MeFoto BackPacker S
MeFoto.com | $159.95 (~$120 street)

Specifications

  • Max. height 108cm (42.5"), or 140cm (55.1") with center column
  • Min. height 33.5cm (13.2")
  • Folds to 33.5cm (13.2") with 9.5cm (3.7") diameter
  • Weighs 1017g (2.2lb) with accessories
  • 6kg (13.2lb) load limit
  • Three leg angles, five leg sections, dual-section center column
  • Separate pan and tilt/roll controls
  • Bubble level included
  • Swappable head
  • Aluminum version available for $104.95 MSRP

Description

Of all the tripods in this roundup, the MeFoto BackPacker S is both the most affordable option by far, and also the lightest, something which could prove a significant advantage if you want something to bring along on lengthy hikes.

That light weight is something of a double-edged sword, though, as the BackPacker S also will also bear the least load of the group, making it best suited to smaller, lighter cameras and lenses. And although it features the lowest maximum height of the group, it still has not only five-section legs, but also a dual-section center column.

No short center column is available for the BackPacker S, so this is its minimum height.

Yet despite that, it surprises with features absent from some competitors. For example, it's the only one to offer a monopod function, with one tripod leg able to be removed and attached directly to the center column. It also retains both a bubble level and a separate lock function for its pan axis, as well as a scale to assist with framing panoramic images with sufficient overlap.

In use

With that said, there's simply no way around the fact that the BackPacker S is a bit flimsy. It's still better than nothing, but it's just not in the same class as the other tripods in this review, sturdiness or build quality-wise.

The MeFoto has rather fiddly leg latches, but a separate pan lock and scale for panoramic shooting.

And with so many twist locks for the legs and center column, fiddly leg angle latches, and one removable tripod leg that's easily loosened by mistake, it's also the most laborious to extend and retract.

The included ball head is more than reasonable for the price, but nowhere near as smooth to adjust as its rivals. And not surprisingly, the BackPacker S also comes with only a rather lightweight drawstring bag, with nowhere safe to store the provided 4mm hex key. (Amazingly, though, it's still better than the bag provided with the Gitzo, despite costing five times less.)

One of the MeFoto's legs can be unscrewed and attached to the center column for use as a monopod, a feature its rivals lack.

The MeFoto is also the only tripod in this roundup to offer a reasonable three year warranty term without registration, should you value your privacy. (Without registration, Gitzo and Manfrotto give you just six month warranties, while Peak Design doesn't state its warranty term unless you register.)

It's not as easy to get parts for the MeFoto, though, should you choose to maintain it yourself. Manfrotto, Gitzo and Peak Design provide reams of service info and parts, and Peak Design in particular has superbly-detailed maintenance tutorials on its YouTube channel. But MeFoto offers no such info, and other than replacement leg stops, doesn't list any replacement parts for the BackPacker S on its website.

The MeFoto has a nice, clear bubble level beneath its quick-release plate, and a spring-loaded, retracting sandbag hook in its center column.

What we like

  • Extremely affordable
  • Very lightweight
  • Doubles as a monopod
  • Includes a bubble level, plus both a pan lock and scale
  • More compact than the Gitzo or Manfrotto when folded
  • Reasonable ball head for its price

What we don't like

  • Much flimsier than the other travel tripods in this review
  • Less generous height adjustment range, too
  • Fiddly leg angle latches
  • Laborious to extend and retract
  • Flimsy drawstring bag
  • Limited parts availability