Whether you're out in the great outdoors for a quick day trip, a week-long hike, or doing an extended long-distance hike, your hiking tripod choice greatly depends on your own photography style and how much packing you plan to do. So let's take a closer look at a few of the top lightweight hiking tripods specifically designed for landscape photography. This article was written to give you a better understanding of what a tripod is and what it does so that you can make an informed decision on which one to purchase when you go out and spend a bit of time shopping around. You need to understand that this article is not intended to be complete coverage of all the various types, functions, and specifications of hiking tripods available on the market today. Rather, this article is designed to provide a basic understanding of the tripod and what it does so that you can make a more informed decision on the type of tripod to purchase.
Most outdoor photography enthusiasts will tell you that they use their hiking tripods mainly for outdoor landscape photography. So how much do you weigh? Usually, you'll need to choose a tripod that's lightweight enough to carry (taking into account the fact that you will be carrying it up a hill or two) and yet strong enough to hold steady on uneven ground. As an example, if you are planning to photograph a panoramic view of a canyon or other outdoor landmark, you'll want one with a relatively large (up to ten pounds) stabilizer ball (to counterbalance the tripod). Most travel tripod manufacturers offer a selection of travel tripod models, so you should be able to find one that's perfectly suited to your needs. In addition to the tripod itself, you'll also need to choose a suitable mounting plate (which should be securely held into the ground).
Tripod Mounts - The tripod mount is essentially the base on which your tripod stands. It should ideally sit at the lowest point possible, to prevent it from being unstable and tipping over. Tripod mounts are available in several different sizes, and should preferably be compatible with your camera as well. There is a minimum height required by the camera, usually ten inches, but you shouldn't be restricted by this when taking photographs of wildlife or landscapes. The size of your tripod should be decided upon ahead of time, because the longer the tripod and the wider the view you'll be able to take, the larger your required minimum height will be.
Legs & Strap - Tripod legs are where most of the work is done, and the reason for this is primarily because they determine how stable the tripod is. Tripod legs can be either rigid or flexible, but the more expensive tripod legs tend to be rigid and require additional installation, such as the use of a vibration isolation spring. Flexible legs are typically less expensive, but they tend to be less stable, as they tend to spring back into position if pressure is applied to the base. Rigid legs provide very good stability and are highly recommended.
Lens Rope & Camera Strap - For the most part, any kind of tripod will do for hiking and most hiking trips will necessitate a camera tripod, which will attach to the back of the legs. Photography is different though, and some photographers will prefer to use a backpack instead. In this case, a camera rope may be required. Tripod straps are great for securing both cameras and lenses, which can be a little tricky if you're not familiar with them. I would highly recommend a good quality tripod and camera rope to keep you protected and comfortable while doing your photography.
Load capacity & weight - You need to consider how much equipment you will want to carry while hiking. If you have more than one camera, you may find that you need to carry more than one tripod and several tripods as well. Most people will carry a portable tripod, a digital camera, and housing for the flash. The larger your hiking pack, the less weight you will have to carry in addition to all of your equipment.
Lens Rope - I'm not going to go into the benefits of different kinds of rope here, as it's probably better to read a few reviews or go online and see what others have to say about the pros and cons of different kinds of rope. I will, however, mention one particular rope that is fairly new on the hiking market, and that is the Dura-Tred hiker's trekking pole. This is a really right up there compact hiking pack that can easily be carried on your shoulders with the included shoulder strap. It features an ergonomic grip so that you won't have to worry about your hands getting tired while carrying it, and it is great for long excursions. If you are looking for a really strong tripod head, this is the one to get.
Overall, all of these tripod heads weigh in at less than seven pounds total. You do need to have a light backpack in order to carry all of these, but once you get the hang of it, you'll wonder why you didn't get one sooner. In my humble opinion, hiking is so much fun that I would recommend getting a backpack and tripod and spend the extra money on a wider angled lens so that you don't have to use your telephoto lenses so close up. That way you don't have to waste all of your photography skills on a short zoom.