The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Best Hunting Tripods For Spotting And Shooting [2023 Complete Guide]



At RECOIL, we review every product fairly and without bias. Making a purchase through one of our links may earn us a small commission, and helps support independent gun reviews. Learn More

LIKE A THREE-LEGGED HUNTING DOG, THESE ARE TRIPODS YOU CAN RELY ON!

Tripods have swept shooting sports and hunters alike. While not everyone has or will jump on this new train, hunting tripods offer a lot of benefits if you know how to use one.

With the market flooded with iffy options, I’ve dived in deep to find the ones that are worth throwing cash down on.

From tripods to the ball heads on top, let’s get to it!

WHAT ARE TRIPODS USED FOR?

Everything, really. From spotting targets or game to taking shots, a tripod is a useful tool for just about everything. Tripods have definitely grown popular because of competition shooting like PRS or NRL: Hunter, but the fact is that tripods have proven to be useful in a wide range of situations.

From military and LE snipers to backwoods hunters, tripods are quickly becoming a standard piece of kit. And once you use them for a while, you’ll quickly understand why. They are just crazy handy.

Do You Actually Need A Tripod?

If you want to shoot NRL: Hunter, PRS, or really any precision rifle-based competition discipline, then yes, you should have a tripod. Even if you don’t shoot off of it in your competition style, like NRL22, they are still very useful to have, so you can mount binoculars or a spotting scope on them and look downrange at the targets and environmental conditions.

For hunting, I still think tripods are a really good idea, but they are more situational. If you shoot from a tree stand, hunting tripods might not be very useful to you. But in a blind or glassing to stalk, tripods can help a lot. They help more with increased distance. Every western hunter should strongly consider adding one to their kit. 

CARBON FIBER, TWIST LOCKS, AND BALL HEADS

Back even just 5 or 6 years ago, most tripods that shooters were using were actually designed for photography. There were several styles and flavors, but they mainly fell into two camps, carbon fiber or aluminum for the legs and twist locks or level locks for the leg sections.

Since then, tripod design has changed to meet the need of shooters, and one design has really won out.

Carbon fiber legs and twist locks.

Sure, you can still find aluminum and lever locks, but this is obsolescent technology at best. Carbon fiber is incredibly strong, lightweight, and simply awesome to shoot off. Twist locks are better in every possible way, from the speed of deployment to adjusting the length of the leg to just being easier and more durable to use.

Bottom line, no matter what hunting tripod you get, I strongly recommend carbon fiber and twist locks.

Ball Heads

This really needs a dedicated article (and one is coming soon) but the short version is ball heads are how you actually interact with the tripod.

Two major designs dominate the market for attachment, ARCA rail, and saddles. Saddles are universal but have less clamping power and are less stable. ARCA rail is easy and amazing but requires you actually have ARCA rail on your rifle.

Not hard to do, and many rifles come standard with ARCA these days, but not everyone has jumped on the train yet – especially when it comes to hunting rifles.

When you’re looking at a hunting tripod, don’t forget that you need a ball head also. Some tripods come with a ball head, and some do not. If you get a package deal, you’re good to go out of the box, but if you want more control over what you get, then getting the legs and ball head separately is a better plan.

Cost is normally about the same either way if you’re buying the same parts.

For this article, we’re focusing on the LEGS of the tripod, but I’ll leave you some ball head recommendations also. If you want the Best Ball Heads For Shooting and Hunting, check back in a few days.

COMMON DENOMINATOR FEATURES

Instead of repeating myself 8 times, let me tell you some features that all of the tripods on this list share. These are features that not all tripods have, but all tripods should have.

Interchangeable Feet

Changing out your tripod feet is a quick and simple way of giving yourself some more options when using it. If you commonly shoot off of concrete, like at a range, then rubber feet give great grip.

Take those rubber feet up the mountain on some ice and snow, and you'll have a bad time. Switch them out for raptor claws or spikes and you're back in the game!

Feet are standardized on 3/8th-inch thread and should be compatible across any brand. All of the hunting tripods on this list can have their feet changed, and all of them use the same 3/8th-thread feet.

Multi-Angle Legs

The ability to adjust the angle on the legs used to be a high-class feature that not every shooting tripod had. While that is the case with a few expectations to the rule, any tripod worth its salt can change angles these days.

