An up-to-date guide to narrow down the best lightweight tripod for backpacking, hiking & travel.
Landscape photographers know that in order to get the best shot in dark or harsh conditions, we’re going to need a decent tripod.
As a full-time traveling outdoor and adventure photographer, finding a middle ground between function and weight for my gear is always a constant battle.
For a long time, I avoided tripods altogether, which often left me unable to do my best work out in the elements. I always thought that when I’m backpacking and out on long hikes, I just couldn’t add a heavy tripod to my stacked gear bag.
But recently, things have changed. Thanks to innovative design and material advancements, travel tripods are no longer a gimmick and now actually hold up in the field– even for professional photographers.
But, the problem of finding quality lightweight tripods in a sea of marketing buzzwords remains.
That’s why I’m here to help.
After a lot of research, and trialing tripods in the outdoors, I’ve formulated this guide to finding the best lightweight tripod for backpacking, hiking & travel!
Quick Answer: Here are the Best Lightweight Tripods
All-round best lightweight tripod for backpacking: Manfrotto BeFree GT Carbon Fiber
Most ultralight professional travel tripod: Gitzo GT1545T Series 1 Traveler
Best compact hiking tripod: Joby Gorillapod 5K
Most supportive backpacking tripod for heavy rigs: 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0
Best Lightweight Tripods for Backpacking, Travel, & Hiking
You came to this guide to discover the best travel tripods and lightweight stability solutions for landscape photography and the outdoors.
Below I’m going to give you just that!
I’ve included eight of the best ultralight tripod solutions for backpacking and hiking, including full-size tripods, compact design options, budget options, and full-sized travel tripods for professionals. So, whether you’re backpacking Ireland, trekking in the Himalayas, or island hopping in the Philippines, the below list will have you covered.
However, if you’re interested in how I’ve come up with this list, you can also find a detailed section below outlining the anatomy of lightweight tripods, and what to look for when choosing the best tripod for you.
1. Manfrotto BeFree GT Carbon Fiber Tripod
– Best-in-class load-to-weight ratio
– Excellent build quality
– Smooth ball head
– Sturdy center column
– Great price for the quality & function
– Heavier than other tripods in this roundup
– Larger folded weight
– Manfrotto quick-release plate is not compatible with Peak Design Capture
Okay, this is going to be a big of a spoiler.
But, this IS in my opinion, the overall best lightweight tripod for backpacking and travel. It’s the tripod I’m currently using, and it’s strapped to my bag on most long hikes, especially for sunrise and sunset missions and in windy conditions.
Manfrotto tripods have long been amongst the best tripods in the game. They are built in Italy and have excellent build quality.
Manfrotto offers a wide range of light tripods in their BeFree range (including the popular Manfrotto BeFree Advanced). However, the best weight to load capacity ratio is the Manfrotto BeFree GT Carbon Fiber Tripod. This tripod can support large DSLR cameras and Mirrorless rigs with a decent lens as well. I use this daily with my Canon R5 and it supports my heavy Canon RF 100-500L very well when the central column is all the way down on the canopy.
The tripod head on this thing is great and the quick twist release leg locks make it very easy to set up and take down. The carbon fiber material is also very light but incredibly durable.
However, one caveat I have with this particular tripod is that Manfrotto uses a quick-release plate that is not compatible with Arca-swiss style mounts.
To solve this problem, Peak Design sells a dual plate that is compatible with this tripod and the Peak Design Capture Clip.
Best for: professional photographers who looking for the best weight-to-load ratio
2. Joby Gorillapod 5K
– Super light and packable
– Holds full-size DSLRs
– Decent ball head for a hobby tripod
– Unique design and approach to lightweight tripods for hiking
– Often unpractical in real-life shoots
– Very low maximum height
– Can be fiddly to set up
The Joby Gorillapod has long been the most popular alternative to full-sized tripods. This innovative and compact size is incredibly versatile, and is great for everybody from creative landscape photographers to professional vloggers.
