Are cheap tripods worth it?

TM0218

Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Messages
43
While doing some pre-planning for a hopeful future elk I came across the tripod issue. I know tripods make glassing much more enjoyable, but I would only be willing to spend $40-50 on a cheap camera tripod (considering all other expenses). Would a cheap tripod be better than free handing? Or would it end up being more trouble than it’s worth? Thanks in advance.
 

ShootsManyBullets

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 27, 2013
Messages
1,397
Location
OR Trail
You'll survive with it but you'll be miserable soon. Find something decent that's used or save up a couple more bucks. So far your budget is a tank of gas so make it 2 tanks of gas and you'll have something better to rest your optics on.
 

NDGuy

Active member
Joined
Apr 26, 2018
Messages
114
I have had zero qualms about rocking a Vanguard Espod tripod. Put your money towards more important stuff!
 

Walkathon

Active member
Joined
Sep 10, 2013
Messages
915
Location
Central Minnesota
I have an old Vanguard MK-4. Not sure what they cost, but it's cheap and works fine. I would not be effective trying to free hand.
 

BrentD

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
2,254
Location
In the middle
While doing some pre-planning for a hopeful future elk I came across the tripod issue. I know tripods make glassing much more enjoyable, but I would only be willing to spend $40-50 on a cheap camera tripod (considering all other expenses). Would a cheap tripod be better than free handing? Or would it end up being more trouble than it’s worth? Thanks in advance.
Having bought a small mountain of cheap 'pods, enough to pay for a couple of good ones, buy a good one from the get go. It's not just the tripod either. The head is almost more important.
 

brockel

Well-known member
Joined
May 13, 2016
Messages
814
Location
Baker,MT
Check out the Slik tripods. I’ve beat the hell out of mine and it’s still going strong
 

BrentD

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 3, 2018
Messages
2,254
Location
In the middle
I don't want to denigrate the gear that others use, but I have a low end Slik that is inexpensive and sturdy. However, the head is "sticky" so it tends to jump across the horizon rather than smoothly pan. Going up and down is even worse. Much topography gets skipped over with that tripod.
 

wllm1313

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
4,290
Location
Aurora, CO
While doing some pre-planning for a hopeful future elk I came across the tripod issue. I know tripods make glassing much more enjoyable, but I would only be willing to spend $40-50 on a cheap camera tripod (considering all other expenses). Would a cheap tripod be better than free handing? Or would it end up being more trouble than it’s worth? Thanks in advance.
I'm trying to figure out the same thing... I have a cheap Targus tripod that weighs nothing and costs $25 I'm going to give it a test run this weekend and if it doesn't cut it I'm going to upgrade to something in the $150-200 range, but I figure at that price and weight I have to give it a shot.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

HSi-ESi

Active member
Joined
Nov 1, 2012
Messages
876
Location
Corvallis, MT
I have a few cheap ones. 1 vanguard, 2 bought at garage sales. They work great to stick my chrono on when I'm shooting.

They work OK in the field IF you weight / hold them down and can deal with the panning. I do have an Outdoorsman medium tripod with their pan head - and the difference is evident. But - if you are going to glass for long periods of time and need something now - get the best you can afford.
 

brnsvllyjohn

Active member
Joined
Oct 7, 2017
Messages
202
Location
California (for now)
Cheap tripods are only good for looking at one spot once you have located your game animal. They are terrible for panning around. I carry a cheap one with me and will use it once I have located something to evaluate. Don't touch the scope or tripod once you get the animal in the field of view and focused. I almost never pan around with a spotting scope, I do that with 10 power binos while resting the binos on shooting sticks. I have also broken a few cheap tripods.
 

WalkingBird

Active member
Joined
Aug 28, 2017
Messages
188
Location
Tempe, Arizona
Got 2 years out of my Espod 203, now on a Slik 340EZ and it's leagues better. Still not top of the line, but it's worth the jump
 

Western Traveler1

Active member
Joined
Aug 18, 2017
Messages
271
Location
Rocky Mountain Front Montana
Cheap tripods are only good for looking at one spot once you have located your game animal. They are terrible for panning around. I carry a cheap one with me and will use it once I have located something to evaluate. Don't touch the scope or tripod once you get the animal in the field of view and focused. I almost never pan around with a spotting scope, I do that with 10 power binos while resting the binos on shooting sticks. I have also broken a few cheap tripods.
Here is a fun exercise (test) for someone to do. Stand in front of a mirror and try to see your eyes moving left to right and right to left.
 

MinnesotaHunter

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 15, 2010
Messages
3,430
Location
Gem Lake, Minnesota
If I was going to find something on the lower end of the spectrum, look at a ball vs. a pan head. I think a cheap pan head can be super frustrating. I would also try and stretch the budget into maybe the 70-80 range.

Something like a Slik Sprint, Promaster Scout, Manfrotto Compact Light, or Vortex High Country would probably serve you pretty well as long as you aren't trying to strap on a 85mm Spotter.
 

Jorge400

New member
Joined
Aug 23, 2019
Messages
10
Location
Cumming, GA
I've used an inexpensive one for years that I picked up in a camera store. Is it as effective as my buddy's Outdoorsman with the pistol grip head? Doesn't even come close. Not by a long shot. I'm upgrading this year but I'm still not prepared to drop the dime he did. I'll probably go with the Vortex or something comparable. I'd say get the cheap one if that is all your budget allows. If it works for you, great. If not, you're only out $40-50.
 

schmalts

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 22, 2002
Messages
8,173
Location
WI
I did a lot of Moderating on this thread.
Guys, no links to third party sales sights. Read the rules of the forum please. Per Big Fin:

"Guys - I apologize in advance for this change, but I am to the point where I really have little choice.

From now, on, web links, URLs, and other advertising links/posts will not be allowed in your signature lines or in the forum threads. If you care to do this, you must contact me or Mrs. Fin in advance (kim@onyourownadventures.com).

This site is here for helping those who are interested in self-guided hunting, with emphasis on public or accessible lands. It is only possible to have this show and site because some companies understand the value in connecting to you and being supportive of your style of hunting. Without these committed folks, there would be no website or TV shows."
 
Top