Review: Climbing Tree Stands

The ups and downs of five popular models.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Like many whitetail hunters in good physical shape who tear off to the public woods for a morning or evening hunt every chance they get, I am an unreconstructed aficionado of the climbing stand. If mobility is key, and if you live where the trees are straight enough to permit its use, a climbing stand is your best option.

Sure, I know guys who head out with a hang-on stand, a lineman-style climbing belt, and 10 screw-in steps. More power to 'em. My average time for setting up one of these babies is about 90 minutes, during which time I'm sweating like a pig, making more noise than a ninth-grade garage band, and bleeding in at least two places. Any deer I see afterward are old does just out of range using me as a teaching tool: There's no real danger from this one, my children, because he's so loud and smelly.

So if I get the feeling the deer aren't coming to my spot, I want the freedom to move before the sun is too high or too low. What I need is a climber that sets up quickly, easily, and quietly. And the lighter the stand is, the faster I can move. Models that can be set up in the dark or adjusted while on the tree-two trends that manufacturers are catching on to-are especially useful. Here's a look at some of the latest offerings:

** Lone Wolf Alpha Sit and Climb Combo.** One of the quietest, easiest to pack, and most technologically advanced stands on the market. The Lone Wolf is made from solid cast aluminum, meaning there are no welds to weaken and no hollow tubes to echo when you shift your feet. Lone Wolf was one of the first to go to a belt-and-cam fastening system, which lets you set up quickly, quietly, and in total darkness without fumbling around in the leaves for dropped pins. The belts are made of polyurethane reinforced with steel cables. The platform incorporates two pockets to hold concealing brush, two hooks to hang accessories from, and niftiest of all, a built-in bracket to hold your compound bow at the ready. The U-bar climber pivots up for use as a rifle rest or down below the seat when bowhunting. The stand collapses to just 3 inches thick for backpacking and hugs your back, so it feels lighter than its 19 pounds and doesn't restrict movement through brush.

Complaints: The stabilizing belt that prevents the seat platform from sliding down when you stand up is merely the bungee cord with a plastic hook that you use to pack up the stand. It is not adjustable, and it is not the best way to secure the platform. And the rubber grommet that prevents the aluminum holder from chewing up your bow ought to be standard, not a $10 add-on.

Weight rating: 300 pounds.

**Bottom line: **Steep price, but this one has attracted a very loyal following. Spend the extra $14 for the padded back straps.

Price: $319 direct from the manufacturer. 414-744-4984; www.lonewolfstands.com

Loggy Bayou Quick Draw. I know more than one hunter who still heads out with his original Loggy Bayou climber, with its spring-loaded pins and steel climbing band, dispenses with the cumbersome, 5-pound climbing aid, and simply bear-hugs his way up a tree. That setup calls for more arm strength than most of us have, shreds your hunting duds on the bark, and is clearly not the safest arrangement going. But at 13 pounds, it sure is light. Now Loggy is updating its lineup with the Quick Draw, replacing the steel band with plastic-coated wire cable and incorporating an innovative "trigger" mechanism that lets you adjust the angle of both platforms while on the tree. It weighs 18 pounds, which is commendable in a stand that features an enclosing rail bar on the climber and a platform that measures a full 35 inches long. Like all Loggy climbers, it comes with interchangeable aluminum and rubber teeth and an almost overbuilt cam-buckle safety strap for the seat platform. But once you're locked into the tree, the seat isn't going anhere.

Complaints: Pin-and-cable system means you can't set up in the dark. The adjustable trigger mechanism is an admirable feature but creates some noise during climbs and carries. A bungee cord around your heels is necessary to keep your feet from sliding out of the foot straps.

Weight rating: 250 pounds.

Bottom line: Solid stand with biggest platform in the group at an attractive price. The learning curve on a Loggy is longer than on other stands, but most of the features (such as adjustable dual connector safety straps between the two platforms) make sense once you study them.

**Price: **$249.99 suggested retail. 800-353-1860; www.loggybayou.net

Bear River Nomad II. This model, made by the same company that manufactures stands for Remington, incorporates a belt-and-cam system at a budget price. Its BarkBiter belt is the same hybrid rubber used for timing belts in heavy machinery and, if anything, locks even more easily than the Lone Wolf's. The trade-off for this in-the-dark setup capability is weight. The Nomad II, made of aluminum tubing, weighs in at a hefty 26 pounds. The Nomad Archer, a similar Bear River stand, comes in 3 pounds lighter, mostly by omitting the enclosing rail on the seat section. The platform measures 20x241/2 inches and then angles up another 5 inches in a footrest. In theory, this allows you to set the seat section higher, making it easier to come to a standing position. In practice, I would rather have had the footrest straightened out to allow a bigger platform.

