Precision matters the absolute most when you’re looking through your spotting scope at an exceptionally long-distance target. Millimeter movements of the crosshair can be enough to cause you to miss your target entirely.
Ensuring the maximum possible stability of your spotting scope is vital. Equipping yourself with a quality tripod give you a huge advantage when it comes to consistently achieving pinpoint accuracy.
Fortunately, there are dozens upon dozens of options when it comes to selecting a tripod for your spotting scope. Unfortunately, comparing all these options quickly turns into a long, labor-intensive process (just take our word for it).
We here at Outdoor Nomad believe that your time is far too valuable to waste on endless internet searches, so we’ve gone and done the dirty work for you.
Our comprehensive list of the best spotting scope tripods will transform you into a subject matter expert; you’ll be able to find the ideal equipment regardless of your individual needs.
There’s a lot more to learn about tripod variations than you might think. Let’s take a look at the most important differentiating features.
Types of Tripods
Spotting scope tripods come in a few sizes. Here is a quick recap about the different types you may see:
You obviously wouldn’t want a tripod approaching six feet tall if you’re shooting from a prone position, seated at a table, or (for you adventurous folks out there) perched in a deer stand.
The smallest compact spotting scope tripods you’ll come across feature a minimum height of roughly five inches and an extended height of anywhere from one to three feet.
Compact tripods, while indeed versatile, are not built to support much weight; they’re often rated to handle five pounds, give or take a couple.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that smaller tripods may suffer from instability issues when pushed to the limits of their weight capacity. This will vary between model and manufacturer but is still important to be aware of.
Despite their limitations, compact tripods are ideal when space is a limiting factor.
A taller tripod is necessary whenever you’re standing while looking through your spotting scope, or if you plan on placing the tripod next to (but not on top of) the table you’re shooting from.
There truly are virtually limitless options if you’re in the market for a full-size tripod. Traditional tripod selections typically collapse down to approximately 18 inches and extend as tall as six feet.
Spotting scope weight should never be a concern for full-size tripods; most are also surprisingly light given how sturdy they are, so carrying them with you won’t be a hassle.
A full-size tripod will usually have the upper hand on its smaller brethren when it comes to stability, even under heavier loads.
The tradeoff for all this performance is the inability to use full-size tripods for spotting scopes used in confined spaces (especially from a prone position). Unless you must prove a point and lug one up to your deer stand, you’re better off with something compact.
We could spend a lot of time talking about the different head styles and their unique functions, but we’re going to focus on the two that you’ll most likely encounter on the best spotting scope tripods.
Ball heads move freely in virtually any direction.
- Nearly unlimited range of motion, giving the user maximum freedom to adjust their line of sight.
- Quite efficient for initially homing in on a target.
- Easier to get off-target when trying to pan across your field of view.
- Small adjustments can be a pain.
Pan (Pan and Tilt) Heads
Pan heads (usually) move across two independent axes; one for panning across your field of view, and one for tilting up or down.
- Stability, stability, stability.
- Small adjustments are much more straightforward.
- Sacrificed maneuverability.
- Bulkier compared to ball heads.
If you’ve used multiple types of tripod heads before, chances are you already have a preference towards one. If this will be your first tripod experience, pan heads better lend themselves to user-friendliness and involve less practice with spotting scope adjustments.
Types of Material
Save for some rare occasions, you’ll be choosing between tripods with aluminum and carbon fiber construction.
Quite a large majority of the best spotting scope tripods feature anodized aluminum construction. Their largest advantage is that they are substantially cheaper than carbon fiber tripods.
It is a relatively popular opinion that carbon fiber tripods add value through their superior vibration absorption. This is mostly false, and I’ll explain why.
Manufacturer’s or retailers expecting you to take this statement for face value are not telling the whole truth. Concerning it’s use in tripod legs, carbon fiber only absorbs vibrations created through ground contact, and the benefit itself is negligible.
Essentially, you’ll only get to enjoy this insignificant performance boost if you were hunting during an earthquake, or near a herd of stampeding elephants.
- Carbon fiber, especially compared to anodized aluminum, is far less durable. Spending the extra money for carbon fiber does not automatically equate to a protected investment.
- Anecdotal evidence suggests that aluminum tripods are “smoother” to use when it comes to adjusting the leg and center column height.
