Thoughts of camping chairs may conjure up images of $10 specials out front a big box retailer, but let’s reorient ourselves to a slightly higher standard. We expect a proper camping chair to not only fold up for easy transport, but to be comfortable, supportive, and made to last—even in rough and tumble weather. All of our top picks for 2019 have these qualities in spades. To be clear: there is no single “best” camp chair for everyone. How it will be used dictates the category: backpacking, camping, or everyday (this grouping includes anything from beach days to outdoor concerts). We cover these distinctions along with other important camping chair features in our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Dimensions: 20 x 31.25 x 31 in.
Weight: 7 lb. 3 oz.
What we like: Breathable and quick dry fabrics, quality construction.
What we don’t: Back height is a touch short for our tastes.
From base camping to the beach, the REI Camp X Chair is as well-rounded of a camp chair as they come. Folding chairs for casual outdoor use don’t necessarily have to be light—and at 7+ pounds it’s not a featherweight—but this chair best balances features, comfort, and durability while remaining easy to carry. The mesh fabric doesn’t sag and is plenty tough—we’ve experienced absolutely zero durability issues after years of use—and breathes far better than chairs with solid fabrics in warm weather. Should the chair get wet, it also dries extremely quickly—something the thick fabrics in the Quad Chair and King Kong below fail to do nearly as well.
What are the downsides of the Camp X? Value usually is an REI strong suit, but the Coleman below, which sometimes dips into the low $20s on Amazon, is a better deal (although you sacrifice some in build quality). Further, the chair sits relatively low to the ground and some may prefer the taller back height that you get with the Alps Mountaineering below. But the excellent stability, comfort, and lightweight versatility of the Camp X gets it our top spot for 2019.
See the REI Co-op Camp X
Best Budget Camping Chair
Dimensions: 24 x 37 x 40.5 in.
Weight: 9 lb. 14 oz.
What we like: Cheap, comfy, drink cooler.
What we don’t: Steel can rust over time.
The popular Coleman Oversized Quad checks off all necessary boxes that make up a quality camp chair: its padded seat and seat back are comfortable, there’s a tall back and roomy bottom for easy lounging, and it’s simple to fold up and carry. If you’ve been tempted by cheapy $10 camp chairs, trust us, the additional money it costs to get the Coleman will be worth it. The steel frame and burly fabric will outlast its flimsy competition by years. And who can argue with a built-in cooler? Throwing in an ice pack will reduce the 4-can storage space but will keep beverages cool enough to be ready when called upon.
Complaints about the Coleman Oversized Quad? At the price, you can’t expect top-notch materials and the steel frame will start to rust if you don’t take good care of it. But this chair outperforms its $25 price tag, falling only a little short overall in comfort to the more expensive King Kong and Camp X from REI.
See the Coleman Oversized Quad Chair with Cooler
Best Crossover Camping/Backpacking Chair
Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 26 in.
Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz.
What we like: Lightweight, compact, and a good value for a backpacking chair.
What we don’t: Limited back support.
There are a few inherent compromises in opting for a lightweight and packable chair, including features (say goodbye to a cup holder), the height of the seat bottom, and all-around back and neck support. That said, the REI Flexlite is a sub-2-pound solution to getting you off the ground no matter where your travels take you. An 11-inch seat height is tall enough for most (and works well at some concert venues), although it is a little more difficult to get in and out of than a standard camping model.
Among backpacking-ready options, we give the edge in overall comfort to the REI over the Helinox Camp Zero and Alite Monarch below, and the Flexilite is the clear winner in value. For the price, weight, packed size, and a design that can go anywhere, it’s a great choice. In addition, REI has expanded the Flexlite line to include the low-slung Flexlite Low and Flexlite Macro, which has a wider and taller seat back. And for 2019, the $100 Flexlite Air that we detail below is an all-new minimalist model that brings total weight down to just one pound.
See the REI Co-op Flexlite
Best Heavy-Duty Camping Chair
Dimensions: 20 x 38 x 38 in.
Weight: 13 lb.
What we like: Padded, comfortable elegance.
What we don’t: Overkill for the average camper.
