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Best tripod setup for spotting scopes

The Best Tripod Setup for Your Spotting Scope

Glassing with a spotting scope is a completely different beast than binoculars and therefore may require more of an investment or just a different approach to how you set up your tripod. If you have a compact and lightweight spotting scope you may be able to get away with using the same lightweight tripod head that you use for your binoculars.

On the other hand if you like to use a large spotting scope to help with more of the long distance glassing you are doing, you are going to need something with a bit more heft to it. Now if you are using a more flexible system such as the Swarovski modular ATX/STX/BTX system you may just need two tripod systems. It sounds like a lot but making glassing easier on yourself will make a massive difference while trying to spot game. 

Compact Spotting Scopes

Let’s start with the compact spotting scope scenario. Most of the time we do not recommend trying to save weight when it comes to spotting scopes. When you are magnifying an image by that much you want as much technology as possible inside that scope to maintain a usable image. With increases in technology comes more glass (most of the time) and more glass equals more weight. With that being said there are some very good exceptions to the rule. The two we consider to be the leaders in the compact spotting scope game are the Kowa TSN-554 and the Leupold Gold Ring spotting scopes. These two outperform basically any other spotting scope that comes even close to them in terms of weight. 

The very convenient part of having a compact spotting scope is you can use basically any combination of tripod and head that you like. They are short enough to have a very tight center of gravity and light enough to be held by a pistol grip type tripod head. So for these spotters the best tripod setup you can buy just happens to be whatever setup you like the most. If you don’t know what you like, just call us and we can help you with that.

small spotting scope tripod setup - outdoorsmans

20-60x Spotting Scopes

Now let’s say you wanted a little more glassing power but didn’t want to weigh your pack down with an 8lb spotting scope. You are somewhere right in the middle of the pack and so are the majority of other people. We can just generalize this one and call it a 20-60 power spotting scope. Too heavy for a lightweight tripod head but not so big that you need a studio style videographer's tripod. 

The tripod is the first step in building the right system for this type of spotting scope. You are going to want a tripod that is light enough to carry but not so light that you are sacrificing stability. At higher powers those small vibrations from the tripod are magnified to the point that they can really ruin a good glassing session. All of our Outdoorsmans tripods were built for this very purpose. We designed them to be as light as possible while still maintaining great stability. We always like to say that there are lighter tripods and there are more stable tripods but there is no better marriage of the two than the Outdoorsmans tripod. 

Now for the tripod head on a midweight spotting scope we always recommend some sort of pan head. The Outdoorsmans Pan Head is a great choice that offers extremely tight lockouts on the pan and tilt and only weighs in at 10.5oz. There are also other great options out there like the Sirui VA-5 head and the Manfrotto XPRO video head. The important part is the pan and tilt. You are looking for a tripod head that operates with a smooth feel to avoid those jumps and inconsistent movements at high magnification.

Large Spotting Scopes

Now for those of you that are using the largest glass you can find to glass for bulls 3 miles away, you are going to have to forget about the idea of having a lightweight tripod. If you are using large optics or dual eyepiece spotting scopes like the Kowa Highlanders or the BTX with a 115mm objective lens you have to prioritize stability. The Manfrotto 055 series is our go to for maximum stability in a tripod. Couple that with the Outdoorsmans Fluid Head or the Manfrotto 502 Video Head and you have a glassing machine that won’t be bothered by even heavy winds. 

Best spotting scope tripod setup

Balancing Your Optics

The last and maybe the most important point that I would like to mention is the importance of balancing your optic. With smaller optics this is rarely an issue but with the medium to large optics it can literally change the way you think about your tripod and head. Outdoorsmans offers a few different options for balancing your optic no matter what tripod head or optics you are using. Balancing the spotting scope will make your tilt adjustments much easier and more fluid and all it takes is a few seconds to get right. 

If you want to learn more about which spotting scope is right for you, or need help picking a spotting scope, just shoot us an email or give us a call. We are always here to help.


Happy hunting.

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