best Camp Chair for Backpacking

best Camp Chair for Backpacking – Tired of sitting in the dirt? Elevate your next backpacking trip with a minimalist seat that makes break time and chilling in camp more comfortable. We rounded up the best sit-pad and chair options on the market and tested them thoroughly (by kicking back in beautiful places) to make it easy for you to choose an option that’s right for you.

As usual with backpacking, it’s critical to keep weight and bulk to a minimum so we only considered chairs that weigh 2 lbs. or less for this list. If you’re looking for a more luxury chair for front country camping, check out our Best Camping Chairs list. We hope this research helps make your next adventure more relaxing and enjoyable than ever before!

This is a gear review about the best backpacking chairs to take hiking and backpacking. These ultralight camping chairs are designed to be taken on hiking trips and set up for use at camp.

The backpacking chair used to be nothing but an inconvenience, they were so heavy that nobody wanted to carry one when backpacking.

The latest newer models of hiking chairs are lighter, fold down smaller, and offer more support than ever. And if that still seems too much, the seat pad is here to at least ensure you never sit directly on muddy ground again.

Wondering what’s right for you? In this guide, I take a look at all the best ultralight camping chairs on the market. Tested for weight, comfort, stability, and how long they take to put up, my picks can help you find the chair you need.

ROUND UP

1.ALPS Mountaineering King Kong

People look for different things in a camp chair, and if comfort and reliability are top priorities, the aptly named King Kong should be on your short list. All told, this is one of the largest and most heavily padded chairs on the market, with a wide 24.5-inch seat, tall back, and burly 600-denier seat fabric. The listed 800-pound limit feels more like showing off than a target number that Alps set out to hit, but that still crushes the competition (for reference, the REI Camp X above is rated to 300 lbs.). And at around $55-$70 (colorways vary on Amazon) and often less on sale, the King Kong hits a really nice balance of comfort and value.

Keep in mind that the Alps Mountaineering King Kong isn’t for minimalists. It’s one of the heaviest chairs on this list at over 13 pounds (a considerable 6 lbs. more than the Camp X), takes up a significant amount of space in the back of your car or truck bed, and not everyone needs such a huge seat (one of our 5’10” testers found that when sitting down, his feet were barely touching the ground). Don’t get us wrong:

Pros & Cons



2.Nemo Stargaze

Now for something a little different: The Nemo Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair is equal parts recliner, hammock, and rocking chair. The chair’s mostly mesh body is suspended above its aluminum frame, allowing it to swing back and forth, recline, or stay upright—all equally as easily—depending on how you position your back and feet. And feature-wise, the Stargaze is no slouch with a padded headrest and armrests that are both comfortable and functional, plus plenty of storage with a cup holder and phone pocket.

The Stargaze’s most obvious drawback is cost. Simply put, it’s hard to justify spending $250 on a camp chair when big-ticket items like a sleeping bag and tent could run you the same amount (or less). In addition, the Stargaze requires considerable time to set up compared to the quick, easily foldable models above. Finally, the frame is on the narrow end and doesn’t fit all body types as well as a traditional camp chair. But these complaints aside, it’s hard to deny the versatility and all-around fun factor of the design.

Pros & Cons



3.Helinox Chair Zero

With the ultralight and compact Chair Zero, Helinox makes it that much easier to justify hauling a chair into the woods or even the backcountry. Weighing an impressively low 1 pound even, the Helinox is surprisingly sturdy thanks to an aluminum structure with poles from highly regarded DAC (the same DAC that makes poles for many of the top backpacking tents). In addition, the shock-cord design means that the Chair Zero packs down to a compact size that is easy to pack down and carry and fits on the inside or outside of a backpack. In terms of portability and low weight, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better camp chair.

What do you sacrifice with the Helinox Chair Zero? To start, we recommend this chair only for campers who prioritize keeping weight to an absolute minimum—the overall comfort and stability just can’t compete with a heavier model. The good news is that the Chair Zero is more comfortable than the competing Flexlite Air below, although not everyone loves the Helinox’s upright seating position. For those who want a more balanced design, Helinox also sells their popular Chair One and Chair Two, which are pricier and heavier than the Zero but boast more natural, laid-back seating positions (the Two is particularly supportive with a high back and integrated neck pillow).

Pros & Cons



4.Kelty Low-Love

Other camp chair models on this list are made for one person, but why stop there? Kelty’s Low Loveseat is a totally viable option for camping and even can double down as cheap outdoor furniture for your patio. Importantly, it’s a comfy option with a wide (double wide, to be exact) and supportive seat that’s slightly reclined, nice detailing like adjustable armrests and insulated drink holders, and a durable build made of steel and robust, 600-denier polyester. Keep in mind that the seat is rather low at just 13.5 inches off the ground (many camp chairs are closer to 18 in.), but the upside is that the Low Loveseat is stable and still pretty easy to get in and out of.

