After considering more than 35 Christmas tree stands and testing five models over the past four years, we believe the Krinner Tree Genie XXL is the best option for your tree—and that’s been our conclusion every year we’ve done this guide.
A unique design makes clamping a tree in the Krinner far easier than any kind of stand we’ve found. The Krinner grips the tree trunk with five claws that you tighten by stepping on a ratcheting foot pedal, instead of turning a set of bolts into the bottom of the tree trunk, like nearly every other tree stand. This means average-size and smaller trees, around 6 to 7 feet tall, can be set up with just one person. No other tree stand does anything like it. The Krinner can handle a wide range of trunk diameters (even very small ones), it’s extremely stable and it’s attractive, and the enclosed 2½-gallon reservoir has a gauge to show you its water level. Priced at around $100, the Krinner is not cheap, but it’s so superior to the competition, we feel it’s worth the investment.
If our main pick is too expensive or unavailable, we like the $35 Cinco C-144E Express, which remains a reliable backup choice after several years of considering new models. It’s stable, and its ample 3-gallon reservoir has an overflow basin to catch drips. The downside is that the tree is secured by four cumbersome hand-twisted bolts, but they do have a quick-release—this speeds up the process considerably and sets this stand apart from the many other similar designs. It’s not as easy to use as the Krinner, and not as versatile, with a design that accepts only tree trunks larger than 3.5 inches in diameter (that’s a tree about 6½ feet or taller). Last, this stand is quite large; if you’re planning on getting a smaller tree, you can step down to the Cinco C-148E.
This is our fourth year researching and testing Christmas tree stands. In that time, we’ve thoroughly vetted over 35 stands and have done hands-on testing with five. We’ve also read everything we can about Christmas tree stands, focusing mostly on comparisons at The Wall Street Journal (of all places; subscription required) and a Christmas-themed blog called Miss Bee’s Christmas Tree. Although not a professional reviewer, Miss Bee is pretty serious about tree stands.
We wanted a Christmas tree stand that could serve two primary functions: Keep the tree standing upright, and keep it watered.
A good stand can hold the tree up and make it look straight, even if the tree itself is a bit crooked. To create stability, the stand needs a heavy base to lower the tree’s center of gravity and keep it balanced. For size, it should have 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 6 or 7 feet, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
Second, it needs a sizeable reservoir of water to keep the tree moist and “alive” (or at least prevent it from drying out and losing all its needles) for as long as possible. A dry tree is not only ugly and messy, it’s a fire hazard. Though this is rare, it does happen—according to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2009 and 2013, Christmas trees were the source of an average of 210 home fires each year, according to a National Fire Protection Association. So how much water is enough? The National Christmas Tree Association notes that, “Generally, a tree can use up to one quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter.” That’s 1½ gallons each day for a 6-inch-diameter tree. Larger water capacity is always better, so you’re not constantly worried about watering the tree.
We used this 1½-gallon water requirement to eliminate a fair number of Christmas tree stands on the market. We’ve combined this research with user reviews and rankings on Amazon and Home Depot to come up with a total of 35 Christmas tree stands for consideration over the past four years. Of those, we’ve tested five.
In 2013, we took our top four stands to Adams Nurseries in Lancaster, New York, where the staff members generously loaned us a pair of trees to set up and take down. Both of our test trees were Douglas firs, one of the most common Christmas trees sold in the US. One was 6 feet 8 inches tall with a trunk diameter of 3½ inches, and the other was 8 feet 4 inches tall with a trunk diameter of 5½ 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. We also looked at how hard it was to make adjustments to straighten the tree. We then filled the stand’s reservoir with 1½ 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 most cases it was enough to tip over our test trees and not 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.
Since our original testing, we’ve evaluated one other stand, the Tree Genie XXL Deluxe, which is so similar to our main pick that we didn’t feel the need to put it through our stability testing.
To prevent bias in favor of any type of stand or tree size, a writer who had never set up or maintained a live Christmas tree conducted the original tests on our stands.
Heading into Christmas 2016, we feel the Krinner Tree Genie XXL is still the best Christmas tree stand available. With a unique, easy to use, and quick tree-clamping mechanism that operates by a foot pedal, this was the only stand we tested that we could set up without an assistant. It can handle a wide variety of tree sizes, has a large 2½-gallon water reservoir, and it’s sturdy—attempting to tip it over almost broke our test equipment. It’s also the most aesthetically pleasing stand we could find.
The most significant factor that sets the Krinner apart is the unique fastening mechanism that’s far simpler and easier to use than that of any other tree stand available. You simply set the tree in the stand, press several times on a foot pedal, and then five very sturdy plastic claws, looped together with a heavy-gauge metal wire, tighten down against the tree trunk to set it in position. The final pushes on the pedal snug up the claws and hold the tree securely, locking the pedal in place. If you need to make adjustments after that, it’s really no big deal to unlock the claws and reset the tree.
