Tree stands – one of the single most crucial tools available to modern hunters. Sure, you can use a hunting blind instead, but that puts you on the animal’s level, and can make it more difficult to get the perfect shot. Tree stands put you above the action, giving you a bird’s eye view of the situation and allowing you to spot your prey before it enters your field of fire.
Of course, tree stands vary in terms of style, size, weight capacity and features, and it’s important that you’re able to make an informed decision here. A great deal of your hunting success and comfort rests on that choice. In this article, we've rounded up our pics for the ten best tree stands.
The 5 Best Tree Stands
- Rivers Edge TearTuff XL - Best Overall Hang On
- X-Stand The Duke 20' - Best Ladder Stand
- Summit Treestands Viper SD - Best for Bow Hunting
- Rivers Edge Big Foot XL - Best Budget Hang On
- Lone Wolf Alpha Hang On II - Upgrade Hang On Pick
Rivers Edge RE556 TearTuff XL
The Big Foot TearTuff XL Lounger, also known as the RE556, made by Rivers Edge is our pick for the best hang-on tree stand for most hunters. This stand has a 37”x 24” platform, leaving lots of room for standing shots. It's also got a comfortable seat (plus back and foot rests) - making it a great choice for those long days of waiting for the right opportunity.
The attachment straps for the TearTuff XL are noiseless, with no metal on metal contact. However, they could be a bit longer. If you want to attach to a really large tree, you may need to bring your own ratchet strap.
- Good value for the money
- Sturdy construction
- Comfortable seat
- Weight - a bit heavy at 26 lbs
- Strap length - might be too short for some trees
X-Stand Treestands The Duke 20' Ladder Stand
Our pick for the best ladder stand is "The Duke" - the 20' ladder stand from X-Stand. It's an incredibly solid, sturdy, one person tree stand that holds up to 300lbs. The big benefit (IMO) is the "Jaw" technology for securing the stand to the tree. With the straps, you're actually secured to the tree pretty well before even starting your initial climb. The icing on the cake is the comfort of the seat (which will flip up and out of the way), and the nylon coatings to prevent any metal on metal contact.
With the steel construction comes a decent bit of weight. At 79lbs, you likely want help getting to your selected spot. One person can set it up - but it will take 2-3 hours the first time.
- Unparalleled safety
- Very comfortable seat
- Stands up to weather
- Takes 2-3 hours to set up
- 79lbs, likely needs two people if going deep into a wooded area
Summit Treestands 81120 Viper SD
Our next pick is the Viper SD from Summit Treestands. This climber is a great choice for bow hunters. It's lightweight, coming in at 20lbs, and very sturdy (wear your harness, always.) The biggest perk here is the comfort. The padded seat is one of the most comfortable we've ever tested, making those long waits a bit less tedious.
The main things to watch out for are the low front bar and platform size. The low bar makes this a not-great pick for rifle hunters. The usable platform is 20 x 28.75. It's fine for most hunters, but larger folks may want more room (for that, check out the Titan SD model - it has a few extra inches at 21 x 30.75.)
- Only 20lbs
- Cable wrap means no pins to lose
- Very comfortable
- Low front bar makes this less than ideal for rifle hunting
- Price - this sturdy climber is an investment
Rivers Edge RE554, Big Foot XL Classic
Another great stand from Rivers Edge, then RE554 is our pick for the best budget hang-on. This stand comes in at under $100, weighs 20 lbs, and has a huge 36.5" x 24" platform. To be fair - you'd need to flip the seat up to get full use of that platform size, though.
The only real downside with this stand is the (non-adjustable) seat height. If you're under ~5'11", you may not be comfortable with the seat height.
- Under $100
- Big platform
- Seat may be too high for shorter hunters
Lone Wolf Alpha Hang On II
It's hard to say enough about the Alpha Hang On II from Lone Wolf. It's got a large platform (30" x 19.5") and holds hunters up to 350 lbs, all while weighing in at 14 lbs. Pound for pound, this is as good as it gets for a hang on. They also fold up to a really compact size, so they take up little room when being stored.
The only drawback here is the cost. Prices vary a bit from week to week, but in general you're going to be looking at somewhere near $250 for this stand, putting it more in line with a climber or ladder stand vs. most hang ons.
If you've got room in the budget and want a hang on - I'd highly recommend investing in the Alpha II.
- Big platform
- Only 14 lbs
- Comfortable seat
- Very sturdy
- Price - this definitely isn't a budget pick
Factors We Considered
There are a few of the characteristics we’ll need to consider before making a purchase:
- Durability: This one is crucial – your tree stand will be exposed to the elements, as well as supporting your weight quite a way up in the air. You want a tree stand that will hold up well to the rigors of hunting and hard use season after season.
- Weight: You’re most likely going to have to carry your stand in and back out again, unless you have a dedicated, private hunting area where you can leave it up all year long. That means you need to find the right balance between features and weight.
- Safety: Let’s be clear – you’re suspending yourself a long way above the ground. A fall might not kill you, but it sure won’t be a pleasant experience. You want a tree stand that has modern safety features like a harness or belt that attaches to the tree.
- Cost: You’ll need to know your budget for a new tree stand, and shop around for the best mix of features and value. A “budget” tree stand might be in your price range, but does it offer the features you need? Likewise, an expensive model might have more bells and whistles, but can you live without them?