All that said, there are some notable downsides to choosing a double-wide model. The Kelty Low Loveseat is rather heavy at over 15 pounds, and even though it rolls down nicely and includes multiple grab handles, the chair is bulky for hauling. The other big issue is cost: You can find two similarly comfortable chairs and save some cash in the process. And some won’t love the low-slung design of the Kelty, although they do offer it in a standard version with a taller 19-inch seat height (tradeoffs include a heavier weight and noticeably larger packed size). But if you want a double chair and don’t mind the inherent compromises, the Low Loveseat is well-made and fun. And for another popular option in this category with a higher weight capacity, check out Mountain Summit Gear’s Loveseat.

Pros & Cons



5.Coleman Cooler

The popular Coleman Oversized Quad checks all the boxes we look for in a camp chair. Its padded seat and backpanel are comfortable, it’s spacious enough to accommodate most campers, and it’s simple to fold up and carry. If you’ve been tempted by those ultra-cheap, $15-$20 camp chair models beckoning on the internet, trust us: The additional cash is worth it. The Coleman’s steel frame and burly fabric will outlast its flimsier competition by years, and it’s hard to argue with a built-in cooler in the armrest.

What complaints do we have about the Coleman Oversized Quad? At this price, it doesn’t feel quite as comfortable or confidence-inspiring as the Alps King Kong above, and the materials are good but not great (the frame will start to rust if you don’t take good care of it, for example). And for only around $15 more, the Kijaro Dual Lock below weighs a little less and boasts a higher-quality construction, although you forgo the built-in cooler. All told, we think the Coleman outperforms its price tag and offers more than enough camp chair for most people and uses.

Pros & Cons



6.GCI Outdoor

A few chairs on our list allow you to rock back and forth, but none come closer to resembling a traditional rocking chair than the GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker. GCI achieves this with a spring-action “tube” at the back of the chair, which allows the metal frame to move up and down as you push off the ground. And when you’re ready to pack up, the chair folds down in one smooth motion with its attached carrying handle—no need to stuff it into a tote on the way out.

Although the Freestyle Rocker includes a handle for transport, it’s one of the heaviest options on our list and fairly bulky for hauling. Further, a number of users have reported that the rocking mechanism becomes squeaky and loud after only a few uses, and the spring-action system feels noticeably less durable than the rest of the chair. But while the Freestyle Rocker might lack the overall fit and finish of some of the options above, it’s nonetheless a fun way to spend an afternoon at camp.

Pros & Cons



How to Choose a Backpacking Trail Chair

There are several types of trail chairs available today: sling-style chairs with collapsing and shock-corded aluminum legs, stools, chair kits that incorporate a sleeping pad, closed-cell foam sit pads, and inflatable seat cushions.

Comfort
The term “camp chair” encompasses just about any type of chair that can be folded up, squeezed into a car, and carried to your destination, so your first order of business is narrowing down your intended use. True “comfort” camping chairs—provided you have the space in your car—can be large and luxurious. They have taller backs, are farther off the ground, and offer the best support and stability. In addition, they have the most features, from cup holders to storage pockets, and some even have a recline option. Because weight isn’t a major factor, you can get a well-made and comfortable camping chair at a reasonable price—starting at around $50 and reaching as much as $300 for the Yeti Trailhead. Top choices from this category include the REI Co-op Camp X, Alps Mountaineering King Kong, and GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker.

Budget
Some people only go camping a couple of times each summer, or just don’t want to spend much on their camp chairs. The good news is that we’ve had good luck with budget models that start at $40 and sometimes dip down to around $25. The Coleman Quad Chair, for example, often is available for less than $30 on Amazon, offers high levels of comfort and support, and has held up well after years of use. It’s true that budget frames generally aren’t as well-built, the seat and back may use thinner materials, and stability and features tend to go down with price. But so long as you stay away from the true bargain basement offerings, our budget category is a totally viable place to shop.

Lightweight
For those who want to minimize the amount of space that camping takes up in their car, along with those who don’t need the highest levels of comfort, the lightweight category is where weight and packed size become the top priorities. All dimensions of these chairs shrink dramatically, the fabrics and frames become a lot thinner, and they’ll pack down small enough to strap to the outside of—or sometimes even squeeze inside—a backpacking or hiking pack. The compromises make them less than ideal for camping and everyday use, but the streamlined design is popular among minimalists and when space is at a premium. Popular models in this category include the REI Co-op Flexlite line and Helinox Chair Zero.

