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Hands-on Gear Review
Big Agnes Helinox Chair One Review
Cons: No neck support, less stable than traditional camping chairs, expensive
The Big Agnes Helinox Chair One earned our Top Pick for Portable Camping Chair. It is compact, lightweight, and relatively stable compared to all of the other portable models we tested in this review. If you are searching for a truly light and compact chair for backcountry use, we recommend reading our review of the best backpacking chairs. Although not as light as the chairs in that review, the Helinox does an outstanding job of balancing comfort for "front country" use with ease of transportation. Additionally, the Helinox has well-ventilated mesh backing, provides good lower back support and has a high seat height for a portable model so it is easier to get in and out.
Again, if you are trying to find more compact and lightweight chairs, we recommend checking out our Backpacking Chair Review in addition to this review. However, if you're seeking a model that's light enough to carry longer distances, but offers more comfort than the super light backpacking models, then our Top Pick for Portability is a great choice for you!
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Big Agnes Helinox Chair One embodies some of the best qualities of a portable chair, but still has some inherent drawbacks. Compared to the other portable models, testers thought that the Helinox was more comfortable and stable than the Alite Mantis and the Therm-a-Rest Treo, but much less so than the REI Camp Stowaway Low (which weighs several pounds more). Overall, the Helinox was not as comfortable as many of the traditional model chairs, but more comfortable than all of the portable models save the Stowaway. It is quite light and packs down into a pouch that is slightly larger than a two liter water bottle. In fact, the Helinox tied with the Mantis as the lightest model in this review, weighing in at 1 lb and 14 oz.
Discussing the Helinox's comfort is a little two-sided, and we rated its overall comfort as slightly better than average. The seat's fabric is taut enough to provide good lower back support. Additionally, it is angled relatively upright, allowing the neck to sit comfortably in an upright position without needing to crane forward. This made the chair much more functional because you could easily eat or read without needing to readjust your position. The chair has mesh fabric all along its back, which provides very effective ventilation. Most testers felt the Helinox felt a little less like a hammock than the Treo or the Alite due to its increased support.
Despite these pros, we also noticed some comfort cons. Specifically, the chair's compact design can feel like it's squishing you into the chair. This problem is height dependent: testers taller than 5'8" didn't experience the shoulder cramming feeling because their shoulders cleared the back of the chair. If you're shorter, you'll likely find tasks like eating or holding a book with two hands to be less comfortable.
When packed, the Helinox is noticeably larger than either the Treo or the Mantis. Weighing just under two pounds, it is the same weight as the Mantis and a half of a pound lighter than the Treo. The reason for the increased packed size of this chair as compared to the Mantis is because its frame is two inches wider than the Mantis', which is why it is also so much more stable.
Both the frame and fabric portion of the chair were assessed for durability. Its frame is constructed with anodized aluminum rods that are all connected with an internal bungee. The bungee allows the frame to stay in one piece when deconstructed and makes the chair much easier to set up. The poles appear to be very durable; however the two pole joints under the seat of the chair are made of plastic, and the looseness of this joint does make us wonder just how long it will last. During everyday use, the Helinox felt significantly more sturdy than the Therm-a-Rest Treo and slightly more sturdy than the Alite Mantis. Despite feeling like the most sturdy portable chair that we tested, however, even the Helinox could not survive our durability tests. We had a 150 lb man hop and land in the chair, and after his second jump one of the chair's aluminum poles snapped in half. The fabric seat has surprisingly beefy construction and sustained no wear or tear during our testing process. Our assessment of the chair's durability is backed up by its 320 pound weight capacity, which is 70 pounds more than any of the other portable models.
Ease of Set-Up
The Helinox is assembled exactly the same as the Mantis. All of the poles readily assemble, thanks to their internal bungee system, and then the ends of four poles are inserted into four small sleeves that are sewn on the back of the chair, again much like the Mantis. Testers liked like pole/seat junction and felt that it was very secure. Certainly this is more set up than the REI Camp Stowaway Low or many of the traditional model chairs, but it is still significantly less time consuming than setting up the Treo.
With a little bit of work, the Helinox packs down into a pouch. Once inside the pouch, this self-contained seat can be stored pretty much anywhere. Although it is larger, it is possible to squeeze the packed Helinox into more small nooks than the Treo, which is encased in a hard, inflexible capsule.
There are no additional features for this chair.
We think Big Agnes Helinox Chair One would be good for short backpacking trips and kids. It is low profile enough to just toss in your car and leave it there for those moments you need a camping chair but didn't think of packing one (or if you live in your van or RV). It is much more comfortable than a standard, ground level camping chair (like a Crazy Creek) as it offers more back support and keeps you off the ground. This chair is not recommended for sandy terrain as the base will sink into the ground.
Most testers found it hard to stomach spending $100 on a portable camping chair since they aren't ideal for frequent lounging. That being said, if you're in the market for a camping chair that easier less painful to carry for longer distances, then our Top Pick for Portability will likely meet your needs! Additionally, this chair's sturdy construction and high weight limit gave testers the impression that it will be able to last for many seasons to come. If you are looking for a cheaper option and don't mind a model that weighs 3.5 lbs more, the REI Camp Stowaway Low for $35 might be good to consider. It is still portable and it's much more stable and universally comfortable that the Helinox.
Compared to all of the ten chairs that were tested, the Big Agnes Helinox Chair One stood out as our Top Pick for Portability. We think it's a good choice if you need a portable chair that's more comfortable than a super light backpacking chair, but you don't want to carry a traditional camping chair that's 10+ pounds! If portability is crucial for your camping chair needs, then we recommend the Helinox. Its dimensions make it possible to take with you anywhere: throw it in a bag for a concert, stuff it in your backpack for an overnight camping trip, or simply throw it in the car for a quick trip car camping. This durable, relatively stable, and supportive model can be easily packed for a variety of adventures.
Other Versions & Accessories
Helinox Ground Chair
Helinox Camp Chair
— Laura Lingeman
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