If you’re the type of guy or gal who hunts those deer and elk from above, getting your hands on one of 2023’s best tree stands is an absolute must. Because when you spend long periods of your life hanging out in a tree, your stand can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
There are three types of tree stands to consider: climbing, ladder, and hang-ons. From that bunch, there’s likely one type that’ll best suit you and your hunting style. That’s why we’ve made a helpful guide to walk you through the main differences between the three and have recommended our top picks for each type, specifically:
- The best stand for the money
- The lightest stand
- The most comfortable stand
This no-nonsense guide is here to help you maximize your dollar, stay light on your feet, and keep poised for an accurate shot as you wait for that trophy buck to wander through below.
Ready to find your best tree stand for the 2023 season and beyond?
Let’s get into it.We’re going to jump right into the products we love, but if you’d like to know a little more about the differences between climbing vs. ladder vs. hang-on tree stands, click here to skip ahead for a detailed rundown.
Let’s kick the list off with the three best climbing tree stands on the market. We prefer a lightweight and agile hunting style, so it’s no wonder that we listed climbers above all else. The products you’re about to see are lightweight, comfortable, and safe and will thrive for public land hunters who like to cover long distances.
Best Climbing Tree Stand for the Money
Summit Treestands Viper SD
If you’re a big game hunter who travels long distances to put themselves deep into the wilderness, the Summit Viper SD climbing tree stand has your name written all over it.
Weighing in at only 20 pounds, this agile climber will easily lash to the outside of your hunting pack and keep you light on your feet as you pursue your prey. It’s comfortable, too, as its generously cushioned seat and backrest are suspended by sturdy straps that promote good blood flow to your butt and legs as you sit for hours on end.
Its Mossy Oak camo cushioning and padding should both blend in well with whatever tree you latch it to, keeping you stealth as you stalk your prey from above. It won’t squeak or rattle as you creep through the woods either, as it’s made from sound-deadening aluminum meant to let you move about as silently as possible.
Like all other climbing tree stands, the Summit Viper SD is built only for skinny and straight trees with little or no branches on the way up. It can also be a bit of a tight squeeze for larger hunters, but we find it to be the perfect size for anyone with a compact setup who doesn’t need a ton of extra room to move around.
For our lightweight and compact hunting style, we couldn’t think of a better stand to get us up above our prey and ready for action.
- Pros: Lightweight, packable, quiet, sturdy, extremely comfortable, comes with harness
- Cons: Only works on certain tree types, can be a bit tight for larger hunters
- Best for: Long-distance hunting on public land
Lightest Hand Climber
Lone Wolf Hand Climber Combo II
For the hunters who like to keep their setup as lightweight and compact as possible, the 17.5-pound Lone Wolf Hand Climber Combo II might check off all of the boxes.
Though it’s lightweight as they come, the Hand Climber II is no slouch when it comes to durability. Rated to hold up to 350 pounds, its cast aluminum frame and beefy traction belts work together to ensure that your stand will stay anchored to the tree, no matter what. It’s only five inches thick when folded up, making it a super compact option for hike-in hunting trips.
It’s missing a few features that we like with Summit Viper SD we recommended above, specifically armrests and a backrest. That said, its lack of features actually makes for a higher range of motion for shooting. And, for its hefty price tag, we’d love it if it came with a harness.
Overall, we believe that weight-conscious hunters looking for a compact stand could thrive with the compact yet sturdy Lone Wolf Hand Climber Combo II.
- Pros: Extremely lightweight, very compact when folded up, sturdy, supports up to 350 pounds
- Cons: No backrest, armrests, or harness, smaller seat, only works on certain tree types
- Best for: Minimalist hunters aiming to keep their pack as light as possible
Comfortable, Roomy & Rotating
Summit Treestands 180 Max SD
Rounding out 2023’s best climbers is the Summit 180 Max SD, which is about as relaxing, comfortable, and luxurious as they come.
This control center of a climber was built for big and tall hunters who need a little extra space to wiggle around. It’s equipped with a larger-than-average seat frame and foot platform and comes with a padded seat cover, backrest, armrests, and a full-body harness system to boot. It’s fully loaded.
