When it comes to bird watching, you need the right equipment to make the most of your experience. One important piece of equipment is a tripod, which adds crucial stability and shake-free viewing to your spotting scope.
What are the best tripods on the market at a budget level price? Before we go into detail, let’s get an overview:
Comparison table: best value tripod kit for birding
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 value tripod kit for birding
Amazon Basics 60-inch tripod
Sturdy and well-built, this lightweight aluminum tripod won’t break the bank.
Best value tripod kit for birding – lowest price
Celestron 82050 TrailSeeker Tripod
The Trailseeker has angle-adjustable, sturdy aluminum legs that fold right down in order to be easily packable.
Best value tripod kit for birding – compact (four-section 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 value tripod kit for birding – heavy duty
Reviews: best value tripod kit for birding
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.
You’ll want to make sure that you get one that provides top quality and stability. Your specific budget will also play an important role in narrowing down which one is the best choice.
In this article, we will review some of the best options on the market so that you can make an informed decision before spending your hard-earned money.
We will consider price and quality to help you choose the right tripod for your needs.
Best value tripod legs for birding – overall winner
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 value tripod legs for birding – runner-up
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 value tripod legs for birding – 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 value tripod legs for birding – 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 value tripod for birding
Tripods are an important piece of equipment for bird watching and will provide a stable platform to help you see birds in their natural habitat.
To give you an idea of how we have judged the tripods featured in these reviews 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.
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 value tripod for birding – next steps
While it’s important to get good value, a tripod must provide a solid and steady base for your scope, otherwise your views will be disappointing. A good one at a reasonable price can be hard to find.
So we hope this list detailing a few tripods worth your time and money will avoid you spending hours researching this purchase on your own.
Which one would suit your needs better? Which works out best for your budget?
Another article that is aimed at solving the problem of finding a good value tripod kit is this round-up of all the top models – some of them still keenly priced: What are the best tripod kits for birding?
- 1 Comparison table: best value tripod kit for birding
- 2 Reviews: best value tripod kit for birding
- 3 Best value tripod legs for birding – overall winner
- 4 Best value tripod legs for birding – runner-up
- 5 Best value tripod legs for birding – heavy duty
- 6 Best value tripod legs for birding – portability
- 7 Main criteria: best value tripod for birding
- 8 Best value tripod for birding – next steps