Best Camping Chairs
Camping is good fun. Spending time in the great outdoors amongst nature. Evenings spent sitting round your campfire talking and telling campfire stories. But nobody really likes sitting on the cold and sometime 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 an 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.
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 with out putting my back out. Well let’s find out. This guide will detail some of the worlds best lightweight camping chairs.
The Top Rated Chairs For Camping
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
This is the chair that revolutionised the lightweight camping chair market. First produced in 2012 the “Chair One” has won the reddot design award and was voted the best outdoor accessory at the Munich ISPO in 2013. The “Chair One” is incredibly light at only 890 grams and packs into a small lunch box size bag.
The frame is made for TH72M titanium and aluminium 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 flash light.
The frame is designed to flex a small amount enabling it to mould 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 motorbike. If you plan to use this chair in 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 get cold you can use the optional duck filled seat warmer.
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.
Helinox Chair Zero
Weight: 490 grams
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
Zero is a word that really does suit this chair. Helinox have taken their lightest chair the “Chair One” and managed some how to shave 400grams off the weight. The “Chair Zero” weighs and amazing 490 grams. Yes! You read it right, it weighs less than a 600ml bottle of water. You could even call this a backpack chair it is so light. The Chair packs down in to a small bag smaller than my kids school lunch box. The frame is made of a YH72M a titanium and aluminium alloy giving it strength and lightness, covered with a lightweight non stretch fabric. According to The London school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine the average weigh of a man in the US is 81.7kg, this chair has a maximum capacity of 120kg, even if you are heavier than the average man this chair will support you.
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.
Weight: 589 grams
Capacity: 113 kg
Size packed: 30cm x 11cm x 11cm
Size unpacked: 58cm x 54cm x 43cm
Materials: 7000 Aluminium
The Monarch is like the butterfly it shares it name with very light and designed to be able to travel vast distances. If you need a light chair for a long journey this might just do it. The chair is very light weighing only 586 grams. Its 7000 aluminium frame and 210D ripstop nylon fabric will hold up to 113kg of weight. The chair sits on only two legs which allows you to rock back and forward like porch rocking chair, also allowing comfortable and stable seating on sloped and uneven ground. The packed size is tiny, slightly bigger than a compact umbrella, the kind of umbrella you would put in a bag or briefcase.
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 backwards or forwards on your face.
Odyssey Trek Ultra lounger
Odyssey Trek claim that this chair is light enough to be carried with just your little finger, I guess at 1.2kg it could. It is not the lightest camping chair available, but it gains in comforts. The chair has a high back which for most people will be high enough to rest you head against. The back includes a built in pillow for extra added comfort around the campfire after a days adventure. Because the size of the chair is larger than others on the market it is also able to support more with a maximum capacity of 158kg. The chair contours your body shape and with a purpose build loose rocking motion feature is really does offer outdoor relaxation
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 draw backs, the chair is does not pack small enough to fit in to 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.
Kelty Linger High back Chair
Capacity: 136 kg
Size packed: 51cm x 70cm x 99cm
Size unpacked: 53cm x 17cm x 10cm
Materials: Anodized Aluminium
The Linger high back chair from Kelty has a great overall design. Unlike a lot of lightweight camping chairs the seat height is 42cm from the ground, which is a lot higher than most and nearer to the height your chairs at home are. This makes sitting and standing from the chair easier. The frame is aluminium and slots together easily with the carry case attaching to the frame as a storage bag for your cell phone, flash light or any other item you may need to hand. The seat fabric is strong with a maximum capacity of 136kg. The sides of the fabric are a strong netting allowing air to circulate so you don’t become too hot.
The chair is heavier than many others on the market and the packed size is over 50cm in length to accommodate the high back.
Kelty Linger Low Back Chair
Size packed: 46cm x 14cm x 10cm
Size unpacked: 51cm x 47cm x 66cm
Materials: Anodized Aluminium
The smaller back version of the linger high back the linger low back chair also sits higher off the ground than most at 36cm, meaning that sitting and getting up should be easier. The frame is aluminium and the high denier nylon fabric gives the chair a high capacity of 113.4kg. The packed size is more manageable with the longest length at 46cm
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 you bike its a good strong and well priced chair.
REI Co-op Flex Lite Chair
Size packed: 11cm x 38cm
Size unpacked: 66cm x50cm x 50cm
ex lite is what is says, it light. Weighing only under 500 grams it is easy to carry. The packed size would easily strap to a backpack without it extending past the normal width of the pack, or likewise it will not take up much space in the car. The frame is aluminium and then seat material ripstop nylon meaning this chair is strong and durable with a maximum capacity of 113kg. The seat fabric contains breathable mesh panels which allow air to circulate and reduce the weight. There is a mesh side pocket to store your phone, torch, or any other item you want to keep to hand.
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.
Alps Mountaineering Ready Lite Low Chair
Size packed: 17cm x 38cm x 10cm
Size unpacked: 55cm x 66cm x 30cm
Materials: 7000 series aluminium frame
This chair is heavy compare to other chairs of the same size. But it is worth a mention because of the strength of the frame. Where most chairs use straight aluminium poles the the ready lite low poles are curved. This increases the overall strength by reducing the number of joints. The fabric is a high 420 denier ripstop polyester with a nylon mesh centre to allow airflow. The arrangement of the feet and base would reduce sinking into soft ground or sand if you was at the beach.
Then chair is heavy weighing over 1 kg. The poles attached to a plastic and cheap looking base.
What we looked for when selecting the best choices
Camp chairs have come a long way from the fold up lawn chair. 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 has 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 sometime 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 to far from they 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 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 an 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, bag of beach toy 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 weigh in the chair over an larger area and stops the chair 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, do you need arm rests 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. I have even seen two person chairs of this type.
Lightweight type camping chairs
Lightweight is not always lightweight. Many manufactures 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 arm rests 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 your self into one of these chairs expect the chair to tip and throw you off the back. But after mentioning all those downside, 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 purpose. Here is a rundown on the different materials used in the manufacture of camping chairs.
Many chairs have poles made from an aluminium 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 think 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 aluminium 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 a the 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 advantages of these fabric other than the strength to weigh ratio is the ease of care. Both are resistant to mould growth and they don’t lose there 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 weigh in grams of 9000 meters of the fibre. The higher the denier number the stronger the fabric. However I 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 the 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 through out the fabric. The advantage of ripstop fabrics are 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 arm rest 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.