An image of a surveyor using a survey tripod with extendable legs and a camera attached doing measurements and conducting a field land survey.

How to Set Up a Survey Tripod?

While you may have the right tools for the job, you still need to know how to use them correctly. Having a state-of-the-art survey tripod is not going to mean anything if you don’t set it properly to get the correct measurements.

The cornerstone of any surveying process is the surveying tripod, the main tool every surveyor needs to do their job right. Today we dive into exact details about how to set up a survey tripod. 

Choosing the Right Surveying Tripod

Before getting to the survey tripod setup details, you first need to know how to pick a good one for the job. The main qualities upon which you will be choosing your tool are durability and stability, as these ensure the most accurate measurements during any type of job.

However, you must also consider such factors as portability, weight, and height of your survey tripod stand. A healthy mix of all of these considerations will enable you to get the proper tool based on the surveying job you are planning to perform.




Extended Height:


Marksman Surveying Mini Tripod with Fixed Prism Mount

3/4" powder-coated aluminum construction


8" leg base, 2.5" diameter swivel foot

Marksman Surveying Mini Tripod with Calibrated Green Laser

3/4" anodized red aluminum tooling plate


Diameter: 2.25"

Aluminum Tripod with Quick Clamp - Adjustable Height


5/8 in. x 11

38 in. to 63 in.

Heavy-Duty Wood and Fiberglass Quick Clamp Tripod

Wood and Fiberglass

5/8 in. x 11

43 in. to 72 in

Construction Tripod for Laser Level

Lightweight, Durable Aluminum

5/8 in. x 11

60 in. (Opened), 38 in. (Closed)

Bosch BT160 Aluminum Contractor's Tripod



63 in.

Electrostatic Powder-Painted


Almost any kind of land surveying job will involve working on rough terrain and sometimes in hazardous situations. With the terrain conditions being somewhat unpredictable, you have to be sure that your equipment is durable enough to withstand any kind of weather conditions or outside factors that you may come across.

Therefore, picking a very durable surveying tripod will be essential. Surveying tripods are usually made out of wood, aluminum, or fiberglass. Wooden tripods are very affordable and offer decent stability. Plus, they are not affected by any weather changes.

On the other hand, a tripod for surveying made out of aluminum is both lightweight and affordable and is usually the best pick for a job that requires frequent setups. Finally, fiberglass is very strong and long-lasting and is also resistant to most of the outside elements that you could be facing.


Surveying tripod stability is an essential part of any survey. Without it, you might be getting inconsistent or even wrong results. Being that in most cases you don’t work on flat or stable terrain, you have to pick a stand that can adapt to any kind of surface.

For that reason, getting a decent survey tripod stabilizer is what you need to consider. It will help to keep the surveying tripod legs from spreading apart and failing on you as well as adapting to any type of terrain you happen to be working on.


Land surveying usually does not involve you sitting in one place. More often than not you will be changing locations and resetting the tripod to fit the surroundings. You don’t want to carry a really heavy tripod on your shoulder as sometimes a survey can last for an entire day.

For that reason, one of the best materials fit for a tripod survey is aluminum. It is very light to carry around but also durable enough even for hard terrain. More so, it is not affected by humidity. The only downside is that it may expand when exposed to temperature changes. Nevertheless, it is an ideal type of tripod for setups that last an hour or so.


As a land surveyor, you are most likely not going to be standing in the field all day in one place. You are more likely going to be moving around, carrying your equipment, and sometimes even in treacherous environments that require added safety protection. For that reason, portability is an important factor when picking out survey tripods.

The first thing to consider here is the weight of your tripod, with aluminum tripods being the go-to lightweight option. Composite tripods are also not a bad choice as well. What you also have to have in mind are the survey tripod dimensions and whether it can be compactly folded and then carried.


In most cases, land surveyors will need a standard tripod surveying tool. However, there are some occasions where extra length is needed. Tripods with telescoping legs offer adjustability but can be a bit heavy for carrying around.

These types of tripods do provide you with the versatility that you might need in any kind of land surveying situation. However, while the dual clamps are there to ensure stability and adjustability, they also add a bit of weight to the entire tripod setup. In such cases, surveyors need to consider the right combination of characteristics based on the job they need to perform.  


Survey tripod price is another factor that you have to face when shopping for a good tool for the job. While you still need to consider durability and portability first, the best options are not always the most expensive ones. You need to walk a thin line and make the choice based on the type of surveying task you are doing the most.

