads or spikes?
Rubber pads are the normal footwear for tripods these days. They work well on solid ground as well as on grass and sandy areas. For soft surfaces like carpet, spikes can offer a more assured footing. Some tripods are supplied with both rubber pads and metal spikes, so you can swap between them as needed. Another option that used to be more common in the past is rubber pads on a threaded mount, so you can screw them in to reveal metal spikes beneath.
How we test travel tripods
We measure the maximum operating height of each tripod and its folded height for carrying, complete with head attached. We also measure the combined weight of each set of tripod legs and head, using electronic scales, and measure the diameter of all leg sections, from the widest to the thinnest, using digital calipers.
We check the ease of use, smoothness and precision of all available adjustments in each set of tripod legs and heads. This ranges from adjusting leg sections and pivot facilities (where available), to the locking mechanisms of the head, as well as independent pan and friction damping adjustments, where fitted.
To check overall stability, we shoot with a range of camera bodies fitted with wide-angle, standard, telephoto and macro lenses. We look for good resistance to flexing and vibrations throughout the whole range of operating heights, including the tallest available settings with the legs and center column fully extended.