Considering the Stability vs Compact Tripod Dilemma
A compact tripod has a number of benefits because it's much smaller than other tripods. This means that it can be packed into small spaces without needing to bulk out your luggage. Lots of these are also light weight. The problem with many tripods, however, is that they are unstable which means they are not well suited for the purpose they are intended for.
Understanding the Dilemma
Your camera will be mounted on top of the tripod, and this will be at the highest point. If the bottom of your tripod is heavier than the camera, then this won't be a problem because the tripod is heavy enough to support the camera. However, in the case of many compact tripods that are light weight, this will normally mean that the center of gravity will be at the same point as the camera. This creates a major problem because it makes the tripod liable to tip over.
When the tripod is heavier at the top than at the bottom, it will not be stable. When looking for compact tripods, it is important to first consider the stability.
The Importance of Stability
The main reason you will be using a tripod is to make sure that your camera is completely stable when taking photos. The more stable your camera is, the better the chances are of taking a photograph which isn't blurred. Cameras have a shutter inside them which opens to allow light inside to make the photo.
If the camera moves while the shutter is open, then this will result in a shaky or blurry photograph. This will be more noticeable when using slower shutter speeds in low light levels because the shutter will be open for longer to allow enough light inside the lens. If your compact tripod isn't stable, then it will move in the wind and stand a chance of falling over. This will make taking great photos very difficult.
Overcoming the Dilemma
There are things that you can do to avoid the stability issue when buying compact and portable tripods. The easiest would be to choose a heavier and more substantial tripod which has more weight to it. This will mean that your camera won't be top heavy when attached to the tripod. It does, however, mean that the tripod will be much heavier for you to carry.
Some lightweight portable tripods have spikes or hooks in the feet. These are designed to press into the ground or hook under rocks. This should mean that although the tripod itself is too light to support your camera so that it's stable, the hooks should be enough to hold everything in place. There are also other lightweight tripods which wrap around objects such as tree branches and bricks so that they are more stable. These tripods are generally much smaller and might not be suitable for professional use.
The best option for a professional is to choose a lightweight tripod which has spikes in the feet so that the camera will be as stable as possible while taking photos.