Usually hobbies and passions are separate from one another, but on the rare occasion they come together in perfect harmony. Two passions that combine almost seamlessly are hiking and photography.
It would be a real shame to not share those amazing vistas that are only reserved for your eyes when hiking. One piece of kit that can help hikers capture their surroundings is the humble tripod. But what are the best hiking tripods and do you even need one?
Are tripods needed for hiking, trekking or backpacking?
I have done hikes with and without a tripod on numerous occasions. After all these expeditions, I have come to realise that a tripod was hugely beneficial for my photography and even assisting in my hikes.
Before using a tripod, I would just pull out my camera during a hike and take the shot. Story over.
Compared to when using a tripod, I now take the time and put more care into taking the photo. This included things like nailing good composition, getting the correct settings and of course shooting from a stable platform.
Another huge benefit I found with adding a tripod to my packing list was that it actually helped me to hike more efficiently. Ok that sounds really weird, but hear me out on this one.
So is a tripod essential for hikers? No. Is it a great tool to assist in taking better phots and helping you hike? YES!
Factors I considered when researching the best hiking tripods
So hopefully I have sold you on the idea of adding a tripod to your hiking pack list. But what exactly makes a tripod great for hiking as opposed to the other models out there? Well after much research and some field testing, I have come to some pretty solid conclusions on this exact question.
- Light weight build: This is hands down the most important factor when looking at adding a tripod to your hiking gear. As any hiker knows, pounds can quickly add up to stones that your back will have to cope with. Ideally a smaller footprint or a tripod made out of carbon fiber is recommended.
- Durability: Hiking can be a pretty strenuous and battering activity to undertake even at the best of times. So having a tripod than can handle the same conditions as yourself is important.
- Functionality: This is another important factor to consider because without it, the above points are pointless. Having a tripod than can adapt to its user and environment is critical. This could be anything such as adaptability with your camera, spiked legs, extension height and screw thread.
Top 5 Best Hiking Tripods For The Enthusiast Photographer & Backpacker
1. Neewer Carbon Fiber 66″ Hiking Tripod & Monopod (Best Tested)
Neewer Carbon Fiber 66″ Hiking Tripod & Monopod Specifications
Weight: 4.7 lbs
Collapsed Height: 21″
Extended Height: 66″
Maximum Load: 26 lbs
Price: View the latest price on Amazon
Neewer Carbon Fiber 66″ Tripod & Monopod Review
Coming in at number one for this list of best hiking tripods is the Neewer Carbon Fiber 66″ Tripod & Monopod combo.
- Extremely lightweight, coming in at 4.76 pounds
- Carbon fiber build
- Tripod and monopod functionality
- Maximum height of 66 inches
- Spiked feet
- Collapased height of 20.87 inches
Combine these factors together and you get one hell of a product. One other thing is that you can usually pick up this exact model for under $100 on Amazon.
Ok so this tripod sounds pretty good damn good right? You’re sure not wrong there. But surely there must be some short comings or flaws for this product? In fact there is, I would be straight lying if I said there wasn’t any.
The biggest shortcoming of this tripod funnily enough is it’s weight. Hold on what? While it’s extremely light at less than 5 pounds, this lack of weight can actually add to the instability when using a larger or heavier camera setup.
Throughout using this rig, I had been attaching my Canon T4i and my Canon 70D with a 15-85mm lens. Personally I didn’t have any instability when using this tripod with these cameras. However when my hiking buddy used this tripod with a full format Canon Mark III and telephoto lens, some instability came into play.
While it’s not a big oooOOOooo stay away! It is something to think about if you plan on using a larger camera setup. If you’re using a point and shoot, Mirrorless or standard format DSLR you shouldn’t have any problems.
Ok now moving on.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, a tripod with a monopod feature can come in handy big time when hiking. This is more in the way of assistance when doing those steep inclines than anything else.
Another thing I admired about this tripod was the swivel fluid head which is a must have in my opinion for landscape photography. It allows for a 360 degree range of motion while proving a stabilised platform. Using the ball head on this model was extremely smooth and locked into place with no problem.
Setting up the tripod for photography was pretty automatic using the twist lock mechanisms to extend the legs. Most tripods I’ve used have flip locks, but after using this, I think I now prefer the twist lock as it seems less clumsy. From there i simply attached the quickly release place via the thread to the base of my camera and I’m done!
