Best Chair for Backpacking – 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.
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 6 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.
1.Nemo Equipment 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
- Chair swings smoothly and gently, with a relaxing motion that is designed for comfort.
- A supportive headrest and deep reclining action allow you a full view of the night sky.
- A new geometry equates to a lower center of gravity for extended fit range. And unlike rocking chairs, you can swing on any surface, even rocky, sandy, or uneven ground.
- Use the auto-reclining feature to find the perfect sitting angle simply by leaning back and shifting your body weight.
- The aircraft grade aluminum suspension frame is sturdier than most camp chairs, yet still packs down quickly and compactly.
2.Helinox Chair Zero
The Helinox Chair Zero is quickly becoming a necessary part of our backpacking kit and is our favorite chair for ultralight luxury. It barely misses being the lightest chair of its kind, yet it’s significantly more comfortable and stable than its lighter counterparts. When sitting down into the Zero, users will feel the back support offered by the seat’s shape and the security of legs that keep the wobble to a minimum for such a light chair.
The seat pocket isn’t as deep as some, so we did find our legs feeling less supported and our bums sliding forward. You’ll find yourself sitting pretty low to the ground, so this may not be the chair for folks who have trouble getting up from a low crouch. But for those of you wondering who the heck would bring a chair backpacking in the first place, we think this is the product that might change your mind.
Pros & Cons
- Ultralight, compact camping and backpacking chair weighs just 1.2 pounds and packs smaller than a bottle of water (measures 4 x 4 x 13.5 inches packed)
- Lightweight, folding chair frame is constructed from advanced DAC aluminum alloy to provide maximum strength at a minimum weight; holds up to 265 pounds
- Seat and carry sack are constructed from durable, lightweight ripstop polyester that resists harsh weather and UV rays; material is machine washable
- Setup is fast with a single internal bungee cord that assembles poles; assembled chair measures 20.5W x 19D x 25H inches, seat height is 8.5 inches
- Ideal for outdoor activities like camping, backpacking, hiking and biking where weight is critical; manufacturer's five-year warranty
3.MOON LENCE Chair
The market of quality chairs includes both big name brands as well as new or lesser-known companies. During our research, we came across the Moon Lence Camp Chair at an excellent price. After thorough testing, we all agree that it offers above-average comfort, fairly low weight, and is just as easy to set up as similar but more expensive models.
At first, our testers struggled to determine which side of the chair fabric was the back versus the seat. Some labels or color-coding would’ve helped. After a couple of uses, we could quickly determine the top based on the pull tabs where the poles insert. Even though the weight is fairly low when compared to similar models, the packed Moon Lence is a cumbersome chair to fit into most backpacks. However, we think you might be able to stomach the extra bulk for the bargain-basement price.
Pros & Cons
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
- Camping friendly cuddle couch: low base 13.5 inches off the ground; relaxed, slightly reclining design with room for two (plus the family dog). 42 inches of seating space on Cushioned, insulated, nearly indestructible 600D weight polyester fabric.
- The beach chair standard: you don’t have to be at the beach to enjoy, but if you are, the low loveseat is the perfect way to chill in the surf without getting wet. Sturdy and durable steel frame makes this chair an outdoor chilling staple.
- Insulated beverage holders: Each adjustable armrest includes an insulated beverage holder, with enough space left over for munchies, Marshmallows, or the drink on deck.
- Made to last: quality materials and thoughtful Kelty craftsmanship will keep your buns and back warm on cool nights for years to come. Steel framed construction, puppy-proof fabric, and a weight capacity of 500 lbs.
- Padded roll tote storage: no need to labor over lugging this thing around, the low loveseat folds neatly into the included roll tote and can be tossed over the shoulder for simple Transport at 15 lbs Total weight.
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. And if you like the rocking functionality but want something a little different, GCI also makes a lighter Kickback Rocker, unique Pod Rocker, and summer-ready Sunshade Rocker, among others.
Pros & Cons
- GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker Portable Folding Rocking Chair
- Outdoor Rocking Chair: Portable folding chair quickly and easily folds flat for simple storage and transportation
- Sturdy powder-coated steel frame supports up to 250 pounds includes padded arm rests and built-in beverage holder
- Quality Construction: Constructed from sturdy powder-coated steel, foldable chair frame supports up to 250 pounds and includes padded armrests, a mesh backrest, and beverage holder
- Patented Spring-Action Rocking Technology delivers smooth rocking motion anywhere outdoors – lawn, patio, camping or tailgating
Kijaro’s Dual Lock Folding model is among the most popular camp chairs on the market due to its high levels of comfort and value. As the name indicates, the chair locks in both the open and closed positions for stability and easy hauling inside the stuff sack. And the chair’s strong seat and slightly reclined back offer an excellent feel overall. The Kijaro’s 300-pound weight capacity falls well short of the burly King Kong above, but the chair still is made to last.
