Lightweight Tripods for the Hiker

Those of us who enjoy photography and hiking have probably at one time or another lugged a big ass tripod out into the wilderness. Ok, so it probably wasn’t like the kit that Ansel had to carry up in the Sierra to support his large format cameras, but even in modern times our full sized tripods simply don’t fit well into a lightweight pack loadout. In this article we’ll ask the question “why carry a tripod” as well as take a survey of the market options that could appeal to the light minded hiker.

Why Carry a Tripod

The primary purpose of a tripod is to support the camera and eliminate camera shake. This is helpful for using slow shutter speeds, long exposure shots, time lapses, self portraits with a remote, and using telephoto lenses (where small movements of the camera have a more pronounced impact on motion blur in the photo). The addition of various types of heads to the tripod can assist with making stitched panoramic photos and smooth panning for shooting video. These latter two options are sort of niche areas for which there are pretty much no substitutes besides having the gear to make it happen – we’re not going to cover those. Also, using telephoto lenses is not something most hikers will be doing, due to the size and weight of those lenses, so again we’ll skip over that subject.

So, let’s talk about shutter speeds and long exposures. We usually want to keep our camera’s ISO near its base setting to reduce noise in the image. As the light starts to fade that can be a challenge; shutter speeds slow down to the point that we probably can’t hand hold the camera any longer and expect a nice, crisp image. At this point some type of support is needed, hence we reach for the tripod.

If you’ve seen photos of moving water that looks like flowing silk, you can be sure that the camera was supported (on something) and a slow shutter speed was used. Shooting people with slow shutter speeds is possible, but some motion blur should be expected, even if the camera doesn’t move, they definitely will! A tripod will certainly help though and make those classic shots around the campfire that much better. Camera support is an important tool to have and there are ways to do it without lugging along the kitchen sink.

Tripod Alternatives

Aside from a few interesting products we’ll later discuss, there are alternatives to using a tripod though none are a perfect substitute.

  • Bean Bag: A small bean bag set on a rock can help steady a camera against movements introduced by either the photographer or the wind. This could be viable for overnight hiking trips… cook up them beans at the end of the trip and have em for dinner!
  • Rock or Log: Placing the camera on a rock or log can work just fine, but it’s usually a bit of a hassle finding one that’s “just right” when setting up for the shot.
  • Guyline Trick: Attach a length of guyline to the camera strap clip or tripod socket, step on the opposite end and pull it taut. This is an old trick that helps eliminate camera shake but don’t expect it to work for long exposures.
  • Image Stabilization: Some cameras and/or lenses have image stabilization systems that can get you back 1-3 stops. A “stop” in photography terms, is a doubling or halving of exposure setting. So a camera with 2 stops of stabilization would be expected to produce and image taken a 1/30 sec (tricky to hand hold) that looks as if it was taken at 1/120 sec… so that’s (1/30)/2/2. That’s a much easier shutter speed to hand hold, but again image stabilization isn’t helpful for long exposures and has limited usefulness once the shutter speed is substantially slow.

A Survey of Lightweight Tripods and Tripod-Like Products

There are waaaay too many lightweight tripods to list individually. I’m going to pick just a few, based on my “knowledge of the realm”. Aside from those, the rest of these are pretty much all that I know of, so if I forgot your favorite please make sure to leave a comment and let me know!

All images copyright to their respective owners…

Gitzo Traveler GT1542

2.2 lbs (legs only) | $575
Gitzo Traveler 1542T
Gitzo’s lightest and smallest set of legs. Has a max height of 45/58 inches (latter with center column extended). Collapses to under 17 inches. Supports up to 15.4 pounds. Yeah… it’s pricey as are all things Gitzo, but they’re considered the gold standard of tripods and will be as rigid and light, if not more so than any comparable offerings (the comparable Slik tripod legs weigh nearly 6 lbs). These are just the legs, so some sort of head needs to be affixed. An important point to bear in mind regarding the manufacturer’s “supported weight” spec, it’s somewhat theoretical and should be taken with a grain of salt. Approaching the max supported weight is not a great idea, mainly because tripods tend to become less stable at that point.

