Scope

The 10 Best Tripods for Spotting Scopes in 2020

Best Tripod for Spotting Scope

A spotting scope is basically a high-powered mini telescope that is usually characterized by high magnification. For still imaging at high magnification, you need a solid base that will also keep the scope raised to a comfortable viewing height. This is where tripods come in.

Spotting scope tripods are 3-pronged stands that hold scopes stably with little or no vibrations at the top, which is ideal for long-range spotting.

That said, there are various types of these products in the market but this article covers the best tripods for spotting scopes to consider buying.

10 Best Tripods for Spotting Scopes – Review 

IMAGE

PRODUCT

FEATURES

Vortex Optics Pro GT

1. Vortex Optics Pro GT (Best Overall)

  • High height-to-weight ratio
  • Adjustable center column
  • Adjustable legs with flip lever locks
  • 3-way pan head
Vanguard VS-82

2. Vanguard VS-82 (Best Table Top)

  • Compact size with a 5.5-lb weight capacity
  • Affordable
  • Durable aluminum construction
  • 2-way pan head
Celestron 82050

3. Celestron 82050 (Best Celestron Tripod)

  • Versatile use
  • High 70.5-in fully extended height
  • Adjustable legs with flip lever locks
  • Extendable center column
Slik Mini Pro DQ

4. Slik Mini Pro DQ (Best Compact)

  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Easily adjustable ball head
  • Easy mounting via a quick-release plate
  • Adjustable twist-lock legs
Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB

5. Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB (Best Heavy-Duty)

  • Heavy-duty construction
  • High 15.4 weight capacity
  • Easily adjustable ball head
  • Extendable center column
Manfrotto MK190X3-2W

6. Manfrotto MK190X3-2W (Best Ultra-Low Tripod)

  • Low position ground level adapter
  • Rapid adjusting center column
  • Adjustable fluid head with 2 fluidity levels
  • Bubble spirit level
Bushnell 784040

7. Bushnell 784040 (Best Universal Fitting Tripod)

  • Universal fitting head
  • 3-way flexible pan head
  • Adjustable leg angle and height
  • Durable titanium construction
Bushnell 784030

8. Bushnell 784030 (Has Padded Foam Legs)

  • Thickly padded, adjustable legs
  • 3-way pan-tilt head
  • Corrosion-resistant finish
  • High 11-lb weight capacity
Barska AF10374

9. Barska AF10374 (Has 2-Way Fluid Head)

  • Easily adjustable 2-way fluid head
  • Quick-release platform
  • Adjustable center column
  • Comes with a carrying case
Vortex HC-2

10. Vortex HC-2 (Has Ball Head)

  • 360˚ adjustable ball head
  • Quick-release plate
  • Durable anodized aluminum legs
  • Padded legs plus a carrying case

PRODUCT

1. Vortex Optics Pro GT

(Best Overall)

Vortex Optics Pro GT
  • High height-to-weight ratio
  • Adjustable center column
  • Adjustable legs with flip lever locks
  • 3-way pan head

2. Vanguard VS-82

(Best Table Top)

Vanguard VS-82
  • Compact size with a 5.5-lb weight capacity
  • Affordable
  • Durable aluminum construction
  • 2-way pan head

3. Celestron 82050

(Best Celestron Tripod)

Celestron 82050
  • Versatile use
  • High 70.5-in fully extended height
  • Adjustable legs with flip lever locks
  • Extendable center column

4. Slik Mini Pro DQ

(Best Compact)

Slik Mini Pro DQ
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Easily adjustable ball head
  • Easy mounting via a quick-release plate
  • Adjustable twist-lock legs

5. Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB

(Best Heavy-Duty)

Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • High 15.4 weight capacity
  • Easily adjustable ball head
  • Extendable center column

6. Manfrotto MK190X3-2W

(Best Ultra-Low Tripod)

