I have always used a tripod to some extent, but over the years it is become invaluable to me. A lot of photographers claim they can hold their camera rock steady. Good for them. I can’t. So I use a tripod, because I love a sharp image.
But hold on, there are more benefits to a tripod, other than getting sharp images. For starters, having my camera, lens and flash unit on a tripod gives me the opportunity to take my hands off the camera, if I so choose. A lot of times, when shooting wildlife, one has to wait for just the right moment. That wait can sometimes be long. Also, I feel more relaxed and am able to think more about what I intend to accomplish.
In addition, having my camera on a tripod opens up many more exposure options than I would have otherwise. I am able to use any shutter speed/aperture/ISO combination I choose. That, in my mind, is worth the trouble of hauling it around with me. I actually prefer shooting with my gear on a tripod, because I know that I am giving myself the best possible chance for capturing my vision.