Best Camping Chairs
Camping is good fun. Spending time in the great outdoors amongst nature. Evenings spent sitting around your campfire talking and telling campfire stories. But nobody really likes sitting on the cold and sometimes damp ground. So what can you do, bring something portable to sit on. But they can be heavy and take up space, so you bring a small ground sheet and sit on the floor. So you are off to the beach.
A day spent in the warmth of the sun watching the waves lap against the shore as children splash in the surf and lovers walk hand in hand down the beach. Sitting on you towel under your umbrella using your cooler as a backrest, all because a camping/beach chair was just too much to carry, with the cooler, umbrella and picnic.
8 Best Camping chairs
If only I could have a small packed, lightweight camp chair. One that will not take up space in the car, or be heavier than my backpack and easy to carry to the beach without putting my back out. Well, let’s find out. This guide will detail some of the world’s best lightweight camping chairs.
Helinox Chair One
Size packed: 10cm (h) x 35cm (w) x 12cm (l)
Size unpacked: 65cm (h) x 52cm (w) x 50 (l)
Materials: TH72M Alloy frame
The frame is made of TH72M titanium and aluminum mix alloy giving it strength and lightness and covered with a high strength non-stretch fabric, it can easily support your weight with a maximum capacity of 145kg. Once you have assembled the chair which is easy with the elastic shock cord linking frame, the carry bag can be attached to the frame to store things, such as camera, cell phone or flashlight.
Without the extra ground sheet the chair will sink in to sand when you sit in it. The chair is not a normal folding camp chair and need to be assembled. Although this is easy and very quick to do if you want a folding type of chair this is not what you need. But if you want a lightweight and comfortable chair then you have found it.
The frame is designed to flex a small amount enabling it to mold to your body shape. When packed the carry bag has a webbing ladder and two loops making it easy to attach to a backpack of a motorbike. If you plan to use this chair in the sand then the optional ground sheet is a must to stop the legs from sinking into the sand or soft muddy ground. And if it gets cold you can use the optional duck filled seat warmer.
- Strong frame
- Adaptable to your body shape
- Requires a ground sheet
- Needs assembly
Capacity: 113 kg
Size packed: 30cm x 11cm x 11cm
Size unpacked: 58cm x 54cm x 43cm
Materials: 7000 Aluminum
This is a good idea to keep the weight down, by using a minimum amount of poles, but because it has only two legs don’t fall asleep in it as you will fall out the chair. And I can imagine a surprise gust of wind might just knock you off balance and send you falling backward or forwards on your face.
- Strong frame
- Lightweight design
- Rocking chair
- Two legged chair
- Not too stable
Helinox Chair Zero
Size packed: 10cm (h) x 35cm (w) x 10cm (l)
Size unpacked: 64cm (h) x 50cm (w) x 48 cm (l)
Materials: YH72M alloy frame
The chair is lightweight but it is not a folding chair, it fits together a bit more like a tent than a typical folding chair. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and erecting the chair is simple. The sitting position is good but low to the ground. The four legs support the chair well but if you were using this on the beach or muddy terrain the legs may sink into the ground with your weight.
- Extremely lightweight
- Durable frame
- Great design
- Low to the ground
Odyssey Trek Ultra lounger
This chair is as close as you will get to your lounge chair at home from a lightweight camping chair, but that extra comfort has some drawbacks, the chair does not pack small enough to fit into a backpack, but is able to be strapped to the outside. The poles are interconnected and with practice can be assembled within a minute. If you are planning to use this on the beach or soft ground it might sink with your weight.
- High-back chair
- Large in size
- Does not pack small
- Assembling is needed
Kelty Linger High back Chair
Capacity: 136 kg
Size packed: 51cm x 70cm x 99cm
Size unpacked: 53cm x 17cm x 10cm
Materials: Anodized Aluminum
The chair is heavier than many others on the market and the packed size is over 50cm in length to accommodate the high back.
- Great design
- Easy standing from it
- Strong frame
- A bit heavier than competitive models
- Bulky packed size
Kelty Linger Low Back Chair
Size packed: 46cm x 14cm x 10cm
Size unpacked: 51cm x 47cm x 66cm
Materials: Anodized Aluminum
The chair is still heavier than other chairs on the market and definitely not a backpack chair. But if you plan to throw in in the back of the car or strap it to your bike its a good strong and well-priced chair.
- Strong frame
- Manageable packed size
- Heavier than competitive models
- Low back chair
REI Co-op Flex Lite Chair
Size packed: 11cm x 38cm
Size unpacked: 66cm x50cm x 50cm
The carry case does not fix to the frame and either you have to stow it some place safe in your camp or use the side pocket which then means your most used accessories are sitting on your lap.