Manfrotto MK190X3-2W
  • Low position ground level adapter
  • Rapid adjusting center column
  • Adjustable fluid head with 2 fluidity levels
  • Bubble spirit level

7. Bushnell 784040

(Best Universal Fitting Tripod)

Bushnell 784040
  • Universal fitting head
  • 3-way flexible pan head
  • Adjustable leg angle and height
  • Durable titanium construction

8. Bushnell 784030

(Has Padded Foam Legs)

Bushnell 784030
  • Thickly padded, adjustable legs
  • 3-way pan-tilt head
  • Corrosion-resistant finish
  • High 11-lb weight capacity

9. Barska AF10374

(Has 2-Way Fluid Head)

Barska AF10374
  • Easily adjustable 2-way fluid head
  • Quick-release platform
  • Adjustable center column
  • Comes with a carrying case

10. Vortex HC-2

(Has Ball Head)

Vortex HC-2
  • 360˚ adjustable ball head
  • Quick-release plate
  • Durable anodized aluminum legs
  • Padded legs plus a carrying case

1. Vortex Optics Pro GT – Best Overall

Vortex Optics Pro GT

Photo: Vortex

  • Folded Height: 24.6 in.
  • Extended Height: 67.1 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Load Capacity: 10 lbs.

Top of the list is Vortex Optics’ Pro GT, which stands out as the best overall because of a couple of reasons. For starters, it extends to quite a high height of 67.1 in. and carries a lot of weight (up to 10 lbs.) for its height. This gives it a high height-to-weight ratio.

With this height, you get a balance hook at the middle, which is fixed to a center column for holding extra weight. This helps to maintain stability when the tripod is fully extended during windy conditions.

A center column height adjustment knob is included for lifting or lowering this center column, and this usually depends on the weight hung on the hook.

Each of the tripod’s legs is extendable in 3 sections and is equipped with flip lever locks for quick setup and height adjustment. These legs are built using aluminum, which is sturdy but very lightweight, and have an anodized finish for rust prevention.

Other features include a 3-way pan head for adjusting the scope’s position, a quick-release plate with an angle and lever lock for easy setup, rubber feet for solid footing and a carrying case for easy transportation.

The only problem is that the piece is quite costly to buy.

Pros:

  • High height to weight ratio
  • Center column with a balance hook for stability
  • Independently adjustable legs with flip lever locks
  • 3-way pan head
  • Quick-release plate for easy setup

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive

2. Vanguard VS-82 – Best Table Top Tripod

Vanguard VS-82

Photo: Vanguard

  • Folded Height: 9 in.
  • Extended Height: 9.9 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Load Capacity: 5.5 lbs.

For a table-top tripod, Vanguard’s VS-82 has the capacity to carry up to 5.5 lbs., which is quite a lot for its type. This makes it very practical. Additionally, the unit is very affordable and this also makes it the best spotting scope tripod stand for the money.

Despite its affordability, the piece has a durable aluminum construction plus non-slip rubber feet for stability when placed on slippery surfaces.

Other features include a compact lightweight design that weighs only 0.86 lbs. and a 2-way pan head that tilts up and down to adjust the scope’s position. On the downside, you don’t get a carrying bag with this unit for easy transportation.

Pros:

  • Compact size with a 5.5-lb weight capacity
  • Affordable
  • Durable aluminum construction
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Lacks a carrying bag

3. Celestron 82050 – Best Celestron Tripod

Celestron 82050

Photo: Celestron

  • Folded Height: 24 in.
  • Extended Height: 70.5 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Load Capacity: 8.8 lbs.

With its ability to support a small telescope, camera, binoculars or a spotting scope, Celestron’s 82050 is very versatile and this makes it stand out among the Celestron lineup.

Additionally, the tripod extends to a very high height of 70.5 in., which allows you to mount your scope or other equipment at a good vantage point to get the best view.

To achieve this height, the unit’s legs are split into 4 sections, with each of them being independently adjustable. Each section also has a flip lever lock for quick height adjustment when setting up.

