Looking for hunting specific tripods can be a daunting task, especially ones that can handle the size and weight of spotting scopes.
So the easy answer to “I want the best tripod for hunting, period” is to go get yourself a Gitzo or Really Right Stuff tripod and be done with it. While they truly are the best, they are simply far outside of most hunter’s budgets. As a fellow western hunter that doesn’t have an unlimited budget, I have realized the value that great gear can bring. It can make a hunt much more enjoyable and in this case, can make full use of that expensive spotting scope you just bought. Lucky for us, there are several light weight and sturdy hunting tripods for spotting scopes in almost every budget.
To the left, or above if on mobile, is a comparison shot of my Nightforce TS-82, which is a large spotting scope, on top of my Gitzo 1325 with Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ballhead and my Vortex Summit SS. It just goes to show the two extremes of what you are looking at when shopping for a hunting tripod for spotting scopes. My Gitzo GT1325 is the older version of the Gitzo GT3532S and is in my opinion one of the best tripods you can buy, period. While it is one of the best, it is quite large compared to the Summit SS or the newer version, the Summit ST-5. I realize what we are talking about here specifically is hunting tripods for spotting scopes but, if we for a moment broaden that to hunting tripods as a whole we can really talk about everything we could use that tripod for.
If you are at all considering being able to use your rifle on your tripod, the Gitzo is the way to go no questions asked. If you are a 90% binoculars kind of guy and 10% spotting scope then the Vortex Summit is going to match up well with what you want to accomplish. There really is no right answer to this broad question unless you have narrowed down what you will be using this tripod for. For glassing purposes, all tripods in this comparison will suffice. If you want to glass and be able to shoot off of the same tripod, the Gitzo or RRS tripod are really the only options you will be satisfied with.
- Stability: It doesn’t matter how light weight your tripod is if it can’t hold that spotting scope steady when it really counts. Many purchases are made in the local Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse where the ground is even and there is zero wind. The true test is when you are sitting in that windy saddle trying to see if that bull is worth chasing. This is where stability becomes key.
- Durability: 99% of tripods on the market are geared towards photography. This makes it tough to sort through and figure out which ones will work for the rigors of hunting. Fortunately, most photographers are as anal about their gear as we are about ours. What this means is we have plenty of choices of durable, stable tripods to choose from.
- Features: Do you want twist lock legs? Lever lock? A center column? Does it need to fold down small enough to go inside your bag or can it be strapped on the outside? These are all things you need to figure out before making a purchase. I prefer twist legs, no center column and strap to the outside of my backpack for those wondering.
Vortex Pro Gt Tripod Kit
Overall, the Vortex pro GT Tripod is the best spotting scope tripod for hunting you can buy. When taking into account value, cost and durability its truly hard to beat. One feature that sets it apart is the fluid head. Fluid heads on tripods help tremendously when glassing with a spotting scope or binoculars. The center column will prove useful when glassing with binoculars or lightweight spotting scopes allowing glassing heights as tall as standing.
The Vortex Pro GT Tripod can handle the biggest of spotting scopes including the latest Vortex spotting scopes, Swarovski spotting scopes, Zeiss spotting scopes and more. Any binoculars including the massive 15x56mm binoculars are a piece of cake on the Vortex Pro GT.
If you are looking for a do-all tripod that can handle spotting scopes as well as binoculars the Vortex Pro GT is the best tripod spotting scope for hunting you can get.
Vortex Summit ST-5 Tripod
The Vortex Summit ST-5 Tripod is unique in that it is probably the smallest and lightest tripod you can get for hunting. Strait up, the ST-5 Summit is not ideal for full size spotting scopes. However, if you are using spotting scopes smaller than 65mm this tripod should be exactly what you are looking for in a lightweight hunting tripod.
As you can see with my Nightforce TS-82 on top, the Vortex Summit looks slightly overwhelmed. That’s OK, the tripod simply isn’t designed for such massive spotting scopes. I wish I had a picture but the tripod looked at home with the Vortex Razor 50mm spotting scope that I used to own and work equally as well with tripods up to 65mm.
If you are primary glassing with binoculars of any size or using a spotting scope up to 65mm the Vortex Summit is going to be the best value as well as the lightest weight in tripods you can get.
Manfrotto MK190x3 Tripod
The Manfrotto MK190x3 Tripod is a solid do-all tripod. What sets the Manfrotto apart from the others in the sub $300 price point is the head that it comes with. The head is very similar in design to much more expensive fluid video style heads. The panning arm and locking mechanism make for very natural panning movements when using spotting scopes or binoculars. It is also beefy enough to handle even the largest of spotting scopes.
This particular version of the Manfrotto has aluminum legs. Aluminum legs are a great compromise between strength, weight and keeping cost down. The leg locks are the proven lever design and work very well. If you are a fan of the video style fluid head for glassing look no further than the Manfrotto MK190x3 for your next hunting tripod.
Zomei Mangesium Tripod
The Zomei Magnesium Tripod is one of the best budget spotting scope tripods for hunting. Coming in around $100 the Zomei is packed with features normally reserved for much more expensive tripods. One of the main benefits of the Zomei is the fact that it comes in under 4 pounds, head included. Having parts made out of magnesium and aluminum help keep the weight down as well as the cost but keep the rigidity of some of the higher end tripods.
One way the Zomei keeps up with more expensive tripods is by going with a 4 piece leg design. Going with 4 piece legs allows each piece to take on less load than they would on a 3 piece design. There is a trade off with this however. Deployment speeds are reduced as well as take down since you have 3 more lock rings to adjust. Small price to pay when getting such a solid tripod at $100 though.
Another neat feature the Zomei has is its ability to fold on top of its own head and center column. For the backpack hunter this can be invaluable as you will be able to fit this tripod inside most backpacks instead of strapping to the outside like you have to do with larger models.
Gitzo Series 3 Tripod
The Gitzo Series 3 is pound for pound the best spotting scope tripod for hunting. It’s CNC’d head along with beefy carbon fiber legs made it considerable stronger than any other tripod on this list, all while weighing around 4 pounds. This of coarse all comes at a cost. Coming in around $900 its not for the timid but I can say after using it for the past couple months it is well worth it’s price.
At full extension its plenty tall enough for a 6’1″ adult to glass while standing. Plenty of other spotting scopes get you up this high as well, so why pay triple the cost? At full extension the Gitzo Series 3 can hold the sight picture steady on your 70x spotting scope even when the winds kick up. It will also hold a 18# match rifle rock solid at full height. Lesser tripods will have a hard time doing this.
Keep in mind this listing is also just for the tripod and does not come with a head. I elected to go with the Really Right Stuff BH-40 and have not regretted the decision one bit.
I realize most will laugh and shake their head at the price of this setup and that’s ok. For those that have invested in their Swarovski, Zeiss, Nightforce etc. spotting scopes and want the absolute best tripod for hunting, this is it.