The Gorillapod 5K is the largest and beefiest offering from Joby and it can support a very impressive 4.98 kg (11 lbs). This is quite impressive considering it only weighs 482 g (17 oz). This means it can support full-sized DSLRs like the Canon 1DX III or the Canon R3.
The ball head on this thing isn’t great, but it definitely does the job for an unconventional tripod solution. While it can be a bit fiddly to set up sometimes, you can get quiet creative with the Gorillapod. For example, you can mount it on tree branches, poles, fences, and pretty much anywhere with a solid frame.
However, photographers shooting in a valley or on a mountain will be severely limited in terms of practicality and maximum height. Furthermore, while weight is a definite plus here, the Joby Gorillapod 5K still folds down to a similar size of a full-sized lightweight backpacking tripod. The price is also fairly expensive for what you get.
Best for: vloggers and beginner travel photographers who need to bring down the weight as much as possible
3. Peak Design Travel Tripod (Carbon Fiber)
– Fresh, unique ball head design
– Decent load to weight ratio
– Very packable
– Aesthetic design
– Included smartphone holder
– Unable to rotate the ball head without extending the center column
– Hex-head base plate requires a separate tool to attach to the camera.
– Much pricier than other lightweight backpacking tripods with similar specs
When the Peak Design Travel Tripod first came onto the scene, it was almost impossible to get one. The hype was real! But, did all this hype live up to the promise of innovating the lightweight travel tripod industry?
In some ways, yes. It’s hard to argue with the fact that this tripod design is very aesthetically pleasing. The weight to maximum load ratio is also quite competitive. Additional features like innovative ball-head design has also been very popular.
It’s obvious that this tripod is catered to the travel market. It’s packable, light, and even has a phone-holder feature. Peak Design is also one of the best photography accessory companies, and I use their products every single day.
However, there are some rather strange issues with the Peak Design Travel Tripod. Firstly, for some reason, you cannot rotate the ball head without first extending the central column. This is very frustrating as most professional photographers with larger rigs will want to keep that central column all the way down for maximum stability, especially in windy conditions.
Another caveat is the hex-head screw on the plate. Most companies these days offer a folding tab to quickly change plates without a tool. However, this isn’t really a deal breaker, as you can often get away with just using the same arca-swiss compatible plates with most tripods and accessories these days.
In my opinion, I wouldn’t bother with the aluminum version. For the same price, you can get the Manfrotto BeFree GT, which offers way more bang for buck at the same weight. The carbon fiber version is a strong contender for the best lightweight tripod for backpacking, but the price might put some people off.
Best for: travel photographers who want a light, packable solution and can sacrifice on load capacity
4. Benro GoPlus Travel FGP18A
– Cheap and great value for a travel tripod that can hold 10 kg
– Impressive maximum height
– Can be converted into a monopod
– Quick action twist locks are great
– Heaviest tripod on this list
– Low maximum load for its weight
– Least packable on this list
– Aluminum alloy material
– Requires a separate ball head purchase
Best for: hobby or beginner photographers and backpackers on a budget
The Benro GoPlus Travel tripod offers great bang-for-buck for backpacking photographers who can sacrifice a little on weight. This tripod borrows similar leg designs from Gitzo products but builds them from heavier aluminum alloy material.
As a result, this is the heaviest tripod on the list, but still comes under the 2 kg threshold. This might be fine for many, especially when you find out it can support 10 kg (22.02 lbs), and do so well. Furthermore, the Benro GoPlus Travel offers other unique features like being able to be converted into a fully-functioning monopod.
The unique central column and canopy system offers further flexibility by being able to tilt out from the center. The main use case for this would be to act as a manual slider for time-lapse photography.
In the end, the Benro GoPlus Travel offers a decent tripod with great features at a fair price. Although it is heavy and the least packable on this list, it can support a full-frame DSLR or Mirrorless camera. However, keep in mind you’ll often need to purchase a separate ball head unless you can find a package deal.
