I had intentions of putting a team of pack horses together to hunt with 20 years ago. I changed my mind after helping an outfitter set up his camps prior to the elk season. We spent far more time dealing with his horses then we did setting up the camps. I started realizing they would take away too much potential hunting time, and wouldn't be worth the effort and expense to me. So, now my horses are basically big expensive pets that my wife won't let me get rid of.
Yes they absolutely have their place but I think ultimately your hunting style will dictate if a saddle is for you or not
1) save $1,000.00. It'll cost about that much 2) Be limber. To maximize your effort, use climb aiders (strap things that allow you to increase height using fewer sticks). You have to be agile & flexible and determined! 3) Practice with it all before trying to hunt. 4) Figure out a good pack system to carry it all. Its not the weight per se, but more the bulk. I wore the Tethrd saddle from the truck going in. The Tethrd platform in my EXO 3500 pack load shelf (cuz my son carries his there), and 3 sticks with rope aiders (forever tangling on the sticks) plus some sort of hook(s) for hanging the bow & your pack once you've reached hunting height. 5) After all that, in truth, I only hunted with it 1.0 times. I practiced with it 2.0 times in the backyard. I really don't know if my future will see me using this at age 67. I'm in good shape, still run and am fairly coordinated and flexible. I was looking for a replacement for my Loggy Bayou climber. I used to hug the tree & inch my way up. That isn't working so well anymore. So, I may buy a Lone Wolf Sit & Climb. But mostly, I use my home welded (OK, it was at work years ago before I retired)(hey, I was the boss and did it after hours... OK, mostly!) Screaming Eagle knock-offs with climbing sticks and a ladder stand ot two. But, all that isn't that light & portable.
So, good luck with that plan! :)
I could give an entire gear list of my preferred set up, but you may have a different budget and preference.
If I could give some advice.... steer clear of tethrd saddles, for now. They need to improve on a few things. I've tried and owned most of the popular models on the market and they continue to fall short of the competition.
What in particular are you looking for as far as tips?
I don’t have the experience of trying to inform you on a bunch of brands or models. Because it’s kinda mundane to me. You pick one that suits you, you buy it, you fit it as the manufacturer suggests, then you hunt out of it. I can’t imagine a modern saddle being uncomfortable.
However, There are things that might make one more appealing then another. Brand and/or model. I don’t know what to tell you other then both of mine are extremely comfortable. However, the predator is ridiculously comfortable.
I use several climbing methods. Sticks and a two tether system. I’ve got about $250 in the climbing system’s and $315 in the saddle system. It isn’t cheap but, I’ve sold all my ladder and lock on stands. They paid for the saddles and sticks. All three stick sets I own actually. It’s replaced every stand except I kept a summit viper. If I had to choose, I’d pick the saddle setup.
If you want a low profile to haul, otherwise much lighter setup that packs into a small space for transport, this is your ticket. If you have many scouted locations then this is your ticket. If you want to hide better from a cagey whitetail, then this is your ticket. I routinely pack my setup in for long hauls too. I refuse to carry a summit viper for three miles one direction anymore. That’s why I bought it. But, it turned out to be so much easier then a lock on and, far more comfortable, it’s replaced all of them.
The market is rocking. If it’s not for you, then you can easily sell it. But, if you are in any of the above categories and give a saddle a fair shot, I’m betting you continue to use them.
Think of saddle hunting as just another tool in your kit. It's not a religion and it doesn't mean you can't hunt from tree stands anymore...lol. I'm in the process of manufacturing a bunch of climbing sticks and platforms that I can use for presets. The great thing about saddle hunting is you only need a small platform of around 1 foot square and only weighing a few pounds. Or you can go even smaller down to just using a ring of steps or a combination of both. Think of how many sets you could carry and put up in a day compared to hanging a bunch of full size stands.
There's a few basic things you need for saddle hunting:
1) A climbing method. No different than using a hang-on stand. My current setup is 3 Shikar sticks and a Versa Aider. This will easily get me to 15 feet. Another stick would get me to 20 ft. The sticks weigh about 1.5 lbs. each, the aider weighs a couple ounces.
2) A platform. I built my own which I really like but I recently bought a commercial model to try. A Trophyline EDP. It weighs just under 4 lbs. They make bigger and they make smaller. I like one big enough I can stand on and lean against the tree occasionally or stand and turn around on for a weak side shot. I haven't played with a ring of steps yet, but I will in the future.
