Ultralight, but steady tripods for hiking and travel
By Zachary Singer
Compact Aluminum Tripods The second strategy, using a shorter aluminum tripod, can work quite well, too. If you're on a backpacking trip into remote backcountry or flying from place to place, space can be as much at a premium as weight. A smaller tripod, then, can solve more than one problem for you.
Although the shorter maximum height might be an issue on occasion, it also can make it easier to set a camera close to the ground. For wide-angle shots with wildflowers carpeting the foreground of that canyon in which you're backpacking, a smaller tripod can be ideal.
The ultralight Manfrotto Compact Digi Tripod 718SHB weighs just 2 3/4 pounds, including a three-way head with quick-release. It supports a 5 1/2-pound camera up to 41 inches above the ground without raising the center column. List Price: $160. The Velbon Ultra LUXiSF weighs 2.1 pounds with its included ballhead. It will hold up a 6-pound camera and reaches a maximum height of about 40 inches when you don't lift up the center column. A unique leg-locking system offers quick setups. List Price: $159.
The Slik Pro 330DX raises an 8.8-pound camera to 51 inches above the ground without elevating the center column. With its included three-way head, the tripod weighs just over 3 1/2 pounds. List Price: $149.
Heads Getting your tripod's weight down to about three pounds is only half the battle—some heavy-duty three-way tripod heads can weigh that much all by themselves. Where weight is the paramount issue, ballheads might be your best choice. They generally weigh less than three-way heads designed to support the same amount of gear. New magnesium heads help keep weight down even further.
The ultralight Giottos MH 1002 ballhead weighs only 8 1/2 ounces, but supports 13 pounds of gear. A separate pan lock lets you maintain your tilt settings while you move the camera left or right. List Price: $69.
The Gitzo magnesium ballhead G1178M weighs in at about 14 ounces and supports up to 8.8 pounds of camera gear. List Price: $212.
The Kirk Enterprises BH-3 ballhead weighs 20 ounces, but its aluminum, brass and stainless-steel construction supports your gear with ease. Separate locks control ballhead tension and panning. List Price: $239.
The Novoflex Mini Magicball ballhead weighs less than three-quarters of a pound and supports 11 pounds of gear.