Best Beach Chair
What’s the key to getting the most out of your beach days, or even a whole summer of them? While we’d all like to think we can just throw down a blanket and the sun, sea, and sand will do the rest, the reality is different. How do you keep the sand out of your drinks, what if you need shade, can you really spend a whole day sitting on the ground, and where did you leave your keys? Beach chair solutions have come a long way since the wistful days of a couple of wooden deck chairs facing the sea. Having everything you need, safe and to hand, and sitting on something that’s going to keep you comfortable for the season can make or break your trips to the beach.
Increasingly, the humble beach chair is becoming a one-man-band of accessories, adjustable positions, and weather-resistant technology. But how do you decide which one’s right for you? We’ve found the best of what’s out there, however you like to spend your summer.
- Tommy Bahama
- Easy to carry
- Maximum storage
- Rio Brands 5
- Hardwood armrests
- Anti-pinch technology
- Timber Ridge
- Adjustable height backrest
- Zero-gravity body support
10 Best Beach Chair Brands
With a rust-proof aluminium frame and UV stabilized, 600 denier coated polyester seat, it ticks the water-resistant and sun protection boxes.
One of the main reasons for its deserved popularity, the Tommy Bahama includes all of the expected features. Along with those, the back legs when laid flat double as a large, collapsible towel rail - a user favorite. There are two large (enough for a towel), zippered pockets on the back, one of which is insulated and fits 7 12 oz cans or 3-4 water bottles. The pillow is adjustable or removable with Velcro straps. The plastic, contour-molded armrests also feature a Velcro-fastened pocket on one side, with separate compartments for keeping phones and wallets to hand. However, as with its nearest rival the Rio Brands, there is no cup holder.
Five positions, including flat.
300 lbs - fairly large compared to our other similar picks.
One of our lightest chairs at 7.5 lbs - a bonus considering its load capacity. Measures 24 inches armrest to armrest when in the upright seated position, and sits 9 inches from the ground. It’s relatively small, with a 30 inch seat-back height, but worth the trade-off for most for being so compact.
Widely thought of as a market essential, the Tommy Bahama can be folded and carried as a backpack with padded straps, or by its rubber handle.
This chair hits all the key beach chair features. This, along with savvy branding, leaves no question in the consumer’s mind, solidifying Tommy Bahama’s place as a fun, simple go-to. While it will only see frequent users through a few seasons, the range of styles means that consumers are happy to come back and buy these chairs year after year. Deservedly popular.
Maximum storage whilst remaining compact
Light and easy to carry
Widest array of colors and patterns
Legs are unsupported in the flat position
No cup holder
Rio Brands 5
Rust-resistant aluminium tubes, waterproof and fade-resistant 300 denier polyester seat fabric. Rio brands also claim that it’s rip proof, largely borne out in tests. Another feature Rio pride themselves on is the hardwood and scratch-proof armrests.
As we’ve said, most of the expected and useful features: two large, zippered pouches on the back, one insulated; a large, built-in towel rail; and the hardwood arm rests as mentioned. Admittedly, they’re a small but ingenious solution to sticky plastic under your arms, and add to the retro look. The other crowning glory for Rio is its patented anti-pinch technology for unfolding and packing. The main and most obvious missing features here are the cup holder, armrest pocket, and pillow - perhaps game-changers for some buyers.
The five positions are right there in the name, and something Rio Brands promotes many of its models based on, but it’s near-standard practice for this type of chair. However, fully-flat, along with the usual array of reclined positions, is always a plus.
Another mid-weight model, its 8 lbs are likely due to the hardwood armrests, which will be a willing concession to make for many consumers. At 8 inches from the ground it’s a fairly low-sitting chair, so may be difficult to get in and out of for some. Slightly narrower at around 20 inches between the armrests, but again, worth it if the quality hardwood is for you.
Another backpack style, with padded straps. The bonus here is that anti-pinch technology - the promise of a smoother set up and pack away process will be the clincher for many users.
The Rio is a classic and trades on its big outdoor brand name and special features. While it misses some marks on the accessories front, it’s got all the stylish and classic charm of an old-fashioned fold out chair, with a healthy dose of modern convenience. Go for this one for simplicity and function with an understated look.