Our favorite feature is its 180-degree swiveling seat, allowing hunters to rotate as they scan their surroundings below. Though some hunters may find facing the tree uncomfortable, the 180 Max SD’s range of motion will undoubtedly create a more expansive plain of view and better all-around shot opportunities.
So, what’s not to love? For starters, this hefty climber weighs in at 26 pounds, or 8.5 pounds more than the Lone Wolf Hand Climber Combo II we mentioned above. It’s the most expensive option on this list, which will also scare some hunters off.
If its weight and price tag aren’t an issue for you, grab yourself a Summit 180 Max SD climber, one of the most cush and cozy climbers on the market. If it gives you pause, circle back to the Viper SD for something that’ll be a little lighter on your back and your wallet.
- Pros: Comfortable seat, quiet, rotates 180 degrees, holds up to 350 pounds, comes with harness
- Cons: Expensive, heavy, only works on certain tree types
- Best for: Public land hunters who value comfort and range of motion over all else
Let’s now dive into our three favorite ladder stands of 2023. These options lie on the opposite end of the spectrum from climbers and hang-ons, as they’re much heavier, less compact, and not as stealthy. That said, they can make for a sturdy, safe, and comfortable hangout for private land hunters.
Best Ladder Tree Stand for the Money
X-Stand The Duke 20’
Switching gears from lightweight aluminum to sturdy steel, we’ve arrived at one of the most popular ladder stands on the market: The Duke by X-Stand.
Reaching an impressive 20 feet high, this single-person stand can easily anchor to trees, offering hunters a stable and secure climb up to their throne. It can be set up alone, too, as its sturdy set of patented steel jaws can grip the top of the tree, while an included ratchet set can stabilize the bottom.
Though its mesh seat and lightly padded armrests don’t look like anything special, many hunters report this stand as one of the most comfortable they’ve ever experienced. In addition to being cozy, the seat can fold back with ease to give hunters unrestricted access to the generously-sized standing platform below.
This 79-pound steel beast isn’t lightweight, compact, or mobile, but ladder stands don’t have to be. The goal with The Duke, like any other ladder stand, is to find a desirable tree to anchor it to, set it up, and leave it there for easy access all season long.
Considering its comfort, ease of use, and sturdiness, The Duke by X-Stand is our top pick for the money when it comes to ladder stands. If there’s a better option out there, we haven’t seen it yet.
- Pros: Sturdy, easy to set up with one person, safe, comfortable
- Cons: Heavy, some users report that it’s noisy
- Best for: Private land hunters who want a stable stand at a good price
Lightest & Most Portable
Summit Treestands Steel One-Person
Summit makes our list for the third time with their minimalist single-person ladder stand. If you’re looking for a relatively lightweight and simple option, this 17-foot tall hunk of steel might be your best bet.
This stand doesn’t have many moving pieces or working parts, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For instance, its lack of armrests creates a more open shooting environment, suitable for bowhunters who need a full range of motion to take accurate shots. Its foot platform is pretty tiny, too, but many hunters find it to be all they need.
But some hunters don’t like its small foot platform and prefer to have comfort-first features like armrests that make sitting for long periods more bearable. We get these concerns and will respond by pointing you right back towards the more full-featured The Duke we recommended above.
But if you’re a bowhunter who is in the market for a no-frills ladder stand that’s lightweight, sturdy, and effective, look no further than this quality setup by Summit Treestands.
- Pros: Lightest ladder tree stand on the market, no-frills design allows for a wide range of motion
- Cons: Tiny foot platform, no armrests, no shooting rest
- Best for: Minimalist private land hunters who move their stand throughout the season
Best Two Person Ladder Stand
X-Stand The Jayhawk 20’
You’re in the right place if you’re looking for a sturdy, well-reviewed, and widely-trusted two-person ladder stand. The Jayhawk by X-Stand is a well-built 20-footer that excels for those who like to hunt in pairs.
Constructed of highly-durable steel, this beast of a stand can hold up to an incredible 500 pounds — by far the highest weight capacity on this list. Like The Duke single-person model we mentioned earlier, The Jayhawk utilizes steel jaws that make setting up the stand safe, easy, and quick from below. And in terms of comfort, hunters find this stand quite comfy and roomy for two people and swear by its clever design.
