There are two main types of treestands to consider: cast aluminum and machined aluminum. Both are purpose-built and designed to meet the needs of bowhunters with a wide range of applications, but there are differences. Machined stands are built by machining a solid block of aluminum, which results in a more precise and uniform product. But that process and the tight tolerances involved make machined-aluminum stands expensive. Cast-aluminum stands are made by pouring molten aluminum material into a mold. The finished product isn’t as precise as a machined stand, but it is more affordable.
Generally speaking, bowhunters place value in how much a stand weighs, how quiet it is, and its cost. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of both types of stands before you buy your next one.
According to Brock Jensen, director of sales and marketing at XOP Outdoors, machined treestands provide significant weight savings when compared with cast-aluminum stands of similar dimensions. This is because additional material is often used to overcome inconsistencies in cast-aluminum stands, and that material adds weight.
Cast-aluminum treestands use additional material during the manufacturing process, which adds weight, as discussed, but it also acts as a sound dampener, making them quieter than machined treestands. Although they’re heavier, a cast treestand dampens noise that might be made while hanging the stand or from bumping a bow cam into it on a frigid, calm November day.
Weight savings comes at a price. Tight manufacturing tolerances and lightweight designs make machined treestands more expensive than cast-aluminum options. Hang-and-hunt enthusiasts typically accept the higher cost associated with a lightweight ambush. However, if you’re buying your first treestand or don’t anticipate packing it for long treks, a cast-aluminum option keeps cash in your wallet for other critical hunting gear.
“It’s important to consider your hunting style before you buy a treestand,” Jensen said. The lightweight nature of machined-aluminum stands makes them easier to transport and set up in the field. Hunters who hang and hunt for most of the season or hike long distances can benefit from the weight savings offered by machined stands. They’re more packable and easier to hang, making them ideal for public land bowhunters with a highly mobile hunting style. Since they don’t need as many stands, most mobile hunters are OK with the additional cost of a machined stand.
On the other hand, hunters who have multiple, semipermanent stands on one property may be more worried about cost savings than weight savings. Cast stands often cost 50% less than machined stands of comparable size. “Cast stands are great for people who hike minimal distances or don’t mind the extra weight,” Jensen said. “Although carrying extra weight can be tiresome, most bowhunters won’t notice the weight savings unless they’re minimalists, focused on the bare necessities.”
Visit your local pro shop or retailer if you’re still unsure which type of treestand is right for you. Most retailers carry treestands from a variety of manufacturers, which will help you get a feel for subtle nuances between brands. Study accessories like backpack straps and seat cushion thickness and material, and look for any sharp edges on the aluminum. Comparing treestands side by side will help you make a confident decision so you can enjoy many crisp, fall days from your favorite perch.