Choosing the Right Spotting Scope Tripod for Hunting & Photos

Whether you wanna buy a spotting scope for hunting or photography, there are lots of factors to take into consideration like waterproofing, design, magnification, and so on. Aside from choosing the spotting scope, you also need to pick out the spotting scope tripod. This raises the question: How to choose the "right" tripod for my spotting scope?

First and foremost, the tripod you pick must perfectly match your spotting scope and thus makes it work effectively. That three-pronged stand gives a stable base for your scope, allowing you to enjoy focused, smooth visuals. Without a tripod, the high magnifications (especially those beyond 60x) of most spotting scopes are inclined to vibrational instabilities. 

Many spotting scopes come along with cheap, low-quality tripods. Don't use any tripod to this end! Your choice must be considered in accordance with the particular scope to be used, intended application, and your height as well. Therefore, you must be sure that the tripod and the spotting scope will work well together prior to buying anything. 

Spotting Scope Tripod Buying Guide

It's not surprising to feel lost and worried, especially if you are a rookie with no experience. Don't worry. This guide covers all the essential features and factors to look for when choosing the best spotting scope tripod. After going through our buying guide, move onto in-depth reviews and check out the suggested tripods for spotting scopes.

Choose the Right ​TRIPOD

 First of all, you need to determine the right type that would work best for your needs. There are 3 main types of tripods: 

1) Compact Tripods

A compact tripod begins where a tabletop tripod ends in regard to height. Such a tripod is usually too big to be used on a table in a convenient manner but it's comfortable to use when you set it on a chair. If you are looking for a spotting scope tripod for hunting, this type is right for you. However, bear in mind that you'll need to sacrifice height to get greater portability. 

Compact tripods are particularly popular with mountain hunters and backpackers. They are suitable for digital point cameras and 70-millimeter or a bit smaller spotting scopes. If you need to stabilize a spotting scope of 80 mm or larger, this is not a good choice at all.

2) Full-Size Tripods

These tripods enable average sized people to use a camera, binoculars or spotting scope whilst standing. Note that you need to match strength and weight of the tripod with the weight and size of your spotting scope. 

With the fully extended legs, an average full-size tripod with a built-in head is capable of attaining a height anywhere from 26 to 57 inches; it can go up to 72 inches when the central column is fully extended

3) Table Top Tripods

If you are seeking a small tripod for spotting scope, then go for the table top tripods.These tripods lack telescoping legs and they are designed specifically to be used on either a shooting bench or a table. There's a little height adjustment that can be achieved via a central extendable column. Basically, it's a short tripod with a micro-adjustment knob that lets you tune up elevation and windage.

Depending on the model, the height can be adjusted somewhere between 8 and 18 inches. It's a good choice for narrow, limited spaces and can be used for either prone or sitting positions. Table top tripod is not a good fit for large, heavy, instruments because of the narrow leg span and lighter weight.

Tripod Heads

The next thing you should take note of is tripod head. This is the part that holds the spotting scope or telescope, camera, binoculars, etc. You should pay close attention to the maximum weight it supports and the types of motions it can provide. Also, remember that spotting scopes with larger objectives or higher magnification require more robust, heavy-duty tripod heads.

While there are different kinds of tripod heads on the market, in general, they all can be divided into three main categories:
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    Two-way tripod heads: This is the most common and most basic type of tripod head. It's also referred to as a video or camcorder tripod head. With this unit, you can move your spotting scope in two directions - horizontally and vertically
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    Three-way tripod heads: With this tripod head, you will get an additional motion. Besides horizontal (right-left) and vertical (up-down) motions, the 3-way heads also let you flip your camera or spotting scope on its side. This feature is particularly useful for photographers because it allows them to switch from a horizontal to vertical frame pics.
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    Tripod ball heads: As its name suggests, this is a head attached to the top of a ball. That allows the users to move the tripod head in different directions with just one motion. Ball heads are available in numerous varieties - some models come with conventional lever locks while others involve trigger locks.

Tripod Legs

The tripod head relies on 3 legs, making the so-called leg set. While the cheaper products often come as an unalterable, single unit that consists of a leg set and head, the customizable higher-end offerings combine varied leg sets and tripod heads so that you can purchase them separately. 

The majority of tripods have telescopic legs that can be adjusted to different heights. Nevertheless, the range of heights of a single leg is still limited, so it's impossible to fold down a tripod to the compact size and extend it out to the full-size height. That's because of the number of the leg sections needed. As the number goes up, your tripod is less stable. This is why most full-size tripods come with only three leg sections.

Below, you can see some important factors concerning the tripod legs that should be taken into consideration.

Materials

Most tripods have aluminum legs, which is actually a safe choice. Many manufacturers also offer carbon fiber legs in order to cut down on the tripod weight. The legs made of carbon fibers aren't only lightweight but also more stable. They prevent the tripod from vibrating and shaking during use. That makes them great for high-magnification spotting scopes. On the downside, the tripods with carbon fiber legs are costly compared to those with aluminum legs. You'll get just about one pound of the weight savings in turn.

Braces

The braces serve to connect the lower portions of tripod legs and thus improve the rigidity and stability of the unit. They are favorable for places with a smooth, flat surface like lawns, living rooms, and photography studios. However, the braces aren't intended for locations with rocks, trees, shrubs, and other objects. That's because they are prone to jam against big objects below the tripod. Moreover, it may completely stop you from using the tripod in some cases. 

Locks

The tripods employ a variety of mechanisms to extend and lock their legs into position. Despite being time-consuming, simple wingnut and twist collars are considered to be the most durable locks. However, you will have to tighten them up for every section of the tripod legs, which takes a lot of time. That makes them unsuitable for applications like birding or hunting.

 If you need a quicker solution, then go for the lever locks. All you need to do is flip a certain lever to get the leg section locked. No need to tighten anything. Your task is to check out the quality of the lever locks to rest assured that they are really durable. Remember that cheap tripods usually have low-quality lever locks that are inclined to failure.

Tripod Features

After inspecting the head and legs of the tripod, you should take note of other features as well. Here are some features to take a look at:

Quick-Release Plate

This refers to a part placed between the head of the tripod and your spotting scope or camera. In fact, a quick-release plate eliminates the need to attach and detach an optic instrument from the head when using your tripod. By threading this plate on your optic, it will be in readiness all the time. When you want to set your camera or scope on the tripod, simply slip the quick-release plate into the tripod head and it will be ready to use. 

Keep in mind that there are no Keep in mind that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to the quick-release plates. They are universal in size so that every model has a specific quick-release plate

Center Columns

Almost all compact and full-size tripods include extendable center columns. While this feature helps tripods get more height, it makes them unstable and shaky. So use the center column only if needed

Bubble Level

This feature is useful for photographers in particular since it ensures that the subjects are leveled and framed properly in the camera. On the other hand, the bubble level doesn't have any essential application when it comes to binoculars and spotting scopes

Leg Warmers

Many top-of-the-line tripods are equipped with foam-padded legs on the top sections. This layer is meant to cushion the tripod legs when you carry it over your shoulder. The leg warmers prevent the metal legs from touching you, which is very helpful in extremely cold conditions.

Our 5 Best Rated Spotting Scope Tripods

The market is overwhelmed with tripod models of all sizes and shapes, which makes the purchase much harder. Below, you can get familiar with our spotting scope tripod recommendations and best 5 models for 2018. Take the time to check them out carefully.

1. Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Tripod

This balanced aluminum tripod is designed in such a way to provide you with the perfect view all the while. It enables you to adjust 3 different angles – 25, 50, and 80 degrees - which comes in handy when you reach the top of a boulder and want to overcompensate a view while looking downhill. 

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 tripod boasts prime low-angle capabilities and bubble levels, which makes it one of the best tripods for birding photography. It is equipped with 360-degree ball head and quick release plate. You can easily move the hexagonal central column anywhere from 0-180 degrees thanks to the ISSL system which repositions that column with just one simple motion.

The legs can be extended up to 68.125 inches, so taller people can use this tripod comfortably. Those legs are fitted with rubber feet and retractile spikes. Folded height is 28.125 inches, whereas the entire unit weighs 5.38 pounds. Note that the maximum loading capacity is 15.4 lbs.

Pros:

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    The tripod head swivels 360 degrees
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    ​Locking ISSL system for the central column
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    ​Premium die-cast canopy
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    Outstanding stability
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    Impressive weight capacity (up to 15.4 lbs)
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    Ideal for wildlife photography
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    ​Quick release leg locks become loose over time
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    ​Metal ridges that lock the legs in place easily strip

Summary: Swiveling freely 360 degrees, this piece of equipment offers an unlimited range of motion and excellent angling capabilities. It is designed to keep you spotting scope safe and make the most of it.

2. RetiCAM Tabletop Tripod 

If you like the simplicity and style of the short length tripod kits that include spotting scopes and want to upgrade it to a stronger and more reliable tripod, this table top model is right for you.

Designed to carry spotting scopes, camcorders, digital cameras, and many other devices, the RetiCAM MT01 Mini Tripod is suitable for windowsill spotting and ground-level spotting. With its durable and sturdy mount, it beats all the small stock tripods on the market. Some of the key features include 3-way head, extendable center column, bubble level, non-slip rubber feet, quick release mounting plate, and quick snap leg locks.

With a max height of 19 inches and a min height of nearly 11 inches, you are confined to pretty low vantage points. That's fine when setting the tripod on a raised surface, but it will take its toll on versatility when you need to view objects from above. Maximum load is around 6 lbs, which is fairly good for the unit that only weighs 1.5 lbs. 

​pros

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    The 3-way that can tilt and pan
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    ​Sturdy, strong, and durable construction
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    ​Keeps your scope or camera steady
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    ​Locks are very large
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    ​Extremely portable
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    ​Carry bag included
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    ​Only good for small cameras
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    ​Very short
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    ​A bit flimsy

Summary: If you prefer keeping things conventional, check out this small tabletop tripod. It is great for target shooters and hunters looking for a shorter tripod for their tasks. Yet, keep in mind that it is not suitable for big spotting scopes either.

3. Bushnell 784030 Advanced Tripod

Besides spotting scopes, Bushnell also produces a variety of tripods that are specially designed for their scopes. This brand has been around for more than 50 years and it is often considered the industry leader when it comes to high performance sports optics.

Bushnell 784030 is an advanced, full-size tripod that goes from 18.3 to 61 inches in height, allowing users to cover plenty of ground from one spot. This windowsill tripod suits even the tallest users when fully collapsed because of its perfect closed height. In addition to a spotting scope, you can use it with your SLR camera, binoculars, or camcorder. 

The product comes with a 3-way tilt/pan head that lets you explore a broad range of space. The upper parts of the aluminum legs are stuffed with foam for extra comfort when the tripod is used in extremely cold or hot conditions. Featuring 11-pound load capacity, this device is capable of supporting the extra weight.

Pros

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    Good HD clarity
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    High-quality materials
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    Durable, adjustable legs
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    Large mounting platform
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    All-purpose tripod
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    Elegant design
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    When fully extended, the center column may get shaky
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    Standard wingnut legs
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    No level indicator

Summary: A great tripod for activities that involve spotting scope or camera. The aluminum legs are extremely secure so that it handles the extra weight with ease. Even though the legs are padded with foam and almost never get slippery, they imply wingnuts in lieu of quick release legs, which is why it takes longer to set this tripod up.

4. Vortex Optics SKY-1 Skyline Tripod

Made of top-notch anodized aluminum, the SKY-1 Skyline is a spotting scope tripod from Vortex Optics that features rock-solid performance. It is fitted with a durable aluminum body and micro-fluid pan head that allows for precise, smooth adjustment in any direction.

The product in question also incorporates a quick release plate that lets you quickly attach and remove your spotting scope. Strategically placed adjustment knobs allow for optimum accessibility. Once you get positioning done and set your optics up, make use of these knobs to tighten the tripod securely and thus prevent any stray movement. Solid support is also provided by a split center column and anodized aluminum legs with rubber feet and. These rugged legs are very flexible and can be inclined in different ways for positioning on the bumpy terrains. 

Vortex Optics SKY-1 has the dimensions of 6 x 12 x 6 inches and it weighs 7.35 pounds. The manufacturer provides the VIP lifetime warranty with this amazing product, which covers all types of damages and defects. 

Pros:

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    Micro-fluid adjustments
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    Sturdy aluminum build
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    Great for any scoping application
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    Rugged anodized legs with variable angles
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    Reasonably priced 
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    Generous VIP warranty
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    The metallic structure requires special care against rust
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    It's pretty bulky
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    On the heavy side

Summary: This tripod kit from Vortex Optics is compatible with various tactical accessories, including binoculars and spotting scopes. You'll need to buy a separate adapter though. It's suitable for using a spotting scope in just about any prone position, which makes it ideal for activities like hunting, sniping, and shooting sports.

5. Swarovski Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod

For keen hunters and other users of spotting scopes, investing in this carbon tripod is like purchasing their scope. By the way, it's not worth having a low-quality tripod if you own a costly, high-end spotting scope, right? That's why you need to buy this Swarovski tripod and get the most out of your spotting scope. 

It comes with a hefty price tag, but there are lots of good reasons for this. First of all, it's made from fiber-reinforced components that make it very durable, stable, and reliable for all kinds of terrains. Thanks to an integrated leveler and adjustable carbon fiber legs with retractable spikes, it can be positioned and used on uneven ground. These legs are very lightweight, weighing a mere 3.1 pounds, and you can fold them down to only 19.7 inches. That makes the tripod perfect for hunting, birding, and other activities that require frequent relocation. It can adjust up to 66.9 inches in height. Load capacity is about 12 lbs.

However, the DH-101 head is surely one of the best features this product offers. It involves a clamping system which ensures strong grip as well as a special Fast Mount System that allows you to attach and detach a spotting scope in a matter of seconds. It is possible to adjust both horizontal and vertical axes with one simple movement. There is also a soft shoulder pad from neoprene, which comes with quick release fastenings.

​pros

​cons

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    ​Great for any viable terrain
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    ​Compact and durable
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    ​Fast mount system for easy attachment/detachment
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    ​Rigid, displacement-free grip
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    ​Intuitive 1-handed adjustments
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    ​Lightweight (less than 5 lbs)
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    ​Ergonomic design
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    Stingy warranty
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    ​Expensive

Summary: Having a rugged yet lightweight carbon fiber body, the Swarovski CF is deemed to be one of the best lightweight spotting scope tripods for those who are always on the move. For its performance, component, and design, this product outweighs its high price indeed.

Wrapping It Up

So, which is the right tripod for your optic instrument? You should know exactly how and where you're going to use your tripod. That largely depends on the type of your scope as well as what you will be spotting with it. 

Although there's a wide range of tripods on the market to choose from, there are two basic things to bear in mind - durability and support. It must survive the harsh outdoor conditions and support the weight of your spotting scope alike. In short, the best spotting scope tripod is the one that's capable of suiting your spotting scope and your needs wherever you are.