After considering more than 30 Christmas tree stands, it’s clear the Krinner Christmas Tree Genie XXL is the best by a long shot. It can be set up by one person and securely grip almost any size tree out there, and it’s stable enough that an attempt to topple it over nearly damaged our test equipment. Plus, it’s the most attractive of all those we tested. It’s not cheap, but it has several unique features that set it apart from every other stand we looked at. Two years later, and after giving it a fresh look among this season’s crop of tree stands, the Krinner remains our top pick.
Almost every other stand uses a series of screws to hold the tree, but the Krinner’s unique fastening mechanism has five sturdy claws threaded with heavy metal wire, which are cinched securely onto the tree via a foot pedal. No other tree stand has anything like it. Beyond that, there are other uncommon features, like a gauge to show you the water level, and a generous, nicely enclosed 2.5-gallon water reservoir (so your tree doesn’t dry out—or catch on fire).
It has unmatched stability and the capacity to handle trunk diameters ranging from 1-inch Charlie Browns to 7-inch behemoths (which translates to a 12-foot-tall tree!). The price is high, but it comes with a reassuring five-year warranty—and it seems durable enough to last many Christmas seasons beyond that.
If our main pick is too expensive or it goes out of stock, we also stand by our runner-up, the $35 Cinco Express, which remains a reliable backup choice after considering a dozen options. It’s plenty stable, and its ample 3-gallon water reservoir has a handy overflow basin to catch drips. But you secure the tree via four hand-twisted screws, which aren’t nearly as easy to use as the Krinner’s foot pedal. Plus, the Cinco stand will accommodate tree trunks only larger than 3.5 inches in diameter (or, based on our test trees, one that’s about 6 foot 8 or taller). Still, at one-third the price of the Tree Genie, we feel it offers some of the best performance of any stand in its price range.
The Krinner Christmas Tree Genie XXL was the only stand out of four that we tested that could be set up without the aid of an assistant (more on this in a second). Unlike the competition, it can handle a wide variety of tree sizes, plus it’s sturdy—attempting to tip it over almost broke the equipment we were using to test with the tree. That means you’re less likely to come home to a disaster created by kids or pets, or end up with a fire risk. It’s also the most aesthetically pleasing stand we tested.
The fastening mechanism uses five very sturdy plastic claws that, before you place the tree in the stand, lift upright and out of the way. Then you step on a foot pedal that works a ratchet mechanism. This is connected to a heavy metal wire running through all the claws. As you ratchet the pedal, it cinches the wire and pulls the claws down and in until they contact the trunk of the tree. A few final pushes on the pedal tighten the claws and hold the tree securely. If you do it right, you don’t even have to crawl under the tree to tighten the connections.
We tested the Krinner on two trees: a smaller, 6-foot-8 tall tree, which we put up unassisted, and a bigger, 8-foot-4 tree, for which it was helpful to have a second person. Any really big tree will be easier to manage with two people, but as long as you can heave the thing into the Krinner’s open jaws, using your foot to work the pedal is certainly much easier than having to reach down to tighten individual screws. Even with a smaller tree, that’s nearly impossible to do without help. If you need to make adjustments after everything is locked in place, you simply unlock the claws and reset the tree, which, once it’s in the stand, is really no big deal.
One of the Tree Genie’s biggest advantages is the ability to handle a wide range of trunk sizes. With the claws cranked all the way down, this stand will hold a tree with a trunk as small as 1 inch in diameter. The maximum trunk diameter it will accept is 7 inches. That gives you a lot of flexibility on tree sizes. When testing on our smaller tree, with its 3.5-inch diameter trunk, some other stands’ screws could barely extend far enough to meet the trunk (and they wouldn’t work with a tree any smaller than that).
Once the tree is installed, it’s hard to overemphasize how stable this stand is. In our stability testing, the Krinner Christmas Tree Genie XXL was able to max out a force gauge at 50 Newtons when testing with both small and tall trees. The tree stand even outlasted the test materials: We bent the hook on the force gauge trying to get it to tip over, and at one point we snapped the twine we had tied to the tree.
You’d expect such a sturdy stand to be big and bulky, but it’s not. In fact, it has a smaller footprint than most of the other stands. It’s just weighted in a way that provides a very secure, stable base for the tree. The small size also has another advantage: It’s easier to store during the non-Christmas months.
As for post-installation usage, watering the tree is still a chore, but it’s no worse than the other stands. You have to be a bit careful when filling it, as you have to reach under the tree and pour into a relatively small space near the trunk. You could make the case that this narrow enclosure has advantages—pets will not be able to easily drink from it and gifts are less likely to fall into it. There’s a gauge on the side that tells you how much water is in the stand, and a very clear “Stop” indicator shows when you’ve filled it enough. However, there is no overflow tray, and there are a few other potential water issues we’ve noted in the flaws section below.
