While it can be cost-effective to buy a tripod kit that includes legs and a head together, if you already have a tripod head that works for you, why buy more than you need? So when you just want to get a new set of tripod legs, there are some great options.
Before we go into more detailed reviews, let’s do a quick comparison of the top tripod legs that will stably support a spotting scope for birding.
Comparison table: tripod legs for birding spotting scopes
Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod
A robust and stable set-up that retains lightness and space-saving smaller dimensions while coping with a 15-pound payload.
Best overall tripod legs for birding spotting scopes
SLIK Pro 700 DX Tripod Legs
So many good points to appreciate about this budget pick that provides extra height via its two-part center column.
Best value tripod legs for birding spotting scopes
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 value runner up tripod legs for birding spotting scopes
Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber tripod legs
Pro quality kit with all the ease of operation and rigid stability that it’s fair to expect from such a top-level premium product.
Best tripod legs if money is no object
Gitzo Lightweight Traveler Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Offering a generous height for the weight, the design of Gitzo’s Traveler Series 2 translates into overall compactness and light stability.
Best lightweight compact tripod legs for travel
Manfrotto 190XPRO Carbon Fiber 4-Section tripod
Durable and light, the 190XPRO has a precise build quality that supports the versatility and lasting popularity of Manfrotto’s tripods.
Best heavy duty tripod legs for birding spotting scopes
Sirui W-2204 Waterproof Carbon Fiber Tripod
Durability is not an issue for this waterproof tripod that is protected against damp and dirt, meaning it’s easy to operate as well as being tall and strong.
Best carbon fiber tripod legs for birding (tall birders/straight scopes)
Reviews: Best tripod legs for birding
Here you can browse the most significant features of the tripod legs that we consider most suitable to hold spotting scopes when birding.
We sum up the advantages and disadvantages of each model, then go into more detail about how the tripod legs function in bird-watching situations.
Best overall tripod legs for birding
Main Features of the Manfrotto 190XPRO Aluminum Tripod Legs
The Manfrotto 190XPRO Aluminum Tripod Legs offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Quick Power Lock system – aimed at very fast set-up of the legs
- Rapid center column (also can be set to 90 degrees)
- Legs can be set at four different angles
- Light but tough aluminum construction
Materials Aluminum alloy
Load Capacity 15.4 pounds
Weight 4.3 pounds
Maximum Working Height 63”
Max Height without Center Column 53.2”
Minimum Working Height 3.5”
Folded length 23.2”
- Solid rigidity in the legs
- Compact and relatively portable
- Two legs feature grippy, rubber leg warmers on two legs for cold or inclement weather
- Rotating bubble level
- It would be great to have the option to add counterweight via a hook under the base
Manfrotto 190XPRO Aluminum Tripod Legs Overview
Manfrotto does a variety of tripod legs in this 190 range. The tripods with the three-section legs tend to be a bit quicker to set up, while also being cheaper.
The lowest section of each three-section leg is stronger and wider. And because each section is longer, the tripod doesn’t fold down quite as compactly as the four-section version. The folded length of this model is just over 23”.
Each leg of the tripod can be easily adjusted to fit on any type of ground, using individual flip locks. Additionally, there’s a choice of four different angles at which you can set the legs to sit.
Light but tough aluminum
The tripod’s aluminum construction, while easy to carry around, is also tough in different conditions. It has the durability, stability, and height that you can confidently expect to enjoy at this price point.
The Manfrotto 190X can hold up to 15 pounds, making it likely to be stable for optics with objective lenses of 80mm, potentially more.
Weatherproof leg cladding
So simple but so effective – to include the rubber leg warmers for cold weather when it can be uncomfortable to handle the tripod. The easy-grip cladding is on two of the legs and it will also help if you tend to carry the tripod resting against your shoulder.
To make sure the spotting scope is level on any surface, there is a rotating bubble-level for clear readings.
