Conclusion - And the winner is... the Manfrotto BeFree Advanced

The four travel tripods in this review span a range from entry-level to high-end. To some extent, which is the best for you will vary depending upon your needs and budget, but for our money, the best option of the bunch has to be the Manfrotto BeFree Advanced.

The Manfrotto BeFree Advanced is sturdy, versatile and best of all, reasonably priced. For our money, it has to be the winner of this roundup!

Beat overall: Manfrotto BeFree Advanced

It might not be the sturdiest of the bunch, but the BeFree Advanced is nevertheless in the same ballpark as the much more expensive Gitzo and Peak Design tripods. Its load limit is ample, it offers more leg angles than its rivals, and provides a very wide range of height adjustments.

The Manfrotto offers the best balance of sturdy build, features and affordability.

While the Manfrotto lacks a bubble level, there's a good chance your camera already has one built-in. And even if not, accessory levels are readily available at a negligible cost. Add in Manfrotto's optional short center column accessory, and you'll still save a significant amount of cash while getting a tripod that's almost as capable.

For those reasons, the Manfrotto is absolutely the tripod we'd choose ourselves.

There's a lot to love about the Peak Design Travel Tripod, especially its amazingly compact legs, but its unusual ball head has some notable shortcomings.

Best for air travel: Peak Design Travel Tripod

As for the Peak Design Travel Tripod, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The legs are superb: Their clever oval cross-section minimizes empty space, and they're significantly more compact than similarly capable rivals. That could be a big deal if you want to fit them inside a smaller camera bag, or when traveling by air where space is at a premium. And the included smartphone holder is a nice touch, as is the clever, stowable folding hex tool.

Peak Design's ultra-compact tripod legs are superb, but the ball head has some drawbacks.

But while in some respects Peak Design's unusual ball head is great, it also has some annoying drawbacks. Most significant among these is its lack of support for panoramic shooting. There's no way to move your camera only on the pan axis, nor any scale to aid you in getting the correct overlap between shots.

If Peak Design offered a lower-priced variant of this tripod with its head adapter kit included, allowing you to mount your own ball head at a sub-$600 price tag, it'd likely have been our favorite. As is, though, it's an expensive tripod that in some respects is more limited than much lower-priced models. And in many travel situations, weight will prove a higher priority than compactness anyway.

Best for rock-solid stability: Gitzo Traveler Series 1

The Gitzo, meanwhile, is the most solid of the bunch, and also the tallest. But it's the largest of the group by a significant margin when folded. And while it's not quite as expensive on the street as its list price would suggest, it's still very pricey. Unless you're shooting a larger camera and lens, making maximum load bearing and sturdiness your primary needs, it's probably not the best choice.

Budget pick: MeFoto Backpacker S

At the entry level, the MeFoto BackPacker S is certainly much better than nothing at all, so long as you're using it with a lighter camera and lens. It's also the only one in the group to offer a monopod function, letting it serve double-duty to replace another piece of gear.

Even the budget-friendly MeFoto is significantly better than no tripod at all.

And you really can't argue with the price tag. You could quite literally, buy five of these for the price of one of the higher-end models. But its relatively low weight limit and flimsiness – caused in part by the sheer number of sections required to reach its full height – mean that it's just not in the same class as the others.