Best Spotting Scope Tripods for Birdwatching

Savleen Sur
Apr 15 · 21 min read

Spotting scope tripods are essentials for your birdwatching toolkit. It’s important to have a good quality stable and sturdy spotting scope tripod for maximum performance and viewings. Since spotting scopes provide high magnification, it can often lead to instability caused by vibrations. A good quality tripod helps reduce the vibrations and provides a steady base on which your scope can be mounted on. This, in turn, allows for smooth, clear, and highly detailed viewings. While there are many choices on the market at drastically different price points, it is important to consider a tripod that is sturdy, stable, and lightweight so it is easy to carry with you while birding. Most importantly, a sturdy built tripod is essential for reducing shakiness from your hands and providing you with highly-focused visuals.

If you are just curious about our top choice for a birding spotting scope tripod, we recommend the Ballachy Tripod. You can also read this blog post for 10 more recommendations of the best spotting scope tripods.

Stability is key. The main function of a spotting scope tripod is to provide stability and sturdiness regardless of the terrains and weather. A steady base is necessary when working with a tripod because of the high magnification levels of the spotting scope. Since scopes can be quite heavy on their own, a tripod is essential for providing solid support. A steady tripod designed for your spotting scope allows you to pick up the little details and get a clear view of your landscape. However, there are many factors that must be taken into consideration before purchasing a spotting scope tripod. This guide will provide an overview of some of the best spotting scope tripods that are available on the market!

As established earlier, the market is flooded with many different spotting scopes tripod. In this article, some of the most innovative and best scope tripods will be compared at different price ranges. These were selected because of their great features which will provide you a stress-free birdwatching experience. Don’t just settle for any tripod because it can lead to frustration. I have selected some of the best spotting scope tripods that will work with all your birdwatching needs! First, it’s important to discuss what key features are sported by the best spotting scope tripods for birdwatching.

The Height

Spotting scope tripods should be easy to use from a seated, crouched, or standing position. A center column is useful on a spotting scope tripod because it can help adjust your scope tripod by several inches. If crouching is not an option and you would prefer to be standing, make sure you get yourself a tripod that will work with your height.

The Head

After reviewing countless of spotting scope tripods for birdwatching, panheads provide the best experience. Since you will have to adjust your spotting scope during your observations to get the perfect view, a tripod head with a fluid panhead will ease the experience. An important element to choosing an effective tripod is that it should be able to pan smoothly and easily without any jerky movements. The legs are equally as important as the head of the tripod. Scopes with higher magnification and larger bodies require robust and well-made tripods legs and head to provide the proper support.

The Legs

Spotting scope tripods are usually made of 2 materials-either carbon-fiber or aluminum. While each has its benefits and disadvantages, the hefty price tag is usually the reason many people refrain from purchasing carbon-fiber tripods. Luckily, I have tested some of the best carbon-fiber spotting scope tripods that provide the same quality, durability and most importantly, lightweight feel as the more expensive options without the heavy price tag. While carbon-fiber tripods are desirable for being lightweight, they are also more expensive than aluminum tripods, but this doesn’t mean that all aluminum spotting scope tripods are not designed to be transportable. There are many tripods that are supported by aluminum legs and still provide the lightweight advantage of carbon-fiber tripods. A good and quality-built aluminum spotting scope tripod should stay extremely stable once planted on terrains and will not move nor shake even if it’s windy. All of the options mentioned in this guide are designed to provide stability while birdwatching. A good quality tripod should be able to effectively absorb vibration while being lightweight, durable, and secure. This guide features some of the best spotting scope tripods made of aluminum and carbon-fiber at all price ranges.

Just remember to not use the freebie tripods that are bundled with some of the spotting scopes. These are not made to withstand your spotting scope over a long period of time. They are quite flimsy and unstable and could potentially damage your spotting scope! It’s always a good idea to do your research and find a spotting scope tripod that will feel personalized for you rather than using the cheap tripod found in your kit.

How do I Choose the Best Spotting Scope Tripod for Birdwatching?

There are many different factors that come into consideration while choosing a spotting scope tripod for birdwatching. The budget, for example, is probably the primary driving factor. Since there are tripods ranging from different heights, sizes, and weights, it’s important to choose a spotting scope tripod that will fit your requirements. You don’t need to select the most expensive option on their market, just because it’s expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the best option for you. The tripods for spotting scopes mentioned in this guide have been selected because they go above-and-beyond by providing maximum user experience and satisfaction. Many of the options are budget-friendly.