Two of the three legs are fitted with padded wraps so as to protect your shoulders during transportation.

Other features include a quick-release plate with a 1/4-20 standard thread mount for easy mounting of your equipment, an extendable center column with a retractable hook for fixing stabilizing weight, a tripod case and a shoulder strap for easy carrying.

However, the product has only a 2-way fluid pan head that tilts up or down, but not sideways. This limits the positioning of your scope.

Pros:

  • Versatile use
  • High fully-extended height
  • Independently adjustable legs with flip lever locks
  • Quick-release plate for easy mounting
  • Extendable center column with a retractable hook

Cons:

  • Limited movement 2-way pan head

4. Slik Mini Pro DQ – Best Compact Tripod

Slik Mini Pro DQ

Photo: Slik

  • Folded Height: 8.1 in.
  • Extended Height: 8.9 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Load Capacity: 2.7 lbs.

If you thought the Vanguard VS-82 is compact, Slik’s Mini Pro DQ takes it up a notch higher because it only measures 8.9 in. when fully extended and 8.1 in. when folded. Coupled with a weight of only 0.77 lbs., this makes it very easily portable.

Even with its small size, you still get a center column that is rapidly adjustable height-wise for stability purposes. You also get twist-lock legs for height adjustment (6.8-8.9 in.) and they are fitted with rubber feet for firm footing on slippery surfaces.

Other features include a quick-release plate for easy mounting and an easily adjustable ball head. The only problem is that the tripod has a very low load capacity of only 2.7 lbs.

Pros:

  • Easily portable compact and lightweight design
  • Stabilizing center column
  • Adjustable height twist-lock legs
  • Easily adjustable ball head

Cons:

  • Low load capacity

5. Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB – Best Heavy-Duty

Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB

Photo: Vanguard

  • Folded Height: 24.75 in.
  • Extended Height: 64 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Load Capacity: 15.4 lbs.

Vanguard’s Alta Pro 264AB is the best heavy-duty tripod because it can comfortably hold up to 15.4 lbs. in weight. This can be attributed to its firm construction, which consists of sturdy aluminum legs, die-cast premium magnesium canopy, and an anti-shock ring.

Other than that, the 4-section aluminum legs are designed to adjust to 25, 50 and 80˚ angles for low angle scope placement while a smooth fluid-like ball head makes it possible to rotate the scope 360˚ for maximum flexibility.

This head is fitted with a quick-release plate for easy installation and bubble levels for adjusting to a flat position.

You also get quick-flip leg locks, rubber feet, a hexagonal central column with a hanging hook for fitting a stabilizing weight, an instant swivel stop-n-lock system for adjusting the central column and a carrying case for easy transportation.

However, the tripod is quite expensive to buy.

Pros:

  • Heavy-duty construction with a high weight capacity
  • Adjustable leg angle for low angle spotting
  • Easily adjustable ball head
  • Quick-flip leg locks
  • Includes a carrying case

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive

6. Manfrotto MK190X3-2W – Best Ultra-Low Tripod

Manfrotto MK190X3-2W

Photo: Manfrotto

  • Folded Height: 27 in.
  • Extended Height: 66.93 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Load Capacity: 8.82 lbs.

Thanks to its ground level adapter, Manfrotto’s MK190X3-2W can be adjusted to extremely low positions, making it ideal for low-level spotting. This is also aided by its flexible leg angles, in which it can be adjusted to 25˚, 46˚, 66˚ and 88˚.

Also included is a rapid adjusting center column that can be extended to a maximum of 170cm (67 in.), depending on the weight you mount on it.

Other features include an easily adjustable fluid head with 2 fluidity levels (hard and soft) to adjust depending on the preferred movement, a bubble spirit level for adjusting the flatness of your scope and sturdy aluminum construction.

However, this tripod is very expensive and it does not come with a carry bag for easy transportation.

