How to Choose the Best Spotting Scope Tripod

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A spotting scope, similar to binoculars, allow people in all walks of life to see details that they might not see with the naked eye. Unlike standard binoculars, spotting scopes feature a much higher magnification level in most cases. This means that you get a much clearer view when you’re spotting birds, practicing hunting techniques, and more. 

Unfortunately, as anyone who has used a spotting scope in the past will know, holding one of these lightweight devices in your hands isn’t always the most effective way to get results. An aluminum spotting scope or compact spotting scope doesn’t always stay steady as you work. You’ll naturally move with every breath you take when you’re holding your scope aloft. This means that you get a shaky image, no matter what you do. 

The further you zoom in on your image, the more shakiness you notice in the image. That’s why people in need of a clear optic experience will only ever use a spotting scope with an included tripod. A spotting scope tripod gives stability to your images, so you can enjoy exceptional magnification, without the headaches. 

Can You Use a Camera Tripod as a Spotting Scope Tripod?

For those who are just getting started with spotting scopes as a tool for hunting and outdoor surveillance, a camera tripod might seem like the simplest solution. Although it is possible to use your standard DSLR tripod for your spotting scope, it won’t generally deliver the best results. Most camera tripods give you extended height without stability. 

When you’re working on target shooting skills with a heavy-duty spotting scope, you need a durable tripod to deliver a consistent experience. A camera tripod just isn’t strong enough. The good news is that you don’t have to compromise on your spotting experience. 

There are plenty of portable tripod options out there that are still lightweight enough to fit in your kit but offer a more stable viewing experience. Remember, the ideal advanced tripod needs to be able to absorb any vibrations, stabilize your scope, and be easy enough to transport. 

What is a Spotting Scope Tripod Good For?

Spotting scopes are excellent tools for outdoorsmen, adventurers, and hunters. You can use your spotting scope for bird watching, or to discover unique forms of wildlife from a distance. Spotting scopes are also a valuable alternative to the telescope in some cases, for beginning astronomers. 

A spotting scope tripod is an ideal tool to have on hand for any activity you would do with a spotting scope that you wouldn’t do with binoculars. The right carbon fiber tripod or aluminum tripod will hold your scope steady for extended periods of time during surveillance, sniping, and shooting. Archers and target shooters often use spotting scopes to line up the perfect shot. 

A spotting scope can be an excellent addition to a rifle scope, and for gun enthusiasts, it’s just as essential as other crucial accessories, like a pistol grip. These scopes are particularly effective during hunting because they allow you to find and track a long-range target, and assess your shot from a distance, all without letting your prey know you’re there. 

For those not interested in firearms, spotting scope tripods can be excellent for getting a better view during bird-watching sessions, or astronomy (Entry-level) experiences. A high-quality spotting scope mounted on a full size tripod will give you a good view of various celestial bodies. You can even use spotting scope tripods for photography and digiscoping if you couple a camera with the eyepiece. 

Are Spotting Scope Tripods Universal? Types of Tripod

Spotting scopes will usually fit in virtually any tripod. This makes it much easier to find a compact and lightweight set of spotting scope tripods to take with you on your outdoor adventures. However, the maximum height and potential of your tripod will depend on the kind of design you choose. 

A spotting scope tripod will usually come in one of three size varieties – each of which has its own benefits to consider. The three options include:

  • Tabletop tripods: This lightweight tripod is common among hunters and shooting fans. Tabletop tripods come with rubber feet, and they’re intended to be used on other platforms, like shooting benches and tables. They often come with adjustable legs that offer a maximum height of between 8 and 18 inches. 
  • Compact tripods: A compact tripod is actually just a little bit larger than a standard tabletop tripod you would use on a mounting plate. Another example of a lightweight spotting scope for use on the move, compact tripods are great for bird-watching. If you’re a mountain hunter or backpacker, you’ll love these kinds of tripods for their portability. However, note that these spotting scope tripods are not ideal for table mounting. 
  • Full size tripod: If you need to get the best possible experience from your spotting scope tripod, and you don’t want to mount it on anything, this is the product for you. A full size device will be the choice for you if you want a sturdy tripod you can use for long periods of time. Your chosen product might come with leg locks to help you use the tripod when standing. Some of these spotting scope tripods can extend up to 57 or 72 inches. 

How to choose a tripod for a spotting scope

Choosing the ideal spotting scope tripod means considering a variety of features, starting with the height, and moving through everything from glassing, panhead functionality, mount features, and objective lens diameter. Let’s look at some of the most important features to consider. 

