I have had my carbon fiber Peak Design Travel Tripod for a few years now. I am a bit of a Peak Design fangirl. I bought many of my bags during their initial Kickstarters. The company is known for making innovative camera and travel bags. But the travel tripod was a departure for the company, and the price was steep.
A lucky encounter with someone from Peak Design and a good sale brought the tripod within my grasp. This tripod has been with me on frigid winter hikes through Yellowstone National Park and on the hot streets of India.
In this Peak Design Travel Tripod review, I will take you through what I like about this travel tripod. And a few things I don’t. Let’s see if the tripod lives up to the hype.
What’s Special About the Peak Design Travel Tripod?
Peak Design’s Travel Tripod is uniquely designed, making it lightweight and unbelievably compact. Peak Design reimagined all parts with no assumptions about how a tripod should look. It has a unique tripod head and smooth locking mechanisms on the legs.
But this is not a budget tripod. Svelte design is not cheap. The tripod is priced competitively. It compares with travel tripods from specialists at 3 Legged Thing and Benro. Did Peak Design make the perfect tripod on its first attempt?
Peak Design Travel Tripod Review
Peak Design started in 2011, making camera clamps, straps, and bags. It developed products that were sleek, sturdy, and user-friendly. The company has a quirky vibe. It makes the camera gear that photographers dream of but is not available. Money for product development is crowdfunded and raised through kick-starters.
In 2019, the company raised over 12 million dollars to produce a better travel tripod. It promised to be ultra-compact and fast to set up. Though it was light and small, it would expand and be stable enough for pro-level photography. The entire tripod was redesigned from scratch, including an integrated ergonomic ball head.
Key Features and Performance
The key to the popularity of the Peak Design Travel Tripod is how it differs from standard tripods. The design is revolutionary. The ball head is specially designed for the tripod and even the accessories are bespoke. The only thing you may not like about the tripod is the price.
Peak Design Travel Tripod Design and Specs
Peak Design redesigned the Travel Tripod to be ultra-compact. The shape of the legs and the locking levers are smooth and fit together like a puzzle. The company tore down expectations and rebuilt the tripod from scratch. They removed all the protruding knobs and wasted space they could find.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod folds down to half the size of a traditional tripod. Unlike other tripods, there is no fuss when collapsing it. You do not need to extend the center column and fold the legs up over the ball head. You simply push the legs together. It becomes the size and shape of a water bottle. This is perfect for tucking into a backpack for a hike.
Though lightweight, it is stable with vibration dampening. The carbon fiber model weighs 1.29 kg (2.81 lbs). The aluminum version is a little heavier weighing 1.56 kg (3.44 lbs). The aluminum and carbon fiber versions have the same size and profile. Both versions have a sleek black matte finish. You can tell the versions apart by the metal texture on the legs. The aluminum tripod has an anodized finish. The carbon fiber version has a twill-weave pattern. The carbon fiber version is about 20% stronger than the aluminum tripod.
The weight limit of the Peak Design Travel Tripod is 9.1 kg (20 lbs). This is perfect for a DSLR camera with a telephoto lens. Mirrorless camera users will not need anywhere close to this weight limit. Even with my gimbal, heaviest lens, and mirrorless camera attached, my gear weighs under 4 kg. The tripod is ridged with excellent stability.
Collapsed, the tripod measures 39.1 cm (15.4 inches) in length and 7.9 cm (3.125 inches) around. Without raising the center column, the maximum height is 130.2 cm (51.25 inches). For many photographers, this is too low. Raising the center column extends the height to 152.4 cm (60 inches). This is still too low for many photographers. But it is comparable to other travel tripods on the market.
The legs are in five parts. Four flip-type cam levers lock the legs in place. The cam levers are smooth to open and lock the legs firmly in place. They have a very low profile, laying almost flat against the tripod legs. You can flip open all four cam levers at once for a quick setup.
Each leg is tipped with removable rubber feet. Understated angle tab releases on each leg let them independently splay out. Use this feature for low-angle shooting. For an even lower position, you can remove the center column. The minimum height in the low mode is 14 cm (5.5 inches).
The Peak Design Travel Tripod is weather resistant, and it is guaranteed for life. Peak Design is not kidding about the warranty. I broke one of the angle tabs hiking. Peak Design sent me a set of new tabs to install with easy-to-follow instructions. The company makes cleaning and servicing your tripod easy with user-friendly videos.