We can’t think of a better name for this chair from Alps Mountaineering than the King Kong. For one, it’s the largest and most padded chair on this list. Our assumption is that the listed 800-pound limit was more a result of building a burly chair rather than a target number they set out to hit. That said, it’s 2 to 3 times the weight capacity of the competition, and feels it, with fabric that is taut and supportive.
But all of this does beg the question: is the King Kong necessary? Don’t get us wrong, it’s a supremely comfortable and large chair that definitely has its appeals. But not everyone needs such a huge seat, and we’d rather save a few bucks and go with the Coleman or REI for our casual camping needs. But if prioritize a super sturdy construction and don't mind the slightly higher price tag, there's a lot to like with the King Kong.
See the Alps Mountaineering King Kong
Best of the Rest
Dimensions: 20.5 x 18.9 x 25.2 in.
Weight: 1 lb. 1 oz.
What we like: Incredibly lightweight and packable.
What we don’t: Expensive.
With the superlight Chair Zero, Helinox is making it that much easier to justify hauling a chair into the backcountry. Weighing an impressively low 17 ounces, the Helinox remains surprisingly sturdy thanks to an aluminum structure with poles from highly regarded DAC (the same DAC that make poles for many of the top lightweight backpacking tents). The shock-cord design also means that the Chair Zero packs down to a compact size that fits on the inside or outside of a backpack.
What are you sacrificing with the minimalist Chair Zero? To start, we recommend this chair only for backpackers or those that want to keep weight to an absolute minimum—overall comfort just can’t compete with a standard camp chair. The good news is that the Chair Zero is only slightly less comfortable than the REI Flexlite above—although not everyone loves the Helinox’s upright seating position and narrow dimensions—and undercuts it in weight by 11 ounces. The most important question is whether or not it’s worth the $120 price tag. Casual backpackers are probably best saving the $40 with the REI model, but the Chair Zero undoubtedly is an impressive piece of lightweight tech.
See the Helinox Chair Zero
Dimensions: 26 x 35.5 x 37 in.
Weight: 9 lb. 8 oz.
What we like: Large and very comfortable
What we don’t: Tall ground-to-seat height may be too tall for some.
Kijaro’s Dual Lock Folding model is among the most popular camp chairs on the market due to its high level of comfort and value. As the name indicates, the chair locks in both the open and closed positions for stability and easy hauling inside the stuff sack. And the chair’s strong seat and slightly reclined back offer an excellent feel overall. The Kijaro’s 300-pound weight capacity falls well short of the burly King Kong above, but the chair still is made to last.
Within our top grouping of chairs for car camping, the Kijaro is a formidable competitor. Build quality exceeds the slightly less expensive Coleman, although it does fall a little short of the well-made REI and Alps Mountaineering options above. The reason it gets dropped slightly on our list is that the relatively tall ground-to-seat height of 20 inches can leave some people with their feet dangling off the ground. But this can be a plus for some folks, and the wide and comfortable seat and budget price makes it a nice choice for camping.
See the Kijaro Dual Lock Folding Chair
Dimensions: 24 x 25 x 34.8 in.
Weight: 12 lbs. 1.6 oz.
What we like: Just like Grandpa’s rocking chair.
What we don’t: Heavy.
A few chairs on our list allow you to rock back and forth, but none come closer to resembling a traditional rocking chair than the GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker. GCI achieves this with a spring-action “tube” at the back of the chair, which allows the metal frame to move up and down as you push off the ground. And when you’re ready to pack up, the chair folds down in one smooth motion with its attached carrying handle—no need to stuff it into a tote on the way out.
Although the Freestyle Rocker includes a handle for transport, it’s one of the heaviest options on our list and fairly bulky for hauling. Further, a number of users have reported that the rocking mechanism becomes squeaky and loud after only a few uses and the spring-action system feels noticeably less durable than the rest of the chair. But while the Freestyle Rocker might lack the overall fit and finish of some of the options above, it’s nonetheless a fun way to spend an afternoon at camp.
See the GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker
Dimensions: 19 x 22 x 22 in.
Weight: 1 lb.
What we like: Lighter than the Helinox Chair Zero and costs $20 less.
What we don’t: Super thin fabric has questionable durability.