Within our top grouping of chairs for car camping, the Kijaro is a formidable competitor. Build quality exceeds the slightly less expensive Coleman Quad above, although it does fall a little short of the well-made Alps Mountaineering King Kong. And the real clincher for us—and the reason the Dual Lock is ranked here—is seat height: The Kijaro has a relatively tall ground-to-seat height of 20 inches (the Alps above is 18 in.), which can leave some people with their feet dangling off the ground. But this can be a plus for some folks, and the wide and comfortable seat and budget price make it a nice choice for camping.
Pros & Cons
- -This portable Dual Lock chair gives you a premium seating experience with no-sag seating, durable diamond ripstop polyester, and breathable mesh on seat back
- -The Dual Lock chair is perfect to take with you whether you are tailgating, camping, or watching your favorite sports teams
- -Includes: 2 cup holders, organizer with zip & mesh pockets, carry strap attached to chair, and carry bag
- -Supports up to 300 pounds. Product Weight- 9.4 pounds. Seat Dimensions (Height x Depth x Width): 20 x 16 x 22 inches
- -Locks open for extra stability/ Locks shut for easy transport
How to Choose a Backpacking Trail Chair
The beginning of this review started with market research, which yielded an initial selection of fifty contending chairs. Over the years, we have tested over 20 of the most promising chairs. We purchased these (yes, we bought them all) and tested them for several weeks during the spring and summer. We took them everywhere, recruited friends, and sat on everything from rocky cliff bases to desert sand to city parks. We paid attention to how much work it was to set up and break down each chair, how comfortable we felt for long sits, and how stable we felt on different surfaces. From this, we narrowed it down to our top 12 models. We think you’ll find this review a useful tool in narrowing down your options in a market flooded with excellent chairs.
Analysis and Test Results
With so many backpacking chairs on the market, how do you pick the right one? In this article, we’ve identified the four most important qualities to look for in a chair. We rated each seat on how compact they are, how much they weigh, the comfort level after sitting in them for 30 minutes, their stability when getting in and out, the ease of setup, and perhaps more importantly, how easily they pack back into their bags. We weighted the metrics based on what we felt to be most important in a backpacking chair, with comfort being at the top of that list, followed by size & weight, stability, and finally, ease of use. Read on to learn all about our top performers.
Our team defines “value” as the meeting point between performance and price. Some products have superior comfort or versatility, but do their prices justify the performance? Others may be very affordable, but does their performance lag?
This review has a wide range of prices. Of the products that offer the best value, the Moon Lence Camp Chair stands out. This lesser-known brand still performs above average in comfort, size, weight, stability, and ease of use while keeping the price astonishingly low.
Our favorite chair, the Skyline UL is one of the more affordable tent-style chairs we tested and offers an exceptionally well-rounded performance with high marks in comfort, size, weight, stability, and ease of use.
Sometimes the simplest answer is the best. This rings true with the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat, which is a basic piece of egg-carton style foam but offers exceptional value for its low price, extreme durability, minuscule weight, and versatility. For the biggest cost savings, look into the foam chairs, which are almost always less expensive than tent-style models but can still offer you a padded seat to comfort your derrière.
Most of the products we test are performance-driven. They’re lightweight, sleek, and designed to help you in your most adventurous pursuits. But this review is different. Chairs are for luxury, and they’d serve no purpose without comfort. To justify lugging a purely luxurious item around with you, it must improve your outdoor experience. For this metric, we evaluated the myriad ways chairs can be more or less comfortable and used these characteristics to rate each product against each other.
We found two distinct sub-categories within our review; the “tent-style” chairs with legs that sit up off the ground and the foam chairs that either fold open like a taco to provide a backrest or simply lie flat on the ground. The comfort between these two categories is wildly different. A foam chair is harder to get in and out of since it sits so low and the taco-style can’t stand up on their own. They offer less support and often require a few core muscles to stay upright. Tent-style chairs tend to excel in the comfort metric since the raised seat, however high, is also easier to get in and out of than a foam chair. They also keep their form, allowing you to more or less plop down in them. Granted, you may not want to plop with abandon in the ultralight models like the feather-weight REI Flexlite Air!
When judging comfort, we also inspected the materials. How does the fabric feel on the skin? Is it breathable and ventilated? Not one of the taco-style chairs in our review has any breathability, and all use similar materials. Two tent-style chairs stand out for excellent ventilation: the Moon Lence Camp Chair and the TravelChair Joey with their large mesh panels.
We compared the amount of seat cushioning for the foam chairs, noting the insulating foam of the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat and the unique inflatable cushioning in the REI Co-op Flash Sit Pad.
We also considered what body position the chairs put us in. When spending just a few minutes in a chair, most are comfortable enough. But, for longer sessions, some chairs stood out for supporting the back. We compared the depth of each tent-style chair, as some tipped us forward more than others. We preferred a deeper seat that let us recline and relax, like the one found on our favorite model, the Skyline UL, and on the luxurious Big Six. The comfort was decidedly lower in foam chairs, but between the models tested, we noted that the PowerLounger curled our shoulders in and dug into our underarms the least.
Our testers took a few measurements for this category, too. We measured how far each seat elevated us off the ground. In general, the higher the seat is, the easier it is to get in and out, and the gentler it is on the knees and hips. We also compared how far back the seat reclined (or didn’t) and the seat’s width. Because comfort is a major part of this review, we allotted it 30% of each chair’s overall score.
