There are two kinds of camp chair: the one you brought, and the one someone else brought and you wish you had. Whether backpacking with an ultralight seat or car-camping with a more luxurious model (can you say “cup holder”?), a good camp chair will quickly convince you that a log or rock isn’t an acceptable substitute.
- When car-camping, a chair’s weight is less of a concern than its bulk. Look for comfortable chairs that pack well and have a pole structure that elevates your bottom as high off the ground as standard chairs, a taller back often with a head rest, and amenities like cup holders and good lumbar support.
- For backpacking and other remote camping treks, minimizing both weight and bulk takes priority. Ultralight portable chairs and chair kits that pair with an air mattress assemble quickly, pack down and weigh around a pound or less — and actually offer a surprising degree of comfort.
These chairs just might change your camping experience.
It’s hard to beat the price tag and value of the Coleman Cooler Quad Chair ($30). Easy to assemble, it has 18 inches of clearance off the ground; plenty of seat width, depth and back height; and padding in the seat and back. The steel frame supports up to 325 pounds. It’s heavy and perhaps not as comfortable as pricier models. But it comes with a cup holder, a side pocket with space for a large book, and a handy little armrest beverage cooler (capacity four cans). Assembled weight: 8 lbs. 13 oz.
The name of the Alps Mountaineering King Kong ($60) says it all — with its 800-pound limit, this heavy-duty chair is strong. The well-padded seat and back raise comfort to a new level — as do the 38-inch back height, 24.5-inch-wide seat and 18-inch ground clearance. From the steel frame to the 600-denier seat fabric, it’s built to last years and represents a super value. On the downside: It’s heavy and bulky. 13 lbs.
Get out of your Helinox Sunset Chair ($150) in camp, and it’s likely someone else will quickly occupy it. No surprise, given the Sunset Chair’s comfort: a plush 23-inch-wide seat and a back height of 38.5 inches — tall enough to put your head back — and you sit 14 inches off the ground. The single-shock-cord, DAC aluminum- alloy pole structure makes it easy to assemble in a minute, with the seat fabric sliding over the four frame tips. The frame is rated to hold 320 pounds. 3 lbs. 4 oz.
Backpacking Camp Chairs
Weighing barely north of a half-pound (in the smaller size), the Therm-A-Rest Trekker Chair ($40-$50) consists of nylon and fiberglass poles, and an elastic sleeve with enough stretch to insert either the brand’s NeoAir mattress or other self-inflating air mats. Available in two widths (20 and 25 inches) to accommodate standard backpacking air mats, its seat elevates you 4 inches off the ground (with the air mat folded underneath you). It packs down to 4 by 20 inches (in the smaller size), easily tucking inside or on the outside of a backpack. It’s not as stable or durable as a portable chair. 10 oz. or 13 oz.
The packable REI Co-Op Flexlite Air Chair ($100) gives you a true chair in camp. The aluminum frame snaps together like tent poles, and the ripstop nylon seat fabric slides securely over the frame, elevating you 11 inches off the ground. It’s rated to hold 250 pounds, and the aluminum frame folds down easily. 1 lb. (not including 1-oz. stuff sack)
The Helinox Chair Zero ($120) has accompanied me on numerous backpacking trips from Glacier National Park to Idaho’s Sawtooths. At 18 ounces and 13.5 by 4 by 4 inches packed, it’s light and compact. It assembles easily by slipping the fabric over a shock- corded pole structure, creating a seat that’s 20 inches wide, 18.5 inches deep and 25 inches tall, and places your bottom 11 inches above terra firma. It’s rated to hold 265 pounds; it seems a bit sturdier than other chairs. 1 lb. 2 oz. (not including 1-oz. stuff sack)
Photos courtesy of the manufacturers.