Missing some key accessories (armrest pocket, cup holder and pillow)
Low to the ground so can be difficult to get out of
Powder-coated steel frame and polyester seat material. Fairly easy to maintain and wipe clean, but as the Timber Ridge isn’t a dedicated beach chair, the metal isn’t rust-proof and will suffer if left in outside in rain or water.
As one of our less portable choices, there aren’t a plethora of accessories and extras with this one. However, the cup holder and pillow are detachable, the headrest and back adjustable height, and the armrests are molded wood with position-locking clamps. The seat and back are also fully foam-padded.
The Timber Ridge’s winning quality and main reason for it featuring in our list is its versatility and comfort, regardless of position. The recline is smooth and so can be adjusted to whichever angle suits, with fully flat supporting the whole body of course. Furthermore, elastic-laced bungee suspension makes for even weight distribution.
The other benefit of this chair’s dedication to sturdiness is its chart-topping 350 lbs load.
High and adjustable 28.9 inch back from seat to headrest, 21.3 width between the armrests and 19.5 inches from the ground in the seated position. At 24.3 lbs the chair weighs nearly three times as much as its closest rival, but again, this will be a willing trade for some buyers.
As expected, the larger, heavier Timber Ridge isn’t one you’re going to move without at a moment’s notice, and it doesn’t come with any sort of handle or bag.
At a substantial weight, size and having been designed to mainly be stationery, the Timber Ridge certainly won’t be for everyone. However, for those looking to spend the whole day at the beach, and like to mainly recline, it could be invaluable over struggling with a less supportive model. The added bonus if you’re willing to take comfort instead of portability is that this chair can then be used in a variety of outdoor situations.
‘Zero-gravity’ full body support at any angle
Use it anywhere - beach, patio, campsite, festival etc.
Adjustable height backrest
Not as portable as those designed specifically for the beach
Rio Beach Big Boy
Rust-proof aluminium and 600 denier polyester for beach use.
Added bonuses for this chair are an adjustable pillow and detachable cup holder. There is also one storage pocket. The armrests are waterproof and molded for comfort.
Despite its heavy-duty nature, the Big Boy has four positions; upright and three reclining angles.
As expected, the Big Boy can hold up to 300 lbs; not our sturdiest choice, but certainly the most load-bearing for its size and portability.
The Big Boy is billed as extra wide, and while not the widest we’ve found it’s at the higher end of the scale at 22 inches between the armrests. A key measurement is its 13 inch height from the ground, this will make all the difference for users who find lower models difficult to get in and out of. We think the 9.5 lbs weight is a steal considering this chair’s capacity.
Folds into a backpack with padded straps. Again, this kind of ease of transport is what makes this such a viable option for those who just want some extra space as well as those looking for more support.
We’re not surprised the Big Boy is so popular. It disguises load-bearing capacity and accessibility with the design features buyers expect and the portability of a smaller chair. Proof of this chair’s success is its transcendence from the niche, larger load market to the mainstream.
Comfort and space
Fewer features and positions
Steel frame and 600 denier polyester fabric. The seat material is thicker than expected for added durability.
The canopy fully covers the chair and beyond and is fully adjustable for maximum shade. It’s attached on two corners so will stand up to wind better than a single pole umbrella. Otherwise, the QuikShade has a cup holder in each arm rest and an attached, fastened pocket underneath the seat.
Upright seated only.
A respectable 225 lbs for a lightweight chair
Fairly wide at around 25 inches between the armrests. The chair sits at more of a normal seat height of 18 inches off the ground. Not our lightest chair at 9 lbs but the umbrella will add some weight.
The simple, collapsible design makes it easy to unfold and pack away. However, there is only a simple strap handle for carrying.
Along with a sturdy and removable canopy, this might be the answer if you’re looking for a quick and easy solution for a variety of outdoor uses. While it misses out on some of the other chairs’ features, the QuikShade remains popular as a go-to.
Easy to fold up
Minimal additional features
Stainless steel and polyester. At times, the Sport-Brella doesn’t feel as solid as it should for a chair with several detachable parts.
Separating the Sport-Brella from the rest of the pack is the 50+ UPF umbrella. It can be swiveled to follow the shade all day, and has a metallic underside to deflect heat. These features are key as it is fairly small relative to the chair and does have issues in strong winds. The armrests feature the obligatory cup holder and insulated pocket (capable of holding 4 cans). Another fun and unique feature of this chair is the attached bottle opener on the underside zippered pocket and a hole in the side pocket for passing earphones through.
