Looking to buy yourself a nice climbing tree stand? Fear not because once again Sharpshaft has done the hard work for you and found the best climbing tree stands of 2023.
The Summit Viper SD came in at the top with its impressive comfort, packability and mobility, silence, and safety features.
But that’s not all. We’ve also selected a total of 6 winners in each of the following categories:
- Best Overall: Summit Viper SD
- Best Budget: Guide Gear Extreme Deluxe Climbing Tree Stand
- Best Packability and Mobility: Hawk Ultralite Climber
- Lightest Climbing Tree Stand: Summit Open Shot SD
- Best for Big Guys: Summit Goliath SD
- Best for crossbows: Lone wolf Sit and Climb COMBO II
Who this guide is for
If you think back to the last time you went hunting, we’re sure you’ll have encountered some of the following issues:
You’re 2 hours into a hunt and you’ve already got back ache from an uncomfy seat.
You haven’t even reached a good hunting spot and you’re already exhausted from lugging around your heavy kit.
You didn’t check the measurements of that fancy-looking chair you saw online before you bought it. Now you’re 20ft up a tree squished into a chair like a sardine.
You lean in to take a shot at a beautiful [insert animal of choice] and your stand tells the whole forest where you’re at.
If any of these scenarios ring a bell, then we have just the article for you.
We’ve written this guide to shed some light on the different types of climbing tree stands out there and help our readers find the best one. Whether you’re a seasoned climber or a beginner, a smaller hunter, or a bigger guy, there’s something for you in our round-up of the best climbing tree stands.
Why trust us?
At Sharpshaft we don’t just base our reviews on our own experience. We want to make sure we cover all our bases and find something for everyone.
This time we found the 12 best climbing tree stands on the market by checking the latest climbing tree stands on all the top brands’ websites, scouring the web for opinions and user reviews, reading more than 10 other review articles, and watching countless hours of videos. We then compiled this information into an easy-to-read review for all your hunting needs.
How We Reviewed the Best Climbing Tree Stands
We carried out extensive research to narrow down the plethora of characteristics these climbing tree stands have and pick out the most important ones for our readers.
Comfort has got to be right at the top of any hunter’s list when it comes to choosing something they’re going to be sitting in for hours. One of the biggest buzz kills when you’re out on a hunt is getting a backache or your butt going numb. But aside from cushioned seats and plush backrests, keep an eye on the size of your climber, too. There’s nothing worse than feeling squashed up in there while you’re patiently waiting to take your shot.
It’s hard to say whether comfort or noise is more important once you’re in your tree stand, but either way, they’re close contenders for the top spot.
Just picture the following scene:
You’ve been waiting (albeit comfortably) for hours to catch a glimpse of your target.
You shift your weight slightly to get a better shot and all of a sudden your climbing tree stand lets off an enormous creak that echoes around the whole area and scares away every living creature in range. It goes without saying that silence is a key feature of any hunter’s kit.
Packability & Mobility
Any hunter looking for a climbing tree stand knows that good packability and mobility make their day a hell of a lot more enjoyable. In fact, mobility is one of the main reasons why hunters choose climbing tree stands over other options out there like ladder tree stands and hang-on tree stands.
Generally speaking the further you’re going to have to walk, the lighter you’ll want your tree stand to be.
Other factors to look out for are:
- How easily and compactly the tree stand can be packed up.
- What kind of carry equipment it comes with – some provide comfy straps to carry it on your back, while others supply cables to tie it together.
Think about your size, too. Although a huge platform will seem appealing, smaller hunters might want to think about how much weight and size they’re able to carry. No one wants to feel exhausted before they’ve even reached their hunting spot for the day.
Although hunting is a lot of fun, we’ve got to take our safety seriously. You’re much more likely to have an accident climbing in your tree stand than you are with your hunting weapon of choice.
A few points to consider are the designated weight limit, the quality and durability of the materials, and the flexibility of the harness.