Complaints: Untruth in advertising. The company's Web site lists the Nomad II and Archer at 20 pounds each. It was the bulkiest backpacking arrangement of stands tested and difficult to get the two pieces to "nest" securely.

Weight rating: 275 pounds.

Bottom line: High-tech fastening system in a sturdy, comfortable stand at a low price. If you've got more leg muscle than money and aren't hiking long distances, you could be happy in this one.

Price: $229 suggested retail for the Nomad II; $199 for the Archer. 800-536-3337; www.bearrivertreestands.com

**Summit Bushmaster XLS. **After 20 years in the business, Summit knows what it's doing, putting out a high-quality stand at a very attractive price. The Bushmaster XLS is the company's lightest stand, weighing just 16 pounds. It attaches using "snakeable" cable of rubber-coated steel that fits into a channel in the tubing and has bulging "stops" in the cable that seat against a bracket. It's nearly as quiet as belts and cams, with no parts to lose, and gives you in-the-dark setup capability. The teeth on a Summit grip are sharper and grip deeper than any other stand tested. Platform measures 20x283/4 inches. The padded sling seat is comfortable and, at 12x18 inches, the biggest tested. All in a package that carries quietly and sets up quickly.

Complaints: An unusual feature in Summit stands is that they pack upside down-with the side that grips the tree facing up. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, as a backpack it rides low on your back, not the most comfortable weight distribution. On the other hand, it's surprisingly mobile in heavy brush. If your head clears an overhanging limb, the stand will, too.

Weight rating: 300 pounds.

Bottom line: A bargain that's hard not to like. All climbers come with safety belts; Summit's is the best tested, a beefy four-point harness. The company deserves credit for walking the walk on safety.

Price: $199 suggested retail. 256-353-0634; www.summitstands.com

Timbertall Baby Lite. The Ferrari of tree stands, designed for the hard-core hunter who wants minimum weight. It's small, with a platform measuring just 18x27 inches, technologically advanced with an ingenious self-leveling system that lets you adjust the angle of both platforms while on the tree by turning a knob. And it's incredibly light, just 11 pounds. How do they do it? The stand is tubular aluminum, same as most stands. There's just less of it. The platform crossbeams are just 3/4 inch wide and 21/2 inches apart, giving the stand an almost skeletal feel. Sling seat is unpadded with a small padded backrest. The fastening system is a throwback, pins and plastic-covered steel cables. A rail that you can sit on while climbing or to look the other way when hunting encloses the seat section.

Complaints: That pin-and-cable fastening system is hard to use quietly and impossible without illumination in the dark. Backpacking is fairly complicated, requiring that you completely remove the straps before using the stand, and incorporating two tiny straps to hold the two pieces together. Impossible to eliminate all noise when packing. But this is nit-picking.

Weight rating: 275 pounds.

Bottom line: You can flat-out fly through the woods with this thing on your back. An amazing stand. Buy extra pins and knobs from a hardware store before going out because you will drop them. You probably wouldn't want this stand unless you need it; if you need it, you wouldn't want any other. I've had lunches that weighed more.

Price: $341 direct. 570-837-1775; www.timbertalloutdoors.com eling system that lets you adjust the angle of both platforms while on the tree by turning a knob. And it's incredibly light, just 11 pounds. How do they do it? The stand is tubular aluminum, same as most stands. There's just less of it. The platform crossbeams are just 3/4 inch wide and 21/2 inches apart, giving the stand an almost skeletal feel. Sling seat is unpadded with a small padded backrest. The fastening system is a throwback, pins and plastic-covered steel cables. A rail that you can sit on while climbing or to look the other way when hunting encloses the seat section.

Complaints: That pin-and-cable fastening system is hard to use quietly and impossible without illumination in the dark. Backpacking is fairly complicated, requiring that you completely remove the straps before using the stand, and incorporating two tiny straps to hold the two pieces together. Impossible to eliminate all noise when packing. But this is nit-picking.

Weight rating: 275 pounds.

Bottom line: You can flat-out fly through the woods with this thing on your back. An amazing stand. Buy extra pins and knobs from a hardware store before going out because you will drop them. You probably wouldn't want this stand unless you need it; if you need it, you wouldn't want any other. I've had lunches that weighed more.

Price: $341 direct. 570-837-1775; www.timbertalloutdoors.com