6 Best Backpacking Chairs of 2019—Field Tested & Reviewed
|Backpacking Chair||Score||Weight||Dimensions||Weight Capacity|
|Top Pick: Helinox Chair Zero||
|1.1 lbs||20.5″ x 18.9″ x 25.2″||265 lbs|
|Runner-up: REI Co-op Flexlite Chair||
|1.6 lbs||26″ x 20″ x 20″||250 lbs|
|Best Value: Alite Monarch Chair||
|1.3 lbs||23″ x 21.5″ x 17″||250 lbs|
|Helinox Chair One||
|2.0 lbs||20.5″ x 19.7″ x 26″||320 lbs|
|Helinox Chair One XL||
|3.6 lbs||26.8″ x 23.2″ x 35″||320 lbs|
|Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Original Chair||
|1.4 lbs||33″ x 15.5″x 15″||250 lbs|
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.
Top Pick: Helinox Chair Zero
When your only camp chair worry is making sure it doesn’t fly away in the wind, you know you’ve got something good.
At 1.1 lbs, the Helinox Zero is the lightest, most portable chair we tested, and it can handle up to 265 pounds of tired hiker mass.
And it does so while maintaining plenty of comfort and durability.
This 4-legged chair is definitely not part of the loaner gear in my closet. I have high doubts something better will replace it anytime soon.
Made with ripstop polyester and durable aluminum poles, it’s no wonder this chair made the winner list of Backpacker Magazine’s 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards.
Full review: Helinox Chair Zero
Runner-up: REI Co-op Flexlite Chair
The Flexlite is a classic backpacking chair, and with good reason.
It’s tall enough to keep you off the wet ground and light enough to justify strapping it to a backpack, with a wide enough seat to fit a pair of wider hips.
After two years of use, I’ve had no durability problems with my Flexlite, and I feel it to be a safe recommendation for any backpacker, new or seasoned.
It sets up the same way as most 4-legged designs, but the fabric tends to stretch more, meaning it’s more forgiving and comfortable. The stuff sack has loops that make it easy to strap on the outside of your pack, but it packs small enough to fit inside too.
Best Value: Alite Monarch Chair
Sept 2019 Update: Alite Designs appears to have gone dark online. Their social media profiles have been dormant for months, many of their products are out of stock on their site, and their most recent Facebook reviews are from customers who are unable to reach customer support. As of this writing the Alite Monarch is still available at some online retailers, but buyer beware.
Generally, I require a level of stability in my camp chairs, and preferably four points of contact. If my own legs are already wobbling from fatigue, I don’t want my chair to follow suit.
But there is something special to be said for the Alite Monarch with its two-legged design.
Firstly, rocking is just plain fun and adds a calming element to an evening around the fire.
Second, fewer legs means less bulk. The 1.3-lb Alite Monarch fits in the palm of your hand when packed. And since the legs meet the ground at a ball point, they work better on softer surfaces.
However, eating from the Monarch can be a tricky balance, literally. I encourage you to try out a model in a store before making this purchase. Despite its shorter back, the width of the Monarch is big bum friendly.
Reviews of the 3 Other Backpacking Chairs We Tested
The Helinox One has nearly everything we love about the REI Flexlite, just at a much higher price point.
I can’t figure out exactly what makes this chair more expensive than the Flexlite other than its higher weight capacity, but we do enjoy the sitting experience.
The seat is sturdy, albeit a little bit low to the ground, and sits well in a variety of conditions without tipping, from snow to mud to shallow riverbanks.
At 2 lbs, this chair is at the upper weight limit of what I’d personally want to carry on a backpacking trip. It is a durable and reliable option, though.
It’s just the price is hard to justify given the competition.
The Crazy Creek was my first camp chair. In the summer of 2012, we spent 18 days together whitewater kayaking the Green River in Utah.
She stayed strapped to my dry bag during the day and, in the evenings, kept sand from every crevice of my tent, kitchen and clothes.
Six years later not much has changed about this chair, but I chalk it up as a good thing.
There is an unmatched versatility to a clip-suspended chair like this. You can use it as a rocker, a doormat, and a fan for your fire. Plus you needn’t worry about sand getting into the grooves of compressible poles.
