We tested a lot of chairs for this review. We've carried them up and down hills, to barbecues and picnics, and the beach. And not a single chair impressed us more than the Alite Stonefly. With a wide variety of metrics, many chairs excelled in one or two categories. The Stonefly, however, had the best scores across the board. While this is not the lightest chair in this review, we think that its comfort, durability, and versatility easily make up for a few extra ounces. If we had to invest in just one portable chair, this would undoubtedly be it. Meet our Editors' Choice award winner!
Alite Stonefly Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Comfortable, versatile, cup-holders
Cons: Expensive, heavier than most
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Alite Stonefly is our new favorite chair for 2019. Its comfortable design and durability were unmatched among backpacking chairs, earning it our top spot and esteemed Editors' Choice award.
Judging by the Stonefly's high overall score, it's no surprise that it took home our Editors' Choice award.
The "comfort" metric of each review describes a wide variety of characteristics in each chair. We looked at the materials found in each product as well as any added breathability features. We evaluated each chair's height off the ground, seat width and back height to help us understand its overall feel. Because chairs exist purely to make our lives more comfortable, we knew this metric would be critical to a chair's overall score.
The Stonefly, frankly, blew us away the moment we sat down. This chair is higher off the ground than any of our taco-style chairs that sit directly on the ground. Its height is right in the middle of the pack as far as tent-style chairs go. Its base uses horizontal bars that add to the increased stability of this chair. While other products felt shaky and unstable, the Stonefly is rock solid.
While the back isn't as high as the back found on the Big Agnes Big Six or Alps Mountaineering Hex 2.0 PowerLounger, it did fall at a very comfortable spot on our upper back. The seat also feels wide with a shape that is comfortable for many different body types and a back that reclines ever so gently. The seat is also deep enough to relax fully, unlike the Helinox Chair Zero that seems to be trying to dump us onto the ground.
The material wasn't anything special, and this chair has no cushioning, but it does have excellently placed vents. This added breathability is excellent for summer lounging. Another great quality was the armrests. Our arms are not only free to roam in this chair, but they're free to rest as well! The lateral cup holders (which we'll discuss further in the "versatility" section below) add a place to rest one's hands and elbows while eating or playing instruments.
While our camping chair review has room for heavy, bulky, uber-comfy chairs, this backpacking review is focused more on portable seats. We looked at both taco-style folding chairs and tent-style portable ones, and the products we tested range in weight from 17 to 48 ounces.
And if there's one place where the Big Six falls behind, it's here. This comfy chair weighs 38 ounces, making it one of the heaviest chairs in this review and more than twice as heavy as the lightest product that we tested, the Helinox Chair Zero. That said, the average tent-style chair weighed around 30 ounces, and the only one with as high of a comfort score was the same weight. The TravelChair Joey was nearly as comfortable at just 29 ounces, but this chair lagged in other categories.
It's a toss-up whether or not it's worth carrying an extra two-plus pounds just for a comfy chair. Likely, this answer will depend on where you're going and how far you're planning to carry it. It's true, though, that if you're counting every last ounce, you're not likely to pick the Stonefly.
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we see a lot of products come and go. We know that your purchases are important investments, and we want you to get the most life out of your gear as possible. The "durability" metric identifies each product's weakest points and testing them against those of their competitors.
The Stonefly impressed us with its thoughtful design and durable construction. Every tent-style tent in this review has conical pockets in the sling that the poles sit in. While it does add weight, the Stonefly's corners are well reinforced. The "wings" of this chair, where the armrests and cup holders reside, are made of a stiff, reinforced material that is much thicker than the seat itself.
We also found the design to inspire high confidence in the chair's durability. Instead of individual legs, the Stonefly features horizontal bars that run across the ground. While some of the other chairs in this review, like the Helinox Chair Zero, make us worry that a leg could break or collapse, we had no such worries with the Stonefly.
While backpacking is a specific activity, a chair is a versatile product at its core. We don't always need a whole fleet of chairs for different occasions and for that reason we decided that the more versatile a chair, the more valuable it would be. To determine a chair's versatility, our expert testers looked at each product's extra features and stability on uneven terrains.
No other tested chair had cup holders. This was a significant addition to its versatility score, as it's now an even better product for picnics, barbecues and the beach. The cup holder "wings" act as armrests as well, making for more comfortable reading, eating, and instrument-playing.
Another reason the Stonefly scored so highly in this category was its legs. Because of this chair's horizontal bars, as opposed to the four separate legs of many of its competitors, this chair did exceedingly well in sand and on uneven terrain. While it could be hard to balance four individual legs, the Stonefly's bars help even out the seat and create a more stable base.
The Stonefly was one of the most comfortable and versatile chairs in this review. It's not the lightest, and we wouldn't jump to it immediately if we had to carry it for days on end. That said, our testers agreed that the weight was acceptable enough to carry for shorter trips into the backcountry. On top of that, the comfort and versatility of this product made it our go-to choice for just about anywhere else.
At $130, the Stonefly is definitely on the more expensive end of this review. That said, if "value" is the intersection of performance and price, our team does agree that this chair might be worth it. If you're going to invest in just one portable chair, this is undoubtedly your best choice. With a comfortable seat, reasonable weight increased durability, and exceptional versatility, you just can't go wrong.
The Stonefly has everything you're looking for in a backpacking chair. It has a comfortable seat with a tall back, an accessible height, and great breathability. It has cup holders and reinforced corners but comes at a cost. The weight isn't as light as we might like, but this chair's overall score surpassed all the competition, making it our clear choice for 2019 Editors' Choice award winner.
— Lauren DeLaunay