By Mike Carney
No matter if you're in need of climbing sticks, steps, platforms — or really anything else that connects to the tree in a saddle-hunting situation — we've gathered a collection of top-notch products that you'll want to see to make your time afield as safe and comfortable as it can be. And while you're at it, remember to take a look at our demo climb video with aider use.
Weight is total all sticks, without strap. Typical buckle and strap weighs 6.5 oz.; 7' of buckle-less Amsteel weighs 2.4 oz. Total height is equidistant spacing based on distance between all steps, from ground up (conservative, with no stretching out of sticks). See YouTube: DIY Sportsman Best Climbing Stick Attachment Method and Spencer Greene Stealth Strips.
1. Muddy Aerolite, $149.99: 10.3 lbs./3 sticks, 3 rungs of folding dual steps per stick, 14.5" per step. Total height: 10.9' (Muddy’s most popular and appropriate stick for saddle hunters is the two-rung Pro Series, but they were unavailable for testing. Specs from the manufacturer are: 10 lbs./4 sticks, dual fixed steps with two rungs per stick, 18" per step. Total height: 12'.)
2. Beast Sticks, $320: 6.75 lbs./4 sticks, 2 rungs of fixed steps per stick, 22" per step. Total height: 14.5'. Pricey, but the lightweight leader and built to last a lifetime; 22" spacing ideal for maximizing height and application with single moving aider (see sidebar).
3. Lone Wolf Climbing Sticks, $199: 9.1 lbs./4 sticks, 3 rungs of moveable single steps per stick, 15" per step. Total height: 15'. The originals that started the mobile stick movement. Still a great option and value, a left/right switch-able single step per rung is more challenging when setting platforms.
4. Hawk Helium, $129.99: 9.25 lbs./3 sticks, 3 rungs of dual folding steps per stick, 13.5" per step. Total height: 10.12'. Most popular mod is to remove one rung of steps and cut sticks down to 20"-22" between steps for a more favorable weight/height package appropriate for aider usage. See YouTube: David Toms Amsteel on Climbing Stick
1. Bullman Outdoors Silent Approach Climbing Method: 10 Steps, 10 Straps, in handy multi-purpose carry bags with extra pockets for saw or trimmers. Weight: 4 lbs. 7 oz.
2. Cranford EZY® Climb Folding Rope Tree Step. Fits trees up to 17" in diameter, weighs 9.5 oz. each. Ten steps can reach 18' with 22" spacing for less than 6 lbs.
3. Treehopper Treestand Accessories combo pack includes a hand drill, pouch, and 10 coated bolts for $79.95. Extra coated bolts come in black, plus dark or light gray, sold in 10-pack for $23.95. The Cordless Drill carrier and Bolt Holster (right) is $19.95 for those who want to pre-drill multiple setups.
4. Wild Edge SteppLadders have a cult-like following in the saddle community and can be ordered with either 6' or 8' ropes in custom mixes or in prepackaged kits. Weight is just under a pound per step with 8' rope. A specific loop secures the step to the tree, and it cams down to lock in place. Wild Edge even makes an adjustable climbing aider specific to their steps. A 10-pack with deployment bag is $160. Wildedgeinc.com
5. Eastern Woods Outdoors Squirrel Steps are machined aluminum steps weighing in at just over 3 oz. While designed for use in a ring-of-steps platform, weight-conscious users build a set of strap-on steps that are super light with cam-over buckles. Ewoutdoors.com
Stealth and Camo
When you need something camouflaged, quieted, and sound-deadened — such as climbing sticks, metal buckles, platforms, carabiners, metal steps, and even squeaks on stands — Stealth Strips and Camo Form removable tape are indispensable.
Stealth Strips come in precut sizes for various climbing sticks, stand platforms, and cables, in addition to rectangular bulk pieces that can be cut for various custom jobs. Stealth also makes a unique Buckle Silencer that’s perfect for covering any stand or stick-strap buckle. For things like carabiners, metal ascenders, or metal steps, Camo Form tape is stretchy, removable (leaving no residue), and available in multiple camouflage patterns at gearaid.com.
Platforms & Ring Of Steps
1. Tethrd Predator Platform $179 and Predator Pack. The Predator is a pivot-style platform and is cast of high-tensile A356-T6 aluminum, weighing in at a mere 3 lbs., and folds flat to 3.5 inches. Patent pending side traction tread and wings provide “boot grip” when moving around the tree for a shot. A ZipCam button on the I-beam allows for fast, secure set-up for the cam-buckle strap. The platform offers enough room for shooting standing up on both feet, is adjustable for leaning trees, and its cast texture provides confident footing. The innovative Predator Pack is an elegant carry pack built to the exact dimensions of Tethrd’s Platform. Features include integral hidden backpack straps, a built-in T-hook for hanging it on your saddle MOLLE loops during the climb or on your HYS strap in the tree, and a full panel of MOLLE loops on the face for attaching additional gear or lashing it to your main pack.