3) A lineman's belt for climbing. This would be no different than what you should use for climbing and hanging a stand but it will be attached to the lineman loops on your saddle. I recently upgraded from 11mm Samson Predator rope with a figure 8 tied loop and Ropeman 1 ascender to 8mm Oplux, sewn loop, and a Kong Duck ascender. Much more compact and a little lighter. The ascender makes for quick, easy adjustment of the lineman's belt. If you're on a tight budget, you can get by with a prusik knot.
4) A tether for attaching the bridge of your saddle to the tree when you get up to your platform. I also upgraded this to 8mm Oplux. Some guys use another ascender for attaching the tether to the bridge. I went to a prusik knot. Less metal, a little less weight, and you really aren't adjusting it that much once you're set.
5) A gear hanger. No different than if you're hunting from a stand. If I'm on private, I screw in hooks for hanging my bow and another for my pack. If I'm on public and can't screw into trees, I have a gear hanger strap I made with 3D printed bow hangers, a Camjam for hanging my pack, and several other little snap open hooks for a range finder, grunt tube, etc.
6) The saddle. I started with a homemade model, loved it, and bought a Tethrd Phantom a year later. There's a million of them out there now. Watch a bunch of YouTube videos and read reviews. It's probably hard to go wrong these days.
For comfort, a saddle is hard to beat. When you are leaning out from the tree, your weight is distributed between your legs and ass so neither get tired for long periods. Like I said, I like to stand and lean against the tree occasionally. Some guys wear kneepads and sit with their knees against the tree. You just have to put some time in the tree and see what works for you.
You may love it and use it exclusively or use it occasionally if you're just bouncing around a new area or checking out some public spots. It's a lot less commitment than hauling a stand in and a lot quicker/quieter when making a location adjustment.
I know I'll be taking my setup out west in case I want to sit water somewhere.
For sticks I run 4 - 24” beast sticks with the Amstel rope mods that Midwest shows in his post. I also run ascenders on my bridge as well as my lineman’s rope.
The pros of saddle hunting. You can get by hunting skinny trees You can get buy hunting crooked or leaning trees as well. With a good system in place you should be able to install sticks and be up the tree in 5 minutes.
Not sure of any cons other then if I am pulling long sits in a tree I would rather have a stand and a seat.
lol...saddle hunting has exploded in recent years.
The main thing I would ask is why are you changing? What are your goals? There are many reasons to do it, but what is the need you are trying to address? Let that drive your actions. The reason I say this, is because saddle hunting is not setting up a blind. It is a commitment to a little bit of tinkering on the front end.
When you start researching saddle hunting you'll see all kinds of people that are just obsessed with having a setup that weighs nothing. These people won't even use climbing sticks they'll use a single rope to get 30ft up. While all very impressive to me, most of the time all that is a whole lot to-do about nothing. A "heavy" saddle setup like what I have weights well under 10 lbs, and takes as much room as a fanny pack. If you can't carry this for miles you have bigger issues than saving ounces on your setup.
So it comes back to your goals - what are they? For me, being here in Canada with absolute crap for trees to hunt (8" poplars half the time) getting behind the tree was very important to me to utilize the tree for cover. It has worked supremely well. Shootability is improved over a tree stand because of the range of motion. Those were the main needs for me and they have been met in spades. I did not want to sacrifice comfort, which led me to buy a 2nd saddle and sell my first one that I didn't find as comfortable as I wanted, although I still had no problems with 4-5 hour sits.
So, knowing that - and the why I got into it, I will tell you what I do. It is not the "lightest" but I love it. I still use 3 climbing sticks that I attach to my Mystery Ranch Pop Up 18 pack which is very small. I can set up 3 sticks quickly, quietly, and safely. I have done it many times with bedded deer in the vicinity. I like to use a plaform to stand on, it is just very comfortable and nice and easy to use.
So I will set up my 3 sticks, climb up and use my one and only rope - the hang rope or whatever as my lineman's belt to hang my platform. I don't use one when hanging sticks as I just don't need it, and the hassle of using one when going around branches is too annoying. I trust my arms. I know that will be blasphemy to safety freaks, but believe it or not I will climb up a tree higher than 10ft with my kids with no ropes at all!
