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How To Choose The Right Hunting Tripod

How To Choose The Right Hunting Tripod

If you’re in the market for a new tripod then you’re in the right place. Outdoorsmans has been producing American-made tripods since 1982, so we know a thing or two about what makes a good hunting tripod. It may seem like a simple thing, find a three-legged stand that I can attach my optics to, but that is far from the right mentality. There are quite a few different aspects that a prospective tripod purchaser should consider. 

There are a lot of good tripods on the market, and as glassing from a tripod grows in popularity, more and more are coming out. As similar as they may seem, not all tripods are created equal. Different materials, design uses, and styles of heads should all play a part in what hunting tripod you end up with.

The Advantages of Glassing with a Tripod

If this is your first tripod then it would make sense to understand the numerous benefits of hunting with a tripod. First off, glassing from a tripod isn’t a new idea, people have been using tripods for spotting scopes since...well the invention of the spotting scope. With their high magnification, weight, and propensity for vibration in the slightest breeze, it’s a necessity. 

Where the popularity is growing is with binoculars. Below are a few of the major improvements you will find by switching from free handing your binos to mounting them to a stable hunting tripod.

Eliminate any and all shake - Although you think you can hold your Binos still enough to spot an animal, by attaching them to a hunting tripod you can eradicate even the smallest movement from your field of view. This will provide an absolutely clear picture and allow you to see the finest of details. i.e. the flick of an ear in a quaky patch, the leg of a bedded elk, or a buck making a midday position change.

Longer time in the glass - By not having to hold your Binos to your eyes, you’re able to sit comfortably behind them without your arms getting tired. This will equate to longer periods of glassing and less time resting, allowing you to spot more game. 

Reduce eye fatigue - Without any shake, your eyes aren't having to constantly try to focus on moving targets. In turn, this will allow you to glass for longer periods, and by the end of a 5-10 day hunt, your eyes will feel less fatigued.

Longer glassing distance - The further you are glassing, the more affected you are by minuscule amounts of shake. You can easily freehand 100-200 yards away, but when glassing longer distances, like a mile away, the slightest vibration on the binos blurs the details in your field of view. With a completely still picture, you can spot subtle details at further distances.

Carbon Fiber Hunting Tripods Vs Aluminum Hunting Tripods

The first major decision you will need to make when researching a new tripod (which I am sure is why you are here) is what it is made of, Carbon Fiber or Aluminum. You may think “I’ll just go with a carbon fiber hunting tripod, they are way lighter” or “Aluminum is more durable, I’ll go with that”. But there is a lot more to it than that simple approach.

Carbon Fiber - These will typically be on the lighter side for weight, but the trade-off is their durability. Carbon fiber is incredibly strong when it comes to tensile strength and vertical stiffness, but horizontal strength is its downside. Hunters can use a carbon fiber tripod no problem, many do, but you will want to be aware of dropping, stepping on, or falling down with it strapped to your pack can cause damage. And when carbon fiber fails, it fails dramatically.

A carbon fiber hunting tripod may not be the best for heavy optics like a Swarovski BTX on a 90mm objective lens. The legs may be light, but they are not as sturdy and rigid as their aluminum counterparts.

Aluminum -  Weighing a little bit more, an aluminum hunting tripod will be more forgiving when it comes to durability. Drop it, kick it, or fall on it, an aluminum hunting tripod can take a beating. With the added durability also comes more rigidity with will perform better with heavy optics and/or inclement weather. 

Another downside to aluminum is noise production. Brushing against vegetation, getting it set up in rocks, or dirt and grime can cause moving parts to squeak. So just like any gear, maintenance is important. The biggest benefit to aluminum is its cost, which normally comes in well below carbon fiber.

Choosing a Tripod Based on Hunting Style

Once you have decided what you want your tripod to be made of, it’s important to think through your hunting style and how that can play a part in your tripod of choice. Are you a weight-conscious backpack hunter or are you typically doing most of your glassing from easy access vistas?