Best value tripod legs for birding
Main Features of the SLIK Pro 700 DX Tripod Legs
The SLIK Pro 700 DX Tripod Legs offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Independently adjustable three-position leg angle settings
- Three-section legs, all with foam cladding on upper section
- Two flip locks on each leg for easy set-up and disassembly
- Rubber feet for maximum traction
Materials Aluminum, magnesium, titanium alloy
Load Capacity 15 pounds
Weight 5.5 pounds
Maximum Working Height 70.1”
Max Height without Center Column 55.1”
Minimum Working Height 10.8”
Folded length 26.2”
- All of the components feel solid and well machined
- Padding on all three of the legs
- A reasonably priced product that delivers on results
- It even looks good!
- Not as light as a carbon fiber product might be
- The leg angle latches are not quite intuitive so need a little getting used to
- There’s no hook underneath the centre column, which would be useful for adding weight and increasing stability
SLIK Pro 700 DX Tripod Legs Overview
There is a two-part center column, so that can be shortened if necessary. The head mount is aluminium which should add durability.
To set up, the flip locks are stiff to start with, but aim to be operable with just one finger. The angular rubber feet are pretty grippy. They are not changeable, though, in case you prefer the spiked feet that some brands offer.
Three angle setting for the legs
There are a few different lockable angle settings on the legs. This angle can be set independently on each leg, in case you need to set up on extremely uneven ground.
With this facility, the tripod will also lower closer to the ground. The latches open outwards, which is not quite intuitive but there’s no complaint with their actual performance.
Foam cladding feature on all legs
The foam cladding is on all three of the legs – not just the two that some other companies limit it to (why?!).
It just makes that extra difference if you prefer to carry the tripod against your shoulder, and when working with the legs when the weather is very cold or hot.
Living up to its name in respect of its matte finish, it looks pretty refined as well as feeling solid. So bonus points for the image-conscious! Even better considering the price…
Best value tripod legs for birding – runner-up
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 tripod legs for birding if money is no object
Main Features of the Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod legs
The Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod legs offer impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Rapid set-up extension column
- Three-section legs with flip locks
- Bull’s eye rotating bubble level that you can move to preferred angle
- Easy Link 3/8″-16 attachment for accessories
Materials Carbon fiber
Load Capacity 19.8 pounds
Weight 4.4 pounds
Maximum Working Height 66.9”
Max Height without Center Column 55.1”
Minimum Working Height 3.5”
Folded length 24”
- Possible to use with 4 leg angles
- Great rigidity in the three-section legs
- Additional column fits within the top casting to be more compact
- Intuitive to set up – in theory with one hand if necessary!
- A step up in price from the aluminum version
- At 4.4 pounds it’s not a lightweight tripod
- The wide top sections of the legs make it quite bulky when folded
Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod legs Overview
While it is not at the very top end of what you could spend on a tripod, this is still a premium product. The legs of the MT055CXPRO3 are made of carbon fiber and therefore provide extra rigidity and stability.
The lock on the center column is hard plastic. Other components are made out of aluminum, with a secure feel to them.
While it is not the lightest tripod you will find, it is a high-quality offering, as you would expect from one of the leading tripod manufacturers.
Simple to set up
One of the key requirements from tripod legs is that they are easy to set up and take down. This tripod certainly meets that requirement.
The legs, with their three sections, slide out smoothly. The flip locks open simply and, when they close, feel secure. There’s a small but nifty tool included to be able to loosen or tighten these screws as needed.
Setting up the central column takes more effort. But that too is quickly done once you know how.
Delivers on quality
While it weighs more than some of its competitors, the MT055CXPRO3 also costs less. It’s available either in the aluminum or the carbon fiber option.
So even though it seems expensive, it delivers a great deal for that higher price of tripod in comparison with other brands. That is, if you don’t mind the compromise on bulkiness and extra poundage.
Best lightweight tripod legs for travel/birding
Main Features of the Gitzo Lightweight Traveler Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod
The Gitzo Lightweight Traveler Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Carbon eXact tubing adds rigidity and strength
- Rapid-style center column extension
- Reverse-folding legs for reduced length
- Includes its own shoulder strap
Materials Carbon Fiber
Load Capacity 26 pounds
Weight 2.95 pounds
Maximum Working Height 60.8”
Max Height without Center Column 51.5”
Minimum Working Height 8.7”
Folded length 17.5”
- Neat reverse-folding legs that fit closely to the center column
- Four-section legs reduce folded length to 17.5”
- A step up in stability from the Traveler Series 0
- Rubber feet can be changed for an alternative foot style
- Given that Gitzo thought to make interchangeable feet, it would have been even better to include an alternative to the rubber ones
- If you want to add a hook to hang extra weight that’s a small additional purchase
Gitzo Lightweight Traveler Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod Overview
A brand with a long history in producing really decent tripods, Gitzo’s Traveler Series 2 is both well developed and well designed. As the name of the series suggests, these tripod legs aim to meet the needs of travelers.