It’s not the first chair I’ll reach for, but it’s a solid choice for beginner backpackers, especially desert rats, given its light weight, versatility, and fool-proof set-up.
Crazy Creek also sells the Original Chair and the Hex 2.0 PowerLounger. We don’t recommend the Original Chair for backpacking because it doesn’t roll up. The Hex 2.0 PowerLounger is pricier and heavier than the Hex 2.0, but has a bottom flap that you can fold out for extra cushioning for your legs.
The Helinox Chair One XL is everything we like about the Chair One with a little more wiggle room.
For larger hikers, this is the best option.
However, it comes at a steep weight penalty of 3.6 lbs. That’s more than the combined weight of the Big Three for some ultralight hikers.
At a personal 120 lbs, I simply can’t justify carrying this thing on a multi-day hike because I don’t need it, but for those who just haven’t been able to find comfort in smaller models and don’t mind the weight, this may be your only chance for relief.
Here are the best backpacking chairs:
- Helinox Chair Zero
- REI Co-op Flexlite Chair
- Alite Monarch Chair
- Helinox Chair One
- Helinox Chair One XL
- Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Original Chair
How to Choose the Best Backpacking Chair for Your Needs
If you’re just planning to car camp, your main consideration is comfort.
If you’re taking your chair on a backpacking trip, here’s what you should take into account
Comfort: Back Height, Seat Height, Seat Width & Weight Capacity
If the chair isn’t comfortable to you, you probably won’t even use it. You’ll be lugging around an extra couple pounds of chair in your pack for your entire trip without reaping any of the benefits.
The four things to consider here to make sure your chair is comfy are back height, seat height, seat width and weight capacity.
Back height. If you’re tall or you have a long torso, you probably won’t like chairs with shorter backs like the Alite Monarch.
Seat height. This refers to how high the seat is off the ground. Brands and retailers usually list this number on their product pages. The longer your legs, the more comfortable you’ll tend to be with a higher seat that doesn’t force you to sit with your knees near your chin. Shorter hikers may enjoy the Monarch Alite for its distance from the ground or the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 for its adjustability.
Seat width. If you have wide hips some lightweight camp chairs might feel a little tight around your waist. Read online reviews or try chairs out in the store before buying to make sure the chair you’re considering is wide enough for you, or opt for a large or XL model.
Weight capacity. Needless to say, you don’t want to exceed your chair’s weight capacity. This number is listed on product pages and in the comparison table at the top of this article (on desktop only). The chairs we tested have weight capacities ranging from 250-320 lbs.
Packed size and weight are the two specs to consider here.
Packed size. Most backpacking chairs pack down small, and the least bulky options take up less space when packed than your average Nalgene. Every chair we tested can be made to strap to the outside of your backpack, but as a good rule, it’s best to keep outside hanging gear to a minimum.
Weight. We recommend staying under two pounds for a backpacking chair (though we did test the 3.6-lb Helinox Chair One XL as an option for larger hikers). Anything heavier than that and the weight penalty begins to, well, outweigh the benefits.
Ease of Set-up
The Crazy Creek is dummy-proof, given that it requires absolutely zero set-up. Otherwise, most camp chairs set up the same way: with a single collapsible pole system and sewn ripstop seat.
If you can set up one, you can set up them all. And it’s good to know that most of these will stretch and break in over time. Of all the chairs, the REI Flexlite set up the quickest. Alite made a clever decision to print the set-up instructions on the inside of the stuff sack.
How We Tested
The aim of our testing was abuse, whether by yanking on straps, stretching fabric, bending poles or cramming each chair into small crevices of our packs. If something was going to break, we wanted it to happen to us first.
Travel & Backcountry Testing
In the two months of testing, we engaged in a lot of traveling, from the backcountry of Colorado to the coast of Hong Kong. From this we learned how portable the chairs were, whether we were trying to shove them in a suitcase, daypack, backpack, or carry-on.
To test the durability and longevity of our chairs, we practiced gear negligence by leaving them all outside in a rainstorm.
In a controlled environment, we wanted to see which ones could hold their ground and which ones would blow in the next county over, as well as which fabric would be able to dry fastest when the sun started shining again.
There’s no better way to test ease of set-up than foregoing the instructions and speeding through, IKEA style. The chairs that took the shortest amount of time from package to complete set-up received the most points.