2. Out On A Limb Podium $149. Made entirely of aluminum parts, the 3-lb. Podium has a soft polyester finish and buttons on each side of the frame that accommodate a heavy-duty pull strap for cinching it down tight. Two knobs on the bottom of the frame allow for adjustment on leaning trees.
3. Eastern Woods Outdoors Squirrel Steps. This lightweight and slim profile machined aluminum step weighs in a 3 oz. per step, and can be ordered in any quantity with multiple strap and buckle options for customizing your own personal Ring Of Steps design. An elegant, packable, lightweight solution. See YouTube: NutterBuster’s Best Ring Of Steps Ever.
4. The Perch, by Wild Edge Inc. $147. Touted as the lightest, most compact platform on the market, The Perch was designed to work in tandem with the Wild Edge SteppLadder (requires setting into Stepp). This integration draws on the strength of the Stepp to allow side pressure from every angle, and ultimately creates space for optimal foot placement while saddle hunting. The Perch weighs only 1.25 lbs., allows you to shoot 360 degrees around the tree, and takes seconds to set up.
5. Bullman Outdoors ring of steps Saddle Hunting Platform $64.99. Package consists of six Silent Approach Steps with a heavy duty 1" ratchet strap to attach it to the tree. The Steps can be arranged in any pattern around the tree and the whole package weighs in at a flyweight 1.5 lbs.
A climbing aider is a device that provides an extension to your sticks or steps, typically one-inch climbing-rated webbing or rope, which can be either fixed or moved between each stick as you climb or descend, in lieu of carrying the extra weight of additional sticks or steps. Aiders built for the commercial climbing market are available in a variety of configurations, but saddle-hunting enthusiasts have developed a wide array of DIY solutions, each built to specific needs. Some aider solutions can be pretty exotic, with things like “swaiders” and “naiders,” and YouTube offers a list of aider options. I’m more of a keep-it-simple guy, and for my four climbing sticks, which have two rungs of opposing steps 22" apart, I fashioned a moveable aider out of tubular climbing webbing rated with tensile strength of 4,000 lbs. It’s a continuous loop, 44” long, tied at the top with a water knot, and goes over the top standoff of my sticks. When hung from the top standoff, it sits 22" below my bottom stick step.
I threaded an 8" section of washing machine hose at the bottom to create a “stirrup” which serves as an easy-to-feel foothold and keeps the loop open. To ensure I could always see this step in the dark, I put three strips of glow tape around the plastic hose. This moveable aider, which I place over my shoulder once I reach the first permanent step on each stick, provides 66" of height per stick for my four-stick stack, getting me 264"/22' high without stretching. This is the equivalent of carrying six total sticks, but the aider weighs only three ounces. Plus, I know every step I take, up or down, day or night, is going to be approximately 22". With this arrangement, I don’t have to spread out my distance between sticks for extra height and grope around in the dark trying to locate the next step. It costs about $5 to make this aider, and I always carry a spare in my pack.
Amsteel is 12-Strand braided rope using Dyneema fiber with a proprietary Samthane urethane coating. Amsteel is a non-rotational rope that yields extremely high strength and low stretch; equivalent to wire rope with only 1⁄7th the weight. In addition, it is exceedingly flexible, can be spliced easily, and is resistant to flex-fatigue.
Amsteel doesn’t absorb water, is so light it floats, and is commonly used for saddle bridges and as a lightweight, buckle-less replacement strap on climbing sticks and steps. Watch G2 Outdoors on YouTube for a detailed Amsteel splicing video.
Great Utility Accessories
1. Hawk Speed Retract Hoist Reel
2. Summit Retractable Gear Hoist
3. Doyle’s Huntin’ Hoist
4. Camo Form in Mossy Oak
5. Summit Rubber Wire kit
6. Comfortable garden and Trophy Line kneepads
7. Florian Ratchet Pruners
8. Compact Browning hand saw
9. Tethrd HYS gear strap
10. Summit gear accessory storage kit
11. Hawk Hookster with EZ Twist Attachment
12. 360 Swivel Heroclips
13. Nite Ize Sidelock gear carabiners
14. Buckle-less Versa Strap for platform & climbing sticks
15. Summit Utility Strap