Out here in the western United States, a vast majority of us live and die behind our optics when hunting. It is the most non-intrusive and effective way of locating big game. Good glass allows us to survey miles of country without disturbing the animals that walk it. While the glass is incredibly important, there are some other tools that enhance their ability tenfold. Tripods and tripod heads make good glass, great glass. For 2021 there are a few standout tripods and heads we’d like to mention to help you out on your next western big game hunt.
The two brands we recommend most as far as tripods go are Slik and Vortex. Both companies offer a wide variety of choices for all budgets without compromising quality. These are tripods hunters can trust.
Summit Carbon II Tripod Kit
The Summit Carbon II Tripod Kit was made for those looking to go in light and come out heavy. The Summit weighs in at 2.5 pounds with the included pan head. It’s got a maximum height of 53.3 inches and a minimum height of 6.3 inches. This is definitely more of a sit down and glass type of tripod instead of one a hunter could stand up and use. The legs of the Summit are made of Carbon Fiber to keep the weight down. There are 4 leg sections and 3 leg angles. The leg locks are a twist design only requiring a 1/4 turn. Included is a 2 way pan head with an Arca-Swiss head mount. 22 pounds is the maximum load on this tripod.
Ridgeview Carbon Tripod Kit
For those looking for a little more height and are willing to carry a tad more weight, the Ridgeview Carbon Tripod from Vortex is the ticket. This carbon fiber legged tripod comes in at 3.0 pounds on the nose with the included pan head. It’s got a maximum height of 73.8 inches and a minimum height of 8.3 inches. Meaning that a hunter can actually stand up and glass off of this tripod. The Ridgeview has 3 leg sections and 3 leg angles with a twist lock design requiring a 1/4 turn. Included is a 2 way pan head with an Arca-Swiss head mount. 22 pounds is the maximum load on this tripod.
High Country II Tripod Kit
Vortex also offers a more budget friendly option for their tripods. It’s called the High Country II and it’ll go wherever you’re willing to take it. Coming in at 4.0 pounds with the included pan head it keeps things lightweight without sacrificing stability. The High Country is an Aluminum legged tripod with 3 leg sections and 3 leg angles, all controlled by a flip lever system. It’s got a minimum height of 11.3 inches and a maximum height of 62.8 inches. Being able to glass standing up with this tripod is a toss up depending on the height of the user. Included is a 2 way pan head with an Arca-Swiss head mount. 22 pounds is the maximum load on this tripod.
Carbon Fiber Pro CF – 734
When it comes to getting a solid full sized tripod, while keeping the weight to a minimum, it’s tough to beat the Carbon Fiber Pro CF – 734 from Slik. Coming in at a mere 3.0 pounds, a hunter could absolutely use this as an all around tripod, whether they were backpack hunting or day hunting from the truck. The 734 has a minimum height of 7.1 inches and a maximum height of 65 inches. There are 8 layers of interwoven carbon fiber in these legs. A twist lock operates the 4 leg sections. Hunters can load up to 11 pounds on this tripod and be smooth sailing.
Carbon Fiber Pro CF – 633
If weight is of the utmost concern, the Carbon Fiber Pro CF – 633 might just be the ticket you need. A whopping 2.1 pounds is all this tripod will tip the scales at. For a backpack hunter, that is a dream, and one that won’t compromise quality for less weight. It has a minimum height of 4.9 inches and a maximum height of 64.2 inches. There are 8 layers of interwoven carbon fiber in these legs. You’ll find 3 leg sections all operated by way of a twist lock. Hunters can load up to 6.6 pounds on this tripod and be good to go.
PRO 330 SVH Kit with SVH-501 Head
If a tripod kit is more up your alley, don’t worry, Slik has got you covered there too. The Pro 330 SVH Kit with SVH-501 head deserves your attention. This kit tips the scales at a mere 4 pounds with everything. For an aluminum tripod, that’s impressive. It’s got a minimum height of 12 inches and a maximum height of 63.4 inches. The 330 has 3 leg sections made of aluminum and operated by way of a flip lock. As for the 501 head that comes with it, it’s equally impressive and we’ll dive more into that head below. A hunter can get all of this at a budget friendly price that won’t break the bank.
The two heads listed below are tried and true in western hunting. There is a very good reason for that. Read on to find out why.
If there was a running for “creme de la creme” tripod heads, the Sirui VA-5 would be in that race, no questions asked. From the construction and attention to detail, to the buttery functionality, this is a head that needs to be on your watch list. You’ll find independent pan and tilt locks and an internal spring-assisted counterbalance mechanism for smoother tilt movements. This makes glassing big country a breeze. And you’ll also get a dual safety lock system so your plate will never slide all the way off unexpectedly. Throw on optics up to 6.6 pounds on this head for your glassing sessions. A hunter can use the SIRUI TY-50/60/70/70-2 and LP-40/75 as well as many Arca-compatible quick release plates. For long meticulous glassing sits, the VA-5 from Sirui deserves your ultimate attention.
Save some green and don’t compromise quality with the Slik SVH-501 tripod head. The 501 has independent pan and tilt controls, but does not include drag control knobs. Slik opted away from this in order to keep the weight down. Not to worry though, because the head provides the right amount of resistance when in use. The angled pan handle can be positioned for either a right or left handed user upping the versatility. Included is a release stopper to prevent the plate from sliding off the head in the event one forgets to tighten down the plate. On that note, this accepts Arca compatible quick release plates. The included quick release plate sports a tool-less wing-nut design that lets you attach the plate to your optics without a coin or tool. With that being said, there is a coin slot for those that still prefer to use it.
As we sit here during the spring time, it’s hard to not envision what the coming fall hunting seasons will bring. So much adventure is on the horizon, and we know that more than a few of you are chomping at the bit to get your boots dirty and be behind your glass. Good glassing is a team effort between the user and a few pieces of key gear. Quality tripods and tripod heads fall in line with them. All of the items listed above are tried and true. For any questions on these pieces of gear or anything else, feel free to contact us, and we’ll get you squared away.
Written by: Josh Kirchner of Dialed in Hunter