With a few exceptions, you'll have three options for angle. The exact degree of angle is slightly different depending on design and brand, but this is an extremely minor consideration normally.

3/8th-16 Threads Heads

There are technically two standard sizes for tripod head screws, 3/8th-16 is the larger of the two. The smaller one is designed for cameras to mount directly. This is a concern if you're trying to repurpose a camera tripod as a shooting tripod, but not as much of a concern for dedicated hunting tripods that are designed to be used with a ball head.

All of these tripods feature a 3/8th-16 thread stud on top (except for the Leofoto SA-364C and Vortex Summit Carbon II.)

BEST TRIPODS FOR SHOOTING AND HUNTING

Really Right Stuff (RRS) TVC-22i Mk2 SOAR

Really Right Stuff got its start in the photography business, making high-end tripods and more for that world. In the early 2010s, precision shooters started using RRS equipment for their own needs. 

In 2015 RRS launched its SOAR division – Sport Optic And Rifle, which specifically designed and sold equipment meant for hunters, long-range plinkers, and competition shooters.

Since then, RRS has been the gold standard for everything tripod and ball head. And yes, it costs like it was made of gold also. Part of that is because the shooting rests are simply the best. Part of that is because they’re entirely made in the United States. Put that together, and the price makes more sense, but it’s still a good chunk of money.

That all said – the TVC-22i Mk2 SOAR is pretty amazing. One of the first inverted tripods puts the locking clamps at the top of the legs instead of the bottom. This keeps them clean, out of the muck, and in a more convenient place for you to use them.

It also features only two leg sections. This leads to a tripod that doesn’t pack down as small as most others but makes it crazy quick and easy to deploy – perfect for competitions that put you on the clock or harried shots in the field. Folded length is 38 inches.

With a max load of 95 pounds but a weight of only 4.3 pounds, this has a crazy high strength-to-weight ratio and is absolutely capable of handling just about any rifle you can throw on it.

If you’re asking me, this is a perfect competition shooting tripod. But all of that goodness comes at a cost, MSRP is $920. Ouch.

Really Right Stuff (RRS) TVC-33 SOAR 

Another in RRS’s SOAR line, this is more traditional with four leg sections packing down to a mear 25.4 inches, weighing in at 4.1 pounds, and with a max load weight of 85 pounds, RRS again delivers a huge amount of strength for not a ton of weight.

Ultra slick legs, rubber twist locks, a 75mm video bowl for ball heads or leveling heads, and a ton of strength and durability – there isn’t anything not to like about the TVC-33, except the price.

Just for the legs, this clocks in at $1,100.

If you want the best, you’ll have to pay for it.

But hey, at least RRS is made in the USA!

Leofoto SO-362C

Leofoto also has a SOAR line, but I’m not sure what their SOAR stands for. And interestingly enough, the SO-362C is also an inverted tripod design, very much like the RRS TVC-22i.

Really, this has all of the same features – two leg sections with an inverted design, rubber twist locks, 75mm video bowl, replaceable feet, the works.

Leofoto SO-362C

But the differences between this and the RRS version aren’t hard to see. First off, the SO-362C is heavier at 4 pounds 15 ounces, basically 5 pounds. It also has a lower max load rating of 88 pounds.

That’s still pretty darn light and pretty high strength. The other huge difference is in the price tag, Leofoto’s version is only $610 MSRP. That still isn’t cheap, but it’s a difference for sure.

Leofoto is made in China, like a lot of tripods are, and imported by Leofoto themselves instead of going through a middleman. That’s a big reason for the lower price.

Leofoto SO-362C with a bubble level on the head and on the tripod body itself

From a manufacturing standpoint, this is a good tripod. It works, it works really well, and it is something that is worth the money.

Leofoto SA-364C + MH-50S

As far as I can tell, Leofoto only offers the SA-364C with a ball head. You can find a few options, but the most common right now is the MH-50S.

You might be thinking that this ball head looks stupid and can’t possibly be good. Well, that’s what I thought too. Turns out, I really like it. It still looks weird, but it’s a really nice ball head.

With the rifle locked into the ARCA rail, this ball head is easy to use, super smooth and locks down tight. Twist the handle front or back to release/tighten the ball head. Easy, functional, and awesome.

