Full Disclosure: I have not hunted from a climbing treestand for a couple years now. But I have shot something like ten bucks from them and hunted from climbers exclusively for around a half dozen years, using several models.
My first buck with a bow was shot from the second iteration of the Lone Wolf Hand Climber:
I now prefer hang-on stands becasue of how much quieter they are (once up) and how much easier they are to use (once up). But there are certainly times when climbers are necessary; such as when hunting public land or when you are only going to have one stand.
Also I’m not making any money from any of these companies, although I am open to that. If I were making money from a company, then you’ll know because of my having links in the side bar.
I believe that Gene Wensel once said that the mesh flooring in treestands was one of the greatest advancements in deer hunting technology. A stand with a solid bottom will present a large black shape when you look up. A mesh bottom stand will let light in from above. (Many guys put a piece of carpeting over the floor of their stands, don’t do that. One other reason not to do that is becasue that carpet will collect snow more easily, which can cause problems.)
With that in mind I’ll start my reviewing with the Summit climbing stands.
There are a variety of Summit climbing treestands currently available. I think that I’m right in saying that they are the most often purchased climbers.
The [first] problem that I have with the Summit climbers is the design of the platform. These treestands are made out of aluminum. Aluminum creaks when its cold. My dad recently spent $200 on a family traditions hang on stand, which is made out of aluminum. Every single time I moved at all, in the cold, it made lots of noise. I wanted to tear it out of the tree and chuck it into some ditch.
I don’t like aluminum, becasue any sound that you make could be one less deer that you get.
Summit recognizes that its aluminum tube design is noisy, and so they have their “Dead Metal” foam inside of the hollow tubes. I have no doubt that this helps A LOT, but if an acorn, or similar, falls onto it it will undoubtedly make too much noise. The big bar floors are more likely to accumulate ice, than mesh stands will.
The next problem that I have with most Summit, and nearly every other companies’, climbers is that there is too much going on at the seat. Hanging seat cushions are comfortable and quiet enough, but they will wear, and collect water.
I shot a 13 pointer from my uncle’s climber (unknown manufacture) after it had been left out a while. Each tube was full of rusty water, and rather than sit on the hanging seat, I flipped the back cushion down and sat on it. This meat I had to make a 189 yard shot off hand because I was too high above the rest with the additional cushion. If you are going to buy a climber with a hanging seat, I recommend not leaving the seat out in the weather.
The one on the left:
I hear a lot of people say that they like the wrap around bar at chest height becasue they feel more secure. If you think that you are going to fall asleep up a tree, then get down. Don’t rely on some arm bar, or safety harness to keep you up.
Economists often point to studies that show things like cars with better fuel mileage don’t reduce fuel burned becasue people will often burn the same amount of gas by driving more. Similarly having that bar around you may give you a false sense of security and you may be more inclined to fall asleep as a result.
In any case, the big arms, bars, backrests, and so on make the thing heavy and gives you too many things to maneuver around with your weapon when a deer comes by. If you insist on having all that stuff, then I recommend getting one the right size for you. If you are 5’10” 170lbs, then the wider stands meant for 250lb guys will be so wide that you’ll need to reach over the arm bars, whereas the smaller ones should have arm bars right next to you which will require minimal reaching.
Summit climbing treestands verdict: Hate the platform because of too much noise, and the bars will block off too much light from above. And all but their OpenShot SD have too much going on around the seat.
API climbing treestands all mostly have too much going on up top too.
[note: Api’s website apparently did not want to allow me to copy a picture of their stands to here.]
They also have a floor similar to those of the summits. You can’t really tell from the pictures but the API stands’ floors are not as offensive to my anti-noise thoughts as the Summit stands are. I slightly prefer the API stands becasue their floors are not quite as bad.
One other point to note: all of the climbing treestands that I hunted from allowed me to fold them flat. If you’re going to carry your stand with a strap over one shoulder, then you’ll need both shoulders for the floor and the seat. Stands that fold flat (not the API ones) allow you to carry both the seat and the floor over one shoulder.
Not that you need to use the seat anyway. When I hunted from a climber I used the seat about half the time.
API climbing treestand verdict: Not as offensive to my anti-noise sensibilities, but still not good enough. But better than Summit.