There are 3 main types of spotting scope tripods in the market- the compact spotting scope tripods, tabletop spotting scope tripods, and full-size tripods for spotting scopes. This article highlights the best spotting scope tripods for each of these three categories. Factors like weight, height, durability, head type, leg type, sturdiness, and portability are taken into account for each category. The most important aspects depend on you, but make sure that the option you pick works for you, and not you are working for it! Remember, you want it to make your life much simpler and easier.

Compact Spotting Scope Tripod

Compact spotting scope tripods are much taller than the tabletop tripods but slightly shorter than full-size tripods for scope. They offer better stability and sturdiness than the tabletop tripods but are more portable compared to the full-size spotting scope tripods. They are also easier to carry around because of their lightweight features. They can be used in a standing, sitting, and crouched position. The centre column can be used to further extend the height upwards to 60 inches. The best compact spotting scope tripods are sturdy, lightweight, and stable to support you and your scope during difficult weather and terrains. Compact spotting scope tripods support an objective lens diameter of 45mm to 70 mm (although there are some compact and lightweight spotting scopes of 80mm, these are usually pricier).

Ballachy 56-Inch Tripod with Bag

Specifications:

  • Collapsed Height: 18.9" (48 cm)

The Ballachy Tripod is designed with the ultimate stability and sturdiness in mind. Plus, it has many extra added features. While many spotting scope tripods do not include a carrying bag, Ballachy includes a sturdy one and a dustproof bag to protect your tripod.

The extended height reaches 56 inches or 142 cm with the center column and legs fully extended. When it is collapsed, the height is at 18.9 inches or 48 cm so it can snuggly fit in your carrying case. The height of the tripod can be adjusted using the flip-lock legs. The flip-lock system can be locked at any position, from collapsed to fully-extended and is easy and fast to set up. But with stronger winds, it’s always a good idea to fully extend the legs to increase stability. The center column is useful for further extending the height of the tripod for extra height. The center column can also be removed if that’s what an important feature for you.

It is a lightweight aluminum spotting scope that doesn’t take up a lot of space and doesn’t feel like a burden carrying on your observation journeys. The weight of the tripod is 1.9 lbs or 0.86 kg. It supports a maximum load capacity of 7lbs or 3.2kg. This compact spotting scope tripod is best suitable paired with spotting scope with an objective lens diameter of 45mm to 70mm.

The Ballachy Tripod supports a 3-way panhead. The fluidity of the panhead allows for an easy-smooth viewing experience. It is also useful for scanning the landscape when placing your spotting scope on the tripod. The tripod is constructed of high-quality aluminum that is lightweight and provides a sturdy base for your spotting scope. This tripod offers great stability and it’s lightweight and durable. All in all, a great tripod.

What I really like about this tripod is that it provides all of these great features found in a higher-end model at a budget-friendly price that won’t break the bank.

Key Features of the Ballachy Tripod:

  • Stable and easy-to-use panhead

Pros:

  • Adjustable legs

Con:

  • It does not include a ballast hook, but this may not be an issue to you. It’s not an issue to us because this tripod is still very durable and strong without the hook even. It will depend on person-to-person. It may or may not bother you.

ZOMEi Compact Tripod

Specifications:

  • Collapsed Height: 19" (48.26 cm)

The Zomei Compact Tripod provides great stability which is crucial for birdwatching. It also provides a smooth experience while moving the scope easily.

This tripod is made of durable aluminum and can reach a maximum height of 58 inches or 147.32 cm when extended when the center column and legs are fully extended. The collapsed height is 19 inches or 48.26 cm so it can be stored or packed easily. The flip-lock system located on this tripod and the center column can be used to further extend the height of this scope tripod.

This tripod by ZOMEi supports a panhead with two locking knobs and provides a 360-degree rotation and 90-degree tilt. This compact spotting scope tripod is best suitable paired with spotting scopes with an objective lens diameter of 45mm to 70mm. It is perfect for carrying in backpacks during hikes because of its small compact size. A ballast hook under the center post is also included for hanging weights. The tripod itself weighs 2.5 lbs or 1.13 kg and supports a maximum load capacity of 11 lbs or 5 kg.

This is a good compact tripod but sometimes, the panhead on this tripod does not function as smoothly compared to the Ballachy Tripod, for example. This can create jerky movements while tracking. This is caused by some of the components on this tripod that are made out of plastic. The knob is made out of plastic and can lead to jittery and jerky movements. I recommend the Ballachy Tripod over this tripod especially since the latter offers a higher quality tripod for a much better price (and is a little less bulky too). But this tripod does offer a slightly higher maximum load capacity than the Ballachy Tripod. It’s up to you to decide if you want to sacrifice the butter-like, smooth panhead for a slightly higher maximum load capacity.