Who else likes it? The Krinner was well regarded in a Wall Street Journal roundup of Christmas tree stands back in 2006. Amazon users are similarly impressed, giving it 369 five-star reviews across 423 reviews. User M. DeMeo says, “We just got finished putting our tree in the stand—I never would have believed it, but I think it took less than 1 minute!! You just place the trunk in the center and crank the foot pedal and it’s done! I tried to shake the tree and it wouldn’t budge.”
User Amazon Queen has found the Tree Genie much easier to use than screw-in varieties: “For years I’ve bothered with the wobbly screw-in versions…‘a little to the left, a little to the right.’ We put the tree into the stand, pumped the arms in and the tree stood straight and firm the first time in under 1 minute!” Other reviews consistently praise the stand for simplifying a difficult task, working quickly, preventing arguments, and otherwise saving Christmas.
One last feature worth mentioning: This is the most attractive tree stand of everything we tested. If you want to set up a tree on your porch or some other area where a tree skirt isn’t practical, it will still look nice.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Almost every negative review mentions the same problem: water leaking from the base. This is obviously a huge flaw, but it’s rare—only about 7% of more than 250 Amazon reviews mention it.
Most of the problems seem to be happening between seasons, so if you’re taking a used stand out of storage, fill it with water on your driveway or sidewalk and watch for a leak before you set it up indoors. And keep an eye on the water gauge when filling it, because unlike some other stands, this one does not have an overflow basin.
The other major complaint is a loss of tension in the ratchet and claw mechanism, which can let a tree topple over. Other Amazon users have experienced failure of the locking mechanism. According to the manufacturer, this problem can be eliminated by using a small padlock, which has the added bonus of protecting it against accidental unlocking by children and pets. In our testing, we found it was a little tricky figuring out how to lock and unlock the foot pedal, but once we had it down, the lock didn’t cause any problems. If you have any other major problems, there’s always the five-year warranty.
Last, the high price could be seen as a flaw. The Tree Genie is definitely on the higher end of the tree stand price scale, but it’s significantly better than all the other stands we tested, including the Emerald Innovations offering, which actually costs more. We feel its multiple advantages make it worth the step up in price—and a lot of the positive Amazon reviews are written by customers who hesitated to spend so much but ultimately felt it was worth it.
For a solid stand at a lower price, the $35 Cinco Express is our runner-up pick. First, it’s comparable to the Tree Genie in terms of stability. Both stands maxed out the force gauge in attempts to topple their trees. The tree sits securely in a series of screws, which is probably similar to any stand you’ve used in the past. There is one feature that sets these screws apart, though—there are release levers that let you push or pull the screws quickly into position without having to turn them slowly by hand.
Its reservoir is plenty big at 3 gallons and has an overflow basin to catch drips (which the Krinner lacks). The basin is more open than the Krinner’s, which makes it easier to fill, but some pets could treat it like a giant pine-scented water dish in your living room. This stand is made of a hard plastic, like the Krinner, and they both seem tough enough for the job. We should mention that durability of the stands didn’t seem like an issue in any of the options we tested—the bigger variable was the stability, and that’s what set both this and our main pick apart.
Out of a handful of user reviews on Home Depot’s site, the majority are positive. Think of this as a particularly sturdy version of your basic tree stand—you still have to crawl underneath to secure the trunk while someone helps hold the tree from the top, but, with the screws able to slide into position, at least you can spend a little less time down there.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The screws don’t extend far enough to grip a tree with less than a 3.5-inch diameter trunk (which, in our test, was a 6-foot-8 tree). This is the hardest problem to overlook—that rules out a lot of trees, especially shorter ones. And if you’re looking for a budget tree stand, you’re probably also buying a smaller, less expensive tree, and the two just don’t work well together. Just bring a measuring tape with you when you go tree shopping. If you look around, you usually can find trees with wide enough trunks at most any height, but this stand will limit your selection.
A tree stand has two basic functions. It holds up the tree and keeps it straight, even if the tree itself is a bit crooked. It also has a reservoir of water that keeps the tree moist and “alive” (or at least prevents it from drying out and losing all its needles) for as long as possible.
It needs a heavy base to lower the tree’s center of gravity to keep it balanced, and an opening wide enough to accommodate a roughly 4- to 6-inch trunk diameter—that’s the ballpark thickness of your average Christmas tree, which has a height of between 6 and 7 feet, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
Finding a stand to fit those trees was the basic aim of this guide; we’re not talking about supports for really huge trees—which can require custom stands or even tethers. To prevent bias in favor any type of stand or tree size, the tests on our stands were originally conducted by a writer who had never set up or maintained a live Christmas tree.
