Even if you are buying a tripod at the budget end of the price range, it is still worth researching before you spend your money. You want to be satisfied with whichever product you choose, and for it to enhance your bird-watching experience.
An aluminum tripod has great qualities. It is not only durable and resistant to damage, but it is also less expensive than its main alternative – carbon fiber. With these advantages in mind, here’s an introduction to some of the top choices of aluminum tripods available.
Comparison table: best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes
Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod with three-way head (MT055XPRO3)
A tall, strong, extra weatherproof tripod kit from one of the most respected tripod manufacturers.
Best aluminum tripod – overall winner
Amazon Basics 60-inch tripod
Sturdy and well-built, this lightweight aluminum tripod won’t break the bank.
Best aluminum tripod – top value
Vanguard Alta 264AO tripod with Alta PH-31 pan head
A two-way pan head and easily packable four-section legs are two key features of this solid value-for-money choice from Vanguard.
Best aluminum tripod – four-section legs
ZOMEI Z818 Heavy Duty Camera Tripod
Popular and affordable, these tripod legs provide great functionality for general use or even for travel and hiking adventures.
Best aluminum tripod – great functionality
Celestron 82050 TrailSeeker Tripod
The Trailseeker has angle-adjustable, sturdy aluminum legs that fold right down in order to be easily packable.
Best aluminum tripod – angle-adjustable legs
Bushnell Advanced 784030 tripod
Versatile and able to stand up to larger spotting scopes, the Bushnell Advanced tripod pans smoothly with a steady image.
Best aluminum tripod – best for versatility
Reviews: the best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes
When you are looking for a tripod on which to mount your precious spotting scope, it’s imperative to find one that keeps the optics safe. The next consideration is to choose a tripod that keeps the scope stable enough for you to enjoy sharp and clear views.
The features of the aluminum tripods here are carefully selected to give you the best opportunity to meet these needs.
Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – overall winner
Main Features of the Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod with three-way head
The Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Three-way pan and tilt head
- Rapid one-finger assembly center column
- Quick power leg locks
- Rotating bubble level
Load Capacity 19.8 pounds
Weight 5.5 pounds
Maximum Working Height 66.9”
Minimum Working Height 3.5”
Folded length 24”
- Impressively high payload and rigidity
- Power locks add stability to the legs
- Legs can be set to four different angles
- Quick connection and easy to switch accessories
- A bit weighty at 5 pounds – though there are also carbon fiber options in this range
- Three-section legs won’t fold as small as four to five-section legs
Manfrotto 055 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod (MT055XPRO3) Overview
Apparently, three is the magic number for optimum stability and strength. Hence the three sections to each of the legs of the 055.
We’ll take Manfrotto’s word for it in this case because we’re after an extra sturdy tripod prioritizing strength over size. Though we are going to note that they do make plenty of really decent but more packable four- and five-section tripods too!
Hefty maximum payload
The maximum load capacity of the Manfrotto 055 is 15.4 pounds.
Maximum height is 70.3 inches, with the center column extended. If the center column is down, the height reduces to 55.9 inches.
At the minimum, the height is 3.9 inches. Folded down, the 005 is just under 26 inches long.
Quick release catches make it easy to extend the legs of your tripod. These lock the legs securely but are a cinch to use with one hand – great for securely holding onto other kit at the same time.
Aluminum legs feature cold-water cladding
If you are a frequent cold weather birder, you will recall how cold metal tripod legs can get. A great feature is the addition of foam cladding on two legs, making them more comfortable to handle.
The majority of this tripod is aluminum, so it weighs 5 pounds. It’s not one that you are going to want to be hiking a long way with.
If you are looking to save weight, they also produce a carbon fiber version. It could be worth raising the budget for this advantage.
(Manfrotto does also have a great choice of tripods suitable for taking a longer distance, but it’s not as sturdy as the comparatively tank-like models in this article!)
A reliable and well-weatherproofed option
Weatherproofing is impressive. Its corrosion-resistant finish looks sleek and durable. The non-aluminum parts such as threads are made of good quality stainless steel so rust won’t be an issue.
Added to this, Manfrotto’s reputation for reliability and quality, and you’ll be making good use of this rock-solid tripod for years to come.
Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – top value
Main Features of the Amazon Basics 60-inch tripod
The Amazon Basics 60-inch tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Extendable center post
- Lightweight with adjustable legs and rubber feet
- Two built-in bubble view levels
- Quick-release mounting plate
Load Capacity 6.6 pounds
Weight 2.72 pounds
Maximum Working Height 60 inches
Minimum Working Height 23.8 inches
- Simple to set up with the quick release system
- Legs have grippy rubber feet on ball joints to adjust to uneven ground
- Pan and tilt head easy to operate
- Accessory hook allows you to add extra weight
- A height of 60 inches might not be tall enough for some
- More stability when used without the center post
Amazon Basics 60-inch tripod Overview
The AmazonBasics 60-inch Lightweight Tripod is a great budget option for anyone looking for a quality tripod without spending too much money.
This tripod is available in both 50”, 60” and mini format. Here we will focus on the larger 60” size.
This tripod is made of lightweight aluminum, making it easy to carry around at just under three pounds. It can support spotting scopes of up to 6.6 pounds.
This affordable tripod is sturdy and well-built, with adjustable legs to ensure a stable shot no matter what the terrain. The ends of the tripod legs feature rubber feet to add a reasonable grip on most surfaces.
The height range runs from 25 inches at the lowest point, to 60 inches when fully extended. To gain this full height, the center column lifts and locks into position.
Counterweight hook on center column
A smart addition to the bottom half of the tripod is an accessory hook. This hook, located under the center column, allows you to hang a bag or weight beneath. On uneven ground or in windy conditions, this adds extra stability.
This tripod head is of a pan and tilt design. Using the handle, you can view across the two axes of movement.
While the handle might not be the most speedy way of following a bird in flight, once that bird settles, viewing is more intuitive.
The tripod head features a quick-release plate for simple set-up and takedown. There are built-in bubble guides so you can check if the tripod base and head are level.
The AmazonBasics 60″ tripod is a fine balance between the main factors of stability, size and sturdiness. The price tag makes it a fantastic choice and it includes a carry bag.
If you’re looking for a good value tripod that won’t break the bank, this one should definitely be on your list.
Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – four-section legs
Main Features of the Vanguard Alta 264AO tripod with Alta PH-31 pan head
The Vanguard Alta 264AO tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Two-way fluid pan head
- Four-section twist-lock legs, two of which have non-slip grips
- Hook under center column for counterweight
- Non-slip rubber feet
Load Capacity 11 pounds
Weight 5.1 pounds
Maximum Working Height 64”
Minimum Working Height 20.2”
Folded length 27.7”
- Lightweight pan head with friction control and a locking system
- Angles of the legs can be adjusted
- Helpful bubble level for easy alignment
- Set up can be done one-handed
- At 6 pounds it’s not the most lightweight contender
- Panning movement could be smoother
Vanguard Alta 264AO tripod with Alta PH-31 pan head Overview
If you need a sturdy tripod that can support your heavy-duty spotting scope, the Vanguard Alta 264AO is an excellent choice.
The tripod itself weighs just under 6 pounds. That disqualifies it from being the lightest contender. But here we are focusing most on value and it delivers that.
It is solid and intended to withstand maximum loads of up to 11 pounds. That makes it suitable for larger spotting scopes, for instance, with objective lenses up to 80mm.
With its legs and center column fully extended, the height is a touch under 64 inches. The tripod legs have four sections that collapse to 27.7 inches.
When folded down, the tripod can be easily stored and transported. It is not very light though.
Choose from a range of leg angles
The legs have multiple angle settings to allow the tripod to find the correct balance point on ground that is uneven or sloping. It incorporates an anti-shock ring to absorb jolts to your spotting scope and prevent image shake.
In general, the removable panhead moves smoothly. Unusually for this type of tripod head, there can be some resistance when panning, causing unwanted movement in the image.
Fast collapsing foam-clad legs
The legs are easy to deploy. Their flip locks make the tripod fast to collapse down when needed.
The padded foam cladding on the upper section of the legs make the tripod more comfortable to adjust and carry in extreme temperatures.
The individually adjustable legs provide plenty of flexibility to use on different types of terrain, while the rubber feet help to keep your equipment stable when it’s set up on uneven ground.
Overall, this tripod feels like it is holding the spotting scope securely in place. It scores well on durability and toughness. While it is not super cheap nor lightweight, it does seem built to last.
Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – great functionality
Main Features of the ZOMEI Z818 Tripod
The ZOMEI Z818 Tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Four-section legs with rubber twist locks
- Three leg angle positions (25, 50, and 80 degrees)
- Hook to hang weight up to 10 pounds
- Quick release plate
Materials Aluminum/magnesium alloy
Load Capacity 33 pounds
Weight 3.7 pounds
Maximum Working Height 65”
Max Height without Center Column approx 55”
Minimum Working Height 22”
Folded length 18”
- Easily collapsible with the rubber twist-lock grips on the legs
- Twist locks feel more tight and solid than some flip locks
- Includes a ball head which could suit some birders
- Versatility as it can convert to a monopod
- Less sturdy when legs splayed at the lowest angle
- Take care not to over-loosen the leg extensions!
- Lots of loose parts when switching to monopod – could be misplaced
ZOMEI Z818 Tripod Overview
The twist locks on the legs are aluminum, coated with rubber, which is easy to grip. Like the rest of the tripod, these feel firm, with the right amount of resistance to provide reassurance that nothing will loosen by accident.
There are strong spring locks where the legs meet the mount, so that the angle of each leg can be independently altered to one of three different positions.
Package includes a ball head
This tripod actually includes a tripod head as well. It is a ball head, which may not suit all birders. But with the Arca-Swiss connection and quick release it is simple to switch this head to your preferred style.
You can remove the head itself and the mount underneath it. At this point there is also a hand strap, which is removable if you don’t want to use it.
These are located at the place where the extension column would attach, so you can change the standard column for the short one, or even reverse it depending on what you require.
Ball head features drag and bubble levels
The included head does feature three bubble levels for correct alignment. There’s damping to increase or decrease resistance as you rotate or move the head.
The feet can be screwed in further to the legs to reveal the spikes. So there’s the option to use the tripod with or without these foot spikes. While the spikes are not really deep they would provide some extra grip if necessary.
Potential to convert to monopod
Using the center column and one of the legs, it’s possible to convert this into a monopod. There is a double sided bolt provided to assist with conversion to a monopod, using the leg with ‘Zomei’ written on it. The instructions on how to do this, however, could be clearer…!
The included case is lined and padded. It has two sets of strong handles – a pair of shorter ones or a long shoulder strap.
Low budget and relatively portable
For its size, this Zomei tripod is quite light. It’s a good option for those on a budget because it can cope with heavier spotting scopes without being very heavy itself.
This lack of weight does mean that in windy conditions, you might want to hang your bag or something onto the tripod to add extra weight and stability.
Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – heavy duty
Main Features of the Bushnell Advanced 784030 tripod
The Bushnell Advanced 784030 tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Individually adjustable legs with foam leg cushions
- Center column with tension control
- Three-way pan/tilt head with large mounting platform
- Screw locks and rubber feet on the legs
Load Capacity 11 pounds
Weight 5.5 pounds
Maximum Working Height 61”
Max Height without Center Column 50.3”
Minimum Working Height 18.3”
Folded length 26”
- Leg angles can be set individually
- More comfortable to use with padded legs
- There is drag for more control when sliding the center column
- Low on the wobble factor
- Time-consuming to lock and unlock the thumb screws on the legs
- No quick release
Bushnell Advanced 784030 tripod Overview
This is a versatile and sturdy aluminum tripod, suitable for use with binoculars and video or SLR cameras as well as with spotting scopes.
It’s heavy duty enough to support large scopes and optical equipment, up to a maximum weight of eleven pounds. The compromise is the actual weight of the tripod. At five and a half pounds it’s not the most lightweight of tripods.
Metal components – strong but heavier
The extra weight comes from some of the components – such as the screws that secure the adjustable parts. The upside is that the metal feels more secure and solid.
But of course it also adds to the weight because clearly it is heavier than plastic. So this is something to consider if you have a lot of other kit to carry.
Wing nuts instead of quick-lock levers
Each of the legs is individually adjustable for height and angle. While the legs can be locked at differing heights, unfortunately they have wing nuts instead of quick-release levers.
The Bushnell 784030 tripod does have a couple of inconveniences to be aware of and this is one of them. It makes it that little bit more onerous to set up and take down.
Another drawback is that the three-way pan and tilt head does not have a quick release plate. If you’re not moving very far or fast, with stability being a priority over speed and portability, this could be a sound option.
Panning movement is smooth, successfully holding the image steady. There’s a wobble-free sliding center column that adjusts via a nut that tightens adequately.
