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There are quite a few options available when it comes to choosing a high-quality hunting tripod, but choosing the best tripod for your hunt comes down to a few different characteristics. First off, what is your hunting style?
Are you backpacking into a remote area and trying to keep your weight to a minimum? Are you hunting from a basecamp with easy access to good glassing spots and then going on stalks from there? Do you carry a glassing stool like the Hilsound BTR?
These are all things you need to think about before trying to choose the right tripod for you. To make sure your tripod is exactly what you are looking for, make sure to pay attention to these three aspects of a tripod. Having a good tripod will take your glassing to the next level.
First and foremost, when choosing a hunting tripod, you need to look at the overall weight. If you’re backpack hunting, the total weight of all your gear and pack is the main focus. The last thing you want to do is buy a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, and pack just to offset the savings with a 5 lb tripod.
Weight-Conscious Hunter - The weight-conscious hunter should be looking for a tripod around the 30 oz mark. A good place to start is looking at carbon tripods or lightweight aluminum like the Outdoorsmans Compact Tripod, but you will find some debates about carbon vs. aluminum. Typically, with a lighter tripod, it will compact smaller and fit better in your hunting pack.
Weight not an Issue - If weight isn’t an issue, then something a little heavier will better suit you. The heavier the tripod, the more rigid and stable it will be. When comparing carbon tripods vs. aluminum, aluminum in most cases will be a more rigid and a more stable base. A full-size, heavier tripod will also perform better in windy conditions and keep your optics from shaking as badly as a lighter-weight one.
When it comes to the height of your top-quality tripod, that will totally depend on how you tend to glass. For backpack hunting, most of us just sit on the ground, so a super tall tripod isn’t necessary. If you like to carry a stool or chair, most of the compact tripods may not have long enough legs to extend out and be tall enough.
Compact - Compact tripods will be your lightest-weight and shortest. These are typically used for glassing from the ground and are most popular among backpack hunters. For example, the Outdoorsmans Compact Tripod with the leg sections fully extended has a height of 36.5” and only weighs 32 oz. You can find them lighter, but the stability will come into question.
Mid-Height - A mid-height tripod can be used for glassing from the ground, but with the leg sections fully extended is high enough to glass from a stool or chair. For shorter people like Western Hunter’s Chris Denham, a mid-height tripod can be used for standing. Also, keep in mind that when glassing on steeper terrain, your downhill leg might need some extra length.
Tall - A tall, full-size tripod will be your most versatile, but also your heaviest. Take the Outdoorsmans Tall Tripod for example. It has a 60.5” height with fully extended leg sections which makes glassing with binos or a straight spotting scope comfortable while standing. It does weigh 49.6 oz, so it's on the heavy side, but if you're not carrying it for miles, then it doesn’t matter.
Center Post Extension - One of the many different accessories that can add versatility to your tripod is a center post extension. Outdoorsmans Tripods offer two different center post extenders that will increase the maximum height of the tripod. These can be used on all three height options to add extra functional height. For example if you're just too tall to glass standing up with the Standard Tripod, the short (12.5”) extender can add just enough height but also keep the weight down when throwing it into your pack.
Another thing to keep in mind when looking for the perfect tripod is what optics you’re using to glass. The Slik Pro CF-634 is a viable option when backpack hunting and only using binos and/or a small 50mm spotting scope, but you wouldn't want to put a BTX with a 85 mm objective lens on it, let alone any other high-magnification camera or spotting scope. It’s just not stable enough to give you the best resolution possible when using heavier optics.
If you’re using a larger, heavier, high-magnification optic, you will need a more rigid tripod system to disperse the weight and minimize vibrations. In windy conditions, large optics will catch more wind and may force you to lower your tripod closer to the ground.
Like we mentioned at the beginning of this article, when you are trying to choose the right tripod, there are numerous options available. So, take a minute to think through your hunt style, how you will typically glass with it, whether you’d rather have a carbon tripod or aluminum, and what head you plan on using.There are a lot of high-quality tripods available these days, so don't rush the decision. If you need any help and want to talk it through, don’t hesitate to give us a call or shoot us an email. That is what we are here for.