Pros:

  • Ground-level adapter for low-level positioning
  • Rapid adjusting center column
  • Easily adjustable fluid head with 2 fluidity levels
  • Bubble spirit level
  • 4 leg angles

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Lacks a carrying bag

7. Bushnell 784040 – Best Universal Fitting Tripod

Bushnell 784040

Photo: Bushnell

  • Folded Height: 23.6 in.
  • Extended Height: 63 in.
  • Material: Titanium
  • Load Capacity: 8.8 lbs.

Bushnell’s 784040 contains a universal head that can fit different types of equipment such as range finders, cameras, binoculars and, of course, spotting scopes.

This head is actually a 3-way pan head, which is flexible enough to pan up, down and tilt sideways. For this movement, 2 handles are included: 1 pan and one tilt handle. 

Each of the unit’s 3 legs is also adjustable height-wise to lift the head up to 63 in. high and 23.6 in. when fully folded. Their angle is also adjustable to 3 positions to achieve low-level spotting. 

Other features include a gearless reversible center column that is extendable so as to hold large or small weights, strong and durable titanium construction and padded legs for comfortable carrying over the shoulder.

However, you don’t get a carrying bag in the set for easy transportation.

Pros:

  • Universal fitting head
  • Flexible 3-way pan head
  • Adjustable leg angle and height
  • Sturdy titanium construction
  • Padded legs for comfortable carrying

Cons:

  • Lacks a carrying bag

8. Bushnell 784030 – with Padded Foam Legs

Bushnell 784030

Photo: Bushnell

  • Folded Height: 18.3 in.
  • Extended Height: 61 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Load Capacity: 11 lbs.

This 784030-model tripod is fitted with thick padding on all its 3 legs and these cushions ensure comfortable carrying over the shoulder, especially in extremely hot or cold conditions.

That said, it has 3 leg sections with wing leg locks for independent adjustment and the padding is included in the upper sections.

At the top is a 3-way pan-tilt head with a large quick-release plate plus a universal 1/4"-20 mount for fitting on different types of equipment.

Other features include a sliding center column with tension control for height adjustment, non-slip rubber leg tips, a rugged corrosion-resistant finish and an 11-lb load capacity, which is quite high.

The only problem is that the center column is not fitted with a hook for suspending some balancing weight.

Pros:

  • Thickly padded legs for comfortable carrying
  • Wing leg locks for independent adjustment
  • 3-way pan-tilt head
  • Corrosion-resistant finish
  • High 11-lb load capacity

Cons:

  • Lacks a hanging hook

9. Barska AF10374 – with a 2-Way Fluid Head

Barska AF10374

Photo: Barska

  • Folded Height: 26.6 in.
  • Extended Height: 63.4 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Load Capacity: 6 lbs.

Barska’s AF10374 is fitted with a 2-way fluid head at the top that is easily adjustable, and it has a bubble level that helps you set your scope to a flat plane. This head also has a quick-release platform, which lets you set up or pack up in seconds, which is very convenient.

The legs are split into 3 sections with a maximum extension of 63.4 in. and a minimum of 26.6 in. when fully folded. These stands have rubber feet for non-slip use on slippery surfaces.

Other features are a hand crank for adjusting the height of the center column, an accessory hook for holding stabilizing weight and strong, lightweight aluminum construction.

On the downside, no cushions are fitted on the tripod’s legs for comfortable carrying. However, it does come with a carrying case that you can use instead of placing it directly over your shoulders.

Pros:

  • Easily adjustable 2-way fluid head
  • Quick-release platform for easy mounting/dismantling
  • Adjustable center column with an accessory hook
  • Includes a carrying case

Cons:

  • Lacks padding on its legs

10. Vortex HC-2 – with a Ball Head

Vortex HC-2

Photo: Vortex

  • Folded Height: 15 in.
  • Extended Height: 52.3 in.
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Load Capacity: 5 lbs.

