September 10, 2012
It would be a lie to say my first experiences with climbing stands left me bewildered, because in truth, they left me scared. Eighteen feet up a tree is no place to lose the platform on which you stand, but that's exactly what happened to me.
I had tied the platform to the seat, but my rope was too long and only attached at one point — the center of the platform. This meant I had to bear hug the tree while trying to haul the tippy platform up to a suitable level, and then fumble with it to get it firmly gripped to the tree. Once I finally got things functional, I had to hunt out of the stand, and then rely on it to get me back down to the ground. Needless to say, my enjoyment during that sit was nonexistent, and after that experience I couldn't run fast enough back to screw-in treesteps and hang-on stands.
It wasn't until maybe six or seven years ago that I tested the climbing stand waters again. This time it became clear that many of the original problems had been remedied, and I've relied heavily on climbers to get the jump on unsuspecting game ever since.
Since regaining my confidence in climbing stands, I have pared down and fine-tuned my process to the point where I'm not only comfortable using a climbing stand, I enjoy it and feel safe. That said, there are certain considerations to be made when shopping for a new climber.
The first is style. Sit-and-climb stands have eclipsed hand-climbers in popularity because they are much easier to operate. For compound shooters, sit-and-climb models are the way to go. If you opt for traditional bows, which are much longer tip-to-tip, hand-climbers might be a better choice. This is a lesson I learned the first time I combined a climbing stand with my takedown recurve. There's nothing more frustrating than reaching your desired height, and then realizing it's nearly impossible to shoot out of your stand.
The next consideration is size. Climbing stands are often marketed for being roomy and comfortable, and many of them are. Personally, I want lightweight and portable. Carrying a climber through the woods or hiking a mile or two into a Western riverbottom always reminds me that I like feathery stands that don't take up much space. However, if your typical hunting scenario involves a short walk through the woods, bigger might be better.
When deciding on just what model and size of stand is best for you, take a look at the connection between the seat and platform. The best style I've found is one easily adjustable strap on each side of the seat and platform. This dual connection ensures the platform will always be level, which is a major plus. Every climber I use either features this type of connection, or is quickly fitted with one. The same goes for backpack straps. Most models will have padded backpack straps, but if not, install them aftermarket. You won't regret it.
No matter your climber choice, learn how to use it properly — and safely. And never, ever use one without wearing a full-body safety harness.
What follows is a rundown of new climbing stands from some of the top manufacturers in the industry, plus one piece of equipment that is always with me, any time I hunt from a climber.
Ameristep Brotherhood Climber
comes another great climbing stand choice — the new Brotherhood Climber. The sit-and-climb Brotherhood features a comfortable 13" x 15" sling seat design, aluminum construction, and safety lock cinch straps. At 21 lbs., the Brotherhood is a great option for sneaking into your favorite whitetail spots.
API Outdoors Alumi-Tech Crusader
has been in the climbing stand business for a long time, and their new Alumi-Tech Crusader Climbing Treestand is testament to their expertise. The aluminum Crusader has traction ridges on the platform for steady footing, and it's designed to be quiet and strong through the use of reinforced, closed triangular extrusions. The completely open design of the 22-lb. Crusader is conducive to bowhunting because it allows you to easily maneuver into position for a shot.
Gorilla Treestands Silverback Stealth HX
is one of my favorite companies. I've used a host of their stands, and it's obvious they understand what hunters need and want in a product. This became even clearer when I got my hands on the Silverback Stealth HX Climber. The aluminum, 21.1-lb. Stealth HX Climber features Gorilla's patented Gorilla Grip pivoting arms, which fit trees ranging from 22" down to 8" in diameter. As with many of Gorilla's offerings, this climber has an oversized HX construction platform plus the comfortable XPE zero-G dual-density foam seat.
Lone Wolf Stands Wide Sit & Climb
I've hunted out of the earlier version of Lone Wolf Stands' Sit & Climb
in a pile of states over the past five years. It has been my designated public-land stand, and throughout countless sits I've developed one complaint: I always felt like the seat was too narrow, and that led to some discomfort on longer sits. Enter the new Wide Sit & Climb 'Combo ' II. The 21-lb. Wide Sit & Climb 'Combo ' II features a 21" wide seat, a 31" x 19.5" platform, and Lone Wolf's pivoting Sit & Climb bar. This stand is not cheap, but when you consider that the cost of ladder stands or hang-ons with climbing steps can add up to that price in a hurry (while offering far less portability), the price can easily be justified.
Summit Treestands Viper Elite SD
If you're considering a new climbing stand purchase, an obvious choice would be to go to the company that's been producing climbing stands longer than anyone — Summit Treestands
. With several models from which to choose, their Viper Elite SD is a great option if you're in the market for a stand that hits the sweet spot between comfort and portability. To reduce the overall weight of the Viper Elite SD to a mere 16 lbs., the engineers at Summit used Round Tube Aluminum in its construction. Dead Metal Sound Deadening Technology makes it whisper quiet, and each Viper Elite SD is fitted with Summit's RapidClimb Stirrups — a favorite feature of mine.
Wicked Tree Gear Wicked Tough Tree Saw
Lastly, I'd be remiss to not mention the Wicked Tough Tree Saw from Wicked Tree Gear
. I've used this saw for over a year now, and the high-carbon steel blade is still scary sharp. I won't carry a climber into the woods without this saw in my pack; it's that good. From the blade-locking design to the cast-aluminum handle, this saw is a winner. In fact, my only complaint with Wicked is that they don't have a telescoping version yet.
X-Stand X-1 Sit & Climb
The release of the X-1 Sit & Climb stand from X-Stand
is evidence that you can 'reinvent the wheel. ' And while you're at it, you can make it lighter, quieter, and simply more fun to use. The X-1 Sit & Climb is exactly what I look for in a treestand. For starters, it is constructed with 6061 T6 aircraft aluminum, which allowed the engineers behind the design to trim the entire stand's weight down to a shade over 12 lbs. That would be considered lightweight for a hang-on, let alone a climber. The X-1 Sit & Climb features X-Stand's ingenious Flexible Fiberglass Arm Technology, which works to counterbalance your weight, making the platform steady no matter how far toward the edge you stand. Even the seat of the X-1 is unique in that it sits level with the arm bars — just like a hang-on stand's seat — keeping your rear end from slumping into uncomfortable positions.