Across the tropics, there is a growing financial investment in activities that aim to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, such as REDD+. However, most tropical countries lack on-the-ground capacity to conduct reliable and replicable assessments of forest carbon stocks, undermining their ability to secure long-term carbon finance for forest conservation programs. Clear guidance on how to reduce the monetary and time costs of field assessments of forest carbon can help tropical countries to overcome this capacity gap.