The Best Backpacking Camping Chair Review
We took the top lightweight camping and backpacking chairs and put them in side-by-side tests at the beach, in the mountains, and at the park. We break down what is the best for each application. These are light backpacking chairs that always weigh under three pounds. These are ideal for transporting, whether it's in the back country of the High Sierra or to picnic with a short hike. We will add in heavier more deluxe camp chairs for the summer. There was no single camping or backpacking chair that was best for everything, so evaluate our results with your own activities in mind. Read on to see how these chairs fared, and which seat matches your rear.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Chair For Each Application
Beach: Crazy Creek PowerLounger
Boating: Crazy Creek Original
Camp Fire: Any of them, depending on preference
Backpacking: Hex 2.0, PowerLounger if using it for sleeping pad, Therm-a-Rest Trekker if you already have sleeping pad that is compatible
The Park: PowerLounger or Alite Monarch
Sporting Events: Therm-a-Rest Lite Seat if you are just padding a bleacher or stadium chair. Any of the other chairs depending on preference.
Outdoor Music Event: PowerLounger or Trekker
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Analysis and Test Results
Before reading the text below, we recommend you check out our How to Buy a Camp Chair article. Why? Because not all the factors below are important to everyone. And a chair that scores poorly in one area may still be the perfect chair for your specific use.
The Therm-a-Rest Trekker chair was the most comfortable because it uses an inflatable sleeping pad. Every other pad uses stretched nylon or foam. Right behind it is the Alite Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch's innovative design makes it the one camp chair we tested that does not squeeze in from the sides. That said, some testers were spending so much effort staying balanced in the chair that they could not stay comfortable for more than 10 minutes. So the reported comfort level on the Alite is sharply divided – there are those who absolutely love it and those who have trouble using the chair at all. Next most comfortable was the Crazy Creek PowerLounger, which was by far the most comfortable of all the Crazy Creek chairs. It has a high back, is wider than the other Crazy Creek chairs, and has extra cushion.
The Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger is the runaway winner here. It works well in just about any environment or activity. Unfold it and stretch it out to accommodate three people (when all your friends forget their chairs). Or use it as a sleeping pad for a quick nap or even as a sleeping pad replacement in the back country. Second most versatile is the Crazy Creek Original. After all these years, it's still got it. It is great on the river, at the beach, at a concert, or at camp. It doesn't roll up tightly like the new Hex 2.0 Crazy Creek chairs, but this almost encourages you to pull it out more often.
Keep in mind, you may ignore this versatility category. If you are getting a chair for a specific application, say padding your butt on a bleacher, then versatility does not matter. You just want the best pad for that specific application.
The Therm-a-Rest Lite Seat is by the lightest and most compact. If you want a really convenient and low-profile way to pad a hard surface, this is it. However, it doesn't have any back support so you can't directly compare it to the other chairs.
The Alite monarch butterfly is the lightest and most compact of the chairs with backs. It weighs just over a pound and compacts down to the size of two soda cans stacked on top of each other. It can easily be put in a small backpack or large purse. The next lightest is the Crazy Creek hex 2.0 which weighs a few ounces more than the Alite but is not quite as compact.
All the Crazy Creek Chairs were about as stable as each other and the most stable chairs overall. Stability is most important at a place like the beach, where an unstable chair will be very hard to use. Next was the Therm-a-Rest Trekker, which took us a lot of micro adjustments to get stable. And when we would turn our body 90 degrees, sometimes the chair would start to collapse. By far the least stable is the Alite. Some people really had trouble with this chair and this chair does not really work in sand or loose dirt.
Ease of Setup
The Crazy Creek chairs are all by far the easiest to set up. Just unroll them and they are good to go. The side adjusters are very easy to use. And you can go from a reclining position to flattening the pad for a nap in a matter of seconds. The Alite chair takes some figuring out at first, both to set up and to stow. Once you set it up a few times, it can be set up in under a minute and takes about the same amount of time to collapse and stow. This is not much time, but we found it was just enough time to dissuade us from choosing it in certain situations. For example, you are back at the car after a long hike and your buddy starts what might be a long conversation with an old friend he ran into. Or you are taking a quick water break and snack break on the trail. It's no problem to pull out a Crazy Creek. But setting and disassembling that Alite takes just enough time that you probably won't do it. The Therm-a-Rest Trekker was by far the biggest pain to set up. You have to inflate a sleeping pad, do some minor wrestling to get it in place, and then make lots of little micro adjustments on the side straps. If you did not inflate the pad to the right pressure, you have to pull it out and start over. This is no big deal if you are settling in for a long campfire session or outdoor music show, but this chair does not inspire spontaneous use.
To see more backpacking gear that we recommend, you might want to check out our Dream Backpacking Gear List. For a list of some essentials you shouldn't leave home without and more, see our Backpacking Checklist.
To read some tips and tricks for cooking while backpacking, check out the Best Backpacking Food article.
If you are looking to purchase a camping chair for backpacking trips, there are a few factors to consider. With comfort and weight ranking high on the list, other features such as versatility and how easy the chair is to set up might be just as important for your preferences. Most of all, we recommend that you consider the activities in which you plan to use these products. With the different options in the market, we hope that this review helps you find the right product for your taste. Have a look at our Buying Advice article for more information on what to keep in mind when buying your chair.
— Chris McNamara
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