The #1 Photography Accessory
Enter the Peak Design Capture Clip. I’ve used this for years to quickly clip my camera to my backpack’s shoulder strap. This is the most comfortable way to carry a camera and will save your neck a ton of strain.
5. 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 +AirHead Pro Lever Kit
– Insane maximum load!
– Very packable
– Three shooting angles
– Tonnes of flexibility in the center column
– Well-placed bubble level
– Poor maximum height for the weight
– Some might not like the aesthetics
– Customers report they lose the feet
3 Legged Thing make some of the best lightweight travel tripods for professional photographers. If we’re going to round down to the best, the 3 Legged Thing Leo 2.0 would take the cake. Pair this with the Airhead Pro Lever Kit, and you’ve got yourself a beast hiking tripod.
What really stands out with this carbon fiber travel tripod is that it can support 30 kg (66.14 lbs), which really blows the other options out of the water. However, it’s important to note that this maximum load can only be achieved using the 23° leg position. With this narrow leg position, the center of gravity is more critical, and I wouldn’t want to place 30 kg of camera gear like that.
However, most outdoor and nature photographers won’t have 30 kg of gear to begin with. At the end of the day, these legs are strong, and you can trust it to support heavy camera and lens setups.
This lightweight tripod can also achieve near ground level shots at just 5 inches above the ground if you splay the legs wide at 80° and remove the central column. And, combine that with a maximum height of 147 cm (57.87″), photographers get quite an impressive range, even if the maximum height is a little lacking.
Besides the price (and potentially the wild color schemes), there’s little to dislike about this lightweight tripod and ball head setup. Although, I have heard from some photographers that they’ve lost the rubber feet.
Best for: outdoor photographers with big rigs
6. Joby RangePod Smart
– Very budget friendly
– Impressive maximum height
– Great for vlogging
– Arca-Swiss compatible quick-release plate
– Heavy aluminum design
– Low maximum load
– Not for professional photographers
Another decent budget choice is the Joby Rangepod Smart. Although this tripod is made from heavier aluminum alloy, it still comes in at a decent weight. This tripod is a popular choice for vloggers and influencers, especially those who film or shoot content on light compact cameras or phones.
With this tripod, you get standard features like a decent ball head, arca-swiss compatible quick release plate, quick release twist lock leg segements, and a ballast hook. The design is very similar to the Manfrotto BeFree range, which many will love. The maximum height is also one of the most impressive on this list. In total, these features are great for those on a budget who don’t need to support heavy cameras and can handle the extra weight.
However, the benefits really end there, especially for those with a higher skill level or for professional use cases. This tripod isn’t very packable for only being able to support 8 kg. Its bulky size and heavy aluminum alloy material typically rules the Joby Rangepod out for professional photographers.
Best for: vloggers, influencers, and budget travelers and backpackers
7. Manfrotto PIXI EVO
– Incredibly light
– Can hold mirrorless cameras
– Very packable
– Surprisingly stable ball head
– Very low maximum height
– No flexible shooting situations like the Gorillapod
This is what a truly lightweight travel tripod looks like! Minimalists and photographers who typically only shoot with a tripod when recording time-lapses or the occasional slow-shutter shot will love this approach.
No, this isn’t a full-sized tripod by any means. But, it is the most compact design of any lightweight tripod for backpacking or hiking. At just over 20 cm and under 250 g, most hikers will not notice this in their backpack. Being built by Manfrotto, you can also expect great quality for such a tiny accessory.
Surprisingly, this lightweight and compact tripod solution can hold a full-frame mirrorless camera and kit lens like the Canon R5 and 24-105 F4 comfortably. Of course, you’ll be very limited in terms of shooting angles, but if you want a no-frills approach, the Manfrotto PIXI EVO is an affordable and very packable solution.