Size & Weight
Unlike our camping chair review, this review is designed specifically for portable chairs that can be carried into the backcountry or during hikes. We analyzed packability and weight for this metric, knowing that a chair would have to be pretty compact to make it into an already heavy pack on your next trip into the backcountry. We considered both the relative weight of each chair compared to models of the same design (foam or tent style), as well as how it stacked up against every product we tested.
At OutdoorGearLab, we’re in the business of making observations, not guesses, so we put each chair on a scale, brought out the measuring tape, and recorded what we found. Then we strapped each chair to a fully loaded pack to assess packability and took them out on hikes to decide if the bulk and weight were worth it for the comfort provided. Our review’s current lightest chairs are the ground pads: the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat at the feather-weight 2 ounces and the REI Flash Sit Pad at 3 ounces and a teeny tiny package, smaller than a can of soda. A few of the tent-style chairs come in next in the weight category: the REI Flexlite Air at 16 ounces, followed closely by the 17-ounce Chair Zero. These tent-style chairs are lighter than any taco-style competitor we tested despite having legs. For those looking to keep your bums out of the dirt while shaving ounces, we’d recommend trying out these two chairs and seeing which fit suits you best.
Despite being light, we generally find the taco-style chairs harder to pack than the tent-style chairs that break down easily and store nicely into stuff sacks. To gather information about each chair’s packability, we stuffed them in our backpacks, rolled them, carried them by hand, and strapped them to the outside to determine which, if any, are the most compact and easily transportable. The PowerLounger stands out here; it has a compression strap just for this purpose and is very convenient to roll up. It can be stowed beneath the lid or on the side of many backpacking packs.
We got a lot of feedback on the chairs in this review, and one thing quickly became clear: if a chair is stable, our testers didn’t even think about it. If, on the other hand, a chair is unstable, it’s the first complaint you’ll hear. The sign of a great product is one you can use easily and effortlessly, and chairs are no different.
Looking first at tent-style chairs, some really stand out. The huge base and larger diameter poles of the Big Six, while heavy, greatly increase its stability. The Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair and Stool are excellent; they both have a wide base that creates a secure sitting experience. Sometimes cutting down the weight can decrease durability, but it can also decrease stability. We noted that most testers, upon sitting in the Flexlite Air, quickly threw their arms out to maintain their balance in this model with its uber-light fabric and flexible poles.
Foam chairs are a bit trickier to differentiate in this category. Because you sit directly on the ground, they generally offer the same stability as each other. Take the Z Seat; we aren’t sure how to rate a piece of foam on the ground anything other than top marks for stability. The taco-style chairs, in one sense, are more stable than tent-style chairs since there is nowhere to fall, but we feel that because body tension is required to maintain an upright position, their stability ranks lower than most tent-style models.
Ease of Use
As a group of people who have wrestled with our share of outdoor equipment, we feel that the product you are willing to take with you will be one that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out. Sometimes we may be willing to learn how to operate a more complicated piece of gear when the benefits balance out the struggle, but often we want to be able to pick it up and have it work. Setting up these backpacking chairs is by no means difficult, but some models have the setup dialed in.
To put the chairs to the test, we first set them up without reading or looking at any instructions, and we attempted to pack them back into their bags. We were surprised that every model we tested had no issue fitting back into its stuff sack. Some were a tighter fit than others, but nothing compared to the notoriously difficult task of putting a tent back into its bag!
The chairs we tested from Big Agnes have color-coded poles and pole pockets for a quick visual cue during assembly. We love that the Helinox models include picture directions printed on the chairs, making your first setup as easy as your fifteenth.
The foam chairs require almost no setup. If the clips aren’t fastened on the taco-style chairs already, just fasten them and park your booty. The angle of repose is adjusted with a sliding buckle, and we found the models that allow you to cinch by pulling down, rather than up, to be the easiest to use. Even simpler is the Z Seat. Unhook the bungee cord — that’s it. Seriously.
Best Chair for Backpacking – While we like to get out and get after it, we also consider ourselves experts at sitting back and taking in the view. We have spent weeks on end with all of these chairs, taking them everywhere we went, from Southern Utah’s canyons to backpacking in the High Sierra, to the lush Appalachians.
We jammed out at outdoor concerts and soaked up the sun in the desert. We got to know each product in this review, from their small details to their larger impressions. We compared them all side-by-side, taking detailed notes as we went along. By evaluating comfort, size, weight, stability, and ease of use, we feel confident that you now have the information you need to select the best chair for you. Whether you’re looking for the lightest option on the market or the most comfortable spot to park your booty, we’ve got you covered.
In the backcountry, camp chairs are a luxury. It doesn’t take an ultralighter to know that most brands are big and bulky.
However, anyone who has ever left their chair behind for the sake of an extra Mountain House meal knows what it feels like to be the only one in the group without a way to lounge.
We love the hiking, but some of the best memories are made from a chair, circled around the campfire. Read on to find a backpacking chair that strikes a balance between luxury and practicality.