With the legs being divided into four sections, each individual portion is shorter than if the legs were three sections. So the folded length is just 17.5”.
The fact that the legs fold so closely against each other reduces overall volume, making the tripod’s dimensions more streamline and easy to pack.
Payload to weight ratio
The Traveler’s maximum payload is 26 pounds – a fair amount given that its own weight is just under 3 pounds. It’s a lightweight but stable combination.
The leg locks don’t take much of a twist to loosen. So setting up the tripod is beautifully quick.
Interchangeable feet – alternatives are extra
These Series 2 legs come with removable rubber feet. They will accept a variety of interchangeable feet if something with more grip like spikes fits your purpose.
It’s a shame that they don’t include some claw feet with the tripod. Especially in this price range. But alternative foot options are available to buy separately.
A small but significant extra that Gitzo does put in the package is a shoulder strap.
Best heavy duty tripod legs for birding
Main Features of the Manfrotto 190XPRO Carbon Fiber 4-Section Tripod MT190CXPRO4
The Manfrotto 190XPRO Carbon Fiber 4-Section Tripod MT190CXPRO4 offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Quick Power Lock System on legs for fast deployment to full extension
- Options to set the legs at four different angles
- Two legs feature foam cladding
- Rotating bubble level
Materials Carbon fiber
Load Capacity 15.4 pounds
Weight 3.6 pounds
Maximum Working Height 63”
Max Height without Center Column 53.2”
Minimum Working Height 3.1”
Folded length 20.4”
- Ergonomic leg locks open with minimal effort
- Leg angles are adjustable individually
- Impressively strong and compact, folding down to just over 20”
- Bubble level located on the round plate, in case you don’t have a level already on your tripod head
- The maximum payload compares unfavorably with our Lightweight Traveler pick from Gitzo – though this Manfrotto choice is cheaper
Manfrotto 190XPRO Carbon Fiber 4-Section Tripod MT190CXPRO4 Overview
When extended, the center column reaches 63”. The center column can be dropped sideways to a 90-degree angle – though this feature is of less use to birders than it would be to photographers.
At 15.4 pounds, the maximum load on this tripod should cope with a decent sized spotting scope. It’s not quite as impressive as the Gitzo’s Traveler’s stated payload, however, especially given the overall lighter weight of the Gitzo.
Various helpful features on the legs
A small tool is included, clipped onto the leg. Its purpose is to change the tension on the screws of the leg locks.
So you can tighten those screws, in case they become too loose over a long period of use. Or you can even loosen them off if the locks are too stiff to open and close at the beginning.
Those tabs on the leg locks are large enough to open easily, even with gloves on. It’s a good ergonomic design, both for the leg locks and the releases on the top of each leg to open the angles.
This durable and stable Manfrotto combines very well, unsurprisingly, with the brand’s tripod heads, some of which we feature in this exploration of the top tripod heads for birding >>> The best tripod heads for birding spotting scopes
Best carbon fiber tripod legs (tall birders/straight scopes)
Main Features of the Sirui W-2204 Waterproof Carbon Fiber Tripod
The Sirui W-2204 Waterproof Carbon Fiber Tripod offers impressive features. Here are a few of them, just to spark your interest!
- Reverse-folding legs allowing it to pack down smaller
- Rubber feet can be switched to spikes
- Hook under the center column to hang a counterweight
- Converts to a 69.7″ monopod
Materials Aluminum, Magnesium, Carbon Fiber
Load Capacity 39.7 pounds
Weight 3.7 pounds
Maximum Working Height 70.9”
Max Height without Center Column 57.9”
Minimum Working Height 6.1”
Folded length 20.5”
- Enormous maximum weight allowance in comparison to other models here
- Very high maximum height too – great for tall birders and straight spotting scopes
- Nice to have the opportunity to change the feet according to conditions
- Strong and stiff enough for larger scopes
- Despite the very welcome sealing system, we’d still advise to take care in dusty or sandy environments
- Also be mindful not to lose track of where the feet are when switching over from rubber to spikes – easily misplaced!