- Compact packed size
- Non-fixing carry case
Alps Mountaineering Ready Lite Low Chair
Size packed: 17cm x 38cm x 10cm
Size unpacked: 55cm x 66cm x 30cm
Materials: 7000 series aluminum frame
The chair is heavy weighing; over 1 kg. The poles attached to it are plastic and the base is cheap looking.
- Extremely strong frame
- Strong fabrics
- Mesh center for airflow
- Relatively heavy
- Cheap-looking base
Criteria used for the evaluation
Camp chairs have come a long way from the fold up lawn chairs. Portability and easy to use has always been important along with the strength and sturdiness of the chair. This has meant that in the past you lost out on comfort to compensate for the need of portability and weight. That is no longer the case, camping chairs as with all camping equipment have advanced over the years, so that camping is no longer living rough, but more living in luxury with the beauty of nature.
Most people would only think about taking a camping furniture with them if they were using a car as transport, the added weight of a chair on your backpack was just not feasible. But with the ultra light weight chairs now available it is an option. So before going out and making an impulse purchase, it is important to consider how and where you will be using it the most.
Backpacking or walking
If you think you will be walking for some time before reaching the destination where you will want to have a chair to relax on, then weight and size will be of optimal concern. Just because you plan to walk or hike for a few hours doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to relax with some luxury in your camp.
The use of lightweight and strong alloys has improved the weight and pack size of many chairs, but sometimes you will be loosing some comfort and stability. Often the lighter the chair the lower the chair is to the ground. This is because to reduce the weight the manufacturer has to reduce the amount of metal used, the easiest way to do this is by shortening the pole, and therefore the chair is lower to the ground. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you find it difficult to get out of a low chair.
Days at the beach
The beach may not be the place you think of that you will need a chair. For a lot of people, a towel on the sand is all they need. But for me with kids, the days of being able to lay back and sleep on the beach are gone. I have to have a constant eye on my children to check they are not about to get knocked over by a rogue wave or swimming just a little too far from the shore.
I need to be sitting up, a bit of back support is great. A chair for the beach probably doesn’t need to be as light as a chair you might use for backpacking, but remember that you can’t always pack right next to the beach and may have to walk more than a few hundred yards to get to the beach not to mention on a popular crowded beach you may have a trek across the sand to find a spot for you and your family. And all this way you may be carrying a cooler and picnic with beach umbrella, so don’t completely disregard the weight.
If you are a family like me, having some lighter items is good for distribution, My wife and I carry the cooler and picnic and the lighter items, a bag of towels, a bag of beach toys and umbrella and light chairs can be carried by the kids if they are not too heavy. But once you are on the beach, your chair needs to be able to support its self on sand.
A chair with a large footprint is best and it distributes your weight in the chair over a larger area and prevents the chair from sinking. Often a simple ground sheet attachment is all it needed, and many chairs come with these or are optional extras. Are storage pockets useful for you, do you need a pocket to hold sunblock, armrests and cup holders.
Camping and car travel
If you are journeying by car to where you are camping then the weight is probably not the main concern. Comfort and the space the chair takes in the trunk of your car will be more important.
Many of the light weight chairs use shorter pole to reduce the weight and packed size, this means they have a lower back. If weight is not such a concern then a high back chair offers more luxury and comfort. Being able to lean back in a chair and have your back and head supported if a great way to relax around the camp fire. You may also want to use the same chairs around a camp table when eating so the sitting height should be considered as well as arm rests and storage pockets for books, flash lights and other items.
Camping chair types
Traditional type chairs
Traditional type chairs are what most people are more familiar with. These are generally heavier and very strong and offer a lot of back support. They are designed for comfort first. In most cases this type of chair is a once piece folding chair. They are easy to open by just pulling opposite sides and in some cases can be opened with only one hand. These chairs are great for lounging around the camp and are more like your armchair at home than something that is ultra lightweight and portable.
Some have relining options and other are rocking chairs, there is a huge choice. If weight and size are not going to be an issue for you then the traditional models are probably going to be perfect. Things to consider are the little extras, such as cup holder, side storage pockets, overall size.
Lightweight type camping chairs
Lightweight is not always lightweight. Many manufacturers class their camp chairs as lightweight when really they are almost as heavy as the traditional type. The chairs reviewed in my opinion are all true lightweight chairs.
Lightweight models need to be engineered and designed carefully to minimize the weight, this means that some features of the traditional type chairs have to be removed or modified. Most lightweight chairs are comfortable, they in the most part lack armrests and cup holders but many have a storage pocket of some kind.