As compared to the 2-way fluid head in Barska’s AF10374, this one has a ball head, which can be adjusted to almost any position because it can move 360˚. All you have to do is to turn the adjustment lever anti-clockwise for repositioning then clockwise to secure in position.

That said, you get a quick-release plate on the head for easy setting up or packing up while an adjustable center column with a balance hook allows you to hang a counterweight for stability in windy conditions.

The 4-piece legs are also adjustable with flip-lock levers on each piece for independent adjustment. These aluminum stands have an anodized finish for enhanced durability and rubber feet for non-slip performance.

You also get a carrying case and padded for easy transportation but the tripod has a relatively low 5-lb weight capacity.

Pros:

  • 360˚ adjustable ball head
  • Quick-release plate for easy mounting/dismantling
  • Durable anodized aluminum legs
  • Includes a carrying case

Cons:

  • Low weight capacity

How to Buy the Best Tripod for Spotting Scope

How to Buy the Best Tripod for Spotting Scope

1. Type

There are 3 main types of spotting scope tripods. These are:

Table Top

As the name suggests, this type is used when placed on a table. The tripods are the smallest type because most of them don’t go beyond 10 in. when fully extended. They do not have telescopic legs and some lack a center column.

Generally, their capabilities are very limited and we recommend them for lightweight use. On the bright side, they are the most affordable and you can check out Vanguard VS-82 or Slik’s Mini Pro DQ.

Compact

Compact tripods are larger than the table-top type but smaller than full-size tripods. They usually extend up to a maximum of 55 in., making them highly portable but still very practical.

Ideally, these tripods are suitable for scopes with 45-70mm objective lens and can be used in a sitting, standing or crouched position, depending on your height. A perfect example is Vortex’s HC-2.

Full Size

The main advantage of full-size tripods is that they can be used in a comfortable standing position because their height when fully extended exceeds 60 in.

Though more expensive than the other two, full-size units are stronger and can hold more weight, making them ideal for large and heavy spotting scopes.

2. Height

This factor should be selected based on how you like to use your spotting scope. If your most comfortable position is when standing upright, go for a tall tripod such as the Celestron 82050.

If you are more comfortable lying on the ground, Manfrotto’s MK190X3-2W features a ground-level adapter that allows it to go very low. For a sitting position, a medium-height compact unit like the Vortex’s HC-2 is recommended.

3. Head

A tripod’s head is where your scope is mounted. 3-way pan heads are quite popular because they give you the flexibility of panning up, down or tilting sideways. This is better than a 2-way pan head and can be found in Vortex Optics’ Pro GT, Bushnell’s 784040 and 784030.

Ball heads, such as the one in Vanguard’s Alta Pro 264AB and Slik’s Mini Pro DQ, are very flexible because they allow for 360˚ movement. 

Manfrotto’s MK190X3-2W has a more advanced fluid head design with settings to control the panning movement. Though very expensive, this is highly recommended.

4. Materials

The materials used in building a tripod ultimately determine its strength and durability. Since most are built using aluminum, the weight capacity should be a guiding factor.

It is a no brainer that a tripod that can withstand more weight is better built. Therefore, with its 15.4-lb capacity, Vanguard’s Alta Pro 264AB has a stronger design that is highly durable. Other features to look for include corrosion-resistance for enhanced durability.

5. Accessories

Tripod accessories usually come in the form of a carrying case, which is recommended for easy transportation. For this, be sure to check out Vortex Optics’ Pro GT and Celestron’s 82050, just to name a few.

Conclusion 

After covering the products above, we recommend Vortex Optics’ Pro GT as the overall best tripod for spotting scopes because it has a high height-to-weight ratio (making it very practical), a 3-way pan head for flexible scope positioning and a quick-release plate for easy setup.

If you want a table-top tripod, be sure to check out Vanguard VS-82, which is also very affordable. If you like spotting while lying on the ground though, we recommend Manfrotto’s MK190X3-2W because of its ground-level adapter.

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