At 122 pounds, this is the heaviest option we’ve recommended, but that’s no surprise since it’s the only 2-person stand on this list. Some buyers have complained that their stands arrived with missing parts, but this seems to be a pretty rare occurrence. Other than these two nitpicks, we can’t find much else that’s not to love about this beast.
We’d recommend the Jayhawk by X-Stand to private land hunters who want a comfy stand to teach their children, mentor beginners, or just need a little company for those extended periods and lonely days in the field.
- Pros: Holds two people, sturdy, easy to set up, comfortable, comes with harnesses
- Cons: Heavy, bulky, packaging could improve
- Best for: Two-person private land hunting
It’s time to move on to our favorite hang-on stands, a more compact, lightweight, and mobile option than the ladder stands above. Setting up and accessing hang-ons can be tricky, though, and may require more creativity than climbers or ladder stands. However, we find them to be an effective semi-permanent option that can thrive on both private and public land hunts.
Best Hang-On Tree Stand for the Money
Millennium M150 Monster
If you’re looking for a hang-on stand that hits the sweet spot between comfort, portability, ease of setup, and safety, the Millennium M150 Monster is simply the best.
When you consider its adjustable seat height, spacious foot platform, and perfectly designed suspended backrest, it doesn’t get more comfortable than this hoss of a hang-on. Its sub-20-pound weight makes it one of the lightest on the market, and it folds up extremely flat for excellent packability. It’s durable, quiet, and equipped with SafeLink, which protects you from falls as you climb up the tree.
It’s hard to find anything about the M150 Monster that we don’t love, but its lack of armrests could be a hang-up for some hunters. It does have arm straps, however, so we don’t find this to be much of an issue. Other than that, we think it’s priced fairly and as can’t-miss as of a stand as they come.
So, which big game hunters would find the Millennium M150 Monster useful? Pretty much all of them. It’s built to excel on both public and private land, and it’s lightweight and comfortable enough for even the pickiest of tree stand enthusiasts.
- Pros: Very comfortable, lightweight and packable, excellent safety features, easy to set up
- Cons: No armrests
- Best for: All types of public and private land big game hunters
Lightest & Most Mobile Hang-On
Lone Wolf Alpha II
Much like the Lone Wolf Hand Climber Combo II, the Lone Wolf Alpha II hang-on stand is the lightest in its class. Weighing in at an incredible 14 pounds, it’s a ‘run and gun’ style big game hunter’s dream.
Lone Wolf took a no-frills approach with the Alpha II, and the result is an incredibly compact and portable stand that has paid off for thousands of hunters worldwide. And, even though its design is simple, this stand is as versatile as they come. When coupled with a trusty set of climbing sticks, you can get up into the thick and curved trees with heavy foliage that climbing stands can’t conquer. Simply put, this stand can hang straight on pretty much any tree and is lighter than anything else on this list.
Because this stand is so lightweight and minimalist, you can’t expect many of the luxuries you’ll find on other full-featured products, like a backrest, armrests, and an included harness. These are sacrifices that many hunters are happy to make, however, to get their hands on 2023’s lightest hang-on tree stand.
If you’re a big game hunter with a fast-moving style, Lone Wolf made the Alpha II specifically for you. It simply doesn’t get lighter and more compact than this.
- Pros: Extremely lightweight and packable, great leveling with tilted trees, comfortable
- Cons: Lacks a backrest and armrests, no harness included, pricey
- Best for: ‘Run and gun’ hunters who want easy access to a wide variety of trees
Comfortable & Budget-Friendly Hang-On
Rivers Edge Big Foot TearTuff XL Lounger
Rounding out our list is the Rivers Edge Big Foot TearTuff XL Lounger, which is about comfortable as you could ask for. It’s priced to sell, too, as it’s hands down the most affordable option we’ve recommended.
When you’re stuck high up in a tree for hours on end, you’re bound to appreciate how lounge-friendly this full-featured hang-on stand is. In addition to a comfortable seat, padded armrests, and a Tear-Tuff backrest, it sports a massive 37.5″ by 24″ standing platform, which will give you plenty of surface area to make your shot. It’s heavy-duty, sturdy, and stable, making it one of the safer options on the market.
