A good spotting scope tripod provides excellent stability, especially if you’re using your scope at higher magnification since the tripod provides a solid and sturdy base for your spotting scope.
The two parts of a tripod are the head and the legs, which supports the spotting scope and keeps your equipment grounded. You can purchase the head and the leg set separately, although this option is more expensive but recommended if you’re using a heavy spotting scope. You can also purchase the tripod head and legs as a complete unit, which is the route that I recommend since it’s a lot easier and not to mention, more affordable.
Before you start looking for the right tripod for your spotting scope, you need to keep in mind your intended purpose for your scope. Will you be using it for birdwatching, hunting, target shooting, backpacking or hiking? This helps determine if you need a lightweight and compact tripod for easy portability (recommended for backpackers, hunters, and hikers, or a heavy-duty tripod for prone and target shooting. Compact tripods are ideal for stabilizing spotting scopes of 70mm or less, whereas heavy-duty tripods are recommended for spotting scopes with an 80mm objective lens or more.
I would refrain from using the tripod that often comes bundled with spotting scopes as they’re made with cheap plastic. They’re often small and intended to use as tabletop tripods so they lack the ability to extend height.
Spotting Scope Tripod Features: Legs and Head
Regarding the material for the legs, you have 2 options: aluminum or carbon fiber tripods. Aluminum tripods are cost-effective and very durable! However, they’re not as lightweight as carbon fiber tripods. The latter is excellent for suppressing vibration, yet they are a lot more expensive. A downside is that they’re not as durable as aluminum tripods. If portability is extremely important to you, than I recommend spending extra money on a carbon fiber tripod.
Before purchasing a tripod for your spotting scope, make sure that it supports the maximum weight of your gear! You also want to make sure that the maximum height of the tripod works with your height. I would also avoid raising the center-column too high so it doesn’t compromise on stability.
As for the leg type, you can choose between a flip-lock or a twist-lock leg. Flip-lock legs are much quicker and easier to set up since you just need to simply flip the lever and close it to lock the leg in place! Your second option is a twist-lock leg, which locks the tripod leg into place by twisting and untwisting with your hand. They require a little more time to set up and pack back up.
You also have 2 options in terms of choosing a tripod head! You have the panhead and the ballhead. The panhead is great because you can get precise adjustments and it’s more intuitive than tripods featuring a ballhead system. While the ballhead is easy to use, I find that it requires a little extra time to adjust and set up.
Stability, portability, and sturdiness are a few of the most important features to look for in a spotting scope tripod.
There are a ton of options for spotting scope tripods on the market so I understand that picking out a tripod can feel like a daunting task! You don’t necessarily need to purchase the most expensive tripod on the market either since expensive doesn’t always mean best quality. Just make sure to purchase something that you think will work with you, your intended use, and your budget!