It’s hard to believe but it has finally happened. My search for the perfect travel tripod has been put on hold. At least for now. I have been using the MeFOTO Backpacker Travel Tripod for about two years now, and I feel that I really know its strengths and weaknesses. Is it the perfect tripod? No. Is it an excellent tripod for travelling around the globe? Yes.
I purchased this tripod on a whim from my local camera store and have never regretted the decision. The first thing that sold me on this tripod was the size. This tripod is the absolute perfect size when folded. It will fit in pretty much any travel bag or backpack when folded which is not true for almost all of the other ‘quality’ travel tripods. The second thing I liked was the construction. This is an extremely well-made product that feels great in the hand. It’s hard to explain, but once you hold it you understand. The third was the price. While it isn’t a super inexpensive tripod, I feel that for the quality and features, you are getting an amazing deal. So without further ado, I introduce to you…
The MeFOTO Backpacker Travel Tripod
First off, let’s go over the numbers. Boring I know, but it’s important to understand the size and weight of this beauty.
|Maximum Load||8.8 lb (Mirrorless cameras are ideal.)|
|Max Height w/Column Extended||51.2″ (A little short in my opinion.)|
|Max Height w/Column Retracted||45.7″|
|Folded Length||12.6″ (This is the amazing number.)|
|Number of Leg Sections||5|
|Leg Lock Type||Twist Lock|
|Center Column||Fixed Center Column|
|Tilt Range||-45° / +90°|
|Drag Control||No (This is not a video tripod.)|
|Separate Panning Lock||Yes|
|Quick Release (QR) Plate||Arca-Swiss Style (PU50)|
|Head Mount Thread Size||3/8″-16|
Whoever says that size doesn’t matter has never lugged a super large or heavy tripod around while either hiking in the jungle or marching from one end of Paris to the other. Plus, what’s the advantage of carrying my super small Fuji XT-10 mirrorless camera system around if I also have to haul a giant tripod?!? The size of this tripod is the number one reason that I bought it. You can find smaller travel tripods but they are either a) complete pieces of crap, b) so wobbly that you can never get a long exposure shot, or c) outrageously expensive. The MeFOTO Backpacker travel tripod hits the sweet spot on all of these counts. I love the fact that it fits in the water bottle pocket of my Lowepro Hatchback 22L backpack or in the main compartment of it. None of this strapping-a-giant-tripod-to-the-outside-of-the-pack nonsense.
As I mentioned above, the build quality on this tripod is superb and really must be felt and handled to understand. The joints appear to be machined aluminum, but it could be a cast aluminum alloy. It’s really hard to tell, but it’s good stuff. The legs are definitely made of aluminum. All of the knobs, as well as the leg releases, are rubber coated metal and of very good quality. You will find no plastic on this tripod.
This is the elephant in the room for every travel tripod. Most travel tripods tout how small they are, but they never actually talk about stability. If you’ve ever attempted to do long exposure photography with a cheap, rickety tripod you know the frustration. I’m happy to say that this tripod gets it right… with a caveat. The tripod is very stable, especially when used with the recessed center-column hook, except when you fully extend the center-column. I’ve had mixed results with long exposure photos when fully extended which isn’t really a surprise. I find the tripod is already a little short even when fully extended so this sometimes can be a pain. However, I’ve had very good results with night time long exposure shots using this tripod and can still recommend it. Remember, any truly compact travel tripod is going to have to make trade-offs somewhere.
When you hang a backpack or other weight from the recessed center-column hook, the stability of the tripod is greatly increased.
Below is an example of a night time photograph shot with the MeFOTO Backpacker travel tripod at ISO 100, f4, and an exposure of 1/3 second.
At around $150 US, the MeFOTO Backpacker is a bargain. Yes, there are other cheaper travel tripods on the market, such as the Dolica TX570B, but they won’t match the quality and build of the MeFOTO. I’ve tried the Dolica which is very much like the MeFOTO and half the price, but it just isn’t as stable or of the same quality. A worthy competitor for the MeFOTO would be the 3-legged Thing EVO3 tripod, but I haven’t used it. It’s also worth noting that MeFOTO tripods come with a 3-year warranty but you can get an extra 2-years added on if you register your product.
When I first bought this tripod, I knew it was Arca-Swiss compatible, but I had no idea what that meant. I know now, and I am a believer in the system. If you have ever gotten frustrated trying to move the tripod plate between different tripods, only to discover they aren’t compatible, then Arca-Swiss is for you. The purpose of Arca-Swiss is to standardize the tripod plate so that it works on all brands. None of this proprietary crap that manufacturers love. Another benefit of the system is that 3rd party manufacturers can make products that work with all Arca-Swiss products. Case in point is one of my favorite camera accessories, the Arca-Swiss L-bracket. The L-bracket mounts to your camera and allows you to easily switch from portrait to landscape photos via the tripod without ever having to move the tripod head. It’s amazing for landscape photography. Once you’ve used an Arca-Swiss L-bracket, you won’t want to live without it.