Sirui W-2204 Waterproof Carbon Fiber Tripod Overview
Sirui has developed a design that adds weatherproofing to their tripods. The Waterproof Sealing System aims to stop water or dirt, keeping them moving smoothly without any jams or hitches.
Twist locks secure the four-section legs. Given that they fold right down to a minimum length of 20.5”, the legs reach an impressive height of just over six feet.
A winner for tall birders!
Even without extending the center column, the height is probably sufficient for many birders. This is especially true for those birders using an angled spotting scope, which requires less height than a straight scope because you will be looking down into the eyepiece.
So the Sirui scores highly for taller birders who might otherwise have difficulty finding a tripod of sufficient height to view comfortably – particularly with a straight scope.
Each additional extension that one makes with a tripod might compromise the overall stability. So not needing to extend the center column is a good thing. Of course it also saves the extra effort.
Interchangeable feet and a hook to hang ballast
The rubber feet grip most surfaces well, but if you need more traction on wet or soft terrain you can switch them over to stainless steel spikes.
It’s a simple but welcome bonus to have the hook included underneath the centre column.
While this tripod is already stable and secure, you still have the choice to add more ballast by hanging your bag under there to weigh down the whole rig, for example, in more windy conditions.
Converts to monopod
For extra versatility, one of the legs of the tripod is removable. By taking it off and attaching it to the center column, you can create a full-sized monopod (with wrist strap). The monopod reaches 69.7″ – also great for taller birders.
It also comes with a padded case, a shoulder strap, the required tools to adjust it, and the additional stainless steel spikes for the feet.
Choosing the best tripod legs for birding
This article covers tripod legs only. But of course it’s also worth considering buying a tripod kit, which includes both the legs and a tripod head.
While this combination kit route can be more cost-effective, it might mean some degree of compromise. It may work out that the kind of tripod head that you think will work best for you is not matched with the tripod legs that you want.
That’s why we have articles listing the tripod legs and tripod heads separately, for readers to focus on finding the best option for them. Of course it may be that one particular brand meets all your requirements and you can buy the entire tripod kit from them in one go.
For a thorough discussion of the features to consider when buying a tripod for bird watching, this article could be useful: How to choose a tripod for a spotting scope
Best tripod legs for birding: next steps
With these clear summaries of how each of the sets of tripod legs operate when out on a birding adventure, we hope you feel better informed. Which of the features are particularly relevant to you?
Is your priority to find tripod legs that fold down as small as possible, in order to make travel and transportation easier? If so, we have further details of lightweight compact tripod kits here >>> The best lightweight compact tripod kits (top for travel)
Alternatively, are you setting up tripods close to home and therefore looking more for the highest amount of stability that you can get, regardless of size and weight? In this case, would you be interested in learning more about heavy-duty tripods with this round-up >> Best heavy duty tripod for extra stability (big scopes or windy conditions)
- 1 Comparison table: tripod legs for birding spotting scopes
- 1.1 Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 Aluminum 3-Section Tripod
- 1.2 SLIK Pro 700 DX Tripod Legs
- 1.3 ZOMEI Z818 Heavy Duty Camera Tripod
- 1.4 Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber tripod legs
- 1.5 Gitzo Lightweight Traveler Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod
- 1.6 Manfrotto 190XPRO Carbon Fiber 4-Section tripod
- 1.7 Sirui W-2204 Waterproof Carbon Fiber Tripod
- 2 Reviews: Best tripod legs for birding
- 3 Best overall tripod legs for birding
- 4 Best value tripod legs for birding
- 5 Best value tripod legs for birding – runner-up
- 6 Best tripod legs for birding if money is no object
- 7 Best lightweight tripod legs for travel/birding
- 8 Best heavy duty tripod legs for birding
- 9 Best carbon fiber tripod legs (tall birders/straight scopes)
- 10 Choosing the best tripod legs for birding
- 11 Best tripod legs for birding: next steps