Gear Guy

What's the best tripod for backpacking through Europe?

What camera tripod would you recommend for backpacking travel through Europe? Haven't decided on taking the Canon Powershot or the Rebel.
Tucson, AZ

Well, neither the Powershot series (Canon's point-and-shoot cameras) nor, say, the Rebel T1i (which is what I want for Christmas) are particularly heavy, so most lightweight tripods will work well. You sure you even want to lug a tripod? They can be handy for night shots and the like, but will simply add to your baggage.

My pick? The Leica Table Tripod ($109 without ball head). I've had one for...well, a long time. A totally bulletproof, packable, compact tripod. As the name implies, it's a tabletop model—only six inches tall or so. But it's remarkably handy as you usually can find something to put it on if you need to find some height. A table, for instance! The only cautionary note is that the thing WILL show up as a handgun on X-rays. I've had my bag rifled more than once as a result of carrying it.

Otherwise, look at one of several standard-size, lightweight tripods. Manfrotto makes a number of excellent tripods. Typical of their lightweight line is the 7321YB M-Y ($118). It's a full-size tripod with a three-way head that weighs a reasonable 3.6 pounds. It's plenty sturdy enough for an SLR-type camera with a mid-sized zoom or telephoto.

A little more compact tripod would be the Slik Sprint Pro II GM ($89). It folds down to 19 inches in length, and weighs a bit over two pounds, yet extends to just over five feet. It has an all-metal ball head that makes it easy to pan and set the camera precisely. It has three-section legs, and the ability to get a camera lens within six six or so of objects on the ground, which is more useful than you might think.

Or you can just say "damn the budget," and get a carbon-fiber tripod. Something like the Gitzo GT2531 ($722). All the strength of a tripod weighing six pounds or more, yet tips the scales at 3.18 pounds. Telescopes down to 25 inches. Very nice tripod.

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