Here in the Midwest, we typically use optics to see between 50 and 300 yards away. Glassing in Michigan involves using binoculars to peer through thick timber or to see what’s on the far side of a farm field. At these limited distances, offhand viewing is often all that is needed to zoom in on our target. When you start talking about using binoculars and spotting scopes to see further than a quarter-mile away, stability quickly becomes the limiting factor in glassing. It is imperative then, that you employ the use of a quality tripod to stabilize your optics.
Three basic elements make up most tripod systems:
- The Tripod – The legs and center post. Typically collapses and expands to a variety of heights.
- The Fluid Head – The fluid head is the device that screws into the center post of the tripod. It comes in direct contact with your optic via the quick release system and features several gears or bearings which allow panning and tilting.
- The Quick Release System – Usually a quick release plate, which screws into the bottom of your binoculars and spotting scope. Allows you to quickly swap out optics onto your fluid head.
There are many different options when it comes to tripods. You can pick up a cheap Chinese made tripod from amazon for $50, but don’t expect it to be stable, lightweight, and smooth. On the other hand, professional tripods from the film and photography worlds can be thousands of dollars. Hunting typically puts a specific set of requirements on a tripod. It must be lightweight, compact, rugged, and very stable. Finding all of these things in a tripod that won’t cost the same as a good used truck can be difficult. Manfrotto and Vortex both make decent tripod systems. If you want to go high dollar you can check out Swarovski. However, my personal recommendation is for the Outdoorsmans tripod system which I’ll discuss more here.