Those are four of the most crucial considerations you’ll need to bear in mind while shopping for the best tree stands on the market today. We’ve assembled a list of the 10 best tree stands for hunting so you can compare, choose and buy quickly, and get out in the woods.
Understanding Tree Stand Differences
Modern tree stands have come a long way from the day that you built a wooden platform from 2x4s and held your breath that it wouldn’t topple to the ground. They combine convenience, safety and comfort, but they can vary significantly. Consider the following attributes when making your final purchase decision:
- Hanging or locking
- Climbing ability
- Ladder or no ladder
- Enclosed or open
While a particular tree stand might look amazing and have a ton of features, it may not be a great fit for your specific needs. Before you start shopping, know what features you must have, the ones that you’d like to have, and those that offer no actual value to you.
We’ve assembled a list of the best tree stands for hunting that offers a range of features with prices as low as $60 and as high as $300. What that means is that each offers something slightly different, whether that’s an enclosed area, extra padding for comfort, a ladder for easy climbing or something else that you really don’t need like a cup holder.
Most of the tree stands highlighted below need some assembly, and all will need to be securely attached to the tree in your hunting area. All of them include the most important hardware, but you may find that you need additional supplies – ropes, cables, ratchet straps, bolts and the like. So, bear that in mind as you peruse our reviews.
All of the tree stands we’ve compiled come with secure harness systems to protect you in the event of an accident. However, remember that most of these are one size fits most systems, which means it may or may not be a good fit for you. Thankfully, there are aftermarket harnesses available for purchase if the one from the manufacturer is not a good fit.
Of course, there’s also the fact that there are multiple stand types that will fit different hunting styles and preferences differently. For instance, while you might be fine with a climber model, another hunter might prefer the permanence of a two-man ladder model.
Questions When Finding the Best Tree Stand for You
While the tree stands we’ve listed above are examples of the best options out there, you’ll find plenty of other choices on the market. The most important thing for any hunter, particularly those new to the sport, is to determine your needs before you buy a tree stand. Some of the questions to answer that will help you narrow down your wants and needs include the following:
Will I be hunting alone or with a partner?
This will affect whether you need a stand for a single person or a two-person stand. Depending on the relationship with your partner, you may also need two single-person stands (if you’re hunting with your child and are responsible for buying both, for instance).
Will I have help to put the stand in the tree?
This will be affected by the weight of the stand, as well as the style. For instance, climber models can be installed on your own, but a heavy, hang-on model will probably require another set of hands. Some of the heavier two-man models will need at least three people to get them up securely.
Will I be hunting with a bow or rifle?
If you’ll be bow hunting, look for a model that offers folding armrests (if so equipped), as well as a folding shooting rail. If you’ll be hunting with a rifle, make sure that the shooting rail is stable, and that it is high enough for your preferences.
Do you have a way to get the stand to your hunting area?
Heavier stands, even one-man stands, can be difficult to carry long distances. If you’re considering a heavy stand, think about transport and how you’ll get your stand to its destination.
Is the weight capacity enough for me?
While most of the stands we’ve mentioned have at least a 300-pound capacity, that may not be sufficient. Not only will the stand have to hold you, but it will also have to hold at least some of your gear. Know how much the gear you plan to take weighs and then buy appropriately.
Do I want a ladder stand, a hang-on or a climber?
This is one of the more difficult questions to answer, as each style has something different going for it. Ladder stands are the simplest to get into. Hang-on stands are among the lightest on the market. Climber stands can easily be set up with just one person, and are usually lightweight. A lot will also depend on the area in which you’ll be hunting, the available room, the type of trees in the area and other factors.
Will I be leaving the stand in place for an extended period of time?
This question will have an impact on several things. Obviously, you need to make sure that the frame is designed to withstand weathering and resist rust. However, you also need to consider the fabric and padding of the seat, armrests, backrest and shooting rail. Will it stand the test of time?
How much comfort do I really need?
You can save some weight (and cost) by sacrificing padding and going with a mesh-style seat for your tree stand. However, remember that you may spend long periods in your stand before making a successful shot, so you’ll want to balance savings with comfort. With that being said, some of the mesh-style chairs (sling style, in particular) are comparable to padded chairs in terms of comfort.
In addition to those questions, you need to consider your budget. How much do you have to spend on a tree stand? This will often take precedence over features that would be nice to have, but aren’t critical. With that being said, you don’t necessarily need to shop for “bargain” tree stands, as a little more invested at the outset can often land you a stand that will last longer than one made with cheaper materials.
This is particularly true if you’ll be using the stand frequently, or plan to leave it up for an extended period of time. Durability is a crucial factor, and that often means paying a little bit more. You’ll recoup that money (sometimes several times over) by not having to replace the stand as frequently.
Whether you’re on a tight budget, want to hunt with a partner, need a solution that will work for solo hunting, or prefer a specific style to another, you’ll find something on the list above that will work for your needs. If you do not find an appealing stand listed, it may be that you need to reconsider what’s a “must have” and what you can live without when it comes to features. You might also want to consider what you can do on your own to make a particular stand more user-friendly or applicable to your situation.
Finally, if you have questions or comments about any of the tree stands we’ve listed, we’d love to hear from you. Just post them in the comments below. If you’ve used any of the stands we highlighted, we would be interested in hearing what you thought of the performance, build quality, features and overall impression of the stand that might help other readers find the best tree stands for hunting.