Camping chair (Helinox Chair Zero)
Assembling the Helinox Chair Zero backpacking chair

Double Camping Chairs

Double camping chairs, like the Kelty Low Loveseat above, can be a nice choice for couples. Most have two armrests and an open double-wide seat for two, although some resemble two single chairs fused together with a middle storage compartment or cup holders between them. There are some inherent drawbacks with these set-ups, though. Double chairs are predictably much heavier than their single-person counterparts (the Kelty Low Loveseat comes in at 15 lbs. 6 oz.), which makes them bulky for hauling. Further, they’re often pricier than purchasing two separate chairs. We’ve only included one double camping chair on our list due to the overall lack of utility—we’d rather purchase two separate single-seaters and save a few bucks in the process.

Build Quality: Seat Fabric and Frame Construction

We’ve found that overall build quality correlates with price, but it’s slightly more nuanced than that. A budget camping chair like the Coleman Oversize Quad, which has no business on a backpacking trip, is durable and reliable because Coleman didn’t have to worry about keeping weight down. It can withstand a whole lot more abuse when compared with a lightweight model like the Helinox Chair Zero or REI Flexlite Air. Backpacking chairs cost more because they require thin but strong frame materials, like aluminum, which is more expensive than thick steel. That said, the build quality of the Coleman is still lower than the similarly designed but more expensive Alps Mountaineering King Kong.

Camping chair (storage)
  Coleman’s Oversized Quad has a nice feature set, but isn’t made with the highest quality materials Build quality is more than simply the frame and rivets: seat fabric quality also improves with price. Cheap camp chairs are notorious for seat fabrics that sag over time, seams that fray, and mesh that develops holes. All of the models that made our list generally avoid these maladies and are designed to perform well for years. True, we’d expect the cheaper Coleman Quad’s fabric to start to fail before the King Kong or GCI Freestyle, but they cost 2x as much and may not last you 2x as long.
Camping chair (sitting by campfire in Nemo Stargaze)

Weight and Folded Dimensions

The question isn’t if the camp chair folds but how it folds. Some fold flat—and the GCI chairs do so by pulling up as you naturally would on the carry strap. The advantage is the folded dimension is pretty thin (around 4 to 6 inches), but it takes up a very significant 30 x 30 inch square in your car. Carrying it on your back can also be cumbersome, which is why these chairs sometimes come with backpack style straps. The more popular style folds inwards and ends up a torpedo shape that you can slide into a carry bag. The smaller, more manageable dimensions make these chairs easier to carry. Most chairs pack down into convenient carry bags for shuttling to and from camp

While few people fret over the weight and packed size of a camping chair (camping gear in general is bulky and comfort-oriented), backpacking-ready chairs are a lesson in creative packaging. The Flexlite Air and Chair Zero both pack down to extremely small dimensions, with the disadvantage being you have to reassemble the chairs each time. None of the styles take all that long to set up, but it is a small sacrifice in time that you make with the portable chair style. For us, we try and keep our packable chairs under or around 2 pounds to minimize their impact on our pack weight. Bringing along a chair is already outside of the typical realm of “essentials,” but 2 pounds can be something worth swinging for a short weekend trek. Packed size of a camping chair (left) vs. a backpacking chair (right)

Ground-to-Seat Height

Ground-to-seat height—listed as “height” in the table above—is simply a measurement from the ground to the bottom of the seat. For those that frequent concerts or sporting events and don’t want to bother folks behind them, a low seat height is important. That said, a low seat height means a less comfortable position for your legs and more effort for getting in and out. If you’re needing to stay low, a chair that’s 5 to 9 inches off the ground is best, with the lower options obviously the safer choice for a concert venue. And it’s worth noting here that ENO’s Lounger DL above has adjustable legs that can be set at either 3 inches or 10, which makes it versatile for a range of activities.

However, keep in mind that the taller the chair, the more natural the seating position for most folks. Options like the King Kong and Coleman Oversized Quad are standouts in terms of a tall seating height at 18 inches (they’re downright throne-like), but we’ve found the most comfortable chairs have a seat height ranging from around 15 to 18 inches. This is another area where backpacking chairs have to compromise, with most sitting around 9 to 13 inches off the ground. But no matter their height, just remember: It sure beats sitting on dirt.

Camping chair (morning coffee in the Helinox Chair Zero)

Seat Back Height

As with seat height, seat back height is a consideration for concerts. But for general use, it’s also a great indicator of back and neck support. Backpacking chairs aren’t known for providing great support of your back—they’re too small and focused on trimming weight to cover much more than the top of your lumbar. The chairs with the best support will be the large camping chairs that we’ve touched on in the sections above: Coleman’s Oversized Quad, Alps Mountaineering’s King Kong, and Kijaro’s Dual Lock Folding chair.

