Hunting down a target successfully requires discipline, the accuracy of magnification, prior training, and proper gear. Though it seems quite mundane, having a spotting scope tripod allows hunters to optimally balance their optic and locate targets with precision.
In this guide, we present all the details you need to know before ordering one and a list of all the considerations to keep in mind when purchasing the best spotting scope tripod.
Do You Need a Tripod With a Spotting Scope?
No, not necessarily. Spotting scopes are generally lightweight so mounting a tripod for stability isn’t needed.
However, some spotting scopes may not be able to provide a broad field of vision so extending the height of the scope by attaching a tripod is a sure-fire way of increasing the range of the hunting field while keeping the scope stable.
A tripod supplements the magnification power of a spotting scope. It keeps it steady so the eyepiece captures the view at 15x to 20x zoom without a single shaky pixel in sight.
Can You Use Any Tripod for a Spotting Scope?
No, tripods are available in an immense variety. Some are specialized for photography cameras, others for videography, and other tripods are designed specifically for spotting scopes.
Spotting scopes can be quite expensive and have many features that can be used to their maximum benefit if it’s fitted with a tripod that performs equally well.
If the spotting scope is compact in size, it gives you the freedom to choose any type of tripod and head design. The smaller the size, the better the center of gravity will be and the easier it’ll be to keep it steady.
What Tripod is Best for a Compact Spotting Scope?
Generally, any scope-specific tripod will work best with a compact spotting scope as they are lightweight but stable, small in size but durable.
Spotters can be quite expensive due to the sheer level of magnification they provide. In an attempt to meet in the middle, hunters and riflemen often look for a small to mid-sized spotting scope that provides an equal level of high magnification.
With the demand for compact spotting scopes increasing, manufacturers have integrated advanced technologies that allow them to perform as best as a $3000 spotter.
Now, compact spotting scopes are light enough to be carried in a backpack but have a great center of gravity which allows them to keep steady and magnify an image at a maximum, even when mounted on a random combination of a tripod and head.
What Tripod is Best for a 20-60x Spotting Scope?
A 20-60x spotter is heavyweight but small in size so using a tripod that is stable and a head design that promotes HD-quality imaging is recommended.
In a mid-level spotting scope, it is important to consider the weight of the tripod itself. You don’t want to lug around a heavy videography-style tripod, but you still need a heavy-duty stand to keep the spotter steady.
Look for a tripod that is designed to reduce vibrations in the image and is light enough to carry uphill. Make sure it is extendable to a considerable height so you can enjoy the magnification power of the 20-60x spotter to its maximum.
Adding a tripod head supplements the functions of the tripod and helps produce an even clearer image so targets can be precisely observed.
For mid-level spotting scopes, consider getting a pan tripod head. It is inexpensive, durable, lightweight, and can be used for a variety of hunting disciplines.
What Tripod is Best for a Large Spotting Scope?
The general rule is that the larger a spotting scope is, the heavier it’ll be and as the weight of the spotter increases, so will the weight of the tripod to help keep the lens steady.
When choosing a tripod that works well with the spotting scope available, make sure to consider the stability as shaky pictures can ruin the experience of using high-end spotting scopes.
The stability of the tripod is enhanced by the use of high-quality materials in the construction – specifically the locks and legs of the tripod. They primarily help to reduce vibrations so the field of vision from a spotting scope is clear, HD-like, and precise.
Such heavyweight tripods do not come cheap as cutting corners on any part of the construction – from the legs and locks to the head – can lead the spotting scope to function at a sub-par level.
Devise a tripod and head system for the spotting scope that keeps it steady, maximizes the magnification power, distributes the weight of the spotter evenly, and mounts it securely.
If done right, even a storm wouldn’t be able to lift the spotter off the tripod.
Why is Balancing the Optic Important?
When attaching a tripod to a spotting scope, steadiness is key to a good magnification of the view.
Generally, the smaller the spotter is, the easier it’ll be to keep it steady with a lightweight tripod but as the weight of the spotting scope increases, the sturdier the tripod and head design will need to be in order to balance the optic.
Here are a few reasons why balancing the optic is important:
- It makes the vertical and horizontal adjustment of the tripod easier to handle and more fluid so the view from the spotting scope isn’t distorted.
- When done right, a small twist in the legs of the tripod can fine-tune the adjustment of the spotter’s position in case a strong gust of wind directs it elsewhere.
- With a balance rail, the tripod head and legs are optimally balanced so the spotting scope can optimize finely detailed observation of distant objects.
How to Choose the Best Spotting Scope Tripod?