You will find that there are different height options available. If you backpack into an area and always glass from a seated position on the ground, then a compact tripod is right for you. If you find yourself in an area that constantly requires you to glass from a standing position, then a tall tripod might be something to consider. 

Another thing to keep in mind as well is the optics you use. If you glass with binos a majority of time and use a lightweight spotting scope like the Kowa TSN-554, then you may not need the most robust option. On the other hand, heavier optics like a Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 you will want to make sure you choose a tripod that can withstand the weight to minimize vibrations. 

Choosing a Tripod Head for Your Hunting Style

So, you have chosen your tripod. That was only half the battle, and the easier part. Now you have to choose your hunting tripod head. There are so many different types of heads available that feature different locking mechanisms. Plus, just like with tripods you will want to pay attention to overall weight, the size & weight of your optics, and the personal preference on ergonomics. 

Pan Head - This is the most common head in hunting, and photography, and where you will find a plethora of different options. You can find somewhere the handle tightens the pan or side levers. There are lightweight options like the Outdoorsmans Micro Pan Head which only weighs 7.5 oz, or the Outdoorsmans Fluid Head which is designed for glassing long distances with heavy optics. My recommendation, do your best to get your hands on a few options before making a decision. 

Pistol Grip - Not the most common option, and its use is mostly driven by personal preference. It isn’t the best option for larger spotting scopes, but for backpack hunters who run a lightweight optic set up the Outdoorsmans Pistol Grip Head is a viable option. If you have never used one before, make sure to get a test drive in before making the investment. 

Best Hunting Tripods

So you have read this far, have a decent understanding of what you're looking for, and you're wondering what we feel are the best tripods on the market. Talk about a loaded question! Lucky for you, we have a very good idea of the market since that is what we do. 

High-end tripods - If your looking to invest in a tripod that will last a long time, be versatile, and stand up to any and all situations you find yourself in you obviously can't go wrong with anything Outdoorsmans. In our unbiased opinion, they are the best on the market. Other reputable brands we would recommend are Gitzo, Benro, or Really Right Stuff

Budget Tripods - If you are looking for something less robust and on the more affordable side we would recommend taking a look at brands like SLIK who makes great options for lightweight carbon fiber options, Manfrotto, or Sirui. You can't go wrong with any of these options.

Hunting Tripod Accessories

So, at this point, you're all set up to go glass for big bucks, but wait there's more!! You can get some pretty awesome accessories for your new glassing setup. Get two uses out of your new tripod and use it as a shooting rest using one of the Outdoorsmans shooting platforms

If you ended up choosing an aluminum tripod, be aware that in really cold conditions the aluminum will also get super cold. For that instance, you can get the Neoprene Leg Covers to prevent your hands from freezing to the metal. Or if your like to keep you digiscoping setup close to capture videos and pictures of your potential target, snacks, and gloves, the Tripod Hammock hangs in between the tripod legs. In windy conditions, you can also place a heavy rock in the hammock to help minimize vibration.  

How to Clean and Repair a Tripod

You just spent a pretty penny on a new tripod, tripod head, and accessories, and as hardcore hunters, our gear takes a beating. You are going to want to take care of your investment with proper cleaning and repairs. Make sure the tripod you purchased comes with some kind of warranty or repair services. The last thing you want is to snap a leg on your new carbon fiber tripod without a good warranty and have to start this whole article over again.

Conclusion

Most gear these days is made with a lot of hype about bringing you more success, but a new jacket, boots, or pack really don't bring any benefit other than comfort. There is not a lot of gear that truly can make you a better hunter, but glassing from a tripod is one of those pieces. If you are in the market for a new hunting tripod setup make sure you think through your hunting style, figure out what weight you're shooting for, and pick a setup that is designed exactly for what you want to use it for. 


If you need any help, want to talk through your options, or just want to shoot the shit, give us a call or send an email. We are more than happy to help.
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