Best for: cheap & lightweight tripod solution for ultimate minimalists
8. Gitzo GT1545T Series 1 Traveler Tripod
– Super lightweight
– Beautiful design
– Great ball head, sturdy center column
– Not as packable as other tripods
– Average maximum height
Finally, the Gitzo Series 1 Traveler is a great option to round out this ultimate list of the best lightweight tripod solutions.
This tripod is seriously sexy. Gitzo tripods are known to be some of the most aesthetically pleasing, easy to use, and functional tripods on the market. The Gitzo Series 1 Traveler weighs in at just 1.06 kg (2.4 lbs), which is insane, considering it can hold 10 kg (22.05 lbs).
The minimal design is also a pleasure to use. You won’t find a thousand other functions like the Peak Design Travel Tripod or travel tripods from 3 Legged Thing. But, that’s exactly why many professional photographers turn to Gitzo. Simplicity is key here, and it gets the job done.
Of course, the light weight in the central column and the leg sections mean photographers miss out on a little extra stability and load capacity that the Manfrotto BeFree GT offers. The design is also not as packable as other travel tripods with a similar maximum load.
Best for: professional photographers who need the lightest travel tripod possible
Related: Best Travel Photography Equipment
Anatomy of a Lightweight Backpacking Tripod
The truth is that for many photographers, lightweight tripod is going to be the first tripod purchase. That’s because they’re often the most practical to use, the easiest to carry around, and the cheapest to purchase.
If this sounds like you, you’ll benefit from this next section, where I quickly talk about the features and components that you’ll find in most great backpacking tripods. Below you’ll also find a very well-designed infographic from Camera Jabber.
1. Ball Head
A ball head is one of the most important features on a tripod. This allows you to twist and rotate the camera in any position without moving the leg sections.
2. Center Column
The center column, or central column, is the fourth (or fifth) vertical leg supporting the camera. It sits inside the canopy and can usually slide up and down. Usually, professional photographers want to keep this central column all the way down so that the ball head rests on the canopy. This provides the most stability but sacrifices height.
The canopy is the central point of gravity for the tripod. This is where all the legs and columns stem from. Usually, the canopy has switches and lever locks to fold and unfold the legs in various angles.
4. Leg Sections & locks
The leg sections are the extensions which supports the tripod. These are kept in place with leg locks, which can come in lever or twist lock form. In my experience, twist locks are the easiest to use. However, this is ultimately up to personal preference.
The tripod feet are fairly self explanatory. These are usually screw in rubber mounts to ensure the tripod doesn’t slide on slippery surfaces and remains stable on uneven surfaces. Some travel and backpacking tripods come with the option of rubber and spike feet. The latter is useful if shooting on soft terrain or ice.
What Makes A Great Backpacking & Travel Tripod?
So, how have I come up with this list in the search to find the best backpacking tripod?
There are several features and key things to look for. However, keep in mind that these criteria will vary depending on what kind of photographer you are. Furthermore, the camera and lens setup will also determine the best lightweight travel tripod for you, since everybody has different weight and stability requirements.
I’ve done my best to provide a holistic overview that should cater to everyone rocking rigs from mirrorless cameras and DSLR cameras, to small compact cameras and even smartphones.
Regardless, below is what I look for in a great tripod, and it should be applicable to you as well, no matter the gear.
Lightweight Material: Carbon Fiber Tripod or Aluminum?
This is pretty straight forward, a lightweight tripod should be made from lightweight material. The two most common are carbon fiber tripods and aluminum alloy tripods.
Aluminum tripods provide excellent strength while keeping the weight down to a practical level. However, they are usually significantly heavier than carbon fiber tripods. As a result, these are often cheaper.
Carbon fiber is currently the lightest material that still provides excellent strength and durability. This is the material you will find on most premium backpacking and hiking tripods. As a result, you’ll often pay a significantly higher price for carbon fiber.