The most obvious choice is going for an aluminum one, as the survey tripod parts are durable enough but also light. Also, it is the most affordable and budget-friendly option that you currently have. 

Modern Features to Consider

While in most situations a basic tripod is enough for you to finish the job, there are new and improved ones that come with advanced features that are going to make the job far easier. However, these are going to cost you more money, but you can be sure that some parts of the job, surveying tripod alignment for instance, are going to be done a lot easier.

These modern features include the following:

  • Adjustable leg angles: Very beneficial when working on uneven terrain, adjust the legs individually for maximum stability.
  • Quick-release levers: Fast attachment and detachment of surveying equipment.
  • Lightweight materials: Aluminum-made tripods provide lightweight portability and durability at the same time.

How Do You Set Up and Use Surveying Instruments?

After carefully considering the right tripod for the job, it is time to learn how setting up a surveying tripod goes. A stable and level setup is the most crucial part and something that you have to have in mind at all times. For that reason, what you initially have to do is pick a steady and level spot to set up your tripod.

Be sure to avoid uneven ground, as much as possible of course. Avoid any obstacles that might come in the way and make sure to do away with any interference that might come in the way of you getting the exact measurements.

1. Extending the Tripod Legs

Unlock all three of the leg clamps on the tripod. Then extend each leg to the required height. The best way to start is to adjust it to the neck or chin level. With the instruments on top, it makes it easier to use that way. Extend and lock two legs for balance, while adjusting the third leg to position the tripod head as close to the level as possible.

2. Secure the Tripod Legs

Once the legs are adjusted to the desired height, secure them by tightening up the leg clamps. This action will prevent the surveying tripod from moving or collapsing on you. Be sure to give them a slight tug before you start, so as to make sure that they are locked tightly into place.

3. Spread Out the Tripod Legs Evenly

Spread the legs apart to ensure proper weight distribution and a stable base. Stand behind it in order to make sure that the legs are properly spread. Readjust them if needed.

4. Mounting the Tribrach and Surveying Equipment

Mounting and leveling the tribrach and properly attaching all of the surveying instruments is a crucial step. This part needs to be done very carefully in order to get accurate measuring results later on.

  • Attaching the tribrach: Position the tribrach on top of the survey head. The center hole of the tribrach needs to align with the mounting screw. Fasten it securely to the tripod head and double-check to determine that it is not loosely fitted.
  • Centering the tribrach: Take a look through the optical plummet, center the bullseye over the center point of your point, and then tighten the mounting screw. Adjust the leveling screws on the tribrach until the bubble is centered in the circle of the bubble vial. Be sure to double-check the optical plummet.
  • Attaching the surveying equipment: Put the instrument on the tripod and insert the mounting screw to tighten it down. Align the base plate of your equipment with the point on the ground visible through the optical plummet. Fasten everything up securely and give everything a really gentle shake to ensure that all is attached properly. 

How Do You Set Up a Tripod Level?

After mounting all the needed equipment on your surveying tripod, you need to fine-tune the leveling to get accurate measurements. To achieve precise leveling, you are going to need to do the following.

  1. Adjust the leveling screws or controls on the built-in bubble levels or electronic leveling devices until they indicate a level position.
  2. Use the optical plummet to center the tribrach.
  3. Check the level bubble on the surveying instrument to confirm its levels.
  4. Make adjustments to the leveling screws on the tripod or leveling controls to achieve a perfect leveling position.

After setting everything up, you should know that additional leveling is going to be needed. If for some reason a measurement is moved or bumped it will most likely put it off-center. You will have to recheck everything and set it back in place if needed. 

Ensuring Precision

Every step that involves choosing, setting up, and eventually using a survey tripod is an important one. If you aim to achieve accurate measurements, then as a surveyor you have to be mindful of each and every one. Therefore, to answer the question of “What are the advantages of a tripod stand in surveying?” the answer is every single one. You need to be precise from start to finish and pick the tripod based on the surroundings and task, then mount the equipment properly, and then make sure that you level everything correctly. 

When it comes to “What is the tripod that surveyors use?” the answer is not always the most advanced or the most expensive one. The right choice is the one that helps you perform the job properly. The best option is always the option that ensures proper measurements and precision, which is what land surveying is all about.

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