A good tripod is a photographer’s best friend. It’s also bulky, heavy, and difficult to re-position. If you need to move around a lot, bring a monopod instead.
Monopods—like this one from AmazonBasics for $16—are exactly what they sound like. They’re similar to a tripod, but with only a single leg. This model features a rubberized foot on the bottom that can be unscrewed to reveal a blunted metal spike that can dig into rough ground when necessary. And it can also extend up to 67", meaning cameras can be placed near eye level for even very tall people.
Where a tripod is designed to hold a camera in a fixed place in space, a monopod is optimized for flexibility. You can carry it like a walking stick and steady your camera the instant you stop moving. You can adjust your angle or move your camera in sweeping gestures without having to adjust the legs or, in fact, anything on your monopod.
Say you want to bring your camera to your kids’ soccer game. With a monopod, you can pick up and move up and down the field. Did your kid just run past you? Swing around and grab a picture of them. When the goalie goes for that killer dive, lean the monopod down low for a better angle.
When collapsed, the AmazonBasics monopod is a manageable 21" long. It comes with an attached wrist strap that you can use to hold on to it when you’re not using it, or attach it to a backpack or belt. It also comes with a small carrying case you can throw over your shoulder. When in the bag, it’s lightweight enough that you’ll barely notice you’re carrying it.
The obvious downside of monopods is that a single leg is less stable than three. More elaborate monopods like this model from Benro split the difference by including a flat, three-leg locking base that helps stabilize the single leg. Most monopods with a tripod base cost a little extra, but they can be worth the investment.
Even if you don’t spring for a fancy model, however, a monopod can be an invaluable tool. Whether you’re going on a nature hike, walking around Disney Land with the family, or taking photos during your second cousin’s second wedding, a monopod is like a third hand that you can always deploy to keep your camera steady.