The area where the manufacturers make the most savings in weight is with the use of lightweight metal alloys and fabrics. The use of less metal tubing also reduces the weight. This is done by reducing the seat height from the ground, which may make sitting in and getting out of the chair more difficult. The height of the back of the chair is also reduced to conserve on the weight of the metal poles. As you look closer at many of the options out there, the biggest difference in most, is not all of the lightweight chairs are folding chairs, but more similar to a tent , meaning that the poles need to be fixed into a shape and the fabric attached to this frame.
In reality is it easier than it sounds to set up one of these chairs. Because less metal poles are used the stability of the chair is affected. If you throw yourself into one of these chairs expect the chair to tip and throw you off the back. But after mentioning all those downsides, lightweight chairs are well made, comfortable, and most important light and take up little space when packed.
When you start looking at camping chairs you will notice that there are many different construction materials, all of which every manufacturer will claim that they are using the best for the purpose. Here is a rundown on the different materials used in the manufacture of camping chairs.
Many chairs have poles made from an aluminum alloy. The specifications may state aluminium but it will be an alloy of aluminium because pure aluminium would be too soft and does not have the tensile strength. Aluminium alloys are a mixture of aluminium and other metals to maximise the strength and minimise the weight. Most aircraft are made from aluminium alloys for this reason.
Depending on the other metal mixed with the aluminium is the important factor manufacturers have to decide on. Aluminium alloys are graded with a series number which tells you what other alloy is used in it manufacture. 2000 series aluminium contains copper , 3000 series aluminium contains manganese, 4000 series aluminium contains silicon, 5000 series aluminium contains magnesium, and 7000 series aluminium contains zinc. 7000 series aluminium has the highest strengths of any aluminium alloy. The higher the series number the stronger the aluminium alloy. Lower than 4000 series stress corrosion cracking can be a problem. Higher than 7000 series is overkill for a chair and probably too costly.
TH72M advanced alloy
TH72M is an advanced alloy made by the Dongah AluminiumCorporation (DAC) in Korea. This alloy DAC have taken Titanium for its strength and aluminium for its lightness with some other materials to make an alloy stronger then other lightweight alloys. How have they done this is actually quiet a simple idea. Standard aluminium alloys tubes or poles suffer from the problem of “stress corrosion cracking”.
To counter this problem previous alloy poles and tubes have been made with a thicker tube wall, this increases the weight but actually does nothing to increase the strength of the pole. The new TH72M alloy has overcome the problem of “stress corrosion cracking” meaning that the poles and tubes made from this material do not need to have as thick walls which reduces the weight a whilst maintaining the strength and life of the pole. On top of this TH72M is stronger and lighter than other aluminum alloys. As this is a new material you should expect to pay a premium for its use in any camp equipment you may buy.
Man-made synthetic fabrics are usually used as fabrics for camp chairs. The most common used are Nylon, Polyester, and Ripstop Nylon. I am sure most people have come across nylon and polyester and know them to be strong and easy to care for fabric. The main advantage of this fabric other than the strength to weight ratio is the ease of care. Both are resistant to mold growth and they don’t lose their shape when wet. However, you might see on specifications terms such as 600d Polyester and Ripstop Nylon.
600D refers to the denier or fineness of the material. Denier is a measurement used to evaluate nylon, silk, polyester and other fabrics. The number refers to the weight in grams of 9000 meters of the fiber. The higher the denier number the stronger the fabric. However, you can not use this measurement to compare different types of fabric. For example, a 600d polyester is stronger than a 450d polyester, but it you compare a 450d polyester with a 450d nylon the nylon fabric will be stronger because nylon is just a stronger fabric.
Ripstop nylon although sounding new was actually developed in 1940 to be able to replace silk parachutes with nylon. Basically, ripstop fabrics have a stronger usually thicker reinforcing thread woven at regular intervals in a cross-hatch pattern throughout the fabric. The advantage of ripstop fabrics is the high strength to weight ratio, which is why they are used so often.
So there you have it. Just about everything you need to know about buying a lightweight camping chair. Shop about and if possible try them out, set them up in the store and have a sit for a few minutes. Do you find it comfortable? Or is part of the frame pushing against you? Are you happy with the seat height? Or is it too low or high? What about the angle of the sitting position, some chairs have a very upright position, some are designed for a more lay back lounging position. Are armrests important? Does it have storage pockets? Do you need storage pockets? Pick up the packed chair, is it light enough? It the size OK to fit in your pack or car? All of these are things only you know.
I hope the information here is helpful and you find your perfect outdoor throne as king of the outdoors.