Most tree stands these days come with some kind of safety harness. Generally speaking, you’ll need a tether, a safety harness, and probably a carabiner to attach the two. If your tree stand doesn’t include all these elements, read our guide to the best tree stand harness reviews. Even if it does, read it anyway, as their quality sometimes leaves a little to be desired. Often it’s worth investing in replacing the one that’s included with a better, well-known brand that’ll keep you really safe.
Never climbed a tree before? Attach your tether (aka tree strap) at around head height and attach your harness to it before setting off. You’ll have to adjust the height of the teacher accordingly as you move up the tree. A sensible frequency could be every second time you shift the platform up.
Open or closed-front climbing tree stand?
This one is a pretty personal decision, but it’s worth taking into account comfort, ease of climbing, and the type of weapon you use and shots you take.
The open-front climbing tree stands are usually said to be far less comfortable than the closed-front ones. They don’t have armrests and often don’t have good backrests, which means climbers tend to find sitting in them more awkward and almost always feel less secure.
Of course, this is arguably just a question of making sure you’ve got a really good safety harness on. And that’s something you should do whether you’re in an open or closed tree stand.
But the lack of metal leads to a lack of peace of mind for some.
Closed-front climbing tree stands also allow you to sit as you make your way up the tree.
The open-front ones usually require you to employ more strength from your arms, making the climb much tougher.
Be realistic when buying your tree stand or you’ll struggle to get any use out of it.
The big advantage of open-front tree stands, of course, is the freedom of movement that you gain from not having the restrictive front bar. This allows for a much wider range of movement and better shot alignment from a sitting position.
On the flip side, what you likely won’t have with an open-front climber is somewhere to rest your weapon when you’re not using it.
- Our favorite open-front tree stand: Lone Wolf Sit and CLimb COMBO II
- Our favorite closed-front tree stand: Summit Viper SD
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Best Climbing Tree Stands in 2023
Best Overall: Summit Viper SD
Summit is one of the industry’s favorites for climbing tree stands. They have a huge range available and all of them are covered by their five-year warranty. Summit also offers users a wonderful range of accessories to hold phones, bows, and other necessary paraphernalia.
On this occasion, we chose the summit viper basing our analysis on the key points we laid out at the beginning of our review: comfort, noise, packability & mobility, and safety.
Firstly, comfort. As with many other tree stands it has a nice padded backrest and padded armrests. One thing we found particularly unique about this option is the adjustable backrest. Talk about maximum comfort.
Next, let’s talk about how silent this tree stand is…
You’d hear a pin drop setting this one up. You won’t be scaring anyone (or anything!) off as you get into position, that’s for sure.
And what’s more, one of the best things hunters highlight about this tree stand is just how quick and easy it is to climb up the tree and get yourself into position with this closed-front climbing tree stand. Its quick-draw technology locks it quickly into place and allows you to shimmy up that tree like a squirrel.
It’s also joining some of the other tree stands we reviewed at the lighter end of the weight category coming in at only 20 lbs, as well as coming with padded back straps and fold-flat technology to make it one of the most mobile tree stands on the market.
Another point that sets this tree stand apart from the rest is the quality of the safety harness that it comes with. You’ve no need to replace it with a higher-quality option.
As an extra, this tree stand also comes with clever levelers to help you keep your stand level as you climb up the tree. Most of the other tree stands don’t come with this ingenious feature, but Sharpshaft has dedicated a short section of this article to help users get around this (see FAQ section below)
The only downside we found to this tree stand is its bulkiness (due to the great platform size), so it’s not going to be the winner of the mobility category.
It’s probably better for use on slimmer trees that fall somewhere between 8” and 12” inches, too. But other than that, it has pretty much got you covered on all bases.
- Light & mobile
- Wide range of accessories available
- Quick climb – quick draw technology
- Extra comfort
- Comes with a great-quality safety harness
- Huge platform
- Limited use on larger treewidth
- Bulky to move around
Best Budget: Guide Gear Extreme Deluxe Climbing Tree Stand
Most tree stands out there fall somewhere in the price range of between $300-500. That’s a hefty investment if you’re just getting into hunting or don’t have enough time to get out there too often.
If that sounds like you, give the Guide Gear Extreme Deluxe Climbing Tree Stand a go.