Then I am in the tree, and I use what used to be my lineman's belt as the rope that allows me to hang and now I am good to go. I will screw in a tree step to hang my bow on, and another for my small pack. I chose this small pack for it's tiny profile in the tree, and ability to pack what I need. Once there, you're hunting. Easy peasy.
I have to say an ascender makes them MUCH nicer to use than a prussik knot.
All that being said, getting used to hanging and hunting is much likely a way bigger change to most people's hunting styles than going from a stand to a saddle. Picking a tree and shooting through cantaloupe sized holes to kill an animal is way different than having "shooting lanes." I have been hunting this way for many years in a province that has brutal thick hazel brush everywhere and almost all my shots are snap shots through baseball, cantaloupe, and sometimes basketball sized holes. Every now and then a field edge or swamp allows for open shots. But you are now picking a tree in the dark, and hoping to be able to shoot a deer wherever they come through.
This was my most recent saddle victim ;) This buck was almost certainly bedded within earshot when I set up, as the bluff I was hunting was very small.
I found it hard to adjust to the saddle. For me, setups took longer, and although the concept makes sense, I found myself not being able to make certain shots. I did find it comfortable though, not quite like a stand, but not bad. For my last week of the season I got back in a stand (was trying a Lone Wolf Customs this year) and killed a nice buck on the third day. I would have had a tough time adjusting for that shot out of a saddle.
If a guy was just starting out, I think my advice to him would be to go saddle so he can learn it like the back of his hand. It still makes so much sense to me. I’ll have to decide for myself if I continue on with it. If they didn’t offer so much concealment, I would have just dropped it and went back to the hang on, period. But the concealment intrigues me.
Hope this helps. I think it’s worth giving a real go. As to which saddle, I won’t go there as my input is almost worthless, as I’ve only tried one
Number one, it's great - the saddle. It's a super tool. I do think some folks adapt super quick to it and just love it totally... then there are folks (small %) who just HATE the things and then there are folks who find it great, but also recognize aspects that can be frustrating. I'm in that group.
Number one, during your first season, no matter how much you practice before the season, commit to using it for all hunts. Just make the choice, accept the challenge. Nothing beats actually being in a tree and learning how to move with deer around, or how to position yourself in general. It sounds like a small difference to be setting up sort of backwards from how you would a standard stand, but it can really mess with your head. Likewise, the climbing system you think you love in July in your backyard or at the range, suddenly can seem less good come deer season. Sort of "forcing" that first year to be total immersion will help you figure out YOUR system really well. That was good advice I was given my first year, and it was very helpful.
Note, I said YOUR system. More than any other tree based system of hunting I've seen, people have their own personality/idiosyncrasies displayed with climbing/platform systems with a saddle. Are you a knee pad person - if so what style? OR, do you like a tree wrap pad for your knees? Do you like sticks or steps to get up? If you like sticks do you want long ones like Heliums or LW... Or short ones? Do you want aiders - ok, what material: wire, tubing, rope, single loop or multi step aiders? Do you want cinch straps or some sort of rope mod? Do you want a ring of steps or a platform or a perch on your top stick? Do you want to one stick or multi stick or what not. There are a lot of little things to explore, and most folks seem to think they have it dialed pre season, then go hunting and decide to start tinkering as they experience "the real thing". Be ready for that process and open to exploring options.
Shoot from it, a lot. Do you like to do a 180 on the platform to shoot weak side or walk around the tree? Stuff like that. It can feel really weird at first. Again, committing helps here, to really learn it.
End point, anticipate a lot of experimenting.
In the end, for me, I've used my climber only 1x the past 2 seasons, all other hunts have been from the saddle. Some days I wished I had my climber... But the adaptability with the saddle has been great.
And I have to admit, that whole "hide behind the tree thing" you can do so well with the saddle... Man that works.
So, it's worth the effort, but it's not the end all be all greatest thing ever. There are times I could envision using my climber... And if I was hunting much private land maybe a fixed stand again. But overall, it's been super. And for a mobile hunter largely on public ground, constantly roving and following the sign each set up... It's been great.
Good luck with it!
I’m not criticizing it. I find it interesting and have spent a bit of time looking into it. I ended up concluding that it’s not for me. I may think differently if I hunted public ground but thankfully I have my own ground and can put stands wherever I need to.
I'm sure saddles are useful for certain type hunts in some areas, just not for my type hunting.