As it stands, for clamping in and shooting off of a ball head – this is currently my second favorite behind the RRS Anvil-30. It’s not as good as the Anvil-30, but if the RRS was a 10 out of 10, I’d call the MH-50S an 8 out of 10.

Plus, the tripod itself is pretty awesome. Ultra grippy twist locks, easy-to-deploy CF legs, and it all folds down into a very compact package that only weighs 4 pounds for the legs (5.7 pounds with the ball head). 

Something I don’t love is that the attachment for the ball head is not the normal single stud that the ball head screws onto. Instead, it’s four smaller hex screws. Something I found out was that the RRS Anvil-30 has both attachment options, the normal stud, and the screws, so you can swap the MH-50S out for an Anvil-30 if you want.

For a package that is ready to go and for a single price, I really like the Leofoto SA-364C + MH-50S. Both are a little on the lighter-duty side of things, with a max load rating of 44 pounds for the tripod legs and 55 pounds for the ball head, but that is still almost double even the heaviest PRS rifle. 

Assuming you’re not throwing huge magnum rifles on this setup, you’ll do just fine with almost anything “normal.”

I also like the fact that this doesn’t seem like it is copying anyone’s homework. As far as I have seen, the ball head is unique to Leofoto, and the tripod doesn’t appear to be a direct clone of anything.

This is a package that I really like to use, the price is awesome at only $600 for the tripod legs and ball head combo. Overall I highly approve and recommend this setup.

Two Vets Recon V2

Two Vets is based in the USA and has quickly become one of the big names in tripods. Why? Because they’re pretty great and the price is even better.

The Recon V2 is 4 pounds 8 ounces, has a max load of a huge 100 pounds, and has a price tag of only $605.

This is a three-leg section design, this kind of gives you some of the benefits that the Leofoto SO-362C or RRS TVC-22i Mk2 SOAR has with the ability to deploy on the clock quickly, but doesn’t use the inverted design that keeps the twist locks up top.

What I love about the Recon V2 is that this is built like a tank. Not only is it rated for a ton of weight (100 pounds), it simply feels strong. Shooting off of it feels kind of like going from a commuter car to a work truck. This is a hunting tripod that isn’t messing around.

All of Two Vets’ tripods also have very slick leg sections. Like, a literally slick feeling. I don’t know if it is a manufacturing process they use or what, but their legs are like greased glass that just glides. It feels nice, it gets the legs out faster and with less effort, and it sounds cool.

However… something that all of the Two Vets tripods have in common is I don’t love their twist locks. The locking action itself is great, but where all of the other tripods I tested use a rubber-coated twist lock that gives a ton of gripping power, Two Vets’ uses smooth metal with some flutes cut into them.

It gives you enough grip, but kind of barely. If my hand is a bit wet or dirty, it’s hard for me to get a really good grip on the locks.

This is pretty easy to fix with some tape, but it’s not something I love.

Everything else about the Recon V2… awesome. This is a great middle ground between a pure competition tripod and a tripod that can just do it all.

As the name suggests, the Recon V2 is the second generation of the Recon design. One of the major changes is that the V2 cannot accept a 75mm bowl mount such as the ones used for leveling heads. This saves a lot of weight and allows the Recon to pack down into a much more compact footprint.

Two Vets No Name V2

Brand new from Two Vets comes the second generation of the No Name tripod! I’ve been lucky enough to have been using a pre-release unit for the last couple of months, and I got to say, I dig it. 

While the name implies that this is a new version of the No Name, to me, I think of it as a Recon V2 Lite. Either way, it’s right in the middle of the two.

Where the Recon V2 is 4.8 pounds, and 27 inches collapsed with a max weight rating of 100 pounds, the No Name V2 is a little smaller and a little lighter at 4.12 pounds, 23 inches collapsed, and retains the 100-pounds max weight. Both tripods extend to a max of 65.5 inches.

Really the biggest difference between the No Name V2 and the Recon V2 is how many leg sections are used. The Recon V2 is 3 leg sections, and the No Name V2 is 4 leg sections.

The Recon V2 is faster to deploy, but the No Name V2 is smaller and lighter.

Personally, I lean toward the No Name V2 as the one I prefer between the two. But use-case matters a lot.

Both tripods have a MAP of $605.

