Last updated on March 18th, 2023
Saddle hunters are notorious for loving their saddle hunting gear and modifying it to suit their needs. From the outside looking in, it can make hunting from a saddle seem like a complicated pursuit.
At its core, saddle hunting only requires five pieces of gear, all of which are relatively simple and straightforward. Yes, plenty of accessories are available to simplify the process or keep you more comfortable in the tree, but none are necessary to get started.
In this article, I’ll break down the five key pieces of saddle hunting gear you’ll need to get started, what you can expect to pay for each, as well as one item you hear a lot about but don’t need to get started.
The centerpiece of your saddle hunting gear is the saddle itself. The saddle dictates how comfortable you are in the tree, which ultimately determines how long you can hunt and remain still. That’s why it’s critical to spend time trying different hunting saddle models before you spend your hard-earned money.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, though, I should first explain what a hunting saddle is. A hunting saddle is like a rock climbing harness with a seat sewn into it. They typically have a waist strap, a strap around each leg, the seat material that supports your butt, and a bridge rope on the front that connects to the tether rope which then connects to the tree.
There are several different types of saddles being manufactured today, including a single panel, a two-panel, and a hybrid, pleated single panel. There are some other options out there, but most of the popular hunting saddles fall into one of the three categories above.
Expect to pay anywhere from $150 to over $400 for a good hunting saddle.
Standard Single Panel Saddles
As the name implies, single panel saddles have one fabric or mesh panel that supports your bottom. The benefits of a single panel are that they are the simplest design, and require the least amount of adjusting. On the flip side, many saddle hunters find single panel saddles are not as comfortable as the other two options we’ll discuss. There are certainly exceptions to that, as well as differences in personal preference. That’s why it’s important to test different types and models before buying.
Popular Single Panel Options:
- Tethrd Menace and Phantom
- Hawk Helium Hammock
- Latitude Classic 2
- Trophyline Venatic
Two Panel Saddles
Two-panel saddles have two smaller panels of fabric that pivot on each side of the saddle from a single point. This gives you the flexibility to adjust the panels to suit your needs. From having the panels overlap to create a single panel feel, to separating them so that one panel is under your bottom and the other is above the waistline, you can really tailor the feel of a two panel saddle for maximum comfort. The downside is an increased “fiddle factor,” as you may need to adjust the saddle each time you move or reposition. I’ve also heard complaints about excessive noise with some two panel saddles that contain metal parts.
Popular Two Panel Options:
- Tethrd Eberhart Signature Series (ESS)
- Latitude Method 2
- Cruzr Archon
Pleated Single Panel Saddles
In an effort to combine the best of both single- and two-panel saddles, several companies have begun making expandable or pleated single-panel saddles that you can expand as needed to fit your body and increase comfort. The price for that comfort is going to be added weight, and in some cases, the pleat can loosen over time to the point where the saddle expands on its own while hunting or when walking to or from your stand.
My next saddle will likely be one of these hybrids. I was leaning towards a Cruzr XC until Tethrd recently unveiled their Lockdown which will be available this summer (2023).
Popular Pleated Options:
- Trophyline Covert Lite and Covert Pro
- Cruzr XC
- Tethrd Lockdown (coming soon)
- TX5 Lonestar
Saddle Hunting Ropes
Aside from the saddle, you’ll need a couple of ropes. One is your tether and the other is a lineman’s rope.
When saddle huinting, the tether rope is what goes around the tree once you’re at hunting height and fastens to the bridge rope on your saddle with a carabiner. It’s your lifeline in the tree.
Tethers are typically around 8 feet long and come in a couple of different diameters — a smaller 8mm or a larger 10-11mm (more on that below). The tether will have a loop on one end and a knot on the other, with a prussic knot that can be positioned anywhere on the rope as needed with a carabiner.
Expect to pay $40-80 for a good tether rope.
Popular Tether Options:
The second rope you’ll need is the lineman’s rope, which is very similar to the tether, but with two carabiners — one on the prussic knot like the tether and one on the loop end.
If you’ve ever used climbing sticks and a hang-on stand, then you’ve probably used a lineman’s rope. It goes around the tree, attaching to each side of your saddle with a carabiner to keep you connected to the tree so you can hang climbing sticks and a platform hands-free.