For 99.9% of hunters out there, Aluminum is the right choice. Anyone out there shilling carbon fiber as the undisputed tripod king is a) wrong, and b) more interested in separating you from your hard-earned dollars than providing you with the proper equipment.
So after all that, what does carbon fiber have going for it?
There’s something undeniably sexy about a matte-black, carbon fiber finish. Also, it may save you from having to lug around a pound or two which can have a noticeable impact during unusually long journeys.
- A carbon-fiber tripod’s weight-to-load-bearing-performance ratio can be quite impressive. The fact that such a light material can successfully hold such heavy objects is enough to make you giggle.
- It wouldn’t be fair to say that carbon fiber spotting scope tripods are inadequate. The truth is quite the opposite, and most times you’ll find that the material isn’t the difference maker in the equipment performance (at least when it comes to tripods).
However, the premium that some carbon fiber models are priced at is absurd. Coupled with the lack of any significant tangible benefit to using carbon fiber over aluminum, the price gap seems even more ridiculous.
Again, there is nothing at all inherently wrong with carbon fiber tripods. I’m just warning you not to drink the Kool-Aid too eagerly based off hype alone.
Best Spotting Scope Tripods: Our Top Picks
Without further ado, here are our picks for the best spotting scope tripods available!
Best Full Size Tripod – Vortex Optics Pro GT
- Redesigned to handle any conditions, for reliable performance, look to the Pro GT tripod.
- The sturdy anodized legs combine with a rugged 3-way quick-release pan/tilt head to deliver smooth, solid support for...
- Flip lever leg locks are valued for rapid set up and height adjustment. The balance hook holds extra weight on the...
If you want to take a great picture, Canon has you covered. If you need a premium spotting scope setup, Vortex Optics is a sure bet every time.
The Pro GT is the manufacturer’s flagship tripod, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better option at this price point.
- 6 inches collapsed, 67.1 inches (!) fully extended.
- Anodized aluminum frame for maximum durability in any conditions.
- Rated to support up to 10 pounds.
- Pan style head offering three pan/tilt axes. Head also features a quick-release mechanism.
- All of this in a tripod weighing only 4.4 pounds!
- Fixed leg positions.
- Somewhat pricey compared to other options.
Vortex Optics are specialists when it comes to rifle scopes and optics, and the Pro GT is a testament to their expertise. It won’t pull the trigger for you, but it’ll do just about everything else.
Runner Up: Best Full Size Tripod – Bushnell 784030 Advanced Tripod
When I say this is a close second, I mean a really close second. This beauty from Bushnell offers many of the features our top pick does and is slightly cheaper.
The 784030 is an excellent tripod and is sure to impress even seasoned hunters with its mix of functionality and affordability.
- 3 inches collapsed (usable on some tabletops), 61 inches fully extended.
- Independent leg positioning (very useful).
- Pan style head offering three pan/tilt axes.
- Rated to support up to 11 pounds.
- A bit heavier than others at 5.5 pounds.
- No quick-release for the head assembly.
- Bushnell doesn’t disclose if the aluminum used in the tripod is anodized. I assume so since they claim it has a “corrosion-resistant finish,” though I don’t know why they wouldn’t just include this in the product details.
If you’re in the market for a full-size tripod that qualifies as a “budget option,” the Bushnell 784030 is your new best friend. It brings a slew of features to the table while managing to stay affordable.
Best Ball Head Tripod – Zomei Z818
- 【AMAZING SHOOTING EXPERIENCE】ZOMEi Camara Tripod equips 360 Panorama Ball Head Quick Release Plate allows for full...
- 【TRAVEL TRIPOD】 Weighs only 3.4 pounds. The included carrying case makes it easy to carry anywhere you want. Quick...
- 【EASY TO SET UP】 ZOMEi Z668C Carbon Fiber Tripod built in bubble level, three adjustment knobs design allows you to...
While aesthetics is a matter of personal preference, I feel confident that most people would classify the Z818 as tripod eye candy. You’ll spend most of your time looking through your spotting scope of course, but this Zomei has created something so… elegant.
Besides being pleasing to the eye the Z818 is bursting at the seams with features. Also, it just so happens to be the first ball head spotting scope tripod we’re reviewing.
- 18 inches collapsed (also usable on some tabletops), 65 inches fully extended.
- Convertible into a monopod! (The removable center column can be screwed into one of the legs. Extends to a max height of 72 inches!)
- Anodized aluminum and magnesium alloy construction.
- 360-degree ball head features a quick release mechanism.