Two Vets The Kit

On the other side of the spectrum comes the Kit. Everything I like about the Recon V2 is included in the Kit, but the twist locks that I don’t love are also carried over.

The Kit is only 3 pounds 4 ounces, has a max load of 44 pounds, and a MAP of $605. Because the Kit is lightweight and has a lower max load, this is perfect if you plan on walking a long way with your tripod.

For backcountry hunting or just a long walk to the deer stand, the Kit is light enough not to hold you down but still strong enough that you can put a big rifle on it and not blink.

Grip tape added to The Kit legs

The ultra-smooth legs, in addition to being easy to deploy and use, are also very quiet. You should practice a little with deploying the Kit quietly Vs. quickly, but once you get used to it, you’ll find it easy to get the Kit out and ready in a hurry while making almost zero noise.

Vortex Summit Carbon II

With a max load of only 22 pounds the Summit Carbon II isn’t really designed for shooting off of. You could, with a light hunting rifle, and a lower-power cartridge like 5.56 NATO, but that’s really not its main goal. This is more in line with what you might want if you just need a dead reliable tripod for glassing.

Be it spotting at a match, looking for game, or just general reasons like bird watching – this is a solid option.

Strong, very lightweight at only 2.6 pounds, and highly adaptable, this is a very nice little tripod. Rubber twist locks and smooth CF legs are exactly what I like and exactly what this gives you.

But I gotta say, with an MSRP of $550 and a street price of around $350, this is an expensive tripod for what you’re getting. The big upside is that it comes with Vortex’s VIP warranty, which they are famous for, but it sure does feel like you’re paying a pretty big tax for that.

Vortex Radian Carbon

The heaviest of the hunting tripods listed, the Radian Carbon comes in at a chunky 5 pounds 7 ounces with a max load rating of 77 pounds. Not bad, but not the strongest either.

This is a heavy-duty tripod that you can shoot off of with weight to spare. Very easy-to-grab rubber twist locks make the Radian Carbon easy to deploy, no matter how wet you or the tripod is. 

Up top, this tripod features a bowl, so you can choose between a leveling head or a standard ball head, depending on what you buy or if you decide to switch down the road. This is part of what adds a good bit of weight to the overall system but gives you a lot of flexibility.

This also means the tripod legs don’t fold in very close at the top making the overall package a little bulky. 

Oddly, while the Radian ball head and leveling head are sold on their own, the tripod is only sold as a package with either the ball head or the leveling head.

The Radian ball head is basically the same that everyone else offers. A two-tension system with an ARCA clamp on top. The knobs feel good, the rotation is smooth, the ball rides well, but there isn’t really anything that sets this apart from the other brands that offer this exact ball head.

Again, this comes with Vortex’s legendary VIP warranty but again, you pay a tax for it. MSRP for the tripod+ball head combo is $1,200, and the street price is around $900. If you pay MSRP you are not getting a good value, but if you pay something around the more common street price of $900-ish you’re getting a decent deal.

The cost-benefit of the Radian Carbon comes down to how much you value the VIP warranty and if you’re okay with the weight. Personally, this wouldn’t be my top choice, but it isn’t a bad choice at all – especially if you’re worried about breaking your tripod.

Shadow Tech PIG 0311

I don’t really recommend this tripod; let’s get that out of the way first. This is here to contrast the other options.

This is my old tripod, the one I’ve used for years, and it was how I got into tripods to start with.

It’s aluminum and has lever locks. It’s also heavy. Hard to manage. Slow to deploy. And surprisingly fragile because if you get the legs bent even slightly, they stay bent, and the legs just won’t work anymore.

But the good news is that it was, and is, cheap. Real cheap. If you just want a tripod for spotting hits at matches or maybe a static blind where the weight isn’t a huge issue, this isn’t the worst option in the world. I still wouldn’t really recommend it in light of how far tripods have advanced since this hit the market, but it’s at least an option. 

BEST BALL HEADS (SHORT VERSION)

As I said, a dedicated article is coming soon – but here is the super fast version for now.

RRS Anvil-30 is the best, period. Nothing else can touch it. But at $400, this is a big investment and only something that some people will actually get their value out of.

The Anvil-30 clones, like the Sunwayfoto IB-30S are not worth any money. Don’t waste your time, they simply don’t work. I bought one to test, and it sucked. I sent it back to Amazon.