Only three positions from upright to two more reclined. However, the detachable and adjustable footrest could make all the difference as it gives the Sport-Brella the support of a recliner with the portability of a chair.
The width is middling at just over 20 inches between armrests, and it sits slightly higher off the ground at 36 inches (without the umbrella). It’s a more substantial option at 13.5 lbs, but this won’t be problem for those for whom the umbrella and footrest are must-haves.
Featuring a more standard collapsible outdoor chair construction, the Sport-Brella is transported in its own tote bag.
Whilst not a full recliner or an upright chair, the inclusion of the umbrella and the adjustable footrest make this chair a worthwhile pick for our list. While some won’t like the loss of stability, a few standout features make the Sport-Brella a worthwhile option.
Umbrella with UPF
Umbrella is small and not fully wind resistant
Heavier and less portable if you’re looking for an easy solution
Kelty Low Loveseat
Steel and quilted, 600 denier fabric. One of the standout features with the Kelty is that the seat material is in a mesh design to minimize stickiness on hot days.
Aside from the obvious capability for multiple users, the Kelty isn’t packed with features. There is a cup holder at each end, but this might be enough for those whose main priority is a comfortable seat for two.
The Kelty is an upright, seated model, and doesn’t have any other positions. However, another small but appreciated feature is the slight backward lean, which takes the chair slightly further into the recliner category, rather than being just a seat.
The 400 lbs capacity will be fine for most couples and singles who want more space. However, it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re used to heavy-duty single chairs, as the Kelty doesn’t stack up to double the weight of some of our picks in that category.
The chair is 44 inches wide to comfortably seat two (or more!) and has a 13.5 inch backrest for a comfortable recline with the slight lean. At a product weight of 15 lbs, the Kelty doesn’t lose many points there considering it’s got double the seat capacity of our single choices.
The chair folds up into a tote bag, which, due to its relatively larger size, can be useful for other equipment when not transporting the Kelty Low-Love Seat.
The added benefit of this one is that although it’s larger and heavier than others, there is something to be said for only having one chair, leaving capacity to carry other supplies and equipment.
Anti-stick material and quilting for comfort
Size compared to personal chairs
One sitting position only
Ostrich On Your Back
Steel and 600 denier polyester seat fabric. Occasionally found rust with heavy-use if not cleaned and dried properly.
The Ostrich’s main feature addresses an age-old problem for those who like to tan their backs whilst still reading or using mobile devices. Their patented, cushioned face cavity and arm slots allow full visibility and mobility through the chair fabric and frame, rather than to the side or around it, whilst lying face-down. Also features a cup holder.
Five positions - seated upright, flat and various reclining angles.
The unexpected 325 lb capacity makes the Ostrich an even more attractive option when combined with it’s face-down comfort.
It’s considered extra wide at just over 20 inches between the arm rests, and relatively tall at 33 inches from the ground to the top of the headrest. The Ostrich weighs 9.5 lbs.
Another key selling point for Ostrich is their backpack design for ease of transportation, and certainly feels lighter than its 9.5 lbs weight when strapped on. However, the frame can be uncomfortable when carried for a prolonged period.
Worth choosing for the face cavity alone if you like to read, if that’s not important, we’d recommend going with one of our other low chair choices as the Ostrich doesn’t offer much else. Includes other pluses such as heavy load capacity and deceptively light weight.
Face cavity and arm holes for added comfort and ease
Lightweight given load capacity
Frame can be uncomfortable against the back when carried
Not the most durable with heavy water and sun use
Aluminium frame and ribbed, padded, polyester canvas fabric. The Picnic Time feels sturdy and even boasts a built-to-last lifetime guarantee.
One side features a set of two fold out shelves, with a side tray including inset cup holder on top, and a small pocket in the armrest. Attached to the other armrest is an insulated cooler bag - the biggest of our chair picks at 15 inches by 16 inches. All the features are detachable. There is even a loop for an umbrella, although this must be purchased separately and is fairly expensive on top of the chair price.
Not the Picnic Time’s strong point as its base is really just an upright chair.
As you might expect with a chair that’s designed for heavy use and prolonged use, the load capacity is higher than most at 350 lbs.