Good luck, and let us know what you go with and how well you like it.
I will say even when I used my Lone Wolf I wore my saddle. The climbing belt portion of it is so safe I gravitate towards using it regardless.
Same as out of a treestand; unzip, lower it to just below my platform, and let 'er rip. :-)
I just shared this to say I don’t believe the saddle to be the “be all - end all” but just in theory I do still believe that the saddle offers more benefit once fine tuned.
I’ll also add that I say all day in the saddle and was quite comfortable.
David, to whizz, I just leaned on my side and kinda hung there and let rip. Odd feeling but it worked. I don’t have quite the problem that Nick does so I don’t have to build in a pecker rest into my saddle system yet. If I did, I would go carbon with a merino cover as to offer some warmth
If you have the type of situation where you are hunting your own ground, and the ability to invest in a bunch of stands in great locations, absolutely nothing beats walking up to your stand and climbing in. You guys have great large trees down there, and the only thing you'd be missing IMO is a few degree of shootability. Not worth the swap IMO. Nothing beats walking to a tree setup with a stand already in it and lanes cleared. That's still the dream for this prairie bumpkin!
Nick - I am using the Tethrd platform - Predator or something it's called? This past year I also bought the Hawk saddle I think it is called a Hawk Helium or something. Comes as a complete set. Definitely not a high end setup, but ore comfortable than the Tethrd Mantis I had I find. I use 3 sticks be it Lone wolf or I bought a set of Hawk sticks. They are not as nice. Two step sticks are the best for setup. Maybe next year I'll go to the bank and add a LOC to the mortgage so I can get a set of LWCG steps....
I will say even when I used my Lone Wolf I wore my saddle. The climbing belt portion of it is so safe I gravitate towards using it regardless.
Small non-shooter buck comes in at first light, I was able to draw on him comfortably (at 10 yards), and let down after he passed.
Shooter buck comes in, about 20 minutes later, from the same direction, but splits around toward my back side. I had to figure out how to maneuver around for the shot (he was moving at a pretty good clip), and by the time I got my position, and needed to draw, he looked up and busted me !
Definitely a learning curve. But I really like the portability, and can see how I would definitely use it for mobile hunts out West.
One question I do have it about best pack to haul sticks, paltform, saddle, and some extra clothes. Seems like some folks use a nicer back with meat shelf, others just a cheaper pack and some straps. Any words of wisdom?
I am going to see if I can get my Molle II frame to work if I can but open to suggestions.
I hunt private property and rather than buying a bunch more ladder stands I have resorted to buying cheap used ladders or getting some for free that my friend can no longer use at his company. I just strap the ladder to the trees and can either use the top rung of the ladder to stand on or carry in the platform. Quick and easy and overall cheaper than buying multiple stands.
On thing I've started getting into lately is what we call "virgin" stands (just because we can...). Pick a tree you've scouted out, go in, climb it and set up quietly. So often you go in early and prep a site near a trail they will change up and move. These axis deer don't take to pressure at all. Sometimes the stands get better the next year, but often you won't see them again that year, at that spot anyway.
To facilitate that I studied and studied, hated sticks, clumsy, heavy, noisy. Finally bit the bullet and went all in with a one stick climbing set up. Am getting fairly comfortable with it and have yet to find a tree I couldn't climb that I wanted to. Even have climbed a couple that had to transfer to another limb/trunk part way up. Stay steady, methodical and slow and have had no issues.
My stick is a 15" Ultimate One Stick from the boys at Eastern Woods. Great folks to work with. With the "ultimate" platform build into the top of the stick, so no need for a separate platform to set up. At first I carried a couple wild edge steps to augment the stick but honestly have yet to need them and don't carry them anymore. I'd guess maybe if a yuge tree you were on, but the platform on the stick is like a condo up there from what I'm used to. It's super solid, can push off sideways from it and it doesn't move. Cam cleats make it easy to release and make moves. I'm still a bit leery of them an take care how I place my tag end. But once loaded you have to really work at it to release the full bury amsteel rope. Unload the stick lifting up (has a cable handle to lift it) and the cleat releases easily, no fussing around with buckles or daisy chains.