Beyond stability, you also need to make sure your stand can hold enough water to meet the tree’s needs. A dry tree is ugly and messy, and it’s a fire hazard. That’s rare, but it happens—between 2007 and 2011, Christmas trees were the source of 230 home fires in the US, according to a National Fire Protection Association report. So how much water is enough? The Purdue University Extension’s “Tips for First-Time Buyers of Real Christmas Trees” recommends 1 quart of water capacity for every inch of trunk diameter. That’s 1.5 gallons for a 6-inch-diameter tree. This recommendation is a bare minimum—stands with a smaller capacity won’t make the cut, and a larger capacity is always better.
We used this water requirement to eliminate a fair number of Christmas tree stands on the market. After narrowing the field from an initial list of 16, we were left with several stands made by large housewares manufacturers, and a lot of models designed and sold by mom-and-pop outfits with their own websites. Some of these turn up on Amazon; some are only available from the manufacturer.
When looking for serious editorial comparison tests of tree stands, we found that The Wall Street Journal (of all places) tested several stands in 2006. The writer, Sara Schaefer Muñoz, conducted one of the only real tests of tree stands we could find. Two of the stands she tested were among the four that we tested in our original 2013 roundup. A Christmas-themed blog called Miss Bee’s Christmas Tree did a broad overview of the category in 2011. Although not a professional reviewer, Miss Bee is pretty serious about tree stands. Her overview didn’t include direct testing, but she conducted a thorough meta-review that has some good information.
We combined this research with user reviews and rankings on Amazon and Home Depot to come up with a list of 16 total tree stands for our original 2013 story, and we selected four of those for more thorough testing last fall. Then, for our 2014 update, we looked at 12 new models, including products sold at Sears and Lowe’s, and considered one in comparison to the Krinner. In 2015, we came across seven models we hadn’t previously considered, including a very similar, slightly pricier model from Krinner. Find more details on all of them in the competition section below.
We took our top four stands to Adams Nurseries in Tonawanda, NY. The staff members at Adams were extremely helpful, allowing us to conduct our testing in their parking lot, letting us fill our water reservoirs from their tap and loaning a pair of trees to set up and take down. Both of our testers were Douglas firs, one of the most common Christmas trees sold in the US. One was 6-foot-8 with a trunk diameter of 3.5 inches, and the other was 8-foot-4 with a trunk diameter of 5.5 inches—a fairly typical span between large and small, which let us gauge how well each stand could handle most people’s trees.
As we set up each tree with each stand (in the pouring rain), we noted how difficult it was to get the tree into the stand, position it, and fasten the tree inside. Then we noted how hard it was to adjust the tree to straighten it up. We filled the stand’s reservoir with 1.5 gallons of water (or the stand’s maximum, if it was less than this amount), and noted how difficult it was to fill, and how likely it was to overflow or spill onto your floor.
Finally, we tied a length of twine to each tree, in each stand, at a consistent spot about a third of the distance from the top. Using a force gauge (a simple cylinder with a calibrated spring), we pulled on each tree to see how much force was required to make it tip over. Our gauge maxed out at 50 Newtons, which anyone with a physics background can tell you is not a lot of force—but, in this case, it was enough steady, deliberate force to tip over our test trees. To put it another way, the force required to pull the tree down was far beyond what you’d cause with an accidental bump into the tree. Only the exceptionally sturdy stands could resist it, and the exercise objectively helped us identify the best products in our test.
In 2015, Krinner introduced the Tree Genie XXL Deluxe to the U.S. market, and it matches our main pick spec for spec with a few exceptions: Instead of the plastic interior belt system of our pick, the Deluxe subs in metal; claws that ratchet open one pedal lift at at time, instead of releasing all at once; and a removable plastic ring that can help center smaller trees in the stand. But the most noticeable feature is the bell on the end of the foot pedal that dings and locks the pedal automatically when the stand’s claws are fully tightened. It also costs a bit more than our main pick.
In our testing we found the ding of the bell reassuring as a sign that the claws were ratcheted as tightly as possible and that the tree was firmly in place. But it’s also not really necessary. Most people should have no trouble tightening our current pick’s claws. Keep pushing down on it until the tree is solidly locked into place. If the tree still moves, you’re not done yet.
The Deluxe’s centering ring is nice, as long as you know you’ll get a tree whose trunk is less than 3 inches across. Any larger than that and you’ll need to remove the ring, which is kind of a pain. (And for something you be storing for a year at a time, it has a great potential to get lost.) We also prefer the instant release of the XXL’s claws. You have to tap the Deluxe’s pedal up one click at a time, and even when fully released our stand’s claws weren’t open quite as wide as the XXL’s. It could make it a little tougher to fit an especially wide tree trunk, though we didn’t run into trouble with our 6-foot Douglas fir this winter.