There are various types and styles of spotting scope tripods available on the market and choosing one requires due diligence because mounting a $2000 spotting scope on top of a $100 basic tripod can adversely affect your hunting game.
An important feature to consider when picking out a tripod for a spotting scope is the stability of the legs. Note what materials have been used to manufacture them and what kind of a locking system is set in place to keep the spotter steady.
Aluminum tripods are light in weight but stabilize compact and midweight spotting scopes well. You could also look for carbon fiber-constructed tripods for better load capacity and stability.
The steadier the spotting scope is, the better the vibrations from the mount will be reduced. Ultimately, the magnification power of the spotting scope will improve.
The wilderness can be a challenge to prepare for because there’s no guarantee of what will happen and when. The smooth trails from a day before can be dug unevenly today or it may be scouting season so the route may be packed with wild animals.
This is why when you are picking out a tripod it’s important to consider hypothetical conditions. Come rain or hail, the tripod can be adjusted to fit a variety of use cases allowing the spotting scope to function well and scout a target successfully.
The weight of a tripod has always been the topic of debate among pro hunters, but the general consensus is that a lighter tripod coupled with a midweight spotting scope works best for long hikes up a steep trail to hunt game as well as for short distances to scout targets for hunting.
Make sure that the lightweight tripod is equally stable as a heavyweight tripod. Look for tripods made of lightweight and durable materials like carbon fiber, aluminum, or even titanium.
The load capacity of a tripod refers to how much weight it can safely mount until the spotter’s image starts getting affected by instability or vibrations.
The lightest weight durable tripods scale at least three pounds while the heaviest spotting scopes weigh at most 10 pounds. To ensure the spotter is stable, the magnification is clear, and no wind can unlatch the two, look for tripods with a load capacity between 15 to 20 pounds.
If you’re planning a big hunt and packing up the whole gear to take with you – rifle, spotting scope, tripod, etc. – look for tripods that can easily carry at least 30 pounds of weight. They’ll double as a rifle holder at the site.
Type of Tripod Head
Also referred to as the mount of the tripod, the head is the mediator of stability in between the steadiness of the tripod’s legs and the high magnification clarity of the spotting scope.
There are two types of tripod heads available for spotters and they are as follows:
A geared head is made up of several dials to fine-tune the adjustments of the spotting scope’s field of view. It has axis scales to re-index the scope to a specific target and gears to adjust the spotter’s magnification.
A geared head is best used for precision long-range shooting as it supplements the spotter’s ability to pinpoint the target.
Pan and Tilt Head
A pan and tilt head is a traditional tripod head that adjusts the scope’s orientation through a twist-lock system and mounts it up independently via movement of the pan, tilt, yaw, and rotation of the roll axis.
Pan and tilt tripod heads are inexpensive, easy to manufacture, simple to use, operate and work well for compact and midweight spotting scopes.
Tripods and head designs for spotting scopes can cost anywhere from $200 to $500 and above. The price depends upon the type of material used (carbon fiber is pricier than aluminum), the total load capacity, and the whether a tripod head is built-in or has to be bought separately.
The tripod’s weight and manufacturer-added features can also increase the price of the complete equipment.
Tripod heads can also vary in price, but generally long-range capable geared heads are more expensive than their counterpart, the pan and tile heads. This is because heavier engineering goes into manufacturing the geared head.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good spotting scope tripod?
It generally depends on what you’re looking for in a spotting scope tripod. If a lightweight tripod is your priority, go for the Vortex Optics Ridgeview Carbon. If you need a tripod that offers great value for money, look for the Vortex Optics High Country II. Experts recommend the Manfrotto MT190XPRO3 for its exceptional performance.
How tall should a spotting scope tripod be?
The head of the tripod is generally four inches high and it mounts the eyepiece of the scope an additional four inches higher. Keep that in mind and calculate the tripod height that’ll plant it at your eye level.
What kind of tripod head is best for spotting scope?
For a spotting scope, a geared head or a pan and tilt head is recommended. A geared head tripod is best for precise shooting, whereas a pan and tilt head can be used for a variety of applications as it is simple to use and cost-effective.
Are spotting scope mounts universal?
No, for the spotting scope mount to match with the tripod, the stud size and thread pitch between the two must be exact. You can also find quick-release locking plates that are specifically made for tripods and match in an exact fit.
The best spotting scope tripod is one that works for your hunting application, is fitted according to your eye level, and performs well for a long time. Now that you have an idea of what to look for in a spotting scope tripod, and how to balance and set it up, you are well on your way to hunting successfully.