Durable and stable
Durability is good, with rubber feet and a corrosion-resistant finish.
As a bonus, all three of the legs are clad with foam padding (unlike the Vortex tripod with only two padded). This makes the tripod more comfortable to handle in very cold or very hot temperatures.
Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – portability
Main Features of the Celestron 82050 TrailSeeker Tripod
The Celestron 82050 TrailSeeker Tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Two-way fluid pan head with QR plate
- Four-section legs with foam grips
- Bubble levels
- Legs will stay at three different angles
Load Capacity 9 pounds
Weight 3.9 pounds
Maximum Working Height 70.5”
Max Height without Center Column 58”
Minimum Working Height 18.9”
Folded length 24”
- Stands up to more than twice its own weight
- Handy retractable hook for more balance
- Legs can be adjusted in length and angle
- Easy to manipulate the head in a hurry to track birds
- Only one locking knob locks both pan and tilt simultaneously
- Lack of counterbalance can be noticeable with heavier optics
Celestron 82050 TrailSeeker Tripod Overview
For a compact sized aluminum tripod, this performs well. The TrailSeeker can stand up to more than twice its own weight of spotting scope on top. At only four pounds, its lightness is a good feature.
We wouldn’t load the tripod right up to the maximum advised load of 9 pounds because there is some play in the adjustable components. For smaller spotting scopes, however, it’s more than adequate.
Retractable hook for extra stability
The center column also has a retractable balance hook at the bottom end. This enables you to suspend extra weight underneath to add stability.
Heightwise, it’ll extend up to 70 inches, and tuck back down to just under 19 inches at the minimum.
The sturdy aluminum legs can be adjusted in length and angle to fit your needs. There are four sections on each leg that can be shortened or lengthened via locking levers.
Bubble levels to check alignment
Integrated bubble levels on the legs are a neat feature.
You can also set the angle of each leg individually to make the tripod flat on uneven surfaces. Each leg has a rubber foot that stops it slipping on wet or slippery surfaces.
This tripod is good for when you want to move the head around quickly. The pan head is easy in two directions with the one handle.
You can attach a spotting scope, binoculars or camera using the quick release plate and standard 1/4-20” thread mount. Celestron’s pack includes a carrying case.
Main criteria: Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes
The purpose of a tripod, whatever material it is made of, is to provide a stable platform for viewing birds in their natural habitat.
To give you an idea of how we judged the tripods here, what are the most important qualities of a good tripod?
The best value tripods achieve this without you having to worry about movement or vibration through the spotting scope – and without breaking the bank either.
Other key considerations are the weight of your scope and tripod combined. You don’t want something that is too heavy to carry around with you on your bird watching adventures.
Ease of use
Secondly, you will want to make sure the tripod can extend high enough while remaining steady, so you can get a good view of your target birds.
Price is always a consideration – especially if you plan on purchasing a tripod at the same time as investing in other equipment. With this in mind, we’ve shared our top picks for the best value tripods for spotting scopes.
A spotting scope can be an expensive piece of equipment, so it’s important to find a tripod that fits within your budget. Not all tripods are created equal.
For fuller advice on how to choose the best tripod for the budget that you have, feel free to take a look at this article >>> How to choose a tripod for a spotting scope
Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – next steps
When comparing tripods, the most important variable to consider is what it is made of.
The material the tripod is made of has a bearing on properties like price, durability and comfort.
In comparison with carbon fiber, aluminum tripods can be less comfortable to use. This is because they are heavier to carry. They may also feel too cold or hot to handle in extremes of weather.
But in their favor, aluminum tripods cost less than their carbon fiber equivalents. They can be more durable.
In the event of some kind of damage, an aluminum tripod could get dented or bent, but still be usable. Whereas in the same situation a carbon fiber tripod may shatter and then be completely useless. Here are some examples of carbon fiber tripods for birding: Which is the best carbon fiber tripod?
Whichever kind of tripod you get, you only want to buy once. So we are doing our best to provide lots of different angles of viewing the range of tripods available. Our overall round-up of the top tripods can be found here: What are the best tripod kits for birding?
- 1 Comparison table: best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes
- 2 Reviews: the best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes
- 3 Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – overall winner
- 4 Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – top value
- 5 Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – four-section legs
- 6 Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – great functionality
- 7 Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – heavy duty
- 8 Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – portability
- 9 Main criteria: Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes
- 10 Best aluminum tripod for birding spotting scopes – next steps