Aside from being one of the most affordable options we’ve ever seen, being a closed front tree stand means it also offers a fairly easy climb for a novice.
When it comes to comfort it doesn’t come up short either. It’s got padded armrests and backrests to help you settle into the wait.
Unfortunately, we have to admit that it is also somewhat on the heavy side, weighing in at the 33lb mark. It might not be the best choice for those who have to walk huge distances to get to their hunting ground.
It’s also a little on the noisy side, with many users complaining about noisy metal clips chinking as they get into position.
This tree stand also comes with one of the smallest platforms available on the market, so watch out if you’re planning to stand up.
One last point to bear in mind is safety, another key criterion. It does come with a safety harness, but most hunters have decided to replace it as it didn’t reach their expectations. Bear that in mind when making your purchase.
All in all, we’d certainly recommend this stand as a cheap and cheerful way of getting your head around how these contraptions work, and whether or not getting a more expensive one might be a good investment for you.
- Easy to climb
- Pretty comfortable – padded armrest and backrest
- Made of resilient steel
- Noisy metal buckles
- One of the smallest foot platforms we’ve seen available
- Safety harness needs replacing
Best Packability & Mobility: Hawk Ultralite Climber
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, the advantage of a climbing tree stand compared to other options out there is the ability to take it with you wherever your hunting takes you. One of the most important factors, then, is how packable and mobile it is.
Analyzing all the different climbers out there, there’s little doubt that the most cleverly designed for mobility are the Hawks.
The fold-flat technology and the lightweight design of this tree stand (weighing only 20 lbs) make it the perfect candidate for those hunters who have to trek a little further before reaching their desired hunting spot.
As if that weren’t enough, the hawk ultimate climber also comes with ingenious little travel straps that make transportation even easier.
The platform measures up at 20” by 27”, which isn’t the biggest platform out there, but it’s not bad given how little this tree stand weighs.
There are a few points to take into consideration, though. Firstly the price of the beast, as it is definitely towards the mid-top end of the standard price range for climbing tree stands.
Although Hawk claims that their tree stand has special technology to make it silent, many other hunters have complained about how much noise it makes. These users have said that Hawk’s solution to this is to provide hunters with Teflon washers to help to cancel out this issue, but it’s still something to bear in mind.
Some have also mentioned that this tree stand comes up short on smaller-diameter trees. They say the armrests on this closed-front tree stand begin to pinch their sides when the tree is on the slim side.
This tree stand is a pretty decent all-rounder and the safest bet for anyone having to carry their kit a decent enough distance.
- Incredibly light
- Fold-flat technology
- Travel straps
- Decent-sized platform – good for those who stand
- At the mid-top end of the price range
- Not great comfort for sitting
- Not as silent as they claim
Lightest Climbing Tree Stand: Summit Open Shot SD
Aside from being mobile, we’ll also want our tree stand to be light. This is especially important for those of us who walk long distances to find the perfect spot to set up our climbing tree stand.
We already carried out extensive research to bring you the lightest climbing tree stand on the market. You can click here to see our full review of the X-Stand X-1 Climbing Tree Stand, but here’s a summary of the main strengths and weaknesses:
- Incredibly light
- Almost silent – you won’t be scaring anyone away.
- Small platform
- Hand climber
- Not a comfy seat – we doubt you’ll last more than a few hours in this one
- Not great quality
Although the X-stand X-1 does exactly what it sets out to do and is indeed the lightest on the market, there are some slightly heavier options out there that don’t suffer quite so much from the same criticisms as the X-stand.
- Safety – as with all Summit products
- Weight – just 15lbs
- Platform size
- Easier climb compared to other light-weighters
- Might need some extra kit for transportation (e.g. bungee cords to hold the top and bottom together)
- Ease of climb compared to heavier climbers
- Not totally silent
- Comfort compared to other heavier climbers
What’s clear is that it’s a tall order to expect a lightweight climber to weigh half as much as others out there and still come with all the same creature comforts. Something’s got to give.
Either way, none of these lightweight options are likely to be your go-to if you’re a bigger hunter. But fear not because our next best pick was chosen with just you in mind.