Key Features of the ZOMEi Compact Tripod:

  • Lightweight aluminum construction

Pros:

  • Adaptable to rough terrains

Con:

  • The panhead and other components on this tripod may lag or lead to jerky motions due to some of its plastic components. This may be unpleasant or cause slight frustration, especially for the price paid.

If a carbon-fiber compact spotting scope tripod is absolutely necessary for you the ZOMEi z699c is an excellent choice for sturdiness and height.

ZOMEi Z699c

Specifications:

  • Collapsed Height: 15" (38 cm)

This tripod was designed with durability, reliability, and performance. The ZOMEi Z699c carbon-fiber tripod is a compact, lightweight and stable tripod for spotting scopes. The legs are made of strong durable carbon-fiber that does not feel flimsy while providing ample flexibility. The extended height reaches 59.41 inches or 151 cm, while the collapsed height is 13.78 inches or 35 cm. The legs can be extended using the twist-lock systems. The head comes wrapped in a nice little purple bag for added protection during shipping. This spotting scope tripod also includes a carrying case, similar to the Ballachy Tripod. Personally, we find that brands who include neat accessories like carrying cases to protect your equipment generally care about the lifespan of their tripods. It’s always a plus when carrying cases are included with the purchase because it increases the overall value of the purchase.

This lightweight carbon-fiber is easy to carry. The legs are controlled by a snap lock system and they are coated with rubber which offers a sleek look and extends the lifetime of your tripod. It also adds extra grip on terrains. The ballast hook on the bottom of the center column can be used to provide extra weight stability. This compact spotting scope tripod is best suitable paired with spotting scope with an objective lens diameter of 45mm to 65mm.

The ZOMEi Z699c tripod is easy to mount and dismount with its quick-release plate. It’s a robust tripod that can be attached to backpacks for better portability. What sets this apart from others is that it has many of the major features that are present in more expensive carbon-fiber tripods, without the hefty price tag. We know that this tripod will ensure that you are having stress-free, relaxing experience birdwatching, should you choose to select this one.

Key Features of the ZOMEi 699c:

  • Easy for travel because of the compact size

Pros:

  • Reasonable price for a carbon-fiber tripod for the same durable quality as the ultra-expensive ones.

Cons:

  • Despite the claimed maximum load capacity of 26.5 lbs or 12 kg, the tripod starts to become slightly unstable when approaching this maximum weight.

Vortex Summit SS-P Tripod

Specifications:

  • Collapsed Height: 14" (35.56 cm)

One of the most versatile tripods on the market, it’s composed of 5-sections anodized-aluminum legs. The leg angles are also adjustable and provide ideal positioning on uneven terrain. The Vortex’s Summit SS-P tripod sets itself apart from others with its unique features. Plus, it’s lightweight and takes up minimal space in your backpack. The rubber feet provide extra support for rougher terrains and unstable weather.

The panhead on this tripod allows for precise adjustments due to its smooth movements. It also features a quick-release plate for fast mounting or removal of the spotting scope. The height of this spotting scope tripod extends from 6 inches or 16 inches (when the lower part of the central column is detached) to 54.5 inches or 137.16 cm. It stores away neatly in a carrying case at 14 inches or 35.56 cm. The tripod itself weighs 2 lbs or 0.90 kg. The maximum load capacity reaches at 5 lbs or 2. 26 kg. A central balance hook is included to provide additional stability and sturdiness. It works well with spotting scopes of 60mm, anything heavier may decrease stability on the Vortex Summit SS-P Tripod. Since stability is key, it’s best to avoid putting too much strain with scopes that are too heavy for it.

Key Features of the Vortex Summit SS-P Tripod:

  • Flexible leg angles

Pros:

  • Well-constructed and built lightweight

Cons:

  • Twist legs may not be the most practical set up for some birdwatchers as it takes a while to set up.

Tabletop Spotting Scope Tripod

The tabletop spotting scope tripod is the smallest tripod that is available in the market. The maximum height ranges from 18 inches to 20 inches, but the center column can be used to extend the maximum height. They are usually the least expensive on the market but offer an advantage in a sitting and prone position. They are best suitable for lighter scopes.

Mini-Tripod CK-30

Specifications:

  • Collapsed Height: 5.3" (13.5)

The CK-30 Mini-Tripod is designed to be durable and lightweight. It is built to absorb vibration and resist harsh temperatures and corrosion. It is made of lightweight and durable aluminum that is easy to carry and can be mounted within seconds.