We tested the Krinner on two trees: a 6-foot-8 tree, which we put up unassisted, and a bigger 8-foot-4 tree, which was easier with a second person. As long as you can heave the tree into the Krinner’s open jaws, you may be able to manage it on your own. This is a huge distinction between the Krinner and basically every other stand, which forces you to get down on your belly to tighten individual bolts. Even for a smaller tree, that’s nearly impossible to do without help.
One of the Krinner’s other major 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 Tree Genie XXL was able to max out our 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. The stand itself weighs 18 pounds, which you might expect to make it stable, but it actually has a smaller footprint than most of the other stands. That’s another advantage: It’s easier to store during the non-Christmas months.
The Krinner has a 2½-gallon water reservoir. Of the tested stands, only the runner-up Cinco is larger, with a 3-gallon capacity. But 2½ gallons is plenty large: A tree of roughly 6 to 8 feet in height has a trunk diameter of about 4 to 6 inches, and will usually take in 1½ gallons or less per day. In fact, you should even be able to relax a little about watering, as you may not need to each day. A gauge on the tank will tell you what the water level is between fillings.
The Krinner was well-regarded in a Wall Street Journal (subscription required) roundup of Christmas tree stands back in 2006. Amazon users are similarly impressed, giving it a rating of 4.7 stars (out of five) across over 555 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 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.
As with most tree stands, watering the tree’s reservoir is still a chore, and you have to be careful when filling it. The majority of the Krinner’s reservoir is enclosed, and there is only a small space near the trunk for watering. You could make the case that this narrow opening has advantages—pets will not be able to easily drink from it and gifts are less likely to fall into it. The gauge that tells you how much water is in the stand also has a very clear “Stop” indicator that shows when you’ve filled it enough. However, there is no overflow tray, a feature some other stands have that we’d like to have seen here.
Almost every negative review mentions the same problem: water leaking from the base. This is obviously a huge flaw, but it’s rare—less than 6 percent of more than 555 Amazon reviews mention it. Most of these problems seem to be happening between seasons, so if you’re taking a used stand out of storage, fill it once on your driveway or sidewalk and watch for a leak before you set it up indoors.
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 to secure the lock toggle in place (you could also use a little bolt).If you have these or any other major problems, the Krinner is backed by a five-year warranty.
Another reason to add a padlock is to prevent a child from accidentally releasing the tree from the stand. To a toddler, the curiosity factor of the lever and the bright red lock toggle is off the charts, and it doesn’t take much to shift the toggle and press the lever up, causing the tree to topple over.
A final drawback: The Krinner is expensive. At about $90, it is definitely on the high end of the tree stand price scale, but it’s significantly better than all the other stands we tested. We feel its multiple advantages make it worth the 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.
Wirecutter editor Erica Ogg’s parents, Steve and Debi Ogg, tested the Krinner for a year and they reported that it was “probably the best Christmas tree stand we’ve owned.” Steve was especially impressed with the easy setup, saying, “I’ve never been able to set up a Christmas tree by myself. I’ve always had to have someone else hold it up, while I’m down there [trying to screw in bolts].” With the Krinner, “I could hold it in and use the foot ratchet thing, didn’t need anyone else.”
Debi liked that the Krinner was “very solid” but said that the 18-pound weight made it, “a bit cumbersome” moving it up and down the stairs when taking it out and putting it away for the season.
She also noted that filling the Krinner with water “was easier than previous stands we have owned, but not necessarily easy, since you have to practically lay on the floor to find the fill zone. But definitely not difficult, and it held a lot more water [than other stands], as I remember, which is nice.” Erica tested the similar Krinner Tree Genie XXL Deluxe (which has the same water reservoir) and said that, “the well is so huge that you just don’t have to water as much in general as you would with most tree stands.”
For a solid stand at a lower price, we like the Cinco C-144E Express, which usually costs around $35. The Cinco is similar to the Krinner in terms of stability, and both maxed out our force gauge. It uses a traditional bolt-tightening method, which is nowhere near as easy to set up as the Krinner, but a quick-release on the bolts makes the Cinco’s operation faster and easier than that of similarly priced competition. Think of this as a particularly good 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 at least you’ll spend a little less time down there.
The quick-release is one feature that really set the Cinco apart from the rest of the lower-priced stands. You know the design: Four bolts tighten against the tree trunk to stabilize it, and the bolts can thread in to grip a tree with a diameter as little as a 3½ inches. Cinco’s improvement to this standard system is that each screw has a release lever so it can be quickly snugged up against the trunk and then tightened for only the final turns. You won’t need to lie on your belly and slowly spin the entire bolt toward the tree (four times in a row).