Unusually for its features and purpose, this chair is only 19.5 inches wide between the armrests. It sits at 33 inches from ground to the top of the backrest; as it’s not a recliner it’s worth keeping in mind that it sits fairly high from the floor and not much of this height comprises a headrest. Weight is 12 lbs.
Surprisingly portable for such a high specification chair. It’s not by any means flat when folded like some other models, but more compact than you would expect - about the size of a medium backpack.
All about setting up camp; either only making one trip from the car or staying put all day. What it lacks in reclining options it makes up for in comfort and amenities. We like its secondary use as a functioning backpack when folded up and carried.
Space for everything with large enough compartments to fill with what you like
Carry the chair and your belongings at once as a backpack
No recline or head support
Umbrella for separate purchase is expensive but others are compatible
Powder coated steel so stands up to repeated use without issue.
Just like its weight, the Coleman is light on features. However, despite being such a simple chair, it does feature a back pocket and cup holder. The curved armrests do cause the cup to sit at a slight angle and aren’t the most comfortable in terms of arm support.
Again, this chair doesn’t offer much in the way of versatility. It sits at a slight recline and very low to the ground. This is great for spreading out your legs to offer a bit more than an upright seat, but beware if you have accessibility issues.
For such a light chair the Coleman has a fairly decent load-capacity at 250 lbs.
Surprisingly wide at 21 inches between the armrests, it matches many of our other picks for space. However, the Coleman’s unique selling point is its extremely light weight - just 5.3 lbs. This puts its other features, and lack of, in perspective and will be enough for many buyers who just need a simple beach chair.
The Coleman folds up length-ways and comes with its own one strap carry bag, making its very light weight even more bearable.
The perfect choice for a good value, easy beach chair if you just want something to throw in the car or over your shoulder. However, it isn’t so reasonably priced that we questioned its quality, and it scores highly there for being simple but well-made.
Not many additional features
No reclining options
Curved armrests affect comfort somewhat
Criteria Used For Evaluation
Materials and Construction
Given that you’re buying a chair which will be used on the beach, what it’s made of and how it’s put together should be one of the most important areas for consideration. The combined elements of seawater, sand, and wind native to a beach, as well as prolonged sun exposure, mean that these chairs needed to stand up to a fair amount. Rust and sun protection should be key concerns for longevity and safety.
In the main, quality beach chairs, and all those that we looked at have an aluminum or steel frame. These metals are lightweight, allowing for portability. They usually need to be treated to be rust-proof, so look out for these words or a powder coating. It’s not essential, but we found that those which weren’t rust-proof needed a lot more care to make sure they were clean and dry after use. Many chairs feature plastic elements in the frame. This is another durable material, but be wary of the thickness on clasps and hinges as poor quality plastic could snap if forced or with continued use.
The seat fabric needs to be a strong polyester or nylon in a high denier. Again, you might find that these materials have been treated or coated. Some chairs feature UV resistant fabric, which will slow down fading and signs of wear. In terms of sun protection for yourself, this can be a bonus in a chair, but typically as most of it is covered (by the user) when in use, we find that this protection is mainly important in sun umbrellas.
The other consideration with material and construction is your comfort. In terms of the frame, continuous, rounded legs tend to work better than thin, separate ones on sand as it’s an uneven surface and your weight will also be better distributed. Some mesh materials are less sticky against the skin in the heat, as are wooden or rubber armrests instead of plastic ones.
Additional Features and Accessories
Because a beach chair is so much more than a chair. For many, what comes with the chair will be the deciding factor in which one to buy. Much of the time you won’t be, or won’t want to be, near amenities, so having drinks and snacks to hand means you don’t need to keep making trips to the car, shops, or house.
The placement and convenience of these features on the chair itself is also important. For example, are the pockets big enough for what you want to carry? Can you reach them? Most insulated cooler bags will also need to fit an ice pack to really chill your food and drinks so they need to be large enough. If you need shade, it’s worth considering a chair with an umbrella attached, as personal umbrellas tend to be smaller and more compact than separate, large beach ones. The tradeoff to remember here is, of course, those extra accessories will also add extra weight to your chair, so while you’re enhancing your relaxation experience, think about what you actually need.
Another key function of pockets, holders, and tables is, of course, keeping your drinks and belongings safe, clean, secure and out of the sand. Look for Velcro, zippers and perhaps discreet placement if you know you’re carrying valuables.