Maximum Height, & Minimum Height & Folded Height
Maximum height refers to the tallest height the tripod can get your camera. A tall maximum height provides the greatest flexibility and shooting angle options. However, keep in mind that this is typically achieved by raising the central column to its maximum height. This greatly reduces stability, especially with heavy cameras.
Minimum height refers to the lowest point the tripod can position the camera. Similarly to the maximum height, a low minimum height gives more flexibility with shooting at ground level. This is typically achieved by angling the leg segments at its widest setting and reducing the central column to its base at the canopy. Additionally, some tripods allow you to remove and even flip it so that the camera hangs underneath the tripod to shoot at ground level. This is useful for creative landscape photography shots.
Folded height is the total height when the tripod is compacted for travel. The smaller the folded height, the less room it takes up in your bag, and the better the packability.
Ideally, a great ultralight tripod for backpacking or travel will have a decent maximum height at the canopy, with a low minimum height and small folded height.
Load Capacity & Maximum Load
Again, this is fairly self explanatory. Lightweight tripods typically can’t support large film rigs. However, since mirrorless cameras are becoming lighter and smaller, professionals can finally find excellent supportive tripods that don’t weight down their back.
A higher load capacity, or maximum load, means the more weight the tripod can support. This is also a good indication of how stable and sturdy the tripod will be in windy conditions.
When choosing the best lightweight tripod, consider the weight of your camera and lens.
A Compact Design
When you’re hiking or backpacking, many people choose to strap their tripod to the outside of their bags. But, if you’re a full-time traveler like me, the folded height and overall packability is much more important.
Keeping the tripod in a bag or in checked in baggage shouldn’t mean sacrificing other personal items. Again, it’s all about finding a balance between packability, weight, and performance.
A Solid Ball Head
A great ball head is the crux of an excellent tripod. A ball head should be easy to move, smooth, and rock hard when fastened. You also shouldn’t need to tighten the hell out of the knob to get it to sit fast.
Ease of Use
At the end of the day, a tripod is a tool that helps you capture great images. These days, there seems to be more gear fans than actual photographers. These guys often get bogged down in specifications, and forget about the real life use cases of a lightweight backpacking tripod.
My advice if you’re starting off with outdoor photography is to look for suggestions from people who actually shoot. For us, the most important thing is ease of use and practicality. A tripod should be easy to set up, stable, simple, and most of all, fuss-free.
Extra features are great, but if they get in the way of capturing great photos, then they’re more of a hinderance than a feature.
Other than the basics, there are also some additional features that will make or break a purchasing decision for many beginner and professional photographers.
Below are some of the most common extra features found on lightweight travel tripods.
- Bubble level – a simple level that indicates level tripod positioning. A little redundant on mirrorless & DSLR cameras with an in-built digital level.
- Ballast hook – this is an often overlooked feature that can be very useful. A ballast hook allows you to hang a weight or ballast (i.e a backpack) underneath the tripod on the central column. This increases stability and risk of the tripod falling over in windy conditions.
- Quick release plate – every good tripod will have this feature. However, the compatibility will vary. Generally, the best is the arca-swiss style as they are the most compatible with other products.
- Monopod leg – I’m not a big fan of monopods considering my Canon R5 and RF IS lens has 8 stops of image stabilization. However, many people love the feature of being able to take out a leg segment or the central column to transform your lightweight tripod into a monopod.
Conclusion: Which Lightweight Backpacking Tripod is the Best?
That concludes this ultimate guide to selecting the perfect lightweight backpacking tripod. If you scrolled through the article for my suggestion, then you would have missed my recommendation already.
In my opinion, the best overall lightweight tripod for hiking, travel and the outdoors is the Manfrotto BeFree GT (carbon fiber). This is the tripod I currently use on all long-distance treks and jobs out in the field. It offers the best weight to load ratio, is very simple to deploy and use, and best of all, doesn’t cost $1000+.