The XXL works well enough as is. But if you want added assurance of stability for your tree, and don’t mind paying more, then you might opt for Krinner’s Deluxe model.
Among the dozen models we considered for our 2014 update, the most promising was one that competes with the Krinner on tree-trunk and water capacity, the Santa’s Solution Steel Extreme. The $120 stand accommodates trunks up to 7 inches in diameter (14 feet tall) and has a 2-gallon water well. The name is quite apt: The Steel Extreme is imposing, and its broad base and heavy support rods inspire plenty of confidence that it’ll hold up any tree you could fit inside your living room.
Still, it’s a bit more complex to set up—it requires inserting four metal support arms and screwing an eye bolt into each, which need to becapped with a plastic button. You then need to nail the included plastic grate to the base of the tree, which will fit into a premade slot in the base that centers the tree. You’ll need two people to get the tree upright in the base and the eye bolts screwed into place.
We can’t recommend it over the Krinner, which requires zero assembly and is simple enough for one person to handle the tree alone. The Steel Extreme also has an open water well, making it easier to douse the tree skirt or presents when refilling and for pets to easily drink from (the Krinner’s well is more enclosed). Plus, it lacks Krinner’s floating water gauge, so you’re always guessing how much water is in the reservoir unless you get up close to look.
The Santa’s Solution is well-crafted and would likely be sufficient for most trees. But it’s overkill for most people, and would be a bit more annoying to store the rest of the year because of its awkward shape, weight, and multiple parts. Plus, for all its shortcomings, it’s actually more expensive than our pick. If you’re considering spending in the $100 range on a tree stand, we think you should save a few bucks and get the much-simpler-to-handle Krinner.
Others we checked out but ultimately dismissed include candidates that weren’t in our original 2013 test group: the WonderStand, an overly complicated design that is rarely (if ever) in stock. The Iron Mountain Welded was decently reviewed but has only a 90-day warranty, and after hours of research, we couldn’t figure out who makes the stand or where you’d go for service if you had a problem.
Among the others we were able to eliminate:
And here is the full list of models tested in our original 2013 research:
On this list, two of the stands we tested—the Emerald Innovations and the Contech Steel Tree Stand—were not great. Neither was as stable as the Tree Genie XXL. The Emerald Innovations started to tip at 30 Newtons of pulling force, while the Contech tipped at 25 Newtons. Performance was similar with large and small trees.
Like the Cinco, the Contech uses the screw-in method of securing the tree. The Emerald Innovations uses a separate “sleeve” that you fit over the tree’s trunk while the tree is lying down, securing it with screw-down clamps. Then you fit the sleeve and tree together into the base. Overall, this caused more hassle than any other method. We had high hopes for the Emerald Innovations, too, because the SwivelStraight technology let you adjust the angle of the tree by pressing a foot pedal and turning the tree on a large hemisphere like a ball joint. Its lack of stability and frustrating setup method outweighed this otherwise cool design. Both the Emerald Innovations and Contech stands had 1.5-gallon reservoirs—sufficient, but the smallest among tested models.
In the 2013 research, we considered 16 stands in total, and dismissed a dozen of them before testing. Many of them didn’t offer the minimum water capacity suggested by the Purdue University Extension, including a smaller stand made by Emerald Innovations, Bowling’s Last Stand, and the Swivel Straight. We passed over several for having ultra-complicated fastening systems, like the Standtastic Stand; it requires you to screw wood screws into the tree (a huge pain if you need to adjust the tree after it’s set up). The Simple Tree Stand’s strap and ratchet system likewise belied its name, as did the E.Z. H20. The Omega Tree Stand has poor Amazon reviews. Grinnen’s Last Stand is bulky and ugly.
If you’re looking for a DIY option, there are a few how-tos online. However, many of them seemed more decorative than functional, and didn’t offer sufficient water capacity. Daryl Scott Greaser put one together at the caverpilot blog with 2-by-4s, eyebolts, and a basin. It’s not the prettiest tree stand I’ve ever seen and it looks difficult to adjust, but it seems to have done the job. Several bloggers, including Ben Nyquist at The Modern DIY Life, used a large basin filled with stones to both hold water and provide ballast and support for the tree. I’m concerned that the volume of the rocks required to hold the tree up might limit space for sufficient water capacity, but I think this could work well for a smaller tree.
For super simple setup and the sturdiest possible design, the Krinner Christmas Tree Genie XXL is the best tree stand we could find. Despite its high price, it excelled in enough ways to come out a clear winner. For a lower price, the Cinco Express is a solid tree stand, but it lacks some key features that set the Krinner apart. Both of these stands were our picks in our initial tests in 2013. Up against new competition two years later, they remain the best in the category.
Originally published: November 30, 2014