Ever since I broke my lightweight backpacking tripod last fall, I’ve been looking for the perfect replacement. Of course, there is no such thing as perfect when it comes to outdoor photography gear, but you can sometimes get pretty darn close.
While there are quite a few tripods in the 3 lb. and above range, there are not very many quality choices in the under 3 lb. range. Most tripods that are super light weight just aren’t very sturdy. You might as well try to stack your camera on top of a set of twigs, which is essentially what you’re doing if you get one of those cheapo models. However, if you’re on a tighter budget, check out these 3 slightly more affordable lightweight carbon fiber tripod models.
When it comes to quality, though, here are three of the best options that I’ve found. If you’re the kind of photographer who likes to carry your equipment into the backcountry, who likes to go light, fast and unencumbered, and who isn’t afraid to spend decent money on a good tripod, you should definitely consider one of these. All are carbon fiber, which has excellent strength to weight ratio, and it doesn’t radiate cold on your hands in the winter like aluminum does.
Gitzo tripods are the cream of the crop when it comes to camera support. There is simply no finer tripod that you can buy. Whether you need ultralight or big lens support, you can never go wrong with a Gitzo.
At 2.3 lbs, the GT0532 Mountaineer offers excellent strength to weight ratio. It’s not quite as light as a feather, but it sure comes close. It’s also quite sturdy for how little it weighs. It’s rated to 17 lbs, and it while it won’t provide the same support of a heavier tripod if you’re using longer telephotos like 300 and 400mm, if you’re looking for a set of legs that feels like you’re carrying nothing at all, this is your best bet. Note: Right now there’s a $150 rebate deal on the this tripod.
The GT 0352 extends to 52″ and closes down to 20.9″. With the center column all the way down, it still extends to 42.5″ high.
At 2.1 lbs, the GT0545T Series 0 Traveler is exceptionally lightweight, and with leg sections that fold back, it packs very small- only 14″ long. The smallest model in the popular Traveler Series, the GT0545T is rated to hold 22lbs, which is way more than most other “lightweight” tripods on the market.
Yes, it costs more, but if you want the ultimate, ultralight, compact tripod with a beautiful streamlined design with no compromise in quality or stability, this may be the one.
All the Gitzo Traveler tripods have 2 options- either with the gorgeous 1382QD ball head, or without a head. They also come with a carrying strap and a short center column for ground level shooting.
Specs on the GT0545T are as follows: Max height: 48.2″, closed length: 14.4″, load capacity: 22 lbs, max height with center column all the way down: 41.7″.
Next to the Gitzo GT0531, the Oben CT-3561 feels heavy, but at only 3.1 lbs, it’s still a contender. Oben is a lesser known brand, but they make high quality tripods that are both lightweight and affordable. The CT-3561 is a 5-section tripod that folds down to 16.8″, extends to 64.3″ and only weighs 3.1 lb.
It’s very compact because the legs fold back on themselves, making it an ideal choice as both a backpacking tripod and travel tripod. It’s also heavy duty enough for pro use, as it has a 12 lb. load capacity.
It’s got twist lock legs sections that allow for one handed operation, a center column hook that lets you attach a weighted pack or bag for added stability and a full pan and tilt ball Arca style quick release head.
Oben makes good tripods. Are they are good as the Gitzos? Some say yes, some say no, but there’s no question that they’re well made and great for all around use. Load capacity is listed as 16.8 lbs., (up from the previous CT-3500 model) which is certainly strong enough to hold most camera/lens combinations. It also has retractable spiked feet and an Arca style quick release plate on the head.
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