REI has expanded their very popular Flexlite line for 2019 with the ultralight Air. Sporting the same pole structure as the standard model above, the new chair incorporates a lighter fabric and slightly smaller dimensions to trim away an impressive 12 ounces. The changes do have a negative impact on overall stability and comfort, making it less desirable for camping and everyday use. But those who want to add backpacking to the mix will appreciate the significant weight savings and smaller packed size.
How does the Flexlite Air compare with Helinox’s Chair Zero above? The REI has the edge in weight by about 1 ounce, costs $20 less, and has a slightly wider shape that puts you in more of a reclined position compared with the upright Chair Zero. That said, we prefer the Helinox’s deeper seat, which provides a little more support, and the Chair Zero has a smaller stuff sack (4 x 14 in. compared with the REI’s 5 x 16 in.). The deciding factor may come down to durability: the Flexlite Air is inferior in this regard with a noticeably thinner fabric and shorter manufacturer warranty (1 year compared with 5 years for the Helinox).
See the REI Co-op Flexlite Air
Dimensions: 14 x 16 x 21 in.
Weight: 2 lb. 3 oz.
What we like: Lightweight and doubles as a table.
What we don’t: Caught in between backpacking and camping categories.
Better known for their sleeping pads and bags, Therm-a-Rest has recently assembled a sneaky-good collection of camp chairs. Their Uno is a compact and low-slung chair designed for camping, outdoor concerts, and travel. What sets the model apart from other lightweight chairs is its disc base, which provides a solid foundation and stores the legs and seat for transport. Additionally, inserting the poles into the bottom side of the disc turns the Uno into a small table.
We like the fun design and dual functionality of the Therm-a-Rest Uno, but it falls short from a practical standpoint. The weight of just over 2 pounds makes it somewhat viable for backpacking, but the plastic base makes it too bulky to fit into a bag like the REI Flexlite or Helinox above. And for festival use or car camping when weight isn’t as big of a consideration, there are more comfortable options. As such, we think the hybrid design hits a relatively small niche in the market, pushing it down our rankings.
See the Therm-a-Rest Uno
Dimensions: 23 x 32 x 37 in.
Weight: 4 lb. 10 oz.
What we like: Super comfortable and very adjustable.
What we don’t: Very expensive; flimsy drink holder.
Camp chairs aren’t the first place you look for serious innovations, but ENO has come up with a fun design in the Lounger DL. In essence, the chair combines ENO’s expertise in backcountry hammocks with the structure of a camp chair. This gives you the comfortable, suspended feeling of a hammock with much less hassle. And ENO took the design a step further with a built-in pillow and legs that adjust between fixed points at 3 inches and 10 inches off the ground. One nitpick is that we would like to see a more supportive cup holder—drinks tend to tip a little inside the holster—but otherwise we think the design is well executed.
What keeps us from ranking the Lounger DL any higher on our list is price. At $125, you can purchase three REI Camp X’s and not give up a whole lot in terms of overall comfort. The quality is excellent and we love the concept, but unless you’re hooked on the hammock style or need a chair that packs down small, we think the more traditional options above are better bets.
See the ENO Lounger DL
Dimensions: 25 x 36 x 45 in.
Weight: 6 lbs. 5 oz.
What we like: Very versatile and comfortable design.
What we don’t: Pricey; set up takes time.
Released last year, the Nemo Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair is equal parts recliner, hammock, and rocking chair. The chair’s mostly mesh body is suspended above its aluminum frame, allowing it to swing back and forth, recline, or stay upright—all equally as easily—depending on how you position your back and feet. And feature-wise, the Stargaze is no slouch with a padded headrest and armrests that are both comfortable and functional, plus plenty of storage with a cup holder and phone pocket.
The Stargaze’s most obvious drawback is cost. Simply put, it’s hard to justify spending $220 on a camp chair when big-ticket items like a sleeping bag and tent could run you the same amount (or less). In addition, the Stargaze requires considerable time to set up compared to the quick, easily foldable models above. Finally, the frame is on the narrow end and doesn’t fit all body types as well as a traditional camp chair. These complaints push it down our rankings, but it’s hard to deny the versatility and all-around fun factor of the design.
