Helinox Chair Zero Review: The Best Backpacking Chair?

Helinox Chair Zero

The Good: The Chair Zero weighs just over a pound, is comfy for its weight, and packs down to be a little larger than a one-liter Nalgene.

The Bad: It’s expensive, the seat is a little narrow, and we found it harder to recline in than other chairs because it tilts backwards more easily.

The Bottom Line: The Chair Zero is the best backpacking chair we’ve tested. It’s the lightest and most portable, and the chair we think is most worth the weight penalty. While it’s not the comfiest, it’s the chair that does the best job of balancing the trade-off between weight and comfort.

Helinox Chair Zero vs. Top Backpacking Chairs

Backpacking Chair Score Weight Capacity
Top Pick: Helinox Chair Zero (This Product)
95
17 oz 265 lbs
Runner-up: REI Co-op Flexlite Chair
92
28 oz 250 lbs
Best Value: Alite Monarch
84
20.8 oz 250 lbs
Most Comfortable: Helinox Chair One
82
33 oz 320 lbs
Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Original Chair
71
21.9 oz 250 lbs

If you’d like to read more about how the Chair Zero compared to other chairs, check out our guide to the best backpacking chairs. Or keep reading for our full Helinox Chair Zero review.

How the Helinox Chair Zero Performed in Our Testing

Portability & Packability

The Helinox Chair Zero packed next to a smartwater bottle.

The Chair Zero packs down to about the diameter of a one-liter Nalgene and a little more than the height of a one-liter smartwater bottle.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Chair Zero, at 17 oz, is the lightest backpacking chair we tested. It also has the smallest volume when packed, being the diameter of a Nalgene bottle and slightly taller than a one-liter smartwater bottle.

Unsurprisingly, these features made the Chair Zero the most portable and packable chair in our test. For us, it was the chair most worth the weight penalty by a long shot. It fit comfortably in all the sizes of backpacks we packed it in, from small hiking daypacks to 70-liter backpacking backpacks.

Comfort

Reclining in the Helinox Chair Zero around camp.

Reclining in the Helinox Chair Zero during a camping trip in North Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Most testers thought the Chair Zero was decently comfortable. It wasn’t the most comfortable chair we tested — that’d be the Helinox Chair One — but it was comfy enough for lounging around camp after a day on the trail. We also found ourselves bringing it along on car camping trips.

There are two main knocks against this chair when it comes to comfort. First, it tilts backwards easily, making it difficult to recline in. Second, the chair is a bit narrow, so it was less comfortable for bigger testers and testers with wider hips.

Overall, though, we thought the Chair Zero was a great balance between weight and comfort.

Durability

The pole inserts of the Helinox Chair Zero.

The pole inserts are usually the weak points on tent-style backpacking chairs. Though the Chair Zero’s pole inserts aren’t as burly as those on heavier backpacking chairs, we haven’t had any durability issues with them.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

During testing we didn’t have any durability issues with the Chair Zero. The fabric didn’t rip, the poles didn’t bend, and the pole inserts remained intact.

Our main concern before testing was that the pole inserts, which aren’t as reinforced as those on the heavier chairs, could make for a potential point of failure. So far they’ve held up, even after being stressed by testers weighing over 200 lbs.

Ease of Assembly & Disassembly

Assembling the Helinox Chair Zero.

Like with all tent-style camping chairs, set up and take down with the Chair Zero both take about a minute once you get the hang of them. The hardest part is hooking the seat fabric onto the last couple poles, which can take a bit of muscle.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Like most of the tent-style chairs we tested, the Chair Zero took roughly a minute to assemble and disassemble. You only need to assemble it a couple times before you get the hang of it.

As with all tent-style camping chairs, it takes a little muscle to hook the final corner of seat fabric onto its pole. We found it slightly easier on this chair than on others.

The Chair Zero also has helpful signs on the back of the seat fabric indicating which side goes up and which goes down. There were a few times with other chairs when we tried to attach the seat fabric only to find it was rotated the wrong way, so we appreciated these little reminders.

What We Like

The components of the Helinox Chair Zero next to a water bottle.

From left to right, the poles, seat fabric, and stuff sack of the Chair Zero, with a one-liter smartwater bottle for scale.

