By: Tink Jackson

While hunting from tree stands is an age old pastime on the eastern side of this great nation, these great tools are still very underutilized out west. Part of this is due to the fact that so much of the land in the west is public land, and thanks to a few bozos, leaving your tree stand out in the woods may quickly lead to a loss of your investment. The industry has evolved adapting many new ideas that not only provide security. But also much needed versatility. As part of our New Mexico deer hunt this past winter, we looked at a few of the top tree stands on the market and reviewed their use out here in the southwest. Yes, we do have enough trees to use tree stands in most areas, and a tune up during deer season sure might give us another advantage to utilize during elk season! The next tree stand we reviewed was the Ameristep Ralph’s Choice Hang-On Tree Stand Combo with Rapid Rails.

The technical specs:

Hang-On Details:
• Aluminum Construction
• Model #9731
• Rated for 300 pounds
• Weighs Approximately 16 pounds
• Padded 20″ x 10.5″ Bench Seat
• Realtree® AP HD™ Camo Seat Pad

Rapid Rails Details:
• Lightweight, Simple and Safe
• 4 Interlocking Sections
• Quick-Connect Speed Strap
• Fits Small and Irregular-Shaped Trees
• Easily Packs with Hang-Ons
• V-Step for Increased Footing
• Non-Reflective Powder Coated
• Aircraft-Grade Aluminum
• Rated for 300 pounds
• Weighs Approximately 14.5 pounds

Ameristep Ralph’s Choice Hang-On Tree Stand Combo with Rapid Rails - Industry Leadership By Example

In reviewing tree stands, we look at the following traits of each stand:
• Size of Platform
• Seat Size/Material/Comfort
• Construction/Durability
• Portability
• Quietness
• Ease of Use
• Price

Size of Platform – Let’s face it, the bigger the platform, the safer we all feel while in a tree stand, and the more options we will have when it matters. In this area, size does matter. That extra inch of platform space while we are 16-20 feet in the air makes life a whole lot easier. The platform size on the Ralph’s Choice Combo measures in at 30″ x 22″! It is extra huge, and is one of the biggest we have seen. This platform provides great security and greater options for your day in the tree.

Oversized Platform with Slatted Top and Flip-Up Foot Rest

Seat Size / Material / Comfort – I am not a small guy, and many of the stands on the market, well, are just not made for me! At 6’4” and 275 pounds, those little seats that come as part of most tree stands just don’t cut it. The flip-up seat on the Ralph’s Choice Combo measures 20 inches across and is 10.5 inches from front to back. The seat is 3 inch thick foam with a very soft and quiet zippered cover. The seat is secured with hook and loop straps for easy removal. Overall, the seat is comfortable, even for us big guys. The flip-up foot rest makes it easy to lean your back against the tree while in the seat, adding to the comfort.

20” X 10.5” X 3” Padded Foam Seat

Flip-Up Feature Provides More Room While Standing

Construction / Durability – The Ralph’s Choice Combo features a hang-on with Super Cam® leverage lock system that provides unmatched stability and is designed and constructed of high strength aluminum with durability in mind. The platform is welded at every seam, the cables and attachment points are heavy duty, and the finish is top quality. The flip-up seat and foot rest attachments are quiet and solid. Overall, the design and construction of the Ralph’s Choice Combo greatly exceeded our expectations.

Solid Contact with Tree

Excellent Construction at Every Stress Point

Tree Strap Attachment is Built Strong

Portability – The Ralph’s Choice Combo folds down and fits together very nicely. The Rapid Rails can be attached to the back of the hang-on with either the legs towards the hang-on or away from it. Putting the legs towards it keeps them from slipping while packing it. I prefer to put the legs out, just in case I fall with it on while climbing a steep slope. The Combo weighs in at just over 30 pounds. The stability and size of the hang-on and the awesome versatility provided by the Rapid Rails makes the weight seem like nothing when you are packing it in, even for long distances.

The Hang-On and Rapid Rails Fit Together Like Peas and Carrots!

Ready To Go!

Quietness – This Ralph’s Choice Combo is exceptionally quiet. After a full season of use in some pretty harsh weather, we had no problems with squeaks or squawks. The excellent construction gives us full confidence that noise will not be an issue with this Combo.

Ease of Use – Now, here is where we get into the true beauty of the Ralph’s Choice Combo. We have talked a bunch about the hang-on, its durable construction, quality components and excellent design. The second half of the Combo is the Rapid Rail System. Many of us have a lot of trees that are in the perfect location for a tree stand, but are far from being perfect trees. With the Rapid Rails that come with the Combo, this is not an issue. The Rapid Rails come in 4 interlocking stackable sections, the longest a little over 40 inches and the shortest at 31 inches. They are constructed of aircraft grade aluminum, have a “V-Step” that provides excellent footing, and are safe and secure.

Rapid Rails in place

Rapid Rails System

The interlocking sections are each attached with a provided pull strap. The straps are strong and secure, and hook directly into the frame of each section. Four separate sections can be placed on an irregular shaped tree in whatever manner that will work to get you to the perfect spot to place the hang-on.

Strap and Buckle for Quick and Secure Attachment

The hang-on and Rapid Rails are extremely easy to set up, transport and use. The 300 pound rating gave me all the confidence I needed to feel secure in the stand. Packing it in and out was comfortable, climbing the Rapid Rails easy, and sitting in the hang-on was enjoyable. This is a great system design from Ameristep!

Price – The Ralph’s Choice Combo retails for $250-$300, and it is absolutely worth the price.

Overall Grade – EXCELLENT – The Ralph’s Choice Combo is yet another industry leading product from Ameristep. Overall, the stand performed flawlessly and held up to every test we put it through. The hang-on is an excellent design and the Rapid Rails provide the user unlimited options when choosing field placement. Ameristep has redefined the term “perfect tree”, from a straight tree that the stand will work in, to ANY tree that provides the best shot opportunity. That alone makes this Combo well worth the investment.

Overall, we would highly recommend the Ralph’s Choice Combo to everyone. In all areas, this Combo far exceeded our expectations. The versatility you will experience with this package will make you glad you made the choice to purchase one.

For more please go to: Ameristep