Camping chairs (height)

Weight Capacity

Many camp chair manufacturers provide a “weight capacity,” which can helpful in a number of ways. At the high end of the spectrum, the burly Alps Mountaineering King Kong has a very healthy 800-pound maximum, while the lightweight REI Co-op Flexlite Air is listed at just 250 pounds. Importantly, the size of the seat tends to correlate with weight capacity, as does overall stability, so we find this spec to be somewhat useful. In general, comfort seekers and larger campers should stick to chairs with higher weight capacities, and minimalists and those who want to bring their chair longer distances from their car won’t be as concerned with that number. And it’s worth noting that weight capacities are provided by the manufacturer and we haven’t had the opportunity to verify each one. In general, we’ve found that manufacturer-proved specs often tend to be generous, so we don’t recommend pushing the limits.

Camping chairs (sitting by campfire)

Stability: Leg Design

Backpacking chairs are much lighter than traditional camp chairs, but they also often sport different (and non-conventional) leg designs for easy packability and weight savings. This frequently has a major impact on stability compared to ultra-solid, standard camping chairs like the REI Camp X or Alps Mountaineering King Kong. For example, a crossover camping/backpacking option like the REI Co-Op Flexlite Air is easy to rock back and tip over due to its thin legs that are connected to the middle of the chair rather than the sides. Depending on your needs and how far you plan to haul your chair from your car, it’s worth considering how much stability and support you want. In our experience, if you don’t need an ultralight model, traditional camp chairs offer the most foolproof structure.

Storage: Cup Holders and Pockets

Camp chairs are not feature-rich items, but storage is one area where a few thoughtful extras can be really handy. Let’s start with beverages. Cup holders are a must for a chair that’ll be used for camping—ground-based beverage storage is a camping faux pas (and inconvenient). Some of the larger models include side mesh pockets, which are great for items you need close at hand or want tucked away, including keeping your stuff in place on a windy beach day. And Coleman’s Oversized Quad takes it to the next level with a small built-in cooler. Backpacking models eschew most if not all of these features. And the reason is rather obvious: There’s little need for them when precious ounces matter. But if you don’t have to haul your chair very far, we recommend making storage a priority.

Camping chairs (features)

Other Features: Swivel, Rocking, and Reclining Chairs

Recent growth in the camping chair market has led to a dizzying number of unique designs that swivel, rock, and/or recline. We included a number of fun options on our list above, including Nemo Stargaze Recliner (which reclines, rocks, and swings), Nemo Moonlight (which just reclines), and GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker. In terms of downsides, more moving parts almost always come with added durability concerns and a more involved set-up, and you’re paying more for a specialized design. In our opinion, tried-and-true models like the REI Co-op Camp X, Alps King Kong, and Kijaro Dual Lock have much wider appeal, cost less, and are all most campers need. But if you hate sitting still or just prefer something a little different, there’s no denying the added fun factor.

What About Backpacking Chairs?

This article covers camp chairs, which generally are heavy, comfortable, feature-packed, and meant to be carried short distances from your car to a campsite, ball field, or concert. However, a couple of the models included above are sometimes used for backpacking, including the REI Flexlite Air and Helinox Chair Zero. Instead of weighing upward of 10 pounds or more, these streamlined designs check in at 1 pound and pack down small enough to fit in the water bottle holster of your backpack. Crazy Creek’s Original Chair (not included here) is another option and the most packable of the bunch, although the legless design is far less comfortable. In practice, most serious backpackers we know don’t bring a chair along—the extra weight is notable, and it’s often easy enough to find a stump or log to sit on. But for short backpacking trips or those who want the option to use their chair both while camping and in the backcountry, the models listed above are prime contenders.

WRAP UP

best Camp Chair for Backpacking – Are you on the hunt for the best backpacking chair? Over a decade, we’ve tested multiple versions of 20+ different models, with the top 12 in our current review. We evaluated each seat on its comfort first and foremost, identifying crucial elements to each product’s performance. We looked at the stability of each chair on a variety of surfaces, and we set up and packed away each one over and over to assess their ease of use. Whether you’re heading deep into the backcountry or around the block to the park, we’ve got the perfect chair for you, so take a seat and read on.

Backpacking chairs are great for when you need to keep weight low, but a cushier camping chair can fit the bill if you’re not straying far from the car. We’ve also tested hammocks (budget models, too). Whatever you need for your camping or backpacking excursions, from low weight backpacking tents to jumbo sized camping tents to hiking boots, our reviews can help.

A lightweight backpacking chair is a luxury item that can make the camping portion of a backpacking trip much more enjoyable and relaxed. If you like to sit around a campfire to socialize at night or read outdoors while sitting upright, bringing a lightweight trail chair along can really enhance a backpacking trip. With trail weights between 1 and 2 pounds, the added weight of carrying a backpacking chair isn’t that onerous, especially if it’s offset by using other lightweight backpacking gear.

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