Peak Design Travel Tripod Ball Head
As part of the redesign, Peak Design reconceptualized the ball head mounted on the tripod. It has an omnidirectional compact ball head that fits snuggly onto the tripod legs. It has one adjustment ring with a locking mechanism. The ring is easy to grasp and twist and locks firmly in place with little effort. A switch locks the adjustment ring for added stability and safety. The head stays where you put it without creeping. The ball head is made from powder-coated A380 aluminum. This makes its movement ultra-smooth. It can easily tip 90 degrees to the side for portrait orientation.
The tripod head is compatible with Peak Design plates and third-party Arca-type quick-release plates. The head includes two pins to keep the Peak Design plate in place. But you can remove these to use the tripod with an L-bracket. There is a small bubble level built into the head to help you level the tripod.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod uses a quick-release plate that is small with a low profile. It is designed to screw onto a camera. And you can attach Peak Design anchors to use the mount with Peak Design straps. The quick-release plate also works with Peak Design’s Capture Clip carrying system. The quick-release button lets you pop your camera onto the tripod and quickly lock it in place. Peak Design also makes a Dual Plate that lets you mount your camera to a Manfrotto RC2 tripod head.
After years of use, I have had no problem with the mechanism locking and staying in place.
You can buy a Peak Design universal mount that lets you use any ball head or gimble you want. I keep a universal mount attached to a lightweight FotoPro E-6H Gimbal Head. Simply slide out the ball head and center column and slide in the universal mount.
When you have finished using your tripod, the ball head slips neatly into the legs and almost disappears.
A unique feature of the tripod is that when it is collapsed, it will stand upright on its own. Turn it upside down and it stands upright on the flat surface of the ball head. This speaks to the balance and integrated design of the tripod.
Peak Design Travel Tripod Accessories
Everything about the Peak Design Travel Tripod is sleek and clever. This includes the tripod’s accessories. The tripod comes with a tool kit. This includes a hex wrench, a clip-on holder, and a bushing removal tool.
The folding hex wrench is designed in the style of a Swiss army knife. It has a 4mm and a 2.5mm hex wrench. It will remove and adjust all the pins and screws on the tripod. It slips neatly into the plastic holder that snaps onto one of the legs. Use the bushing removal tool if the inner bushing in the legs is damaged or needs cleaning.
A hook at the bottom of the center column is perfectly placed to hang weight for extra stability. But the hook hides a secret compartment. Push and twist the hook and out pops a small phone mount. It slips onto the ball head quick release plate and expands to fit any smartphone. The mechanism is spring-loaded to hold your phone snuggly in place.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod also comes with a custom-designed waterproof soft case. This is made with the same quality as Peak Design’s bags. The case fits snugly over the tripod and you can attach a Peak Design strap for carrying. There is a small hidden compartment for the toolkit. After using the system for years, the only complaint is that the case may be a bit too snug. It is not as quick as it could be to put the tripod inside.
Other accessories do not come with the tripod, but you can buy them separately. You can replace the rubber feet with either steel spiked or ultralight feet. The spiked feet are good if you are using the tripod on slippery or loose terrain like sand or ice. Simply remove the rubber feet and use the hex wrench to screw on the spikes. The spikes are placed at a unique angle to allow you to pack the tripod away in its bag while still attached. Also available are ultralight feet. These replace the telescoping legs and rubber feet. This removes weight and converts it into a tabletop or hiking tripod.
Peak Design Travel Tripod Pros and Cons
So far, this Peak Design Travel Tripod review has focused on the sleek and functional design. But the tripod is not perfect. The center column seems sturdy enough, but it is super thin. I rarely raise the center column for extra height. The tripod, extended to full height without the center column extended is only 130.2 cm (51.25 inches). I am a short photographer, so this is not too low for me. But a tall photographer will likely not find this height comfortable.
The tripod ball head fits snugly into the legs. In its collapsed state, the head does not move. You have to pull the release button and extend the center column a few centimeters off of the base. For new users, this is not necessarily intuitive. The ball head has only one release mechanism that lets the head swivel freely. This can put your camera at risk of tipping and there is no way to lock it horizontally to take panoramas.
Also, it is not easy to remove the center column and switch to low mode. You must first tip the ball head and unscrew the center column.
Finally, the toolkit slips into a plastic carrying case and snaps onto one of the legs. The system seems snug enough. But my tripod gets bumped around a lot and I was afraid of losing the tools. I removed the toolkit and carry it separately.
But the biggest complaint about the tripod is the price.
Peak Design Travel Tripod Price
Compared to other travel tripods on the market, the Peak Design Travel Tripod sits towards the expensive end. This is especially the case if you are looking for a carbon fiber tripod. The aluminum version is roughly half the price of the stronger and lighter carbon fiber version. There are many quality travel tripods cheaper than this one. But they will not have the sleek design features and compact portability of this tripod.