The extended height reaches 17.32 inches or 44 cm when the legs and the center column are fully extended. The height of the Ballachy Tripod can be adjusted using the twist-lock system which brings the spotting scope tripod from a collapsed to an extended position. The CK-30 Mini-Tripod also includes 3 locking clips that once pulled, can be used to extend the arms out to get the spotting scope tripod closer to the ground.

The CK-30 Mini-Tripod supports a ballhead with two locking knobs and provides a 360-degree rotation and 90-degree tilt. While spotting scope tripods with a ballhead will get the job done, panhead tripods for spotting scope will provide a much better and smoother experience. This compact spotting scope tripod is best suitable paired with spotting scope with an objective lens diameter of less than 45mm. It is perfect for carrying in backpacks for hikes because of its small compact size. Since this mini tripod swivels, this feature can be used for track birds in nature without destabilizing the tripod.

Key Features of the Compact Mini-Tripod CK-30:

  • Easy and fast setup

Pros:

  • Reasonable price for a tabletop carbon-fiber tripod for the spotting scope

Cons:

  • Mostly due to the nature of the tabletop tripod, it can be limited as to where you can use it.

Full-Size Spotting Scope

Full-size spotting scope tripods extend upwards to 70 inches with the legs and center column fully extended. However, with such height, it is important to take note that stability may sometimes be comprised, especially when the center column fully extended. These are best used with higher-professional grade models that are generally more expensive of 80mm and greater objective lens diameters.

Bushnell Titanium Tripod

Specifications:

  • Collapsed Height: 23.6" (59 cm)

A great tripod for birdwatching that provides a wonderful experience and operates with ease. This spotting scope tripod is especially useful for detecting range and stabilizing your scope. It’s made out of highly durable and lightweight titanium. Designed to withstand any weather, the weight on the legs is evenly spread to provide additional support. What’s especially great about this tripod, it’s that it supports the Bushnell spotting scopes extremely well, since they are the same company. If you already own a spotting scope by Bushnell, you might want to think about investing in this tripod.

The collapsed height of the Bushnell Titanium Tripod is 23.6 inches of 59 cm. It can be extended to 63 inches or 160 cm. This allows for you to either sit on the ground thanks to its collapsed height or stand-up while the tripod is at full extension. The weight of the tripod is 3.5 lbs or 1.59 kg, but when it’s loaded, it reaches a maximum capacity of 26.5 lbs or 12 kg. The head of this tripod is a panhead and it operates quite smoothly. It includes a quick release lever for faster mounting and removal rather than screwing and unscrewing, which can be quite time-consuming.

It features a great price to value ratio, especially for a titanium tripod. It’s a great, versatile tool that feels sturdy and looks sleek. This is a heavy-duty, full-sized spotting scope tripod that will support any spotting scope and binoculars. All in all, this is a purchase that will leave you quite happy!

Key Features of the Bushnell Titanium Tripod:

• Stable and sturdy

• Great quality and amazing price

• One of the most versatile tripod in the market that is made out of titanium

Pros:

  • Great height extension

Cons:

  • Since this tripod is made out of titanium, it can be quite heavy to transport, especially during hikes. It may be best for those who prefer to leave their tripod in their vehicle, so they can stop and pull it out on the side of the road whenever they spot something interesting. You can also use this tripod for backyard birdwatching. For being such a heavy tripod, a carrying case would have been a nice feature, especially considering the heavier price. It’s also a disadvantage to pay an expensive price only to keep it at home or in the back of your car.

Manfrotto 190X3 Three Section Tripod with XPRO Fluid Head

Specifications:

  • Collapsed Height: 17.2" (69 cm)

Manfrotto’s 190X3 Three Section Tripod with XPRO Fluid Head is an extremely well-designed versatile tripod that pairs incredibly well with heavier scopes at 85mm. Panning is especially easy and smooth on this tripod and the handle column, as well as the resistance, can be adjusted providing detailed personalization.

The height of this spotting scope tripod extends from 7.5 inches or 19 cm (when the lower part of the central column is removed) to 66.9 or 170 cm. The folded length is 17.2 inches or 69 cm, making it easier for portability.

While this tripod is made out of aluminum, it does not feel too heavy nor does it bend while supporting heavy spotting scopes. It provides enough strength and durability while keeping it relatively affordable for the advanced features offered.

The legs on this tripod are the flip lock type, which provides a quick setup. It can be used completely because of its tall height Sturdy quick release plate and it’s protected from accidental release with the inclusion of two release mechanisms.