See the Nemo Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair
Dimensions: 16.5 x 15.5 x 16.5 in.
Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.
What we like: Affordable, lightweight, and packs down small.
What we don’t: Legless design isn’t as convenient as a standard chair.
Before lightweight chairs like the REI Flexlite hit the scene, simple legless designs like the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 were very popular among backpackers. They still have their appeal: the Hex costs $28 less than the Flexlite, takes much less time to set up and take down, and you can adjust the back angle by tightening or loosening its nylon straps. At 1 pound 5 ounces and rolling down small enough to fit into the water bottle pocket of your pack, there’s a lot to like with the Crazy Creek Hex.
The biggest knock against the Hex 2.0—and the reason why we’re seeing fewer of them at campsites—is that it doesn’t get you off the ground. It’s true that the EVA foam keeps you protected and reasonably comfortable, but the backpacking chairs above are much more convenient (and in the case of the Helinox Camp Zero, lighter). But the Hex 2.0 beats them all in price, which is why it remains a viable backcountry option.
See the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0
Dimensions: 21 x 20 x 28.3 in.
Weight: 2 lb. 8 oz.
What we like: Swivel function is convenient, stable construction.
What we don’t: Expensive; pushing the weight limit for backpacking use.
As camp chairs get more and more comfortable, it’s only logical they start to mimic the features we enjoy at home. Helinox is taking a stab at the lightweight swivel chair, and with a stable, four-legged platform, it’s a great product. As with all Helinox gear, it’s comfortable and very supportive for its diminutive size, but also comes with an astronomical price tag. Avoid giving it a test sit if you want to save those extra dollars.
Alternatively, Helinox makes the ultralight Chair Zero above as well as a traditional portable model, the Chair One. Compared with the REI Flexlite, their frame and leg designs are similar, and while the Chair One is slightly more comfortable, the REI undercuts it in price by $20—enough to supplant it on our list.
See the Helinox Swivel Chair
Dimensions: 14 x 20 x 24 in.
Weight: 6 lb. 13 oz.
What we like: Our favorite low slung model.
What we don’t: Unless you need a low chair, there are more comfortable options.
Chairs with a low seat height like the Alps Mountaineering Rendezvous excel in places where it’s required, like an outdoor concert, or for times when it’s best to be low to the ground, like a beach. Of these chair types, the Rendezvous is a standout in terms of comfort—the chair sits at a recline to stretch out your legs—and material quality. It's also a good value, consistently priced around $30 online.
At a campsite, we find the Rendezvous low and not as comfortable overall as an upright model, and we do miss not having a cup holder. The 600-denier fabric and a powder coated steel frame is borderline overbuilt for its use, but other than costing a little more, we sure won’t complain about a tough construction. The Rendezvous is a great long-term purchase for certain uses.
See the Alps Mountaineering Rendezvous
Dimensions: 44 x 23.5 x 31.5 in.
Weight: 15 lb. 6 oz.
What we like: Very comfortable; great build quality.
What we don’t: Pricey and not as versatile as a single seater.
The lone two-person camp chair to make our list is the unique Kelty Discovery Low Love. This very comfortable option has a wide (double wide, to be exact) and supportive seat, nice detailing like adjustable arm rests and insulated drink holders, and a reclined seat back. The seat is rather low at just 13.5 inches off the ground (standard camp chairs are closer to 18 inches), but the upside is the Discovery is very stable and still fairly easy to get in and out of.
Clearly, there are some downsides with opting for the Discovery Low Love double rather than two single camp chairs. First, the Kelty is rather heavy at over 15 pounds, and even though it breaks down nicely into its storage tote, the chair is pretty bulky for hauling. The other issue is cost: you can find two equally comfortable single chairs and save some cash in the process. But if you want a double chair and the low height is appealing, the Discovery Low Love is a well built and comfy choice.
See the Kelty Discovery Low Love
Dimensions: 32 x 26 x 41 in.
Weight: 10 lbs.
What we like: Functional and well-designed footrest.
What we don’t: Pretty low weight limit.
