From left to right, the MeFoto BackPacker S, Manfrotto BeFree Advanced, Peak Design Travel Tripod and Gitzo Traveler Series 1.

Although image stabilization technology has come along in leaps and bounds over the past few years, there are few things you can do to improve your low-light or telephoto images more than mounting your camera on a tripod. But many tripods are heavy and bulky, making them inconvenient to bring along on longer hikes or when traveling by air. That's where the humble travel tripod comes to the rescue.

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In this review we compare the following travel tripods:

Travel tripods are available across a very wide price range, from consumer models that cost not much more than $100 to professional-grade ones that can run into the high hundreds of dollars or more. But is it worth spending that extra cash, and can you expect a significantly better experience from a more expensive tripod? To find out, we rounded up a selection of name-brand carbon-fiber travel tripods spanning the pricing gamut for an in-depth, side-by-side comparison.

In many respects, all four tripods have a lot in common. They all come with quick-release plates that you can leave attached to your camera for quicker setup, for example. And they all have reversible center columns which also let you shoot straight downwards, something that can be handy for macro shooting in particular.

They also share locks and/or safety pins to help prevent your camera accidentally being disconnected, and sandbag hooks either at the end of the center column or on the side of the spider, from which you can hang some weight for extra stability. (Just remember to include this weight along with that of your chosen camera and lens when determining your required payload!)

In this review, we'll focus mostly on how these four tripods differ from each other, and their advantages and disadvantages in real-world shooting. Read on to find out how they performed, and which was our favorite.

MeFoto BackPacker S Manfrotto BeFree Advanced Peak Design Travel Tripod Gitzo Traveler Series 1
MSRP $159.95 $324.99 $599.95 $1014.99
Street price ~$120 ~$280 ~$600 ~$600
Length and diameter (folded)* 33.5 x 9.5cm 41.0 x 10.5 cm 39.1 x 7.9 cm 42.5 x 1 cm
Max. height (with center column)* 140.0cm 151.0cm 153.5cm 164.5cm
Max. height (no center column)* 108.0cm 127.0cm 131.0cm 141.0cm
Min. height (standard center column)* 33.5cm 40.5cm 34.5cm 42.5cm
Min. height (short center column)* N/A 19cm (optional extra) 15.5cm (included) 33.0cm (included)
Weight with accessories* 1017g** 1268g*** 1342g**** 1489g*****
Load limit 6kg 8kg 9.1kg 10kg
Number of leg angles 3 3 2 2
Converts to monopod? Yes (143.0cm max.)* No No No
Bubble level? Yes No Yes Yes
Panorama control? Yes, with degree scale Yes, lacks degree scale No Yes, with degree scale
Swappable head / feet? Head only Head only Both (with optional head adapter kit) Both
QR plate type ARCA Manfrotto RC2 ARCA ARCA
Special features N/A EasyLink attachment Smartphone holder N/A
Warranty (with registration) 5 years 10 years Lifetime 7 years
* All sizes and weights based on in-house measurements.
** Includes ball head, QR plate with safety pins, center-column hook and hex key
*** Includes ball head, QR plate, EasyLink / center-column caps and hex key
**** Includes ball head with safety pins, QR plate, full center column with hook and phone holder, hex tool and tool holder
***** Includes ball head with safety pin, QR plate, long and short center columns and three hex/Torx keys