Height

Choosing the right height from your spotting scope mount requires you to think about how you’re going to be using your scope. If you’re going to be in a crouched position, you might need something more compact compared to if you’ll be standing at all times. 

Having a center column for your scope tripod could help you to adjust your height by a range of inches. It’s also worth looking to ensure that each tripod leg at any height is sturdy. If you want the freedom to move between standing and sitting positions regularly, you might need to look into tripods that have more features, including quick release options for height management. 

Tripod head

The tripod head will also make a huge difference to your scope tripod experience. One of the most common options is a ball head tripod fixture, which can move in virtually any direction. These tripod heads are much more appealing if you’re looking for something that you can easily adjust to suit your needs. They’re also great for initially homing in on your targets. 

A pan head or tilt head is an alternative to a ball head, but it’s still quite popular. These move on two independent axes. With a pan head, you can adjust your field of view or tilt your scope up or down. The biggest advantage of this kind of head is that it offers a lot of stability, great for when you’re hunting and shooting. 

Alternative head types include the fluid head and pistol grip head. While a fluid head is ideally suited to video work, with a drag function for adjusting friction during panning and tilting, a pistol grip head is a little different. The pistol grip head is similar to a ball head, but you use a pistol grip instead of a knob to adjust the ball position. 

Materials

Materials are another common consideration for your spotting scope tripods. Before you start getting carried away with brand names like Bushnell tripods, Manfrotto tripod, or the Swarovski spotting scope, you should think about your material needs. Most people will choose an aluminum or carbon fiber tripod for their needs. 

Aluminum tripods are much cheaper to buy than their alternatives, and they’re quite lightweight too, so they’re great if you want a compact and portable device. Carbon fiber tripods also have a lot going for them in the form of better damping and stiffness. They’re lightweight and have a much lower thermal conductivity too. 

One other factor that might stop you from choosing an aluminum tripod is how uncomfortable they are to use when the weather isn’t great. Cold weather will ebb into the aluminum and make it harder to focus on where you want to shoot. Alternatively, carbon fiber tripods have insulating properties that keep them at a good temperature and protect them from damage. 

Carbon fiber tripods also outperform aluminum tripods when it comes to vibration absorption. However, this is only likely to be an issue for you if you’re using your spotting scope tripods for video and photography capture. 

The Essential Features of a Spotting Scope Tripod

A spotting scope tripod is a powerful investment for those who love the great outdoors. Whether you buy your tripod in aluminum, carbon fiber, or a specialist design, you’ll need to ensure that it comes with the following features:

  • Stability: One of the most valuable features of a spotting scope tripod will always be stability. These scope tripod options need to remain stable and secure at all times when you’re using your spotting device. Even if you use a quick release plate to release your scope, your tripod should remain in the right place. 
  • Versatility: The best spotting scope tripod should always be versatile. Some of the top products are available to use on hunting benches, while another tripod might be intended specifically for standing. A versatile tripod will be able to adjust to suit your needs and may feature things like a quick release plate for changing scopes. 
  • Durability: The right spotting scope tripod or monopod needs to stand the test of time, particularly if you’re going to be using it outdoors. Make sure that your scope tripod comes with the strength you need to withstand extreme temperatures, as well as the occasional bump that may happen during travel. 

How do you attach a tripod to a spotting scope?

Now that you know everything there is to know about choosing the right spotting scope tripod, the next step is figuring out how to use your new investment. As mentioned above, the purpose of a spotting scope is to help you see details that you can’t see with your naked eye, but a tripod will help to make those images clearer and more stable. 

The scope tripod you choose will generally come with some instructions to help you get started. Make sure that you read through this information before you begin using the tripod. This will ensure that you know what kind of features are available and how to use them. Next, extend the legs of the tripod so that they’re at you’re preferred height. Once you’ve achieved the right length, lock the legs into place with the available screws to ensure that they won’t wobble or collapse. 

If you have a ballast hook with your tripod, you could consider adding additional support weight. This won’t always be a necessary extra for every tripod user, but it might be an interesting option if you want to make sure that wind isn’t going to knock your tripod around. Most of the time, mounting your scope on the tripod will be a simple enough process. 

Mount your scope onto the tripod by sliding the plate into the platform or screwing the scope into place. You should keep a hand on your spotting scope at all times when you’re adjusting the center column and the legs as this will stop the device from slipping and causing damage to the glass. When you’re ready, move the cover away from the eyepiece and the objective lens to check the magnification levels of your scope. Play with the focus until you’re happy with your preferred image quality.

From there, you should be ready to use your tripod and spotting scope as you see fit. Just keep in mind that you may need to readjust the tripod in between trips.