But, all of that comfort comes at a cost: this bad boy is heavy. Tipping the scales at 26 pounds, it rings in at nearly double the weight of the 14-pound Lone Wolf Alpha II we just mentioned. Sure, it’s bound to be more comfortable than most hang-on stands, but it’ll also be a hell of a lot tougher to lug around the woods. The choice is yours: comfort or portability?
I recommend the Rivers Edge Big Foot TearTuff XL Lounger to the hunters who value comfort above all else. If you don’t plan to move your stand around frequently and you’d love to save a few bucks, you’ll probably find that this stand will do just about everything you ask of it.
- Pros: Super comfortable, easy to set up, only requires one strap, huge foot platform, affordable
- Cons: Heavy, not very packable
- Best for: Hunters who want a comfortable and affordable stand and don’t mind the weight
Best Tree Stand Harness
Summit Treestands Men’s Pro Safety Harness
In the world of tree stand hunting, safety is paramount. Why? Because tree stand falls are the number one cause of death among hunters. If you plummet 20-plus feet out of a tree, you’re probably not making it home to your family for dinner. Don’t make excuses. Wear a damn harness!
We love the Pro Safety Harness from Summit Treestands. It’s so comfortable and unconstricted that you’ll probably forget you’re even wearing it. It’s durable, quiet, and well-made and will save your hide from slips, falls, and stand failures. If you’re unwilling to take foolish and unnecessary risks, it’s an absolute no-brainer.
Keep in mind that many of the stands on this list already come standard with a harness, so double check your product description to ensure that you actually need to buy one.
Now, say it one more time with me: Wear. A. Harness.
If you don’t know which type of stand is best for your hunting style, you might end up making a bad investment. Here are the key differences between climbing, ladder, and hang-on stands, and a few pros and cons regarding each.
Climbing tree stands are a popular lightweight option among hunters who aim to have a mobile and agile setup for long-distance hiking and hunting on public lands.
Though lightweight and mobile by nature, climbers require thin and straight trees with zero or little branches to function correctly.
Held firmly against the tree by cables, climbers are split into two sections: the bottom platform and the top seat. As long as the tree is optimal, climber stands should be simple to operate as the hunter shimmies their way up the tree by pulling the bottom platform up with their feet and hoisting the top section up with their arms.
- Fast setup (with ideal trees)
- Great for public land hunting
- Ideal for minimalist hunters
- Only works with certain trees
- Not a lot of room to move around or space for gear
Best Use Case: Lightweight and mobile hunting on public land
Ladder stands are by far the bulkiest and heaviest of all three options but will thrive for private land hunters who want a safe, spacious, and comfortable setup with a fixed ladder to access their stand.
Meant for stationary use, ladder stands are best suited for semi-permanent use in private hunting areas where hunters anticipate high activity among the deer, elk, or other wild game they’re after.
Their ladders typically reach 20 feet or higher up into trees, which means the product will come unassembled and usually take a while to put together. Setting them up in the field is no easy task either and usually requires at least two people to install.
Once securely in place, however, ladder stands are the safest and most comfortable option among all three types in this article.
- Easiest to get in an out of
- Most space
- Very comfortable
- Usually safer than climbers or hang-ons
- Two-person models available
- Best for private land hunting
- Suitable for hunters with lots of gear
- Heaviest and bulkiest option by far
- Not as stealth as climbers or hang-ons
- Not meant for public land hunting
Best Use Case: Fixed location hunting on private land with lots of gear
Hang-on tree stands are a versatile option for hunters who like the mobility of climbers but crave the stability and convenience ladder stands. They will work well for private land hunting but can also excel in certain public areas where it’s permitted to leave stands in trees for later use.
To hang the stand, you must first use a ladder, footholds, or climbing sticks to work your way up the tree. Once you’ve reached the perfect spot to hang your stand, wrap its two sets of straps around the tree, cinch them as tightly as you can, fold the stand up to release slack, and cinch them tight for a second time.
Once your hang-on stand is safely installed, you’ll be left with a stable, comfortable, and versatile option that’ll serve you well during most public or private land hunting trips.