Have an amsteel 3 step (15" steps) aider that I made attached to the stick and can get 5 to 6 feet per move pretty quietly as you're just dealing with one stick. I have a love/hate relationship with aiders. Love the light weight and compactness. Once learning how to dig in your toe to the tree to climb it got easier to climb, so climbing with aiders is... OK. Not bad. But having had aiders on other sticks, I HATE coming down with them, especially in the dark which it seems to be a good many of our sits. That's no issue with one sticking as you don't use the stick/aiders at all coming down. You remove it from the tree and rappel down your rope. And you are safely down in seconds, plus coming down out of a tree has never been so much fun. =D Like a kid in a carnival ride....
You will see this over and over in one sticking.... the belay/rappel device is the key to the whole show, that key is the Madrock Safeguard. It can be done other ways with other tools, often just to save some money. And also all last year because you couldn't find one for sale anywhere. Used ones were going for double of what they cost new. But I got on a "list", held out and got a new one for a reasonable cost. Folks that say their way "is just as good" have likely never used one. My rappel line is also my tether line, the majority of it in a pouch on my saddle until ready to come down. The Madrock rappel device is also my "prusik" that connects to the saddle bridge with a carabiner, super easy adjustment. Coupled with an autoblock loop for the rappel (a friction hitch like the prusik) Have a Ropeman ascender on my linemans rope and have practiced turning the linemans into an ascender with the safeguard and ropeman to inchworm back up in case you do something stupid.... like drop your one stick. Haven't yet but you never know. Another scenario is slipping off the side of a heavy leaner, can't fight gravity, just kinda have to go with it. Ascending back up was pretty easy once you get your rhythm.
With that rig and 40 feet of climbing rope I can get to 30' if I ever wanted to. Once comfortable with it, and I practiced a bunch to make sure I can do it in the dark..... alot of fun just getting in and out of a tree! Unlike alot of guys I use my lineman quite a bit, I'd say I'm tied in two ways near 100% of the time, so I'm a bit slower going up. But I'll pretty much beat anybody using sticks overall as I'm quietly down in seconds and packed up to walk out in a couple minutes, just need to figure 8 my ropes and pack out.
Yeah Jim.... by the time you add up everything.... you're looking close to a grand. I think I had well over a hundred just in rope. I got the higher end dyneema pull rope too. Every little thing like that makes a bit of a difference. You can use para cord but you use that rope to pull down your rappel rope once on the ground.... you DON'T want it snagging and para snags and tangles on everything. Dyneema is super strong, a stiffer body and slippery too.
Love the saddle, haven't hunted from a stand in a few years now. Likely won't again. Like stated above, there is a learning curve, set up being a big one as you're setting up the opposite of what you've done all your life. Making sure you have a good "platform" which can be many things, many of our trees were just well placed limbs. The new stick is a game changer for me as the closest I came to a "platform" was using several wild edge steps, which worked well, but you're back to packing in a bunch of noisy stuff. A note on "steps", if using steps as platforms we like the wild edge because it's one of the only ones that take some heavy side loading or some side torque. That happens as you're pushing away from the tree on odd angle shots (normally shots you'd never even get from a fixed stand) Leaning into the saddle away from the tree with no fear of slipping or falling and just worrying about making a good shot.... priceless... =D
Have to take the time and get some pics of the gear to post...... yeah I know.... kind of a tool whore..... but I love good gear/tools. And this stuff works really really well.
If I were in your shoes, Adam, and using the LW sticks as my only climbing method, I would replace those straps with some 8mm accessory cord and replace the versa button with a quality cam cleat. Quicker, quieter setup and easier to remove with heavy gloves and cold digits.
Also no mention of the tree trunk straightness coming into play as you descend? For example if you climb a leaning trunk you likely won't be rappelling freely down to its base if need be. You will have to walk the trunk down... My point is, while One sticking may be the ultimate minimalistic and convenient approach in some aspects/ scenarios, there are some inherent disadvantages or cons.
No matter what climbing system one uses, there will be pros and cons to each. Some hunt scenarios may be better suited for sticks. Understanding each is important to figuring out what suits you or your typical hunting scenarios best. Youtube serves as primary source of information on just about every climbing method currently known.
Considering the aforementioned; this is why if you are hunting private land, its probably best to just have pre-set locations with sticks or steps in place so you don't have to go through the exercise of setting up for each hunt. Retain a setup of sticks or steps etc. as a "floater" for when you truly need to be mobile. As Pat and others have cited, there is lesser value in using a fully mobile setup on private land. With the exception of the saddle itself.