Best for big guys: Summit Goliath SD
Our bigger guys out there want a climbing tree stand that will give them room to move around, stability, and an ample weight limit.
That’s why we’ve chosen Summit’s Goliath SD. It’s a closed-front tree stand so you’re going to feel safe and secure up in the tree. Especially knowing that the maximum weight it holds is 350lbs.
The Goliath SD comes with an extra-wide, padded seat and padded armrests too, which makes it a good choice for those who value comfort.
It also has a quick-draw cable retention system and custom-engineered expanding foam. This is actually true of most of Summit’s climbers. The company assures that this feature makes for quick, silent attachment to the tree.
As we said before, some hunters have complained that the climber is not quite as silent as the company likes to make out, but that a little scent-free bowstring wax or lubricant on the washers will soften the blow.
One of the other huge plus points of this tree stand for our bigger guys is that this tree stand comes with an enormous platform (20” by 36”). That should give you plenty of room to maneuver.
As with our other Summit climbing tree stands, it comes with a whole load of accessories, a five-year warranty, and that reliable full-body arrest harness.
The downside we can see to this tree stand is its Goliath price tag. In fact, it’s only a stone’s throw away from being the most expensive tree stand we reviewed.
If we’re being really picky, we have to say that it weighs 25 lbs, making it around 5 lbs more than some of its competitors.
For us, it is without a doubt the best bet for comfort, safety, and size, and an unrivaled choice for all our big guys out there.
- High weight capacity – 350lbs
- Huge platform & extra-wide seat
- Foam-padded seat for comfort
- Safety equipment
- Slightly heavy
Best for Crossbows: Lone Wolf Sit & Climb Combo II
Our final choice for this review is for all those crossbow hunters out there. The vast majority of climbing tree stands out there are closed-fronted stands that don’t allow bow hunters much room for maneuver.
Not the Lone Wolf, though. This one gives you all that freedom of movement you’re looking for, and it even comes with a designated bow holder.
This climbing tree stand is made of aluminum and weighs in at just 21 lbs, making it one of the lightest out there. It folds up into a handy little transportable pack and comes with backstraps to make it even easier to move around.
Once you get to your desired hunting spot, the design of this climber includes a special bar that you can use to shimmy your way up that tree in a heartbeat.
Users state that the seat is pretty comfy as tree stands go, and it’s also well up there with the best at not making too much noise.
It’s even suitable for our bigger guys, too, with a maximum weight capacity of 350 lbs. What’s not to love?!
Well…The price tag.
It’s definitely not one of the cheapest options out there.
But if you’re looking for a good all-rounder designed with bow-hunters at heart, this is our most highly recommended choice.
- Super packable and mobile
- Huge foot platform
- Designated bow holder
- Easy to climb
- Good weight capacity
- Comfy seat
- A little on the expensive side
Q: How do you use a climbing tree stand?
The first step of any climbing adventure happens at home. Check you’ve got all your kit, that there’s no corrosion, rusting, or deterioration of any of the parts, and pack it all up carefully. Remember to stick in a few extra carabiners to be able to attach your pack, or even some handy binoculars as this article points out.
Once you’re at your chosen location and you’ve carefully selected your tree, make sure you’re at the highest point of any slope. This will make it easier to get into the tree stand. There’s no point wasting energy trying to jump into the thing.
Before you set off, don’t forget to tie your bow or chosen weapon to your climber somehow, or else you’re going to be coming straight back down again.
Start by attaching the platform to the bottom of the tree, and then position the top part at around waist height.
If your climber doesn’t already come equipped with a strap to attach the seat to the platform, use a rope to tie them together, as you can see in this user-friendly video:
SHARPSHAFT TOP TIP: Start off with some inclination when you attach your climber to the tree. Trees get thinner as you go up them, so the seat will level out as you climb:
Next, it’s time to get yourself into position to climb. Put your feet on the platform and the rest of you inside the upper part of the tree stand.
At Sharpshaft we’re always looking out for your safety, so here’s a not-so-gentle reminder not to take a single step up that tree without setting up your safety harness and strapping yourself carefully to the tree. We don’t want any accidents.