Feisol Traveler CT-3332 Rapid

1.7 lbs (legs only) | $360
Feisol CT-3332
Feisol is a sort of a Gitzo knock off – but they’re well made. I own their previous lightest tripod (from my days with an SLR) and can attest that they’re a very decent value in the bottom of the “high end” product range. Max height of 38/53 inches (latter with center column extended). Collapses to under 17 inches. Supports up to 17.6 lbs. Also a pricey option, but just to provide an alterantive to the Gitzo legs. This is just a set of legs and still requires some type of head to be affixed.

Slik Sprint Mini GM II

1.7 lbs (legs & ballhead) | $80
Slik Sprint Mini GM II
The Slik brand comes to mind when thinking of good-budget level tripods. A much more friendly price point for everyday people. Max height of 32/43 inches. Collapses to under 14 inches. Supports up to 4.5 lbs. This one can’t support as much as the sets above, however today’s lightweight mirrorless cameras don’t weigh anywhere near this weight limit and it provides a good working height.

Zipshot Mini

9 oz (legs & ballhead) | $40
Zipshot Mini
A cool idea modeled after avalanche probe design; the legs have a shock cord running through them and “snap” into place when flung out. I’ve never seen one of these in person and would love to check one out; I have my doubts about their rigidity but I could be wrong. Max height 28 inches, collapses to 9 inches. Supports up to 3 lbs.

Manfrotto MT-Pixi

6.7 oz | $25
MT Pixi
The MTPixi is a simple little tripod which is similar in size and weight of the Gorilla Pod below, however does away with the flexible legs which are not to everyone’s taste. These legs have a 1/4″ threaded post so the camera can attach directly (or a mini ballhead can be affixed). Extends to about 5 1/2 inches, does not collapse but of course it’s small. Supports 1.4 lbs.

Joby GorillaPod Hybrid

6.4 oz | $25
Gorillapod Hybrid
I own one of these and use it as my primary tripod for hikes. The size works well my mirrorless camera setup. The max height is only about 10 inches, but it can cling to branches and other things (which may or may not be available of course). It doesn’t really collapse, but it’s small enough already. Supports 2.2 lbs. It has it’s own proprietary ballhead and quick release clamp which are included. After a couple years of use, the quick release seems to have been broken, I need to follow up with Joby…

Pedco Ultra-pod II

4.2 oz | $20
Ultrapod II
Having previously owned this little tripod I would say it has more weaknesses than strengths. Yes it’s small, light, and inexpensive… but it’s also not very sturdy, doesn’t feature much adjustability, and can topple forward somewhat easily when the camera is front-heavy due to the lens mounted on it. The max height is about 5 inches, when collapsed it’s about 7 inches long. Supports 4.2 lbs.

TrailPix Universal

5.4 oz (with accessory leg) | $50
Trailpix Universal
The TrailPix mounts to the tips of 2 trekking poles and uses a third accessory pole for the final leg of the tripod. It’s also available with 3 legs for those who don’t use trekking poles. The height is subject to which poles one uses, but generally it’s going to be around 48 inches or under. The max recommended load is 4 lbs.

Suluk 46 A-Pod

0.2 oz | $22
The A-Pod can turn a single trekking pole into a monopod by slipping over the tip using it’s clamp-like design. It can support up to 16 oz approximately, so it’s ideal for point and shoot type cameras. By rigging up 3 or more guylines, the A-Pod can be turned into a sort of tripod.


0.4 oz | $14
One of the lightest options here, the StickPic turns a trekking pole into a quick monopod (not a tripod). Available in 3 sizes to fit just about any trekking pole on the market. This is best used for very small cameras, such as point and shoot types. By rigging up some guylines creatively, one could turn this into a sort of tripod. (photo courtesy of

Trek Mount

0.7 oz | $11
The Trek Mount takes a different approach to turning a trekking pole into a monopod. This time it straps to the handle rather than the tip. Meant for small cameras, such as point and shoot types. I don’t know if I’d trust rigging this one as a tripod and walking away from it, but looks fine enough for a quick monopod.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek

0.2 oz | $15
GG Lightrek
The GG Lightrek is designed specifically for GG LT4 poles, but they’re a popular trekking pole so I thought it would be fair to include it as a reminder to those who use the LT4’s. The Lightrek is a quick monopod solution. Similar to the A-Pod and Stick Pic, it can be rigged up as a tripod using guylines, unlike those however it does not have a universal fit.