It may be tempting to save some cash and just have one rope that serves as both your lineman’s rope and tether. Don’t. With only one rope, you’ll have to remove your lineman’s rope at hunting height to fix it around the tree as your tether, meaning there will be a period of time when you’re not attached to the tree.
It’s not worth risking your life just to save a few bucks on a rope. Get yourself both a lineman’s rope and tether.
Expect to pay $40-80 for a good lineman’s rope.
Popular Lineman’s Rope Options:
Which Diameter Rope?
As I mentioned above, tethers and lineman’s ropes typically come in one of two diameters — around 8 mm and 10-11mm. Both are usually similar in strength, but the smaller diameter rope saves a little weight and takes up less space in your pack.
If you plan to use a Ropeman 1 ascender, you will need to go with the larger diameter rope. If you go with the smaller rope, you can opt to use the Kong Duck rope clamp instead. Either size rope will get the job done, it’s just a matter of what works best for you and your setup.
Saddle Hunting Platform
As you hang in a tree from your saddle, you’ll want a place to rest your feet. That’s where a platform comes into play. Think of it as a very small hang-on stand minus the seat.
Saddle-hunting platforms come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and weights. Which you ultimately choose depends on whether you’re more concerned about foot room and being able to move around or minimizing weight. You’ll also want to consider the design, finish, and grip of the platform to make sure it suits your needs.
Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $300 for a quality saddle hunting platform.
- Tethrd Predator and Predator XL
- Cruzr Seeker and Mini Seeker
- Latitude Rebel and X-Wing
- Trophyline EDP and Mission
- XOP Edge and Invader
- Hawk Helium Hammock Apex
Climbing Sticks for Saddle Hunting
The fifth and final piece of equipment you need for saddle hunting is a way to get up the tree. While there are several options for this, including screw-in steps, strap-on steps, and even climbing spurs, the most popular options — and the only one I’d recommend for new saddle hunters — are climbing sticks.
If you think there’s an abundance of platform options out there, then you’ll really be overwhelmed by the number of climbing sticks on the market. And because there are so many options, I won’t even attempt to cover them in depth in this article. What I will do is tell you some of the key factors to consider when shopping for climbing sticks, and I’ll list a few of the most popular options below.
The main things to consider when choosing the right climbing sticks are weight, length, foot room on the step, and the method the sticks attach to the tree. If you’re the type who wants to shave every last ounce off the weight of your setup, expect to pay a premium for your climbing sticks.
Lighter = More Expensive
As far as length, you’ll need to decide if you want to go with two- or three- step sticks. The three-step sticks are going to be longer and weigh more, but you’ll be able to climb higher in the tree with less sticks. Longer sticks can be more awkward and cumbersome to pack into the woods, so keep that in mind when making your decision.
The size and shape of the steps can be important, particularly if you have a large foot. You’ll want to make sure you can climb the sticks without feeling like your foot could slip off at any minute. Safety is key when saddle hunting!
The last thing you’ll want to consider when choosing climbing sticks is the method in which the sticks attach to the tree. There are several options out there in this area, with some being much quicker, easier, and quieter than others.
Expect to pay $100 to $400+ for 3-4 climbing sticks.
- Tethrd One
- Tethrd Skeletors
- Muddy Pro
- XOP Ultra
- Hawk Helium
Gear a Saddle Hunter Doesn’t Need
One piece of gear you’ll hear a lot about, but is not a necessity to start is an ascender like the Ropeman 1 or the Kong Duck. These rope clamps replace the prussic knot on both your lineman’s rope and tether and allow easy one-handed operation. While they can certainly come in handy, particularly on your lineman’s rope, they aren’t something you have to have to get started saddle hunting.
If you’re a hunter looking for increased mobility and a unique hunting experience, I highly recommend giving saddle hunting a shot. While it may seem complicated, it’s really not. You can get started with just a handful of gear, some of which you may already have on hand.
Just take some time to meet with other saddle hunters, or participate in one of the saddle hunting field days that have started popping up across the country, to test a variety of equipment before you buy. That will save you a lot of buying and selling gear to finally find the gear that best fits your needs.