Who is the Peak Design Travel Tripod For?
The Peak Design Travel Tripod is for the photographer on the move. Travel, street, and documentary photographers will love this light, compact tripod. You can set it up and take it down with lightning speed. And it neatly tucks away when not in use. Photographers who hike will appreciate the lightweight travel tripod. There are no bulky knobs or ball heads to try and pack into your camera bag.
Peak Design Travel Tripod Alternatives
The Peak Design Travel Tripod is one of the highest-ranked tripods on Amazon. But there are many travel tripods on the market. These may be a bit heavier than the carbon fiber Peak Design. But they compare well with the aluminum version. These tripods are especially attractive if you want a travel tripod with a traditional ball head. We have reviewed quite a few over the years. Let’s take a look at some alternatives to Peak Design’s tripod.
Gitzo Traveler Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod (GIGT2545T)
Many photographers gravitate towards Gitzo tripods. Quality is baked into the name. The tripod is sold with and without a tripod head. With the ball head, the tripod is a bit heavier than the Peak Design aluminum tripod at 1.81 kg (4 lbs). The tripod will take a heavier load, up to 12 kg (26.46 lbs).
The maximum height is a little taller at 154.5 cm (60.8 inches), but the tripod only folds down to 44.5 cm (17.5 inches). On the twist-lock legs, the tripod has Gitzo’s Traveler G-lock, a pared-down version of Gitzo’s G-lock. The tripod includes a shoulder strap but the carrying case is sold separately.
This tripod is for a photographer with heavier gear who needs more load capacity. But it is not cheap, the tripod without a head is about the same price as the carbon fiber Peak Design tripod.
3 Legged Thing specializes in tripods and there are a lot of varieties to choose from. The Leo is roughly the same price as the aluminum Peak Design tripod. But for this price, you get a carbon fiber tripod about the same weight as the Peak Design aluminum tripod (1.52 kg, 3.35 lb). Though it is a bit shorter (147 cm, 57.7 inches).
The tripod has a whopping 33 kg (66 lbs) load capacity. It is amazing that something so small and compact can handle a heavy camera system. You can detach all three legs making this into a useful tabletop tripod. They can also be used as a monopod or as a boom arm.
You can order the Leo in metallic slate grey or earth bronze color and it comes with a nice carrying bag.
If you are looking for a less expensive travel tripod, try one in the MeFOTO series. You cannot go wrong with the Classic Aluminum Roadtrip. You give up some of the load capacity and compactness of the Peak Design Travel Tripod. But you will get a 152.4cm (60 inches) tripod that will handle 8 kilograms (17.6 lb) of camera gear. The tripod folds down to about the same length as the Peak Design version 39.1cm (15.4 inches). But is not as compact in diameter.
MeFoto, now owned by Benro, is a popular series of colorful tripods. For an upgrade, you can get this tripod in carbon fiber or upgrade to the Pro version. The Pro version not only converts to a monopod, but also a boom pole, a selfie stick, a high hat, or you can use it as a tabletop tripod.
The BeFree travel model is one of Manfrotto’s most popular models. You have the option of twist or tab lock legs, and you can order this tripod in carbon fiber.
The Manfrotto BeFree aluminum tripod is comparable to Peak Design’s aluminum version. It measures 151cm (59.45 inches) when extended and folds down to 40cm (15.75 inches). It weighs 1.6kg (3.51 lbs) and can hold 8kg (17.6 lb) of gear.
The tripod is lightweight and quick to set up. The tripod comes with a Manfrotto 494 Center Ball Head. It has easy adjustments with ergonomic and independent controls.
The only thing missing from this model is a bubble level. The tripod includes a “spider” feature that lets you add accessories like lights or reflectors to the tripod.
Photography Genre Scores
I love my Peak Design Travel Tripod, but it is not for everyone. It is for the photographer on the move. Photographers who work in studios or who need heavier, more stable tripods will probably be happier with other models. It is also not for the tall photographer. You have to appreciate the sleek, compact design to spend the money.
Beginner Friendly: 90%
Sports and Action: 90%
Low Light/Night: 90%
Value for Money: 90%
The tripod works just as Peak Design planned. It is easy to set up and break down and fits neatly into the water bottle storage pouch on the side of a backpack.
Peak Design did not get caught up in creating too many different models. They made a quality product in two different materials. The carbon fiber version is lighter and more expensive.
I have used this product for years, carting it up mountains where it doubled as a walking pole when things got tough (sorry, Peak Design!) and in all sorts of weather conditions. My tripod has a few scratches, but it has been up to the task. If you want a light, sturdy travel tripod that is nearly indestructible, the Peak Design Travel Tripod is for you.