Final Thoughts…

Simply being a thing to which the camera is attached does not a good tripod make (channeling my inner Yoda). When looking at the comparable size of a GorillaPod vs. a tripod like the Slik Mini, they’re both about the same size collapsed… yet the Slik weighs nearly 1.5 lbs more! Of course the Slik can extend to normal working heights, whereas the GorillaPod cannot. When it comes to the solutions that use trekking poles, well they’re not my cup of tea even though they’re super light. The times of the day when I might want a tripod (early morning, evening, night) I’m using them to pitch my shelter and while walking along I can’t afford the time to get out stakes and guylines to create a makeshift tripod for a selfie – but I can understand why someone who refuses to carry any sort of “real tripod” could be interested in one of these… having something is better than nothin, and at these miniscule weights, why not?

At the end of the day, a good tripod needs to do a few things, and should do them well. It should keep the camera steady, even in a breeze. It should have enough adjustability to make setting up your shot fairly straight forward. It should be as quick and easy to setup as possible. It should be convenient to use. And, for hiking it should be as light as you can get away with. Lightweight tripods, and especially the non-traditional options listed above make compromises in one way or another. Such first-world problems, eh? There’s no “best” choice, only what works best for you! Hike It. Like It.

Jacob D Written by:

Jacob is the head honcho, wearer of many hats, and modern day berserker here at Hike It. Like It. When he's not out hiking or running the trails you'll find him operating in full capacity as a Super Dad and chipping away at a degree in Kinesiology. This guy likes to stay busy. (Strava Profile)


  1. Marc Eldridge
    August 13, 2014

    Ruta Locura also has an adapter for the Yana poles that fits into the handle end like the LT4’s.

    • August 13, 2014

      Eric, that’s pretty cool. Looks like that one never made it to production, too bad!

  2. August 27, 2014

    Hi Jacob, nice overview. Good tripods for backpacking are hard to find. I use a Gitzo 0531 tripod at 1.5lbs and a RRS BH-25 ballhead at 6 ounces. With the mounting plate the total comes to just over 2 lbs. Not a cheap setup and not quite full sized but I have found it to be stable, versatile and great for backpacking. I think that model of tripod has been discontinued but there are probably some available used.

    • October 8, 2014

      Hi Adam. Thanks for the info on your Gitzo. I tried to find that one but could not, so you may be correct about it being discontinued. Too bad if that’s the case because it seems like a very nice setup you have there with few compromises (except cost!)

  3. November 28, 2014

    Zipshot has been in my pack for about a dozen hikes and I love it!

    • December 2, 2014

      Chuck thanks for lettin us know what you use for a ‘pod. It’s nice to have options, something for everyone!

  4. Jonas M
    June 3, 2015

    Hi Jacob – I appreciate the article, but you should really include weight in g/kg and the same with the heights of these tripods.. As a european I have no clue as to how heavy x oz is so I’m sitting here with another tab open and typing “9 oz in g” to make sense of these odd “US-only-units” 🙂

    • June 4, 2015

      Hey Jonas. If you’re having difficulty translating from Imperial to Metric it’s simple… grams = 1/16 x 454 x [number of ounces]. Everyone can do that in their head right? 😉

      Yeah, I know I need to get with the alternate units, conversion is a pain. Sorry about that. It’s out of laziness that I don’t do it. I find myself doing the same thing often as I surf the web. I just ballpark estimate… 25 grams per ounce (close enough) and do the rough maths.

      Anyway, I’ll make more of an effort in the future. Thanks for stopping by and giving your feedback.

  5. June 5, 2015

    Hi Jacob,

    You should add Selfie Card to your list of light weight options. It is the size of credit card, weights 5 grams, attaches to any smartphone, will also attach to any camera tripod. Drop me your address and I will mail a sample.


  6. raja
    September 1, 2015

    Nice collection here Jacob. Found it very useful. Went with the Gorilla Pod for my impending hike.

    • September 1, 2015

      Thanks Raja!

      I’m on my second Gorilla Pod, the quick release jammed up after a few years, dirt contamination no doubt. It’s a decent and versatile tripod for taking on backpacking trips.

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