- Can be used in trees with thick foliage
- Semi-permanent; can leave in tree for later use
- Ideal for private land hunting or even public land in some cases
- Have to use footholds, climbing sticks, or a ladder to get up the tree
- Not a lot of room to move around or space for gear
Best Use Case: Lightweight and stealth hunting on private and/or public land
How heavy will a tree stand feel when strapped to my backpack? Is it going to be a pain to set up? Can it stand up to the abuse of my hunting style? Am I going to feel comfortable sitting in it for hours on end? How much is this bad boy going to run me?
You might have some of these questions on your mind as you mull over your next stand, and we can’t blame you. There’s a lot that goes into finding the stand that’s perfect for you, which is why we’ve analyzed all products on this list for the following six factors:
Cold temperatures, wind, and bugs are already hard enough to deal with, so choosing a comfortable tree stand to spend long periods in is an absolute must. That’s why all of the stands on this list are designed to keep hunters as comfortable as possible.
If you’re a hunter that likes to cover long distances like us, you know by now that weight matters. Lugging a fully-stocked elk hunting pack list around is already challenging enough, so we aim to recommend products that are not only reliable and durable but also lightweight and mobile.
Hunters can’t afford to put their safety at risk with a stand that will break or fall apart; there’s too much at stake. That’s why all of the options on this list are made from sturdy, high-quality materials and have earned reputations for being incredibly reliable, season after season.
Ease of Setup
Some stands are quicker and easier to set up than others, which you should consider when deciding between products. Because the faster you get up in the tree and out of sight, the sooner you can start waiting for that trophy buck to walk through below you.
Staying safe and secure in your tree stand is an absolute must, so we will only recommend products known for their reliability in the field. We aim to find options made by trusted companies, constructed of high-quality materials and are well-reviewed for their safety by hunters long and far.
A well-made tree stand isn’t cheap, but it’s an investment worth making if you want a reliable and safe product. We’ve done our best to recommend products from all ends of the price spectrum, from budget-friendly to high-end.
Tree stand falls are the number one cause of hunting deaths. Don’t become a statistic.
Know exactly what you’re doing before you rush into the field and make a costly mistake. Installing and sitting in stands 20 or more feet above the ground is no small task, and it must be done with caution. Your life depends on it!
Here are a few tips to keep you safe while using your tree stand:
Always Use a Body Harness
A harness will catch you if you fall while you’re installing your stand or when you’re sitting in it. Hunters who die or get seriously injured in tree stand accidents seldom wear a harness or are wearing it incorrectly.
Get to Know Your Tree Stand
Research the ins and outs of your stand before you ever use it; take time to understand the product! Watch YouTube videos, read the owner’s manual, and ask experienced hunters for advice on how to safely and properly use it. Do not rush this process.
Practice With Your Tree Stand at Home Before it Using in the Field
Once you’ve done the research and gotten to know your tree stand, give it a go at home. Find a suitable tree in your backyard and start small. Begin by installing your stand a few feet off the ground, and only work your way higher once you’re fully confident that you’re using it safely and responsibly.
Always Test Trees for Stability
There are countless dead trees standing tall in the forest, and attaching your stand to them could spell bad news. Push, pull, and shake a tree as hard as you can to test its stability before you ever think of putting your stand on it. Avoid that tree like the plague if you sense any weakness or looseness in the earth.
Whether you’re a run and gun elk hunter or you stalk whitetails from the same tree year after year, we hope this guide helped you find the perfect tree stand for the upcoming 2023 season.
No two hunters are alike, so we took our time recommending the very best and lightest climbing, ladder, and hang-on stands on the market. Different styles call for different stands, so we did our best to cover all the bases in this guide.
Don’t forget to stay safe out there, either! Tree stand falls can be deadly but are almost always preventable. Gear up with the right products, practice proper safety techniques and wear a darn harness. No excuses! We cannot drive this point home enough.
Are you ready to grab the upcoming deer, elk, and big game season by the antlers? Great! Now get your hands on the best stand for your style, find that perfect tree, and set up your camo palace for the next big kill.
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Last Updated on January 19, 2024
Noel lives in Colorado and he spends his days traveling, hunting, hiking, backpacking, and skiing. For him, getting deep into the backcountry as often as possible is when life is at its best.