Gear Review- Muddy Aerolite Climbing Sticks
I chose the Muddy Aerolite sicks to go with my Hawk Helium XL lock-on stand for my new whitetail setup this year. The system has gotten a lot of use and plenty of abuse so far this season. This is how it has done so far. (read the review for the Helium XL stand here)
I looked over a lot of different sticks when I was trying to put together my new stand set up. Lone wolf, Hawk, and Muddy were the three I narrowed it down to. I decided on the muddy sticks because of their double step design, and I'm glad I did! Having two steps on ether side of the stick makes getting up in the tree much easier. I can have a solid stance when hanging my stand with both of my feet right next to each other on solid platforms, rather than one foot on a step and one foot hanging free. The traction teeth on the steps also do a great job of preventing slipping when the steps get wet.
The cam buckle design on the sticks is a great addition. It's not hard to stay quiet while unpacking the sticks and getting them on the tree, and it's a very fast way to fasten them. Just attach one loop to the button, run the other one around the tree and attach it to the button, and cinch it up tight. Quick, easy, and quiet!
The brackets that bite into the tree, which Muddy calls "bark biters", are also designed very well. After tightening the strap, you push down on the foot pegs and the teeth basically cut downwards into the bark of the tree. When it is seated properly, they are solid. They won't shift or squeak under your weight if attached properly.
Weighing in at 3 lbs a piece, these sticks are a breeze to carry. The total weight with the Muddy Aerolite sticks and Hawk Helium XL (Review: Hawk Helium XL) is only 21 lbs, the same weight as most nice climbing stands. The advantage of this system over a climbing stand is that I can get into a lot of different trees, so I can focus on picking the right tree to hunt from, rather than the right tree for climbing.
The only real issue with these sticks is how they attach to each other. They come with a small plastic buckle on one stick. You run that buckle around all three and tighten it up, locking them together. It didn't take long for the buckle to fail. To get the sticks to actually stay together and not rattle around when I had them strapped onto my stand, I had to get the strap with the plastic buckle really tight. It wasn't easy to get it tight enough to hold them solid, and the fourth time I hunted with them, the buckle broke. It would still click together but it wouldn't hold any weight.
The sticks lock together in a very specific way. The bark biters have a small slot that fits snug on the next stick. Getting them to really lock together wasn't very hard at fist, but the more I used them, the more the plastic that lined the slots got pushed backwards and worn out. The plastic is meant to create friction once they lock together to keep them from moving, but at this point it is actually making it harder to get the sticks to lock together right.
The solution I found to these issues was cut off the buckle that's attached to the single stick, and instead use the strap that goes around the tree to hold them together. This actually works really well, much better than the strap that came attached to the single stick. Once the sticks are strapped tight together, I just place them on the back of the stand and strap them down with a stout rubber bungee cord. It's solid as a rock when done correctly, no rattles and no shifting around.
Each stick is 32 inches long, so you get 8 feet of total stick length. It doesn't sound like a whole lot, and honestly it isn't. How high you can get in a tree really depends on your height and if there are any limbs you could possibly use for steps. I was worried about not being able to get high enough in trees. Most of the time I can get plenty high up, but the times where I can't are aggravating and could cost me a shot. The reason the stick length is on the con list is because Muddy currently does not offer an extra stick. If you want another stick, your only option is to buy another pack of 3.
The fact that these sticks have such an easy and quiet way of going on the tree and they have steps on ether side of the stick really outweighs the cons. They are very easy to use. Everything about them (except the plastic buckle) is sturdy and built to last. I'm glad I went with these. I'd say they were worth the money, and I would spend more money on them if Muddy would offer an extra stick!
They go very nicely with my Hawk stand. The combination has given me a huge advantage on the public land I hunt because I can hunt so many places that other people can't with their climbing stands. The system has done great so far, and I think both the stand and sticks will last a very long time!