With a kicked back design, the Alps Mountaineering Escape Chair is a great choice for lounging around camp. The integrated footrest is adjustable to fit your height, and removal is easy for times when reclining isn’t optimal (like cooking over the fire, eating at a table, etc.). And while fairly bereft of other defining features, there’s beauty in the simplicity of this otherwise traditional-looking camp chair.
What’s not to like about the Escape? Despite using a sturdy 600-denier polyester fabric and powder-coated steel frame, the weight limit is fairly low at 225 pounds (even the sub-2-pound REI Flexlite above exceeds that at 250 pounds). Further, we’d prefer to have the option to adjust the back height for stargazing, although that would likely come with a significant jump in price. Overall, the Escape Chair is solid all-around value for those that want to bring a taste of home—namely an ottoman—on their camping adventures.
See the Alps Mountaineering Escape
Dimensions: 14 x 18 x 27.4 in.
Weight: 4 lb. 4 oz.
What we like: Simple, on-the-go seating.
What we don’t: Too heavy to backpack with but not all that comfortable.
Despite having a name made for an infomercial, the Quik-E-Seat delivers on its claims and with surprising durability. Calling it a chair is a bit of a stretch: it’s more a strong stool with a minimalist back. Beyond the well-built steel frame, you do get a few creature comforts. The cup holder is more of a holster attached to the side of the frame, but it’s there and functional. It’s also inexpensive.
Our biggest issue with the Quik-E-Seat is that it's caught in the middle of categories, not fully satisfying any of them. It’s too heavy for backpacking and lacks the comfort for hanging around a campfire or watching a show. Its easy folding design and reasonable weight are redeeming qualities, making it a nice option for when you need a place to sit for a short time.
See the GCI Outdoor Quik-E-Seat
Dimensions: 17 x 21.5 x 23 in.
Weight: 1 lb. 4.8 oz.
What we like: Superlight, fun to use.
What we don’t: Always having to balance.
When it was released in 2009, the Alite Monarch was an instant hit. Here was a 21-ounce chair that could be folded up into about the size of a 1-liter bottle. The caveat was the two-legged structure meant you’d have to balance with your feet to keep it upright, but it became popular not just for lightweight seekers, but for a trip to the park because it’s pretty darn fun to rock back and forth on its legs.
The Monarch's rocking style can be a love it or hate it kind of deal, depending on how you’ll use it. And in part because always having to balance can be a distraction around camp, the Monarch has lost its spot as the top backpacking model, but remains a great chair nonetheless. It’s also the most affordable backpacking-ready option, even undercutting the REI Flexlite by a few bucks. For more traditional alternatives from Alite, check out their Mantis and Mayfly models.
See the Alite Monarch
|REI Co-op Camp X||$40||Camping/everyday||20 x 31.25 x 31 in.||15 in.||7 lb. 3 oz.|
|Coleman Quad Chair||$25||Camping/everyday||24 x 37 x 40.5 in.||18 in.||9 lb. 14 oz.|
|REI Co-op Flexlite||$80||Backpacking/everyday||20 x 20 x 26 in.||11 in.||1 lb. 12 oz.|
|Alps Mountaineering King Kong||$56||Camping/everyday||20 x 38 x 38 in.||18 in.||13 lb.|
|Helinox Chair Zero||$120||Backpacking||20.5 x 18.9 x 25.2 in.||11 in.||1 lb. 1 oz.|
|Kijaro Dual Lock Folding Chair||$40||Camping/everyday||26 x 35.5 x 37 in.||20 in.||9 lb. 8 oz.|
|GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker||$65||Camping/everyday||24 x 25 x 34.8 in.||19.7 in.||12 lb. 2 oz.|
|REI Co-op Flexlite Air||$100||Backpacking||19 x 22 x 22 in.||11 in.||1 lb.|
|Therm-a-Rest Uno||$90||Everyday/camping||14 x 16 x 21 in.||8 in.||2 lb. 3 oz.|
|ENO Lounger DL||$125||Everyday/camping||23 x 32 x 37 in.||3-10 in.||4 lb. 10 oz.|
|Nemo Stargaze Recliner||$220||Camping/everyday||25 x 36 x 45 in.||Unavail.||6 lb. 5 oz.|
|Crazy Creek Hex 2.0||$52||Backpacking||16.5 x 15.5 x 16.5 in.||0 in.||1 lb. 5 oz.|
|Helinox Swivel Chair||$150||Everyday/camping||21 x 20 x 28.3 in.||15.5 in.||2 lb. 8 oz.|
|Alps Mountaineering Rendezvous||$38||Everyday/camping||14 x 20 x 24 in.||6 in.||6 lb. 13 oz.|
|Kelty Discovery Low Love||$100||Camping/everyday||44 x 23.5 x 31.5 in.||13.5 in.||15 lb. 6 oz.|
|Alps Mountaineering Escape||$60||Camping/everyday||32 x 26 x 41 in.||14 in.||10 lbs.|
|GCI Outdoor Quik-E-Seat||$30||Everyday||14 x 18 x 27.4 in.||17.3 in.||4 lb. 4 oz.|
|Alite Monarch||$70||Backpacking/everyday||17 x 21.5 x 23 in.||7 in.||1 lb. 4.8 oz.|
Editor's Note: "Height" refers to the measurement from the ground to the seat bottom.