There also might be an argument that it's "safer" bringing ropes and saddle with you for each hunt vs climbing into a tree stand in the dark that you don't routinely inspect straps and cables on....
For me personally and since I'm hunting private land most of the time, I have a slew of screw-in steps, sticks, etc. deployed in trees which I plan to hunt more than once throughout the season. The only thing missing is a tree stand. I like that I don't have to maintain/ replace treestands and straps, or pull treestands each season. I still do off season trimming and site prep for silent entry and exit. Nobody can sit in my spots unless they bring a stand, which is also not hanging out there like a beacon waiting to be stolen. The long term investment is also cheaper than full hang-on or ladder stand setups if we're just talking about owning one mobile saddle setup to do it all and allow you to hunt many spots without having to re-set stands. When it comes to maintenance; saddles are generally built to last for many many years. Semi annual replacement of ropes is probably a good idea. But there are no cables and metal to rust, or straps to weather, get chewed, or stretch around a growing tree. But be careful.... once you start buying saddles and climbing gear it usually turns into an addiction of trying this new stick or trying that new saddle... :)
WRT sub zero..... you guys can have that. You have my sympathies. It's 7am here and 72? Supposed to get into the high 50s tonight.... But at some point I'm flying with this gear, another reason I got it. Plan on sitting water in the evenings for elk in various states, coues deer in AZ, etc. Bears in the spring maybe. Have no desire for the super cold. Can certainly see the point of preset trees in that case. Hell, I'd use a ladder for sure. And if you're using a ladder may as well use a stand. Here it will be stolen. On private land. Even poachers here are territorial..... they'll do it just to let you know they are there.
Nick, I got the UP (Ultimate Platform) and pretty glad I did as it's big enough to shuffle around on, swing out with, etc. Perfect for me. I was thinking I might need to add some other steps and such but on normal trees I haven't had to at all. Not that much heavier as the stand off is integrated into the platform. It's a pretty grippy texture, so much so I used my dremel to smooth out the integrated notch you can use to pin it to the tree with your tether to help attaching for the next move. Was worried it might abrade on the rope. So textured you can get a pretty good abrasion on uncovered skin. Also smoothed out the edges on slots for the aiders. The slots are made for strap aiders, not rope. Rounding the edges should help with wear on the rope aiders at the attachment points.
The stick itself is 15" long, platform is 14" x 8". Ends have outward angles on them to push out or "around" on. Also the front edge angles down the first couple inches making it more comfy for "leaners" and still flat on the top for "standers". With the Safeguard it takes just a second to adjust tether length to better sit, stand, lean, or move around the tree. Folks that use a ropeman instead of a prusik have that as well though. Only prusik I have now is my bridge adjustment and a backup autoblock friction hitch attached to the linemans when rappeling down. The rappeling is so controllable you can go down an inch at a time or fly down like Rambo.
All wrapped up I attach it pretty easily to either a fanny pack or the pack frame if I might have to pack out an animal a ways and no close access. Stick with aiders comes in at 3.13 lbs
Anyway, this is all the gear to get up to 30 feet if you wanted to. All would fit in a gym bag or fanny pack. The "orange" rope is the tether/rappel rope, 40' of 9mm Sterling canyon elite. These climbing ropes are pretty cool, quality stuff. Color me impressed. Attached is the madrock safeguard and a smaller (shorter) size steel carabiner instead of the popular "delta" or chain coupler.
The black and blue linesman rope and ropeman I've had for a while now. I think 8mm rope and I forget the brand, had it for some time now, started using it when I ditched the original strap that came with the Trophy Line saddle. Tried prusiks.... but they take two hands to use most times and can be a pain for quick adjustments on the climb. Tried using "tenders" too, better, but still could be a pain. Ropeman fixes all that. Love em.
Saddle as stated is a Cruzer Archon two panel. I can access the leatherman on my belt between panels and it doesn't dig in either. =D Right now I'm just using the same belt pouch as was on my old Trophy Line. Will be making another custom one soon using a "roll up" design center with pockets on either end. About roughly 30' of the climbing rope goes in the pouch when climbing and hunting. Deploy it when you're done and ready to come down. Coiled in a figure 8 I've yet to have it tangle on me when tossing it down.