- Three angle positioning options per leg.
- Column hook at the base of the center column allows you to hang additional weight for increased tripod stability.
- Weighs only 3.7 pounds!
- Rated to support a maximum load of 33 pounds! (Pretty ridiculous).
- The ball head may seem a bit less intuitive to some users.
It’s exhausting to read through the features and capabilities of the Zomei Z818. I would challenge anyone to find a more versatile offering at a similar price.
This very well may have won the top spot among best spotting scope tripods had it not featured a ball head. The ball style is not a detriment to the tripod, but it isn’t exactly the preferred choice either.
However, if using a ball head doesn’t ruin the experience for you, go pick one of these bad boys up immediately: you won’t be disappointed.
Best Shock Absorbing Tripod – Vanguard Alta 264AO
- 26mm 4 section aluminum alloy legs adjust to 25, 50, and 80-degree angles to enable extreme low angle photography
- 360 degree panning PH-31 fluid panhead with quick release plate, back-up safety lock, and bubble level
- Strong magnesium die-cast canopy
I went into depth about shock absorption in my earlier tangent about the gimmicky reality of carbon fiber tripods. If you recall, carbon fiber legs offer a trivial amount of shock absorption from ground contact vibrations.
Truly relevant shock absorbing capability would originate at the center column of the tripod, namely where the tripod head attaches to the center column.
What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly that. Vanguard’s Alta 264AO has a legitimate spring-supported shock assembly that actually dampens vibrations.
- The shock assembly alone makes this tripod a contender.
- Anodized aluminum alloy construction.
- 375 inches collapsed, 70.125 inches (!!) fully extended.
- Pan head features a quick release mechanism.
- Three angle positioning options per leg.
- The included pan head only has two adjustment axes.
- Only supports roughly five pounds.
- Another considerably pricey option.
The shock-absorbent function of the Alta 264AO deserves another mention. This alone makes it arguably the most stable spotting scope tripod.
While it may cost a bit more than some options, it’s a fraction as expensive as other tripods with similar capabilities. Anyone who values a rock-steady view through their scope above all else is in good hands with this marvel from Vanguard.
Best Compact Tripod – Vanguard VS-82
- Extended height: 9 7/8"; folded height: 9"
- Two way panhead
- Maximum load is 5.5 pounds
What you see is typically what you get with tripods in this category. While you likely won’t find a lengthy list of fancy features, compact tripods are perfect for serving their specialized purpose.
In the world of ultra-compact tripods, this is practically as small as they come. The VS-82 is the ideal size for your typical tabletop setup or prone shooting. Heck, you might even bring it into your deer stand.
Vanguard’s tiny tripod is a pleasingly straightforward option.
- 9 inches collapsed, 9.875 inches fully extended.
- Fully-function pan head with two adjustment axes.
- The little guy can still support 5.5 pounds.
- Weighs less than a pound (13.8 ounces).
- Cheaper than dirt.
- No word on whether the aluminum is anodized.
- No real height adjustment to speak of.
While the manufacturer doesn’t disclose whether the aluminum on the tripod legs is anodized, you’re still getting aluminum instead of plastic. Ultimately this makes it significantly more relevant for real world use.
The Vanguard VS-82 is exactly what it claims to be; a miniature tripod. It doesn’t do anything fancy and it isn’t much to look at, but it does its job exceptionally well.
Its ability to support five and a half pounds is no small feat. There are several full-size alternatives that barely manage holding the same weight.
It’s also noteworthy that the VS-82 is impressively stable. This is likely thanks to its unusually low center of gravity and near-complete lack of height adjustability. You would usually consider fewer options a bad thing but, in this case, it works perfectly.
If compact is ultimately your deciding criterion, the Vanguard VS-82 is the best spotting scope tripod there is. It offers just the right balance between tiny and functional.
Best Compact Tripod (Runner Up) – Koolehaoda KQ-166
- New design ,Mini Portable Travel Tripod adopts the most advanced CNC processing technology. High strength aluminum alloy...
- Portable and lightweight: with folded length of 20cm and weight of 0.95kg, it is portable for your photography.
- Functional: you can use it on the table photography. It is also a solution for you to have ground level shooting.
Before I say anything else, I’d like to clarify that the KQ-166 is an excellent tripod.
It missed out on the top spot because I can’t decide if Koolehaoda tries doing too much in this compact design. I’m sure that seems like a vague critique, and I promise I’ll elaborate.
