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This Is the Best Tripod for Travelers

By Rachel McCord

Nov 25, 2020

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The Peak Design Travel Tripod is editor-approved.

Courtesy of Peak Design

The Peak Design Travel Tripod is editor-approved.

The sleek model from Peak Design is so compact it’ll fit neatly into the water bottle sleeve of your backpack.

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Welcome to AFAR Approved: a deep dive into the travel items that we’re totally obsessed with, never leave behind, and can’t stop telling our friends about. 

Tripods make me feel dorky. There, I said it. Considering that I’m a freelance photographer who’s run my own business for 10 years, my sentiments might surprise you. But I’d bet there’s a small part of you that knows what I mean. Tripods are part of photography 101; any professor would remind you that tripods keep your framing consistent, your focus stable, and your camera secure. But when I’m traveling or on location for a shoot, nothing makes me feel more clumsy than schlepping around a tripod. So years ago, I wrote them off, relegating them to an occasional trick up my sleeve to employ for photo booths, long exposures, or still life photography; for everything else, a car hood or tree stump suited me just fine. 

But, as often happens, when you have quality tools that improve a task, you’ll find any excuse to use them. And ever since I got my hands on Peak Design’s small, sleek, and easy-to-use Travel Tripod, I have been tossing it in my bag and taking it with me everywhere short of the grocery store, just in case inspiration strikes. 

The Peak Design Travel Tripod extends to a maximum height of 60 inches.

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When I first heard Peak Design was prototyping a tripod, my ears perked. To say I’m an admirer of the brand is an understatement. Over the years I’ve amassed a small Peak Design gear shrine. The company produces thoughtfully designed products that stand the test of time. (I’ve even gushed about my gear crush, Peak’s Everyday Backpack, in an article about the travel gear AFAR staffers don’t leave home without.) Plus, Peak Design is dedicated to sustainable and responsible business and production practices. So when the company reached out to offer a test drive of its first-ever tripod, I agreed as fast as my fingers could type, like any fan girl would.

The Peak Design Travel Tripod definitely did not disappoint. It’s a bit taller and much slimmer than a wine bottle, ridiculously quick to set up, and intuitive to use, wiping out all the pain points I’d experienced with other tripods. And it’s anything but dorky. Dare I say, it makes me feel kind of like a badass female Indiana Jones (if you swap out archaeology for photography, of course).

What makes this tripod better than any others out there?

For starters, the Travel Tripod has been thoughtfully crafted to eliminate negative space from the equation, meaning it’s incredibly compact and doesn’t leave gaps between the legs when collapsed. At 15.4 inches tall and with a diameter of 3.125 inches (about the same as that of a water bottle), it’s half the volume of its competitors. Goodbye fussing and schlepping en route to your destination. Simply stick it in the side pocket of your backpack or snap on the leash (sold separately) and throw it over your shoulder to travel even lighter with no pack at all.

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As far as smooth setup goes, it’s the fastest aluminum on three legs going from packed to fully deployed in under 10 seconds. 

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Like other Peak Design products, this tripod is all about the details. I noticed this when I became obsessed with the anchor link system that allows you to attach the leash; the clever connectors can be attached to any camera or bag and click into Peak’s leash straps, making it easy to secure your gear in a flash. The Travel Tripod also features a single, highly intuitive adjustment ring and an omnidirectional ball head that make angle adjustments a snap—simply loosen the ring, reposition your camera, and tighten the ring again. There’s even a level, so you know your horizons will be straight, and a built-in mobile mount for when you’re traveling light with just a phone camera but need a timelapse on the spot. No cup holders though, so get yourself a hip flask. 

An adjustment ring and omnidirectional ball head make it easy to make angle adjustments using the Travel Tripod.

Easy setup is one thing, but stability is the real reason we’re all here, right? Cross that off your list as well. Fully extended to its maximum height of 60 inches, it has a 20-pound capacity, which means it’ll keep things stable and reduce vibrations whether you’re using a light smartphone or a more substantial full-frame DSLR. You even have enough support to add on a variety of fixed and telephoto lenses, which can weigh 10 pounds or more. 

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As far as materials go, it is available in lightweight aluminum and also carbon fiber—I’ve been working with the aluminum model, which weighs 3.4 pounds. The carbon version sits pretty at 2.8 pounds. Either way, it’s a light load, even compared to other travel tripods, which tend to weigh between 2 and 4 pounds, and minimal add to your pack. To top it all off, the Travel Tripod comes with its own waterproof carry case and a lifetime guarantee.

This sounds too good to be true 

This tripod quite literally brings out the happy camper in me. I’ve gladly saddled it to visit Yosemite National Park, the Oregon coast, the deserts of Arizona, and lots of hills in San Francisco. I’ve even traveled with it all the way down to Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. It’s been a true contender, rain or shine. 

These days, travel looks a bit different, but in quarantine I’ve rustled up numerous ways to use my tripod and stay sharp until we’re back on the road, including social-distance portraits, still lifes, blurs of my nieces and nephews running amok outside when they just can’t stand those four walls any longer. There will be a day when we can hit the trails again, but until then we can pick up birding in the backyard, make portraits of our friends from their doorsteps, and capture our good hair days (few and far between, I know). Peak Design’s Travel Tripod can rise to whatever occasion, and it may even make you feel like Indiana Jones in your own backyard.

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