Wrapping it up, this tripod was a pleasure to use when hiking and I hardly ever pack without it now. This Neewer 66”Tripod Monopod combo comes highly recommended for the hiker and photographer at heart.
2. JOBY GorillaPod Focus Tripod
JOBY GorillaPod Focus Tripod Specifications
Weight: 0.56 lbs
Collapsed Height: 10″
Extended Height: 10″
Maximum Load: 6.6 lbs
Price: View the latest price on Amazon
JOBY GorillaPod Focus Tripod Review
Moving onto my second favourite hiking tripod is the untraditional and unconventional Joby GorillaPod Focus. Right from the get go you can see that this tripod doesn’t really well…. look like a tripod. If anything it looks more like an octopus than anything else.
Yes it definitely does look strange, there is no denying that. But this strange look is what sets this “tripod” apart from its counterparts.
This is where the Joby GorillaPod Focus comes into play. While it has a similar footprint to many travel and compact tripods, having it’s unique octopus pliable legs adds a whole layer of added functionality. For example you could easily attach this GorillaPod to a tree branch by wrapping the ball joint legs in a clamp like manner.
“It can literally attach to anything”
Surprisingly the legs of this tripod can actually handle up to 6.6lbs (3 kg) which is pretty surprising for the size. This includes when being stood up straight or attached to another surface. In most instances, this weight tolerance will handle point and shoots, mirrorless and smaller DSLR cameras.
Setting up this unit with my DSLR was pretty straight forward with the standard ¼-20” universal screw. One thing to note is that this model doesn’t come with a ball head, instead you screw the the camera straight to the flat plate.
However I opted for the Joby ball head attachment with bubble level which added another layer of usability. It’s a pretty inexpensive add-on that i would highly recommend.
When it comes to the size and weight of this tripod, this thing is insanely light which is great for hiking, backpacking and trekking. To be more precise it comes in at 0.56 lbs and has a footprint of 1.97 x 10.24 inches. When i wanted to pack extremely light, like counting the grams light, i would always go for the Joby.
Overall the Joby GorillaPod Focus ticks a lot of the boxes for me. This includes being extremely light, durable and also delivering on functionality. I highly recommend this product for a hiker who is extremely conscious about their packing weight.
3. Rangers 57” Aluminum Tripod & Monopod
Rangers 57” Aluminum Tripod & Monopod Specifications
Weight: 2.98 lbs
Collapsed Height: 14″
Extended Height: 57″
Maximum Load: 26 lbs
Price: View the latest price on Amazon
Rangers 57” Aluminum Tripod & Monopod Review
The third and final product on my best hiking tripods list is the Ranger 57” Aliminum Tripod & Monopod. In many ways this model is similar to the above mentioned Neewer model. The only real difference is material composition, aliminum as opposed to carbon fiber and the maximum height being 57”instead of 66”.
While extra height and carbon fiber is preferred, having this trade off allows this tripod to be more affordable for the hiker on a budget. Currently you can pick this model up on Amazon for under $70 which is a great deal.
Setting up this tripod was effortless with its four leg extensions to maximum height of 56”inches and a minimum height of 14″. Locking and adjusting the legs into the desired length was done with the ABS plastic locking levers. While I prefer twist locks, lever locks work just as well. They are just a bit clumsier in my opinion.
“A Great and affordable tripod for Hikers”
Enabling the monopod feature of this Ranger Tripod was also straight forward and took about two minutes from start to finish. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, a monopod can be a real life saver for hikers. With this particular model however I would be a bit more conservative when resting weight onto it due to its aliminum build. Still very useful though.
The only grudge I have with the head of this tripod was the quick release plate. Not always, but sometimes it really was glitchy when trying to remove it. Nothing major, but something to note.
Overall this Ranger tripod was a joy to use when backpacking. With its smaller footprint, extremely light weight build, monopod feature and ball head, this model comes highly recommended.
That wraps up my guide on the best hiking tripods for the outdoor photographer. What did you think about my picks? Was I way off? Please let me know what tripod you use to hike as I will likely update this article in the near future. If you want to learn more, you can see my guide here on the best tripods for all cameras, uses and budgets.
Check out these resources for your next hike.