You’ve backpacked many miles into the wilderness and have finally spotted what you think might be the elk of your dreams on the next ridge. But your binoculars are not powerful enough to accurately field judge the bull. Unfortunately, you left your spotting scope at camp because you didn’t want to lug your heavy tripod up and down the mountains all day. In this case, you should have taken a monopod. A good monopod can be just the tool for stabilizing your spotting scope, while not adding much additional weight to your pack. To make a good selection when shopping for a monopod, consider three important factors—the monopod’s height and weight, its strength and weight capacity, and what special features you might want in your monopod.
This simple monopod is 21.4 inches long and extends to 67 inches. Amazon
How high your monopod will extend is an important factor, especially for tall people wanting to stabilize their camera or spotting scope. If you are 6 feet tall, you’ll want a monopod that extends to at least 5 feet, and 5.5 feet is better. Note that a good monopod should also be useable when sitting or kneeling, so choose one that is compact enough when not extended that it suits you at both ends of the spectrum. As for weight, lighter is nearly always better, as this is one category where a monopod far outshines its bigger three-legged brother, the tripod. The only warning here is to not go so light that the result is a flimsy monopod that won’t do its job correctly.
This compact monopod weighs only 1.8 pounds but will support 39.7 pounds of equipment. Amazon
While strength and capacity go hand in hand, they are somewhat different considerations. A good, strong monopod is one made of quality materials and having sturdy leg sections. Most monopods are made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum is tough, light and corrosion resistant. Carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum and also stronger. When considering strength, be aware that you can get a monopod that is so strongly built that it no longer serves you well in the weight category. As for capacity, you want a monopod that will hold at least twice the weight of the heaviest equipment (camera, lenses, spotting scope) you plan to use it to stabilize. Weight capacity for most monopods will be listed in the product’s specifications.
This monopod has fold-down feet for additional stability and flexibility Amazon
Additional features you would like on your monopod—or add-ons—can make your monopod easier to use and more effective at stabilizing your chosen equipment. Nice additional features to look for include swivel heads for tilting the camera or spotting scope forward and backward, a tilt or ball heads for added flexibility when shooting horizontal landscape photography and quick-release mounts for fast setup and camera changes. Other nice features are padded grips for comfort, hand or shoulder straps for easy carrying and cases for safe storage. Some monopods even have fold-down feet, making them more like a very compact tripod and adding stability.