It is extremely frustrating to discover a photograph is blurry after I've returned home from the landscape, when I am back at my computer. Making an incredible photograph is hard enough and I do not need blur to ruin it. Often there is a tremendous effort spent driving to a faraway location or a long and arduous hike with unique weather conditions that cannot be duplicated; regardless, I do not take chances or waste my time, a sturdy tripod can help reduce blur and I always carry one with me.
My tripods must survive sea water, sand and mud. In wet environments, I plant the legs firmly (think deep) into the ground to reduce movement from waves or wind. Some of my tripods have sealed legs that do not allow water and particles in, they easily shake dry and are lighter, however, my default tripod’s legs are not sealed, everything gets into them and they require frequent deep cleaning. The weather and landscape dictate which tripod I use. In sand, I frequently reach for sealed legs, however, if it is very windy or a strong surf, then I must use one of my heavier non-sealed tripods; a strong wave can topple a tripod and it is not worth the risk.
Tripods are useless without a head (same with people!). The head attaches to the camera via a clamp and plate. There are many different types of tripod heads; each has a purpose and a set of advantages. I personally prefer ball heads because I can rapidly setup and reposition my camera or keep it loose while I stare through the viewfinder. I use an Arca Swiss style clamp with Wimberley brand plates. The plate is attached to the camera or lens. With a quick twist of the knob I have a tight lock. I also use a bubble level on the camera (in my camera's hot-shoe flash mount) to ensure my camera is level (a bubble level on the tripod is useless when using a ball head).
Over the years, I have realized there is an unintended benefit to using a tripod; it allows me to work without having to hold the camera all the time. Both hands free offers me the option of changing a lens if the perspective doesn't match the image in my mind; I can also easily add filters to the front of the lens without needing a third hand. I can roam the nearby landscape without worrying about or tiring from an expensive and heavy object. Most importantly, with my camera on a tripod, I can stare through the viewfinder, slow the process down and spend time considering the next exposure.
I have used Arca Swiss ball heads for many years; I was fortunate to find an original B1 monoball (not the smaller B1 that is manufactured today, the huge version). I also use a Manfrotto Proball, which is no longer manufactured. These ball heads are extremely well built, very reliable and fortunately spare parts are available; I’ve ordered replacement parts from Manfrotto Spares (www.manfrottospares.com).
Lastly, I never carry my camera on my tripod as I hike or walk around. I know it looks cool, but it would not be cool if I smashed a lens or hit the camera on something hard, therefore, I recommend you never do it either.