Vortex, Two Vets, Leofoto, and more all use/offer basically the same ball head. In order, the Radian Carbon, 55mm Dual Tension, and LH-55. At their core, these are the same thing. The knobs are slightly different, but the design is the same. Except for how the knobs feel in your hand, I could not differentiate between them.

Same build quality, same functionality, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were made in the same factory. 

Two Vets Dual Tension stands out a little because they offer theirs with an Area 419 locking clamp. If you use an Area 419 locking ARCA rail, this is a cool benefit but not game-changing.

Using all three side by side, I observed no discernible difference between them. 

Because of that, I’d recommend the Two Vets Dual Tension because it’s the least expensive, and you have the Area 419 clamp option. Win-win.

The main downside to those three ball heads is that they are heavy, roughly a pound and a half just for the ball head. The RRS Anvil-30 is only 15 ounces.

If you want something that gives you freedom of movement and one-handed manipulation similar to the Anvil-30, Leofoto’s MH-50S is pretty great. Heavier than the Anvil-30, about half the price. If you’re willing to accept more ounces and spend fewer dollars, this is a pretty good runner-up.

EDITOR’S PICKS

I just threw a metric boatload of information at you. Let me give you some quick picks.

Best Hunting Tripod+Ball Head: Two Vets The Kit + RRS Anvil-30

RRS makes ultralight tripods, but you barely save weight, and the tripod legs run about $1,100+. That’s just too much, in my opinion. The Kit from Two Vets is barely over 3 pounds, has a 44 pounds max rating, and packs down small. Good for glassing off of or for shooting off of.

RRS Anvil-30 is simply the best, period. It’s also only 15 ounces, so it’s very lightweight for a ball head. Expensive, but amazing.

Runner Up: Two Vets The Kit + Two Vets 44mm Dual Tention

Keep the Kit and swap the Anvil-30 for a 44mm Dual Tention. Saves you about $200, adds 2 ounces to the package, and delivers probably 90% of what the RRS Anvil-30 does.

Best Competition Tripod+Ball Head: RRS TVC-22i Mk2 SOAR + RRS Anvil-30

A single leg section and an inverted design save a ton of time on the clock while still being very adaptable. The larger packed size is a little clunky, but you can survive it moving from stage to stage. Anvil-30 because it’s simply the best, as I’ve said a bunch of times by now.

Runner Up: Leofoto SO-362C + Two Vets 55mm Dual Tention

The Leofoto SO-362C is very, very close to the RRS version, but adds just shy of a pound of weight and drops 8 pounds of max load rating. But you save about $300.

I would still strongly recommend the Anvil-30, but if you need to lower the price the Two Vets 55mm Dual Tention is a strong runner-up that saves another $200 and still gets the job done really well.

Best Do-All Tripod+Ball Head: RRS TVC-33 SOAR + RRS Anvil-30

A more classic tripod design that can pack small enough to hunt with but still strong enough to shoot big PRS rifles off of, plus the Anvil-30 because of reasons listed above.

Expensive? Yes, both combined, you’re looking at about $1,500 before tax and shipping. Oof, but the best ain’t cheap.

Runner Up: Two Vets Recon V2 + Two Vets Dual Tention

The Recon V2 is pretty amazing. A hair over four and a half pounds, 100-pound load rating, and about $500 cheaper than the RRS TVC-33. As before, the Anvil-30 is still the best head but (as before) the Two Vets Dual Tention is damn close.

If you want to lean on the competition side of things, get the 55mm ball head. If you want to save weight for hunting, get the 44mm.

A Recon V2 and Dual Tention comes in at only $800ish.

LOOSE ROUNDS

Tripods are a rabbit hole you can get lost in. But the truth is, if you stick with one of the major brands – you won’t go too wrong.

It will be up to you what matters most in your choice. Price, country of origin, or features. Get your priorities in order and have a go at it.

Once you put a little time and effort into it, you’ll find that a good hunting tripod is an incredible piece of kit.

Enter Your E-Mail to Receieve a Free 50-Target Pack from RECOIL!

NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOIL

For years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included).

Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. We'll send you weekly updates on guns, gear, industry news, and special offers from leading manufacturers - your guide to the firearms lifestyle.

You want this. Trust Us.



Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter