choosing a tripod
I know there has been past threads about tripod recommendations. But my question is what is everyone looking for in a tripod, I'm open to recommendations in models of tripods too, but what makes a good tripod good? Besides material and weight what are the deciding factors? Obviously all else equal a carbon fiber tripod would be more expensive than an aluminum tripod. But, what makes a tripod of $400 more valuable to a hunter than say a $100 or $50 tripod.
Here is what you pay for in tripods.
You can have a less expensive tripod that excels in one category, but compromises in the others.
Obviously, BB is the optics expert, but I include packdown size as well. I want something that will fit well into my pack. As for a recommendation, when doing my search I ended up with the Promaster 525. It doesn't have the name recognition of some of the others, but I've been very impressed.
The legs were the easy part for me, the harder part was a head that was lightweight, but also sturdy enough to hold up a 80mm spotter with or without a DSLR attached. I went with the Manfrotto 327RC2. It is rock-solid, but if somebody has a lighter-weight head that is just as solid... I'd definitely be up for an education.
You can get a stable $100 tripod. You can get a light $100 tripod..... IMHO you can't get all four items listed above together for that price. As Bitterroot and Griz stated Durability and Pack-ability is also important to the equation.
Myself I am a Outdoorsmans tripod guy. Medium, w/center extension and joystick head. Light enough for me, fits in or on all my packs comfortably and it's durable. Never have had a problem and it does get used. I even have the dual mount for spotting scope and bino's. Depending on the scouting trip or hunt if that comes along. Got that working with the joystick head so I would not have to buy a swivel arm style head mount. Little tricky at times, but works. If you go for the digi-scoping then buy a good sturdy head.
I have a Vangard mostly because that is what I could afford at the time. Im sure there are alot better tripods but for the price it has served me well.
I agree with what has been said so far and I'd like to add a usability component. I first separate tripods into two categories; packable and base camp. Here are a few things on both categories.
Packable: I think you can find a good packable scope for $100. At this price you can get a durable tripod that is somewhat small; however, it will be larger, weigh more, and extended height might not be as tall. In the $100-$200 range I think you can find a smaller, lighter tripod that will extend higher. $200+ I can't speak about because I haven't used any or found any in stores.
-With all these scopes I haven't felt a small tripod can handle a 80mm spotter, usually because the head is small. I use a ball head and it definitely doesn't work well with a big scope.
-Scopes below these price ranges are usually lacking in the durability area. I have known of multiple people buying $50-$100 tripods that have to replace them the next year because the plastic ends up breaking (number one thing to look for-no plastic).
Base Camp: Most anything below the the $100 price will have durability issues. there are some out there that are more durable; however, they usually do not have very good leg extension-they are short. Short tripods do not work well when look through a scope while standing. you end up having to extend the neck and the picture becomes less stable. $100-$250 as mentioned by BB not all scopes will be good in all areas and this price range has a lot of this issue. Scopes will start to be more stable (not all are equal) usually quite durable but they are usually too heavy and you can find tripods with better heads.Some will be limited in height and there might be something just a little off about the head.$250+ Very good stability, height, can be lighter, and I have found this is where I really start to like the head-usually real smooth and able to hold position well when you stop while panning.
Ok guys so I've been looking at a few tripods that I can find locally, what is a typical tripod weight used for backpacking?
I've been able to find some vanguards to look at but the ABEO Plus has a real nice head design to use, but it seems really heavy at 8.2lbs. I've found a couple others that are lighter (4lbs range), but I don't like the ease of motion in the head design as much as I do the ABEO plus. They seem stable, but the heads require something to be loosed to allow for panning or tilting.
If you find a quality set of legs that fit the bill. You could always shop for a different head that works better for you as well.
To answer the question about packing weight, I think anything over 3 lbs. is heavy, but it is a matter of how much other stuff you are packing. There are a lot of variables to take into consideration when deciding on that issue. The ABEO is nice and should give you good glassing for extended periods of time.
Originally Posted by Work2hunt
I would agree that 3+ pounds for a tripod (no head) is on the heavy side, if you are planning on packing it on your back. There are multiple options for high quality tripods that weigh 3 pounds or less. Price / Cost is always a factor, but when I am sucking wind at 8,000 ft, I would gladly pay what ever it would cost to cut some weight. A few ounces here and there add up quickly and they do matter when you are carrying them. I have the Promaster 525 carbon fiber tripod with the promaster pan head. This setup weighs less than 3.5 pounds and is plenty stable for my 65mm Vortex Razor spotter. I used this setup for a week in WY and it worked great for me.