We tested a lot of chairs for this review, carrying them up and down hills, to barbecues and picnics, from the beach to the forest. And not a single chair impressed us more than the Alite Stonefly, performing excellently across all our various metrics. It's not the lightest option, but its comfort, stability, 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
Cons: Expensive, heavier than most
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Alite Stonefly is our new favorite chair for the year. Its comfortable design and versatility are unmatched among backpacking chairs, earning it our top spot and esteemed Editors' Choice award.
We took into consideration a wide variety of characteristics when assessing the comfort of each chair in our review: materials used, features that aid in breathability, height off the ground, seat width, and back height. Because chairs exist purely to make our lives more comfortable, this metric weighs heavily in determining each model's overall score.
The height of the Stonefly is right in the middle of the pack for this style of chair. While the back isn't as high as other models, it does fall at a very comfortable spot on the upper back and reclines ever so gently. The seat is wide with a shape that is comfortable for many different body types and it's deep enough to relax into fully.
The material on the Stonefly isn't anything special, and it is devoid of cushioning, but it does have excellently placed vents. This added breathability is excellent for summer lounging. Another great quality is the armrests, providing ample room to both rest and move freely. The lateral cup holders (which we'll discuss further in the versatility section below) add a place to rest the hands and elbows while eating or playing instruments.
Our camping chair review delves into heavy, bulky, uber-comfy chairs, while this backpacking review is focused more on portable seats. We tested both taco-style folding chairs and tent-style portable ones, and the products range in weight from 16 to 49 ounces.
The one place where the Stonefly falls behind is here. This comfy chair weighs 38 ounces, making it one of the heaviest chairs in our review — more than twice as heavy as the lightest product we tested. That said, the average tent-style chair weighs around 30 ounces, and the only one with as high of a comfort score as the Stonefly also weighed in at 38 ounces, showing us that comfort usually means a little added heft.
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 bring it. It's true, though, that if you're counting every last ounce, you're not likely to pick the Stonefly.
This category is newer to our review and testing process. Our testers received tons of feedback about wobbly, insecure chairs, so we knew we had to dig deeper into this metric. In this category, we explore each chair's ability to keep its user solidly on the ground, without tipping over.
While other products feel shaky and unstable, the Stonefly is rock solid. Instead of individual legs, it features horizontal bars that run across the ground. While some of the other chairs in this review make us worry that a leg could break or collapse, we had no such worries with the Stonefly. These bars add a high level of stability, as it's much harder to rock from side-to-side or front-to-back because of the leg construction.
While backpacking is a very specific activity, a chair is a versatile product at its core. Chances are, even if you purchase a chair for one kind of outing you'll end up using it for all manner of other activities too. To determine what score each of our tested products would receive in this category, we looked at extra features and stability on uneven terrain.
The Stonefly is the only model in our review to offer cup holders. This added significantly 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 scores so highly in this category is its legs. Because of the horizontal bars, as opposed to the four separate legs of many of its competitors, this chair does exceedingly well in sand and on uneven terrain. The bars help even out the seat and create a more stable base.
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 a fantastic candidate. With a comfortable seat, reasonable weight, and exceptional versatility, you just can't go wrong.
If you can justify an extra 38 ounces, the Stonefly has everything you're looking for in a backpacking chair. The seat is comfortable with a tall back, accessible height, and great breathability. It has reinforced corners and the cup holders add width to the armrests for even better lounging. While on the heavy side, this chair's overall score surpasses all the competition, making it a clear choice for our Editors' Choice Award.
— Lauren DeLaunay