Ol’ Man stands advertise their stuff as “The best stands. Period.” That is a bit of a stretch, but I have heard more offensive marketing ploys.
The Ol’ Man Multivision Grand ($200) looks okay.
Let’s see what the description says: “The steel multi-vision grand treestand has a 24″ wide net seat and a stand weight of 32 lbs….”
Why not just build a tree house instead?
Most of their other climbers are made of aluminum, which is fine where it is warm, and less than worthless when it is cold.
Their new climber “The Drone” ($400) looks better. 25 pounds which would be way too much for a hang on stand, but is apparently *eyeroll* acceptable in climbers.
The mesh floor is good. The size and everything else is fine. Although the combination shooting rail/ foot rest is too busy a thing to go deer hunting. If one of its options is to remove it (I’ve removed the armrests from both of the Ol’ Man hang on stands that I have), then it will be better.
Ol’ Man climber verdict: The Drone is the best climber that we’ve looked at so far, but I’m not blown away by its greatness or anything.
Treewalker Treestands are new to me. They look okay.
I did notice that the first picture of their stand has the guy with the stupid arm bar moved down, becasue it cannot be moved completely out to the way. Even their model had to move the arm bar out of the way and still stand to go around it. Ha!
[Look for the picture in their upper left corner; I cannot copy the relevant part here.]
The stand looks…fine. Although its not any cheaper than the Ol’ Man ($340+). At 18 pounds its looking good, but probably made out of aluminum, which is fine in Georgia and Texas, but useless where it gets cold.
I do like all the pictures along their sidebar.
Treewalker climbing treestand verdict: Meh. On second thought they could be…okay. Its hard for me to get enthused about it but, if it wasn’t aluminum, it could be worth some consideration.
I’ve done a search for “climbing treestands” and discovered Treewalker, and stands from Summit, Summit, Summit, Summit, API, SUmmit, Ol’ Man, Summit, Ol’ Man, and our final entry in this post.
And that leaves the best for last. I had figured that I was going to need to apologize for, once again, recommending the most expensive option, but it turns out that the Lone Wolf Hand Climber II at $390 is no more expensive than any other climbing treestand.
All but the Hand CLimber II and Assault Climber II have all the in-the-way seat accessories to make it just that much harder to have clear space between you and the deer. So forget all the other Lone Wolfs.
The Lone Wolf stands are all aluminum, but they are one piece cast aluminum. No tubes to ring and no joints to creak (washers space between the few joints that there are).
The Hand Climber II is the climber that I have, and its fine. The floor is the best of any stand, and its lighter than any other stand (17.5lbs). Rather their Assault climber is a pound or two less, but only around $10 less. And we want the biggest lightest stand that we can get, so the Lone Wolf Hand Climber II is the climber to get.
Lone Wolf Climber Verdict: Its too bad Gorilla is no longer making treestands, unless they return to that business or someone else comes along the Lone Wolf treestands will continue to be the best and only acceptable option.
A word of warning, however, will be to note that the way you tighten the straps that go ’round the tree to the stand do not tighten easily on the Lone Wolf stands. None of the other company’s stands fasten any “better” but they are different and less physically difficult. They aren’t any less difficult to do, but they require less physical effort, if that makes sense.
How that affects you: If you’re an able bodied man, then don’t worry about it. If you are not, then you should try to open and close the strap holders on the Lone Wolf on your store’s display model before you buy it.
None of the tree attachment systems are great they just “are.”
One other idea may be to forgo climbers and get a small hang-on and stick instead. With a hang-on you can go up more crooked trees and trees with more branches. A small lightweight hang-on won’t really take any less time to climb either. (A big heavy hang-on will not be as easy to put up as a climber.)
The Lone Wolf Assault II is too small for most people to consider for all-day hunts, but I quite like it. The buck I shot this year (2013) was shot from one of these and a 12′ stick.
At 11 pounds it is light, and if you can find some small, lightweight sticks to go with it, then it may be a good alternative to a climber.
You’ll still need to find a good lightweight set of climbing sticks and at $150 the ones from Lone Wolf are the right size and weight but too expensive. The Ol’ Man sticks aren’t bad, but they aren’t as small either.
With hang on treestands the Lone Wolf Alpha and Assault are the only acceptable options. With climbers the Lone Wolf stands are still the best, although not by as big of a margin.