The dayglo line is 40' of dynaglide 1.8mm. It's a dyneema rope similar to amsteel. Cool stuff. It's both my bow pull up rope and used for rappel rope retrieval, small stainless "S" biners on each end. Figure 8ed again for no tangles. Picked it up later after fighting with a paracord line a time or two. A "worth it" improvement IMO. Biggest deal is to remember to connect it to the main rope before climbing down or it..... complicates things....
"Link" is used to connect the tether around the tree. You need something that's quick to connect as going around limbs and such with pulling 40 feet of rope through a loop is an issue. I use a smaller size STEEL carabiner instead of the more common delta link or chain link. It's 18Kn climbing rated. If I remember this one has a higher rating than the delta/chain couplers. Some advise against carabiners for the tether loop as many don't take side loading very well, due to the curvature of the tree trunk, smaller the tree the sharper the curve. But those are much longer carabiners (larger levers against the tree curve) and aluminum, not steel, far more brittle when bending. You can see the difference in the pic between this one and the Black Diamond Rocklock which is 24Kn rated. (Love the the BD, has a smooth round profile, round profile ovals work better on ropeman and many other belay/ascender devices where the carabiner is an integral part of it's function.) Much easier navigating around limbs when climbing than the delta/chain coupler links IMO. I like screw locks on ALL the carabiners.
The Madrock Safeguard is a "one way" rope device similar to the ropeman, until you pull the lever that is folded up on the side of it. The lever changes the angle of the device and adjusts the braking on the rope. It took me a while to get used to this. Was like learning how to drive with a clutch as a kid. Pull the lever and you begin to descend.... at which point I'd freak out a little inside with the "falling" feeling and let go of the lever which locks things back up again. Herky jerky was name of the show. As I got more comfortable (and learned how to use tension with the off hand in the autoblock) it got real easy to smoothly control the speed of your decent, or stop whenever you want to. Inch down or Swat Team it. Simple as a car clutch once you get the "hang" of it, so to speak. The rock climbers here will know.
One other issue. The tether link is a good bit heavier than a rope loop on most saddle tethers. On smooth straight trees with no limbs, you give the tether a little slack and the rope/link can loosen and tend to slide down with it's own weight. Not a good thing until you're ready to take the rope out of the tree. To fix that there are many ways, some use one of those soft ties with wire inside to keep tension on the link. They also make a plastic clip you can buy made just for that (it's rope size specific, keep in mind if ordering one) What I use is a stainless "hairpin" spring pin with shrink tubing on it to help grip and keep it quiet. You can bend it a bit to adjust the tension on the rope. It's tethered onto the rope so as not to drop it. Works great. At first I had a loop a bit from the end on my retrieval line that attached to the pin so as when you pulled on the line the pin would disengage from the rope so you could pull the rope on through the link. I got rid of that as it's pretty easy to remember to to pull the pin at the same time you connect the retrieval line. I guess some folks attach their retrieval as soon as they get set up (yeah, sucks to forget before you go down) Mine stays attached to my saddle belt from climbing up, I figure 8 it and stash the rest in a pocket after I get the bow pulled up. Lower the bow when done, then transfer the line from the saddle to the retrieval point on the rope. At that time I remove the pin and as long as you keep some tension on the tether it doesn't slip down. And gives me two "don't forgets" as to make sure and connect the line to the rope before coming down.
I have a loop of 7/64" amsteel tied just below the scaffold knot on the link. This is where all the advise I could find said to attach the retrieval line to, I went with all that advice. I guess attaching directly to the link might interfere with retrieval or cause wear on the line? Anyway, seems to work well, so that's what I have and where I attach. I've tested it and have hung on these tiny lines and connections with all my weight and had no issues. Dyneema (amsteel) is tough strong stuff.
Saddles themselves have come a long way, are simple, easy. Kinda like stands, some more comfortable than others, depending. IMO the key to either is how you safely, quickly, quietly and easily get up and down using one, not so much the stand itself.
Studied a ton on this stuff before diving in..... 90% of it on the Saddlehunter.com forums (linked above). Days of reading and info to scour and sift through. Youtube I've been told (so I'm stealing it) is the sum of all mankind's acquired knowledge. As Yogi Berra would say.... I got the other half from there =D Facebook maybe? I don't know, don't do it.
For gear I have to recommend the Eastern Woods Outdoors guys as they were a great help for me. Have no affiliation.... but flattered if somebody thought so maybe =D Likely other companies would be a great help as well. Lots of this stuff has been out of stock for quite a while but has been coming in and available bit by bit. Much better than last year around this time.