The Cinco has a big 3-gallon reservoir and an added overflow basin to catch drips (which the Krinner lacks). Its reservoir is more exposed 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 the Cinco and our main pick apart.
This stand is sold at Home Depot, where it currently has a solid 4.2 star rating (out of five) across 22 reviews. The majority of the feedback is positive, with some saying this is the best stand they’ve ever used. The few negatives focus mostly on the overall bulkiness of the stand.
As for flaws, the Cinco is quite large. Huge, in fact. At about 2 feet in diameter and roughly 10 inches tall, it takes up some real estate and smaller tree skirts won’t be able to cover it. Because it has the capacity to hold a 12-foot tree, the screws on the Cinco don’t extend far enough to grip a tree with a trunk diameter less than 3½ inches (which, in our test, was about a 6-foot-8 tree). If you’re planning on having a smaller tree, Cinco also offers the C-148E, which has the same quick-release system, but is just sized down a little.
In 2016, we dismissed three new stands that could not match our picks’ advantages. The Black & Decker Smart Stand comes in two sizes. The smaller size can handle only up to a 4½-inch trunk and has a reservoir of less than a gallon. The larger size is similar to the Krinner in capacity, but isn’t available at any major retailers. The Steel Welded Large Tree Stand, like so many others, holds the tree with four bolts that must be threaded the entire way in. Its water reservoir is also much smaller than those of the Krinner and Cinco. The Holiday Time Christmas Tree Stand is inexpensive, but looks flimsy and also supports the tree with simple bolts.
We also found the EasyGoProducts TS16 Christmas Tree Stand (and the slightly smaller TS14). These bear a striking resemblance to the Krinner, including the claw design, the ratchet, and even the same sticker on the locking lever. We researched the company and couldn’t find much. Compared with the Krinner, the pricing is about the same but the warranty is only one year, as opposed to five. That said, we’re more confident recommending the stand from Krinner, a company with a 15-year history.
Our original 2013 hands-on testing included the Contech Enterprises TS9405 Indoor Steel Christmas Tree Stand and the Emerald Innovations XTS1 Swivel Straight Tree Stand For 12′ Tree (also known as the 1-Minute Tree Stand). Neither was as stable as the Tree Genie XXL or the Cinco. The Emerald Innovations started to tip at 30 Newtons of pulling force, and the Contech tipped at 25 Newtons. Performance was similar with large and small trees. Both the Emerald Innovations and Contech stands have 1½-gallon reservoirs—sufficient, but the smallest among tested models.
The Emerald Innovations stand in particular had our hopes up because it lets you adjust the angle of the tree by pressing a foot pedal and turning the tree on a large ball joint. But the initial setup proved more of a hassle than any other method: A separate sleeve fits over the tree’s trunk while it’s lying down, and you secure it with screw-down clamps. Then you fit the sleeve and tree together into the base. The frustrating setup, along with the lack of stability, outweighed the otherwise cool design.
We also had hands-on time with the Tree Genie XXL Deluxe, which matches our main pick spec for spec with a couple exceptions. First, there is a bell on the end of the foot pedal that dings and locks the pedal automatically when the stand’s claws are fully tightened. Also, the claws on the XXL Deluxe loosen on the tree one pedal lift at at time, instead of releasing all at once. These are nice features, but they’re not necessary, and they add about $10 to the total cost.
We looked at, but didn’t test, the Santa’s Solution Steel Extreme. This expensive stand accommodates trunks up to 7 inches in diameter and has a 2-gallon water well. The name is quite apt: The Steel Extreme is imposing, but it still uses only the traditional bolt design. If you can spend this much on a stand, save a few bucks and get the much simpler Krinner.
Many other stands didn’t offer the minimum water capacity of 1½ gallons, including a smaller stand made by Emerald Innovations, Bowling’s Last Stand, Krinner’s smaller Tree Genie M, the Santa’s Solution Supreme, and the Swivel Straight. We passed over several for having ultracomplicated fastening systems, like the Standtastic Stand, which 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 E.Z. H20 and the Omega Tree Stand have poor Amazon reviews.
We’ve also dismissed the Iron Mountain Welded, which had decent reviews 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).
The Oasis tree stand can hold a tree up to 10 feet tall. But its water capacity is maxed out at 1½ gallons, which is only enough for a 7-foot tree to drink from comfortably. The Santa’s Solution Steel Arm Plastic Tree Stand can accommodate trees no taller than 9 feet. The Cinco Classic and Jack Post Stand each max out at 8 feet. We ruled out the Quick Stand due to its poor user reviews.
Originally published: November 25, 2016