If you’re looking for a tripod, chances are that you will be considering the Vortex Ridgeview Tripod Kit. Costing at around $130, Vortex’s “rugged,” “compact” and fully featured tripod comes at a decent, fair price. The tripod itself is sturdy and sleek. It is lightweight and easy to set up. Overall, the Ridgeview is a solid piece of equipment, but in some ways, the product does fall short of its Vortex name. So before you buy, here are a few strengths and weaknesses to consider.
What I do love about the tripod is that it’s so transportable. Weighing at a mere 3.60 pounds, you would have no problem strapping it to your pack or carrying it around in the backcountry. The Ridgeview also collapses down to 23 inches, perfectly fitting inside its own sturdy canvas bag. There are also no handles and miscellaneous parts sticking out. The Ridgeview folds down into a nice, neat package with zero fuss.
Vortex’s tripod is also made with the best materials. Anodized aluminum legs provide lightweight, sturdy support. Connections between the legs, center locking collar, ball head and plate platform are overall solid. With a Razor HD Spotting Scope mounted on top, I never once felt like the Ridgeview would bend or break—even when I was lugging it around through dirt and grass. The Ridgeview’s construction is “rock solid.”
The folks at Vortex did a great job at trying to make this tripod as functional for outdoorsmen as possible. Boasting a slew of great features, the Ridgeview is built with flip lever leg locks, padded leg wraps, rubber feet, a balance hook anchor for windy conditions and easily adjustable leg angles.
What’s great about all these features is that they make set up and adjusting quick and easy. While you’re out hunting, the last thing you want to do is to fight with your tripod. Legs are fully adjustable with lever leg locks. Leg angles are also independently adjustable by pulling out Variable Leg Release Buttons, making set up on uneven terrain a breeze. I also admire how all the locks and levers are neatly built into the tripod, making the tripod look more physically pleasing. Nothing sticks out, preventing parts from being accidently loosened or knocked off.
The Ridgeview is also built with a compass and bubble level. I personally have never had any use for the compass, but the bubble level is a fantastic feature. I’ve mostly been using this tripod for digiscoping photography, therefore making sure everything is straight and balanced is a must.
Quick Release Plate
Another great feature is the Quick Release (QR) Platform, which connects your spotting scope to the tripod. It can get annoying screwing and unscrewing your scope from the tripod, especially when traveling from one spot to the next. But with this quick release system, you can easily attach and detach your spotting scope without having to take the entire QR Plate off. Pack your scope away with the plate still attached, and easily slide the scope back onto the tripod when you need it again.
Although I’m impressed with the Ridgeview’s smart design, I think the tripod falls a tad short when it came to performance. The tripod’s Ball Head is probably the greatest feature on the tripod, allowing users to swivel 360 degrees left and right, up and down without any annoying handles. However, this is where amazing concept falls behind actual execution. To be honest, I found the Ball Head system a little annoying. For one, the Ball Head Lever, which increases the tension of the ball (allowing it to turn), goes from too tight to too loose, too quickly.
If you don’t tighten the lever enough, your spotting scope setup starts sliding out of place. This is especially prevalent while digiscoping, with the added weight of a camera mounted on the spotting scope. And when the lever’s too tight, trying to swivel the spotting scope becomes difficult. There doesn’t seem to be an in between—where the Ball Head is tight enough to stay in place, but loose enough to smoothly swivel. If there is such a place, it’s tricky to find—not something I’d want to deal with when out in the field, when an animal could be gone in a split second while I’m still fumbling with my tripod. And if you’re not careful when loosening, the slightest turn of the Ball Head Lever can make your spotting scope collapse completely. It is best to hold onto the spotting scope while loosening the lever. I’ve done that a few times.
Additionally, after a normal amount of swiveling, the Quick Release Plate Platform and Center Column Locking Collar start to come loose. When this happens, the spotting scope gets wobbly. I found myself having to undo and reattach the QR Platform several times in order to retighten everything up again. Perhaps this isn’t as important when it comes to normal glassing, but when digiscoping, precision is highly important in order to frame shots.
If you were a hunter in need of a great all-around tripod, I’d highly recommend the Vortex Ridgeview Tripod. It’s solid, light, compact and loaded with awesome features. It will be your best friend, helping you to efficiently spot out your dream trophy. However, if you plan on doing a lot of photography/digiscoping, I would look into something else. The Ball Head system is not sensitive enough for something as precise as photography.
Jenny Nguyen is writer and photographer for recipe blog Food for Hunters. For more information, please visit www.foodforhunters.com.