  • It weighs just 17 oz (0.48 kg). Some backpacking chairs are too heavy to justify carrying on all but the shortest backpacking trips. The Chair Zero weighs just over a pound, which makes it much easier to carry.
  • It’s compact. The Chair Zero packs down to be slightly larger than one-liter Nalgene. We were even able to fit it in the side pockets of some backpacking backpacks as if it were a water bottle.
  • It’s comfortable for its weight. Some other chairs in the one-pound range come without legs (like the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0) or without a backrest (like a camping stool). Fortunately, the Chair Zero has both legs and a backrest.
  • It’s easy to assemble. Don’t be intimidated by the poles; this chair is a cinch to assemble. Every time we unpacked it a couple of the poles would snap themselves together. The remaining ones we connected with minimal effort. After just a few uses I was reliably able to assemble the Chair Zero in under a minute.

What We Don’t Like

  • It tilts backwards easily. We found it harder to recline in the Chair Zero than in other chairs. We had to be careful not to lean too far back in it, otherwise it would begin to tilt backwards. Most backpacking chairs have this issue — they’re not recliners, sadly — but it was more pronounced on this chair.
  • It’s expensive. The Chair Zero’s low weight comes at a high price. It’s the most expensive backpacking chair we tested, retailing for more than twice the amount of cheaper options.

Who This Chair Is for

Watching the sunrise in the Helinox Chair Zero.

Catching the sunrise on the summit of Cowrock Mountain from the comfort of the Chair Zero during a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. The Chair Zero is lightweight enough that even many weight-conscious backpackers can justify carrying it.

  • You want a lightweight and comfortable backpacking chair. The Chair Zero does a good job of balancing the trade-off between weight and comfort. The legs make it easier to get in and out of than legless chairs. The seat is high enough for tall people (I’m 6′ 3″ and didn’t have any issues) and wide enough that, for most testers, it didn’t feel tight around the waist.
  • You want a chair for both camping and backpacking. Many camping chairs are too heavy and bulky to take backpacking. The Chair Zero is comfy and compact enough that it works well for both activities.

Who This Chair Isn’t for

  • You’re an ultralight backpacker. A chair is a luxury that ultralight backpackers will deem excessive. Most minimalist backpackers we know don’t carry a chair and instead sit on rocks, logs, bear canisters, and folded-up sleeping pads.
  • You want a cheaper chair — and are willing to carry extra ounces for one. Most other backpacking chairs are cheaper, but heavier. We recommend the REI Co-op Flexlite Chair if you don’t want to pay extra and don’t mind a heavier chair. It weighs 11 oz more and costs a lot less.
  • You want a comfier chair — and are willing to carry extra ounces for one. The Chair Zero was rated by testers as slightly less comfortable than heavier chairs such as the Helinox Chair One (33 oz) and REI Co-op Flexlite Chair (28 oz). It’s a little narrow around the hips and not as easy to recline in. If you want a comfier chair, look at one of those. They are quite a bit heavier and bulkier, however.
  • You weigh more than 265 lbs. The Chair Zero has a weight capacity of 265 lbs. For bigger backpackers we recommend the Helinox Chair One, which has a weight capacity of 320 lbs and a seat that is comfier for wider hips.

Top Alternatives to the Helinox Chair Zero

The Helinox Chair Zero (left) next to the Helinox Chair One

The Helinox Chair Zero (left) next to the Helinox Chair One

  • REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair. We haven’t tested the Air Chair yet, but we compared specs and based on that alone we think it’s worth considering as an alternative to the Chair Zero. It has a similar weight, capacity, and packed and assembled dimensions. It’s also cheaper.
  • REI Co-op Flexlite Chair. The original Flexlite is the Runner-up in our backpacking chairs guide. Alex Gulsby, our former backpacking gear tester, has used her Flexlite for over two years without any durability issues. It doesn’t tilt backwards as easily as the Chair Zero and has a slightly wider seat. Testers rated it as slightly comfier than the Chair Zero. It weighs 1 lb 12 oz and has a 250-pound capacity.
  • Helinox Chair One. The Chair One is a full pound heavier than the Chair Zero, but it was the comfiest option we tested. Its seat is the same width as the Chair Zero’s, but due to the reinforced pole inserts the poles don’t dig into your sides as much, making it better suited for wider hips. It’s also the most stable chair we tested. We were able to rock and recline much more vigorously in the Chair One before it started wobbling or tilting backwards. If we’re doing a lot of sitting, this is the chair we want to be in. It weighs 33 oz and has a 320-pound capacity.

Product Specs

  • Claimed weight: 17 oz
  • Our recorded weight: 18.24 oz
  • Capacity: 265 lbs
  • Packed dimensions: 4″ x 4″ x 14″
  • Seat width: 20.5″
  • Seat height from ground: 11″
  • Seat back height: 25.5″