Importance of tripods
Some people might think that a tripod has nothing to do with hunting, shooting, sniping or any other kind. Of course, those people have probably never wielded a gun before, other than a handgun, at least. While a tripod is indeed not a very good accessory for a rifle it is still rather important for hunting. Yes, hunting, it’s not easy to think of another use for a tripod.
A rifle needs a bipod for steady aiming and shooting. A tripod, while far more stable, becomes a liability in the same situation. Why? Because a rifle support’s task is not being stable, it’s keeping the rifle stable to facilitate aiming. A tripod would indeed help to stabilize the rifle but it would also make taking aim very difficult. Why? Because a rifle needs freedom. The column of a bipod or tripod head helps to turn it horizontally, but the third leg of a tripod limits your ability to adjust your aim vertically, to the point it’s almost impossible to aim.
Spotting scopes and tripods
Now, spotting scopes are a very different story. You don’t want them to move as freely as you do your rifle, no, you want to keep them as stable as possible. And you can’t achieve that with a bipod. Bipods are only useful when used as a support but nothing more than that. Tripods, however, are exactly what you want.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. After all, tripods are also used by photographers to make perfect shots. It’s a little bit different for hunters, for they need a tripod to catch an opportunity for a perfect shot, not the shot itself. But, be it as it may, a spotting scope is little different from a camera in that it is an optical device, often with magnification capabilities and need for stabilization.
Essentially, a tripod is the only accessory needed for successful observation with a spotting scope.
Can I use a camera tripod?
You might think a camera tripod will be a good substitute for a dedicated spotting scope tripod. Indeed, it may be so in some cases. But even though such substitution is technically possible, it is far from the best way to handle things.
A dedicated device, even one as simple as a tripod, will always be superior to a general-purpose one. And, naturally, to any device designed for use with entirely different products. Cameras and spotting scopes do have something in common, but it’s not enough to use camera tripods and spotting scope tripods interchangeably.
Which Tripod to Buy?
There’s a great number of options available to you. The best way would be to acquire a tripod produced by the same manufacturer as that of your scope. Although purely technical compatibility can be achieved without that, the best performance can only be achieved by combining parts meant to be used together.
The second best way to do that would be to get a tripod made by a manufacturer focused on tripods. Sometimes, this can even be the best way but only if your spotting scope’s manufacturer is far from the best. Although if that’s the case, any third party tripod will be a better option.
It is also possible that the manufacturer only makes scopes but not tripods. In that case, it would be best to use scope made by a manufacturer focused on tripods.
The higher magnification level, the more stability you need. However, if the magnification level is high, then the spotting scope will be heavy. That makes handling it rather uncomfortable but, what’s more important, they can only be installed on heavy and robust tripods.
If the scope is more than eighty millimeters in diameter, using a weak tripod becomes pointless. Only choose tripods made either from metal or good carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is more lightweight, which can be both advantageous and disadvantageous.
What if I still want to get a camera tripod instead of a dedicated spotting scope tripod?
I would still advise against it. If you cannot afford a good tripod, you shouldn’t have spent hundreds of dollars on your scope… If it costs that much, naturally. If the scope you have is cheap, too cheap to be good, then you probably don’t have to spend money on a good tripod either. Although, in that case, you are not likely to get good results with it.
What you can do is use a scope tripod with a camera. Although a spotting scope tripod will almost certainly be heavier than a camera tripod, it is also bound to be far stronger.
A good substitute for a spotting scope tripod would be a telescope tripods. Telescopes, as a rule, are even heavier than spotting scopes, and require better support. As such, tripods designed to support them are perfect for spotting scopes. That said, they will probably cost more.
Top 3 Spotting Scope Tripods
This tripod is rather universal. Not only can be used to support a spotting scope, it is also perfect for cameras, binoculars, and even telescopes.
The tripod is made from aluminum, which is standard in the industry. Nothing innovational here, but nothing obsolete either. Good, reliable, standard.
The tripod is suitable for all kinds of terrain. The tripod’s legs can be set to three angles to ensure that. The minimum height of the tripod is 18.9 inches, you can’t set it lower than that. The upper limit is 70.5 inches, which will probably be unnecessary for your purposes. But who knows? Perhaps, that’s exactly what you need. If that’s not enough, the central column is rather easy to extend.
The tripod is extremely lightweight despite its stability and very easy to operate. The balance of the pod can be enhanced with an easily retractable balance hook.
It is, however, rather pricey. That is the only disadvantage of this tripod, but it’s a disadvantage that matters most for many people.
This tripod cannot offer as much freedom as some others. At least, not if you base your expectations on how tall you expect a tripod to be. While the upper cap is approximately 60 inches, you can’t get it any higher than that. The minimal height is standard for tripods of this class and constitutes 18.3 inches.
The Bushnell Advanced Tripod happens to be one of the most lightweight tripods on the market. It only weighs 5.5 pounds. If you prefer hunting light, this might be just the thing for you. Of course, if you get this tripod, it would be wise to get a lightweight spotting scope as well. Not because it might not be able to support it, but because bringing a center of gravity that high up might render the whole structure unsteady.
Much like some of the best tripods, the Bushnell Advanced Tripod is suitable for use with cameras, camcorders, telescopes and other optical equipment other than spotting scopes. However, you can expect the best results if you use it with a Bushnell scoping scope.
Not the cheapest tripod, it is extremely reliable and, what’s more important, extremely lightweight. This last fact cannot be overestimated if you travel on foot when hunting.
Unlike some other tripods, this one is made not just from aluminum but also from magnesium alloy. It doesn’t increase the tripod’s performance much but it’s critically important for the tripod’s mount head. Thanks to its composition, the mount head is extremely durable and is capable of fluid 360 degrees panning. The latter fact might be not quite as important for hunters, compared to photographers, at least, but on the other hand, not exactly useless.
The legs of the pods can be adjusted to three angles: 25, 50, and 80 degrees.
In general, it is a perfect tripod for a spotting scope although some of its features are redundant for hunters, such as camera vibration and shock control. That said, those functions might make observation far more comfortable.
The tripod is rather easy to operate in any weather conditions. It is, however, very expensive. Redundancy can be perceived both as something good and as something unnecessary.
The Alta’s weight is less than five pounds. At the same time, it has a load capacity of 11 pounds. Perfectly suitable for heavy spotting scopes.