- Categories: Camping, Backpacking, and Everyday
- Double Camping Chairs
- Build Quality: Seat Fabric and Frame Construction
- Weight and Folded Dimensions
- Ground-to-Seat Height
- Seat Back Height
- Stability: Leg Design
- Storage: Cup Holders and Pockets
The term “camp chair” encompasses just about any type of chair that can be folded up, squeezed into a car, and carried to your final destination, so your first order of business is narrowing it to your intended use. True camping chairs—provided you have the space in your car—can be large and luxurious. They have taller backs, are farther off the ground, and have the best support. Further, they have the most features, from cup holders to storage pockets, and some even have a recline option. Because weight isn't a major factor, you can get a well-made camping chair at a reasonable price—often $40 or less. Top choices from this category include the REI Co-op Camp X, Alps Mountaineering King Kong, and Kijaro Dual Lock.
When you’ll be hauling the chair on a backpacking or hiking trip, weight and packed size take precedence over comfort. All dimensions of these chairs shrink dramatically, the fabrics and frames become a lot thinner, and they’ll pack down small enough to strap to the outside of—or sometimes even squeeze inside—a backpacking pack. The compromises make them less than ideal for around town or camping use, but if you’re only wanting one chair for all uses, it's best to choose a lightweight option like the REI Co-op Flexlite.
Everyday camp chairs cover just about anything you can think of: visits to the beach, back yard relaxing, or outdoor concerts. An everyday chair crosses over quite a bit with the traditional camp chair category, but is differentiated with a lighter overall weight and occasionally a lower seat back height to meet restrictions at outdoor concerts (more on this in the seat back section below). They’re usually too heavy to take hiking, but reward you with an improvement in all-around comfort and support. Examples of an everyday chair include the low-slung Alps Mountaineering Rendezvous and Therm-a-Rest Uno.
Double camping chairs, like the Kelty Low-Love Seat above, can be a nice choice for couples. Most have two armrests and an open double-wide seat for two, although some resemble two single chairs fused together with a middle storage compartment or cup holders between them. There are some inherent drawbacks with these set-ups, though. Double chairs are predictably much heavier than their single-person counterparts (the Kelty Low-Love Seat comes in at over 15 pounds), which makes them bulky for hauling. Further, they’re often pricier than purchasing two separate chairs. We’ve only included one double camping chair on our list due to the overall lack of utility—we’d rather purchase two separate single-seaters and save a few bucks in the process.
We’ve found that overall build quality correlates with price, but it’s slightly more nuanced than that. A budget camping chair like the Coleman Oversize Quad, which has no business on a backpacking trip, is durable and reliable because Coleman didn’t have to worry about keeping weight down. It can withstand a whole lot more abuse when compared with a lightweight model like the Therm-a-Rest Uno. Backpacking chairs cost more because they require thin but strong frame materials, like aluminum, which is more expensive than thick steel. That said, the build quality of the Coleman is still lower than the similarly designed but more expensive REI Co-op Camp X or Alps Mountaineering King Kong.