Key Features of the Manfrotto 190X3 Three Section Tripod with XPRO Fluid Head:

  • Separate pan and tilt locks

Pros:

  • Fast setup due to the flip leg lock system

Cons:

  • Expensive for an aluminum spotting scope tripod

Quick Review of Key Features when Looking for a Spotting Scope Tripod for Birdwatching

Buying a spotting scope tripod for birding will depend on your needs and your budget, amongst many other personal things.

A panhead is one of the best tripod head for spotting scope because it allows for high precision, control, and smooth movements. But, ballhead tripods are just as good, just not as buttery smooth movement good. Panheads provide a smoother and more precise experience compared to most ballhead tripods.

A tripod for spotting scope should come with a quick-release plate since scopes come with a threaded hole that can be screwed onto the quick-release plate and mounted on the spotting scope tripod. All of the options provided above come with a quick-release plate.

All spotting scope tripods should have collapsible legs made of lightweight material, such as aluminum or carbon-fiber. While carbon-fiber tripods are lighter their aluminum, they cost significantly more. It is still possible to find a lightweight and compact aluminum tripod for spotting scopes on the market, such as the ones mentioned in this buying guide. Nonetheless, the best spotting scope tripods should be durable, sturdy, and lightweight. The options mentioned in this article included rubberized feet on the bottom of the spotting scope tripod leg, which will protect the tripod from corrosion, snow, water, sand, and mud. The rubberized feet will provide greater support and stick better to the floor and other terrains. Just make sure you wipe clean your equipment after each use which will extend the lifespan of your tripod.

There are two types of locks on tripods for spotting scope; twist locks and flip locks. Each has its own benefits and disadvantages, for example, twist locks take more time to set up than twist locks, but twist locks may lose their grip over the course of the use with their tripod for their spotting scope tripod should be a personal choice. This video below provides a much more in-depth comparison between twist locks and flip locks tripod and the pros and cons. Personally, we prefer to use the flip lock system because it gives us the freedom to quickly release all the locks on the leg with one hand which allows for faster setup, which is especially crucial for birdwatching.

Birdwatching: Scope and Tripod Setup

If you are a new hobbyist of birdwatching, we provide a few useful tips and tricks that will make your birdwatching experiences much more enjoyable, relaxing, and stress-free. We understand that birdwatching requires patience, so we provide you with a quick overview of birdwatching.

Some of the best ways to learn about birds is to watch documentaries on birds and read birdwatching guides. Some of the best ways to do some birding in the USA is to go to National Parks with your equipment. We recommend reading this guide on birding for beginners. We also recommend downloading a birding app, the iBird Pro Bird App for iPhone/iPad and on Google Play is our favourite paperless guide since it’s available for IOS and Android products and it contains up to 940 species. The interface is easy to use and you can use different filters (like location) to identify the right bird. You can get the free app version that includes 40 species on Android and the App Store.

A spotting scope, rather than just resorting to binoculars, allows for a much closer look, especially when birds are sometimes just too far from you and absolutely require a scope for that higher magnification. Although, you can just as well mount your binoculars on a spotting scope tripod. So, the tripods for spotting scopes are not just limited for scopes and can be used with binoculars. A spotting scope mounted on top of a scope tripod provides better stability and stunning clear viewings!

Not sure how to mount your spotting scope or binoculars on your tripod? Start by unscrewing the cap. It’s always a good idea to start on the lowest zoom to find the specific target. Then, you can up the magnification in order to get a much closer look. Start with the minimum magnification and gradually build to the maximum amount of magnification on your spotting scope! It’s important to make sure you are in focus in higher magnifications so make sure you adjust your scope.

Here’s a great video on how to mount your spotting scope on your tripod!

Final Words

There you have it, a quick snapshot of the best spotting scope tripods for birdwatching and some tips and tricks if this is your first-time birdwatching. While choosing a spotting scope tripod will depend entirely on your preferences and the factors that you are looking for in your spotting scope tripod for birdwatching, our number one choice goes to the Ballachy Tripod for their affordable price, sturdiness, portability, durability, and heavy-duty features (and we will add one extra point for that indestructible carrying case and dustproof bag). If you must absolutely go for a full-sized tripod because your scope is just too heavy, our second choice goes to Bushnell Titanium Tripod, although be mindful that this is a heavy tripod and can be difficult to carry around. Whatever option you choose, just make sure you enjoy using it while birdwatching.

If you’re interested in a travel tripod that can also double up as spotting scope tripods for birdwatching, I recommend reading this blog post on the top 7 best travel tripods!

Savleen Sur

Written by

Photographer and Blogger of Photography-Related Tech.