Compact Travel Tripods
The best compact lightweight tripods for travel and Safaris. Photo: WintrHawk
Tripods for Travel & Safari
Whilst most cameras and video equipment now come with image stabilisation (IS), it is still preferable to use a tripod or other device to ensure you get the best results possible. In this section I will be taking a look at some of the best window clamps, hide mounts, bean bags and tripods for travel and safaris.
The most obvious form of camera support is a solid tripod and that’s still the best option in situations where you can use one and I will go through some of the best lightweight, compact travel tripods that I have used below.
But there are also certain instances where a tripod is not ideal, like if you’re on a game drive in a safari vehicle with other people? It becomes very difficult, as well as inconvenient to your fellow passengers if you start setting up a tripod in such circumstances.
This is where image stabilization on your camera can come to the rescue, but it is still preferable to use some sort of physical stabilization to allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and get the best possible pictures. So are there any other options? The short answer is yes, there are actually a few and I will go through each individually to discuss their particular merits.
Window Clamp/Mount for Cameras, Binoculars & Scopes
Whilst they are called window clamps and they were initially designed to attach to vehicle windows, turing your car into a mobile hide, they are actually far more versatile and can be attached to many other objects including other tripods enabling you to use more than one piece of equipment, fences, tree branches, tubular structures and many others, enabling the steady use of cameras, camcorders, spotting scopes or even binoculars. More on Universal Window Clamps/Mounts >>
Featured Window Mounts
With an industry-leading extra wide base of 1.6 in./42 mm, the PH-242 Pan Head Window Clamp from Vanguard enables easy mounting to vehicle windows as well as decks, fences, tree branches and even safari vehicles! Its two-way fluid pan head enablies steady use of cameras, camcorders, binoculars or spotting scopes and has a dual safety release quick shoe, bubble level and a large quick release platform with weight balance adjustment.
A compact, strong as well as light clamp designed to attach to a rolled down car window, hand rail, table top, handle bar, or other similar object. Can be used alone or with the UltraMount, ball and socket head to mount your camera, video camera, spotting scope or binoculars.
This very useful and inexpensive device is ideal for taking with on safari to ensure that you get the steadiest base possible when taking those priceless photos or video footage.
Featured Compact Travel Tripods
Usually slightly larger and sometimes slightly less compact than the ULTRA compacts, these tripods are however more stable and able to take heavier loads. Meaning that they are ideal for those who used DSLR cameras with telephoto lenses:
This 4 section compact and lightweight travel tripod from Benro is very reasonably pricedand comes with a ball head included. When extended it stands at 1.59m, yet folds to a very small 44cm (17.32 in) meaning it will easily fit into your luggage and most full sized camera bags.
Known as as Transfunctional tripod, a nice feature on the Travel Angel 2 Tripod is that one of the legs can be converted into a monopod that can also be used as a walking stick. It can support a maximum load of 8kg (17.64lbs), meaning that it can easily support both bridge and SLR cameras.
This very lightweight and ultra-compact tripod from Gitzo is arguably the best SLR compatable travel tripod available. When extended it stands well over a meter tall (140cm), yet folds to a very small 41.0cm/16.14in meaning it will easily fit into your luggage.
It can support a maximum load of 8kg (17.64lbs), making it the ideal tripod for those using heavier SLR cameras with lenses up to 200mm.
Featured ULTRA Compact Travel Tripods
These tripods are designed to be as lightweight and as compact as possible and are therefore ideal to take on safari or any other travel adventures. Whilst they may not be as steady or be able to hold the heaviest SLR cameras with telephoto lenses, they are ideal for those using Compacts and compact superzoom cameras.
Slightly bigger, but that much stronger and sturdier than the Nivelo 204BK Tripod (see below), it is still very compact and light.
The Vanguard Nivelo 245BK is in my opinion a very good option as a safari and general travel tripod if you are using any superzoom bridge camera, the new compact mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras, DSLR-like cameras or even a lightweight DSLRs.
I also really love the invertible central column which allows you to position your camera between the legs of the tripod making a very sturdy set-up for macro photography.
The Nivelo Tripod from Vanguard is a sleek, lightweight, compact tripod that folds and extends in just a few seconds flat. It has all the features of a full-size tripod and comes with a quick release pan head. The pen canopy lets you invert the central column, which is great macro photography.
Light and small enough to easily carry with you on safari or any other travels, this is the ideal tripod for those who use compacts, superzoom bridge cameras or a mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.
This ultra-lightweight and ultra-compact ball-head tripod from Tamrac stands over a meter tall when open and can carry a camera of upto 3lbs (1.4kg).
It does not cost the earth, is easy to assemble, can hold most compact, video and SLR cameras and is therefore ideal travelling companion for many photographers.
There are some people, especially those who are new to the world of photography and tripods, who are surprised to find out that on the best tripods, you can remove the head (you can't on some quality lightweight tripods as this is done to save weight) and change them for ones that are better suited to your needs. For many people a tripod head is just something that connects your camera to your tripod and can move your camera about, indeed I have sometimes seem them referred to as "camera supports".
A good tripod head is far more than just a "support" for your camera and the right head for your equipment as well as your particular needs is very important. Get one that is not robust enough to carry you camera's weight and it will drive you mad by continuously sagging as you are trying to take a photo. The tripod head that a photographer would use in a studio for shooting stills will probably not be the ideal head for a wildlife photographer who takes both video and stills shots with their camera.
All you need to do is squeeze the trigger on the pistol grip on the Vanguard GH-100 Ball Head to release the tension on the ball, this makes moving the camera into position very quick and accurate.
Perfect 360° panorama shots are also now much easier using the 72-click point panorama mechanism withit's click-into-place positioning that moves the camera 5 degrees per click and prevents jumps in shots.
The ideal tripod head for a safaris has to be lightweight and compact, yet must be strong enough to easily take the weight of your camera and long telephoto lenses without any camera creep.
It must also be quick to set-up and adjust to ensure that you miss none of the action.
With this in mind and because I am getting ready for a upcoming walking safari, I recently got myself the Vanguard BBH-200 Ball Head, which I have fully reviewed.
On safari I try and keep the weight of my photographic equipment down to a minimum, but when you want or need the best quality wildlife photos, you have to start using heavier SLR cameras and large telephoto lenses.
This is where a Gimbal Head can really help as they are designed for photographers, especially those taking wildlife and sport photos and who want comfort, stability and smooth control with their heavier zoom lenses, which is something that you just can't get with the standard ball head.
Recently I got the chance to try out the Benro GH2 Gimbal Head.
What to Take on Safari
This page is part of a series of posts on what to take on safari, for further reading try:
- Safari Binoculars
- Best Digital Cameras for Safari Holidays
- Best Superzoom Cameras 2016
- African Safari, Travel & Wildlife Books
- What Equipment I take on Safari
- Bird Photography: Equipment used on Safari
- Safari Clothing Advice
- Safari packing list of what to take on safari
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