Do tripod owners break down the tripod between uses? I'm imagining going on a flight or something and breaking it down into legs + head, rather than assembled 100% of the time.

Can't recall ever seeing this mentioned, except for the guy here who took his apart and then couldn't get them back together(!)...

Is there a recommended behavior here, or does it not matter?

  • In addition to the answers already posted, I'd add that many of the (good, and therefore expensive-ish) specialized travel tripods fold differently -- the legs fold up around the extended center column, surrounding the ball head, which makes a pretty tidy, compact package.
    – user2719
    Jan 30, 2012 at 18:18

8 Answers 8


I always leave the ball head attached to my Manfrotto tripod. It does have three little retaining screws holding it in place but even if it didn't I wouldn't be inclined to remove it unless I had a particular reason for doing so.

My tripod mostly lives under the cargo net in the back of my car fully assembled and ready to go as and when I need it.

This may not be entirely related to the question but does involve a removable part of the tripod. The Manfrotto clip on screwdriver tool that came with my tripod lasted about a week before falling off somewhere and becoming lost. I think there is a design flaw in that when the tripod legs are fully closed the clip is actually pushed away from the leg it is connected too. The clip should really lock in place to avoid becoming lost. If I had the tripod again from new I would take this off and leave it at home.

  • What Mark J P said. I leave mine together unless there is a reason to take it off (such as packing for a trip and it will only fit without the head on). I see no reason to take it off just for the sake of taking it off.
    – Ian Lelsie
    Jan 30, 2012 at 15:28

My tripod fits, diagonally, in one of my suitcases with the head attached, and doesn't in another.

I recently went to the USA with the larger case, and just left the tripod and head attached, but well padded (with a winter jacket, etc). However when I went away earlier in the year and with the smaller case I broke it down to transport and just reassembled it at the other end.

In summary - I dont think it matters :)


I'd rather not risk losing the little adjustment screws when removing the head (or having to fiddle with them when putting it back on), so my head stayed screwed on tight :)
For the large 3 way head, I have to unscrew the handles as they stick out too much for the tripod to fit in its case with them attached.


To answer the general question, "tripod head always on or off when not being used?" I strongly suggest always always always on. Why would you waste time putting your tripod together when the shot you want has maybe thirty seconds to survive. Better to use that time on composition and exposure.

In other words, would Batman fight crime without his utility belt loaded and ready?

If you need to disassemble to make space for travel, just make sure you have a secure and easily accessible spot for any hardware that may come apart. This won't hurt your pod (though over time if you do this a lot it will eventually wear out, like anything else.)


To answer your question, yes you can always leave the head on. That is exactly what I do and never have I had a problem. When shopping for a suitcase I go to the stores with the tripod and head mounted on it and won't accept a suitcase that cannot fit them that way. I also have matching tripod bag that fits my tripod.

Now, I noticed one of my fellow photographers take his head off when putting the tripod in checked luggage. I asked why and he simply said that the head is more delicate so he wants to be the one to handle it.


I remove mine all the time. When I am transporting my gear in my photopack, I leave it off until on location, as it makes the tripod much too top-heavy and tends to get unsettled on the pack.

When traveling (flights) I remove the ballhead and pack both in my rollaboard suitecase. It would not fit attached, as the combo would be too long.

I attach my ballhead using the 3/8 thread only, as there are no locking screws as the Kirk BH-3. I have had no issues taking it on and off.


Yeah, mine is always on. I bought a Pelican case large enough for it to just fit inside. One more thing to not have to put together on location is fine by me. My problem is keeping track of the quick release plates!


I prefer three-segment tripods (which are longer collapsed than four segment tripods), so my tripod will not fit in carryon with the tripod head attached.

For carryon, I take off the ball head and store it separately alongside the tripod, and also some lenses and cameras in soft cases.

That all fits well into one medium sized duffel bag, it never violates size constraints and doesn't look like a ton of camera gear. It's quite heavy though to carry around.

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