Build quality is more than simply the frame and rivets: seat fabric quality also improves with price. Cheap camp chairs are notorious for seat fabrics that sag over time, seams that fray, and mesh that develops holes. All of the models that made our list generally avoid these maladies and are designed to perform well for years. True, we’d expect the cheaper Coleman Quad's fabric to start to fail before the King Kong or GCI Freestyle, but they cost 2x as much and may not last you 2x as long.
The question isn’t if the camp chair folds but how it folds. Some fold flat—and the GCI chairs do so by pulling up as you naturally would on the carry strap. The advantage is the folded dimension is pretty thin (around 4 to 6 inches), but it takes up a very significant 30 x 30 inch square in your car. Carrying it on your back can also be cumbersome, which is why these chairs sometimes come with backpack style straps. The more popular style folds inwards, like the REI Co-op Camp X, and ends up a torpedo shape that you can slide into a carry bag. The smaller, more manageable dimensions make these chairs easier to carry.
While few people fret over the weight and packed size of a camping chair (camping gear in general is bulky and comfort-oriented), backpacking-ready chairs are a lesson in creative packaging. The Flexlite, Flexlite Air, Chair Zero, and Monarch all pack down to extremely small dimensions, with the disadvantage being you have to reassemble the chairs each time. None of the styles take all that long to set up, but it is a small sacrifice in time that you make with the portable chair style. For us, we try and keep our packable chairs under or around 2 pounds to minimize their impact on our pack weight. Bringing along a chair is already outside of the typical realm of “essentials,” but 2 pounds can be something worth swinging for a short weekend trek.
Ground-to-seat height—listed as "height" in the table above—is simply a measurement from the ground to the bottom of the seat. For those that frequent concerts or sporting events and don’t want to bother folks behind them, a low seat height is important. That said, a low seat height means a less comfortable position for your legs and more effort for getting in and out. If you’re needing to stay low, a chair that’s 5 to 9 inches off the ground is best, with the lower options obviously the safer choice for a concert venue.
The taller the chair the more natural the seating position for most folks, and chairs like the King Kong and Coleman Oversized Quad are standouts in terms of a tall seating height. In fact, at 18 inches they’re downright throne-like. We’ve found the most comfortable chairs have a seat height ranging from 15 to 18 inches. This is another area where backpacking chairs have to compromise—most range from 9 to 13 inches. No matter their height, just remember: it sure beats sitting on dirt.
As with seat height, seat back height is a consideration for concerts. But for general use, it’s also a great indicator of back and neck support. Backpacking chairs aren’t known for providing great support of your back—they’re too small and focused on trimming weight to cover much more than the top of your lumbar. The chairs with the best support will be the large camping chairs that we've touched on in the sections above: Coleman's Oversized Quad, Alps Mountaineering's King Kong, and Kijaro's Dual Lock Folding chair.
Backpacking chairs are much lighter than traditional camp chairs, but they also often sport different (and non-conventional) leg designs for easy packability and weight savings. This frequently has a major impact on stability compared to ultra-solid, standard camping chairs like the REI Co-op Camp X and Alps Mountaineering King Kong. For example, a crossover camping/backpacking option like the REI Co-Op Flexlite is easy to rock back and tip over due to its thin legs that are connected to the middle of the chair rather than the sides. Or at the extreme end of the lightweight and packable spectrum, the Alite Monarch has only two legs that require constant balancing just to stay upright. Depending on your needs and how far you plan to haul your chair from your car, it’s worth considering how much stability and support you want. In our experience, if you don’t need an ultralight model, traditional camp chairs offer the most foolproof structure.
Camp chairs are not feature-rich items, but storage is one area where a few thoughtful extras can be really handy. Let’s start with beverages. Cup holders are a must for a chair that’ll be used for camping—ground-based beverage storage is a camping faux pas (and inconvenient). Some of the larger models include side mesh pockets, which are great for items you need close at hand or want tucked away, including keeping your stuff in place on a windy beach day. And Coleman's Oversized Quad takes it to the next level with a small built-in cooler. Backpacking models eschew most if not all of these features. And the reason is rather obvious: there’s little need for them when precious ounces matter. But if you don’t have to haul your chair very far, we recommend making storage a priority.
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