I'm not any official authority on it by a long shot, but studied my azz off AND stayed at a Holiday Inn. It's not too bad a system..... very comfortable, fast, light and portable to da max. I'd say it helps to be maybe a bit athletic, but I'll be 66 in a month or so and no issues wid it. Your mileage literally may vary.... and your weather I can't help ya =D
I wanted to mention something that hasn’t been touched on. It’s the safety factor to me that gets lost in these discussion.
A saddle setup, when used correctly, is the safest way to ascend, set, and climb down a tree. There is not one time a person isn’t hooked into a 100%, fall stop if they climb with a tether.
The only Way you could fall is if the rope broke. I’m not a fortune teller but, if a climbing or amsteel rope breaks on you, it was your time to go. Nothing was going to save you. These ropes ain’t breaking.
Also, your hands will be in constant contact with your “life line”. Literally. You aren’t standing on a metal or aluminum platform, held by cables, strapped to a tree with a strap. That might not seem like a big deal. But, I promise having your vision and hands on the equivalent in a saddle setup, 100% of the time is a very reassuring experience. Your key to climbing and hunting from elevated heights stays in constant vision and in your hands at all time.
You are in control of everything. No slipping, not getting tripped up and falling out, etc…..
To see that value in the safety of a saddle, really puts me at ease when I’m in one. I will never have to consider falling again. That’s nice to me. If I fell 15-20’ on these knees, I’d die from the pain. I like not even having to consider it.
I know they look uncomfortable. I know many just won’t like them due to their own preferences. But, they are a tool and they are indeed very comfortable. And SAFE.
If you decide to try one, just tuck the fact that you cannot fall out of the tree if you climb with a tether.
Anyways, I ain’t trying to sell anyone on it. Only make sure that you are being fair with yourself. Most of us are older. Certainly on the backside of life. And, climbing a tree to set for hours on end can result in hitting the ground pretty hard if you fall out. I know, I’ve done it. And, I’m guessing everyone can agree if hitting the ground is what hurts, then ensuring you never fall is the best way to prevent it.
Saw just now the edited 2nd pic in the tree has now turned correctly? Go figure. That first set I can get to around 7' pretty easy from the ground. Hanging from the tether on the next moves I can only get around 5' per move, mostly limited by how high you can place the tether so as to hang and move the stick. I'm a bit vertically challenged =D But just two moves can get me to 15-16' I'm standing on top of. Around here that's usually plenty, any higher and you likely start fighting the forest canopy for any shooting lanes but for straight down. We don't have any "fall" where the leaves come off. They are always falling and always growing. Have had folks tell me "make the aiders longer" but I can still only reach with the tether so far on top of the platform and the full aider I can't even use past the ground set now.
Have also been asked if I get tired while climbing. No. Not really. Actually easier, less energy than hanging sticks and such. You can stop and just sit there in your saddle "chair" hanging out between moves. You aren't even standing or hanging on to anything, just sit there calmly and relax. Then when ready, reach down, release the stick (between the cable handle built into the top and proper placement of the tag end of the cam cleat rope it gives you nearly another foot of reach), move it up as high as you can and re-attach it to your tree. Climb up onto the top platform. Move your tether up as high as you can. Repeat.
If you can find someone who uses the saddle and will allow you to try it out, that would be a lot better than trying to wade thru all the information out there nowadays. It's very important to get one that fits you well too. The first one I had was an extra large and it came too high up on my ribs and would not allow me to breath easily. The then owner of Trophyline Treesaddles exchanged it for a size large and that did the trick for me.
I can shoot more accurately out of my saddle than I can from my regular stands. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true for me. Plus, that Ultra Day Pack is a lot lighter and easier to carry than my lonewolf climbers, or any of my lock-on stands.
I don't know anything about these newer saddles being sold today. I'm very happy with what I have. I can tell you this, if they squeeze your hips, or make your breathing labored, something is not right. Good luck!
Oh, and the only option for knee pads, IMO, is Arcteryx Leaf Knee Caps, or the Tethrd knee pads. If budget conscientious- Trophy line or your local ACE Hardware specials are good enough too.
My favorites are wrestling knee pads and I wear them under my pants. They also give a bit of support to the knee when hiking and packing. And being under the pants they are a bit quieter and snag less.