I started off by complementing the KQ-166 to draw attention to the value it offers. It certainly brings a lot to the table, and you shouldn’t feel worse off for choosing it over another compact option.
- 9 inches collapsed, 22 inches fully extended (an undeniably impressive range).
- Aluminum magnesium alloy construction.
- Ball head features a quick release mechanism.
- Supports a mighty 11 pounds.
- Expensive as far as compact tripods go.
- You may dislike the ball head, or at least prefer a pan style.
- Bulkier for a compact model at 2.1 pounds.
If it’s still not clear why I said the tripod was “doing too much,” I understand your confusion. On paper the KQ-166 is a highly capable piece of equipment, and in real world use it’s every bit as capable.
My skepticism comes from the perspective of someone who might be using a miniature tripod. You likely won’t need it to extend a full two feet, nor would you need it to support 11 pounds.
The ball head also seems less than ideal, and not strictly for the sake of user-friendliness.
If you’re shooting in super confined spaces, there’s a greatly increased chance you’ll need to make delicate scope adjustments with restricted movements. As a reminder, ball head setups are somewhat allergic to minor adjustments.
I can’t shake the feeling that if the KQ-166 were a purer interpretation of a compact tripod, it wouldn’t be twice as expensive as the VS-82 reviewed above.
Reservations aside, I still think Koolehaoda has put forth a fantastic tripod. You might (might) even call it the best compact spotting scope tripod among its competitors, if that statement were based purely on technical specifications.
If you need a compact tripod, but you can’t part ways with a wide variety of features, you’ll feel right at home with the KQ-166.
Best Carbon Fiber Tripod – MeFOTO Globetrotter
- The MeFOTO GlobeTrotter is a compact travel camera tripod that folds up inversely and turns into a monopod. When...
- 360-degree Panning: Accurate panoramas can be easily orchestrated using the graduated panning scale for accurate image...
- Recessed Center-Column Hook: A spring loaded recessed hook, located in the bottom of the center-column, allows you to...
In case anyone reading this skipped the article’s intro, I feel that carbon fiber tripods, in most cases, don’t add enough (or any) value to justify their often-excessive price.
However, I can acknowledge that if there weren’t a decent number of people out there who preferred carbon fiber, manufacturers likely wouldn’t produce so many of them.
So, in favor of not having anyone feel left out, I decided to include a review for what I consider the best carbon fiber spotting scope tripod.
Right away, take any expectations related to the words “shock-absorbing” and throw them out the window. You will not find a tangible vibration dampening benefit when comparing carbon fiber and aluminum.
The MeFOTO Globetrotter is an excellent tripod in every other aspect, plain and simple.
- 1 inches collapsed, 64.2 inches fully extended (quite versatile with respect to range).
- Convertible to a monopod (64.2 inches fully extended).
- Rated to support up to 26.4 pounds.
- Two angle positioning options per leg.
- Ball head features a quick release mechanism.
- Weighs a mere 3.7 pounds.
- A ball head is the only factory option.
While I do still consider the Globetrotter expensive, it earns brownie points for not being insultingly overpriced like so many other carbon fiber tripods.
I’ve always recommended aluminum construction over carbon fiber, and I doubt that’ll change any time soon. Regardless, this is a solid piece of equipment that will surely prove to be a worthwhile investment.
To be clear, I would never contend that choosing a carbon fiber tripod is a bad decision: it’s not. If carbon fiber is your preference, you should absolutely feel confident knowing you’re not missing out because of it.
On that note, if you can think of literally any reason you’d prefer carbon fiber, you can essentially place this piece from MeFOTO at the front of the best spotting scope tripod debate. It’s really, really nice.
To emphasize an earlier point, there are a dizzying number of options when it comes to picking out a spotting scope. Tripods are just one of the necessary factors to look at!
Those tripods that made it on this list have earned our seal of approval, and rightfully so. All the tripods featured here today are premium pieces of equipment that will continue to please well into the foreseeable future.
I like to remind our readers that, regardless of our opinion, the “best” tool is always the one that most appropriately fits your individual needs.
While we’re confident in each selection we make, there’s never any hard feelings if you think we’ve missed the mark. The team at Outdoor Nomads is still honored by having the opportunity to guide you through the field and help you stay on target.
In any case, happy hunting and, as always, thanks for reading!
Last update on 2020-01-25 at 01:21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API