Once you’re all strapped in and ready to go, sit yourself back on the top section. Make sure that the climber bites into the tree well and then use the foot straps to move the lower platform up towards you.
Stand back on the platform, make sure it is secure, and move the top section up so it sits at around waist height again.
Repeat these two steps again, and then move your safety equipment accordingly. A sensible ratio to adjust your safety straps is around once every two steps up the tree.
Once you’ve reached your chosen height and you’ve made sure your climber is stable, turn yourself around and take a seat. Pull your bow or chosen hunting tool up to where you are using your handy rope and you’re ready to go.
Q: How to choose your tree
This is a key part of your hunting experience. You want to make sure you find an area that is going to give you a good chance of hunting something and good sight lines.
Then when it comes to the actual tree, here’s a short checklist you’ll want to tick off:
- Tree Diameter: Read the instructions on your climber and choose a tree with the right diameter for your model. That’s usually somewhere between 10 and 18 inches. As this handy article points out, it’s also important to check that the diameter is fairly consistent all the way up the tree. Those that get thinner on the way up are less sturdy and more likely to leave you un-levelled.
- Tree health: Make sure the tree you choose is totally alive and in good enough condition to hold you.
- Types of tree: Check the bark! It’s got to have some good chunky bark – nothing too smooth or flaky as you’ll be sliding back down that tree like a firefighter down a pole.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on the branches and pick a tree that doesn’t have too many. That way you don’t have to chop them off as you go up.
SHARPSHAFT TOP TIP: As this hunter points out in his handy video, although pines are safe, the sap will get everywhere! Go for Maple and/or oak. You’ll save your stand with the added bonus that acorns will attract whitetails. You can thank us later!
Q: How much weight can a tree stand hold?
A standard climbing tree stand can usually hold around 300 lbs, but there are some options on the market that go up to 350 lbs. Check out the “Best for big guys” for our top pick.
Q: How high should you go in a climbing tree stand?
The general rule here is somewhere between 10 and 20 ft depending on the type of animal you are hunting. If in doubt, 20 feet is a good bet as you will be out of the direct line of sight of most animals you’d like to hunt.
On the flip side, climbing up and further than that will likely sacrifice sacrifice your sight lines and take poorer shots.
Q: What is the Difference Between a Climbing Tree Stand and a Ladder Tree Stand?
Using a climbing tree stand allows for more flexibility when planning your hunt. All you have to do is make sure you have all your kit before you set off in the morning.
The big difference here is that a ladder stand has to be set up before the season starts to avoid startling animals and requires more people to set it up. It also can’t be moved around so much, so anyone hunting on public land will want to go for a climber.
Some people also say that deer learn where they’ve set up their ladder tree stand. This means they will be much warier any time they pass by, making it much harder to hunt them.
Q: What is the Difference Between a Climbing Tree Stand and a Hang-On Tree Stand?
In a similar way to the ladder tree stands, hang-ons are designed to be set up in a tree and left there. That’s perfect if you’ve found the perfect spot to hunt from, but not if you’re going to be checking out different locations. Like I said before, the climbers are all about maneuverability.
Dos and Don’ts for Using Climbing Tree Stands
- Make sure your climber is strong enough for you
- Practice using your tree stand in your yard
- Select your tree carefully
- Climb to the right height
- Climb smart/use your safety harness
- Slow down and take your time
- Take it down after you use it
- Make sure them boots ain’t muddy
- Use your phone or any other distractions
- Smoke cigarette/pipes/vapes/whatever
- Fall asleep
- Get surprised by your alarms
- Forget you’re in a stand…
So there you have it. That’s our round-up of the best climbing tree stands of 2023 and the most important factors to bear in mind when choosing yours.
The best all-rounder without a doubt is the Summit Viper SD. It covers all bases with comfort, packability, noise, and safety features, and offers the quality we’ve come to expect from all Summit stands.Depending on your level of experience and budget, the cheaper Guide Gear Extreme Deluxe Climbing Tree stand is a good option to get you into the swing of using a climber, and the Summit Goliath SD is your safest bet if you’re a bigger guy.