Following in the footsteps of our Quickie review here, I’ve had the Therm-a-Rest Treo out in the field for a proper tyre-kicking on a genuine, bona fide, camping weekend.
It was starting to get dark and already being slightly squiffy, when I was first given the Treo I unwittingly took on a Krypton Factor test. Like a plastic torpedo the casing, which doubles as the chair’s three-legged base, is rock hard and durable, but undoing the attached elastic retaining band unleashes the case’s hinged sides and reveals a squishy centre. The aluminium frame, which comprises a total of four struts, is wrapped up neatly in the chair’s tear-resistant fabric with lakky bands… so neat that you just know it’ll never look like that again. So enjoy it while you can.
Two of the struts consist of two breakable sections, held together by an elastic cord, and the other two are longer with three elastic-linked sections, so each one has to be plugged together.
So here’s my first issue – the number of pieces to this chair. Now I know that six easily-assembled bits isn’t much, but if it is chucking down with rain and it’s muddy as hell I’d rather not have to dump some bits on the ground while I mess about with others. I say “I”. What I mean is “Mrs Muz.”
We already own a couple of chairs which are in a similar vein so it’s impossible not to compare. Let’s just call them Chairs of Mirth for reasons that might become apparent. They don’t have a base as such and are kept upright while occupied with a delicate mix of balance, wind direction, luck and gin. But the principle is the same.
They, too, are designed to be carried in a backpack and easily assembled, but they consist of only two bits. Three if you count the stuffsac which stows away to nothing. All four breakable struts that support the seat are elastic cord-icated together in to one piece – they just need to be plugged in to each other, and the other bit is the chair fabric itself. Much less fiddly, and if you wear the fabric as a rain hat while you sort the struts out, nothing touches the ground.
Back to the Treo, once you’ve plugged the struts together you need to plug them in to the plastic base, which was once the chair’s tough case. Four deep holes at the hinged end provide a solid hold, but they are two different sizes so you have to find the right struts for the right holes. It only takes a few seconds to sort out (this same process can also be measured by ‘people involved’ depending on collective IQ levels) but it’s still another point on the fiddleometer.
If my experience on this test is anything to go by, once you’ve pulled the chair fabric over the frame and secured it using the tough corner pockets you’ll instantly find it occupied by someone who is not you, telling you what they think of it. This is inconvenient.
Anyway, of the half-dozen or so people who parked their fat arses in my chair before me, here’s a selection of comments. I’ve probably paraphrased them:
“Hmmm. It’s a chair.”
“Hmmm. Nice and supportive, I suppose. But I think it’s on a hill.”
“Hmmm. Therm-a-rest. Don’t they just make that bed stuff? What do you call it? That’s it – Therm-a-rests.”
“Hmmm. It’s no Chair of Mirth, is it?”
“Hmmm. I can feel the frame digging in my back”.
And there lies my second issue – both struts at the back of the frame dig in a bit. It won’t cripple you and it won’t lead to you hurling the chair around the field in blind fury, but it’s not as comfortable as it could be. It’s not bad, you understand, but it’s enough to notice.
In the Treo’s favour, unlike a Chair of Mirth the seat is elevated a decent amount above the ground thanks to the base and it is stable. The fabric is also nice and supportive. The clever case, although unforgivingly hard, makes the packed-down chair portable and pretty much bombproof and at 1kg it’s reasonably light.
But some of the other comments I’d heard were right too. It is just a chair, albeit a handy one. It is no Chair of Mirth. And it is just a bit, you know… hmmm.