Ease of Transport
Similarly to minimizing unnecessary trips for supplies, it’s likely that you don’t want the chair itself to be heavy or cumbersome in case the journey to your beach spot is a long one. Portability is probably the main thing that separates outdoor chairs from indoor ones as they’re designed to be mobile. Even if you’re settling in for the long haul, you never know how far you might need to carry your chair when you arrive and leave.
The key things to look for are how the chair collapses or folds and how it’s carried. The weight of the chair itself is important, but we found that a convenient method of transport eased the load of most chairs regardless of weight. Furthermore, if you only want to buy a light chair, you’ll miss out on some other great features which tend to add weight.
You should look for a chair that’s easy to set up and pack away, and isn’t bulky when closed up. Most chairs require a few steps to collapse them. Recliners tend to fold more simply in half, with the legs tucked away, whereas upright chairs with multiple hinges may actually be more compact. Choosing between these two is likely to be based on what kind of sitting experience you want, but it might affect your decision if one chair is neater.
How chairs are carried range from a simply attached handle to a tote bag and shoulder strap, or the increasingly popular backpack design. This is mainly worth considering if you’re looking at heavier chairs but do also think about what else you may need to carry and so whether having your hands free would be useful.
Beach chairs’ load capacities’ can vary greatly, and it’s worth remembering that this will change over time and with differing use; the capacity stated by the manufacturer will be arrived at using standardized tests. In general, lighter chairs can handle less weight and vice versa, but you might be surprised by some. This is another area where the material and construction will come into play, although we didn’t find any difference between aluminum and steel when looking at load capacities.
Number of Positions
This is the main selling point for some chairs, and most offer at least three positions between upright and fully reclined. What you need here depends on what you’ll be doing in your chair, and will likely be your first port of call when narrowing down your list of choices. Think about, for example, whether you like to tan, read, you need to watch out for children, or have back problems. If you’d like to use your chair for a combination of things, choose a multi-position model, but keep in mind that chairs that do it aren’t specialized for any one feature. For instance, a five position small, light beach chair often doesn’t offer full body support when reclined.
Related to how you position the chair is the height of the seat itself. Beach chairs tend to sit lower to the ground to give that beach experience without actually sitting on the ground. This also allows you to rest your feet on the ground comfortably, a space-saver for smaller chairs. We found a few models for our list that sat higher off the ground but do check the seat height, especially if you have accessibility issues.
Perhaps a less important category for some, a variety of styles and colors can give some brands the edge when there’s not much else to choose from. Often you won’t have much choice here and will be making your decision based on design features, but where there was a range to choose from, it added to the chair’s score in our research.
Q: Why are beach chairs so low to the ground?
In general, beach chairs, as opposed to dedicated flat beach beds, have a primary upright or near-upright seated position. However, they’re different from regular chairs in that they are designed to accommodate a reclined position. For this, they rely on the user resting their feet on the ground, and they need to be low to allow this. Furthermore, as beach chairs, they’re supposed to be a comfortable and convenient way to sit on the beach, as close to the sand as possible.
Q: What is a low-backed chair?
This is simply a chair without a headrest. The back of the chair will not reach up much further than the user’s back. Beach chairs are usually low to the ground, with a high back to allow maximum ability to recline whilst maintaining their small size.
Q: Will the seat get wet?
All of our choices are made of treated, water-resistant fabric, so when they inevitably get wet at the beach they will dry quickly. That’s why it’s important to use a dedicated beach chair. Not only would a chair or blanket be uncomfortable, but water and sand might cause damage to untreated fabrics and metals.
Q: Can I use my beach chairs in the garden or camping?
There’s no practical reason why you can’t, although you might find them a bit low for garden use, especially if you’re around a table. Conversely, traditional height chairs may not be suitable for the beach as their height from the ground doesn’t allow for much of a recline.
With such a wide range of styles available, the important things to think about are how you get to the beach or your spot there, what else you need to take with you, and how long you’re going to stay. These factors will help you to decide which kind of chair is for you and which features you’ll need. Key considerations are how you will carry the chair, and whether the additional weight of a load-bearing or accessory-heavy chair is worth it for you.
Hopefully, we’ve helped to show you some of the options available and you’re on your way to finding the perfect spot on the sand. After all, life’s a beach, get out there on it.