Big Agnes Skyline UL Review
Cons: Takes longer to set up
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Skyline UL uses the same hubless pole design unique to Big Agnes, which allows the chair to be tall, stable, and compact all at the same time. The shape of the seat fabric cups your rear with a nice deep pocket that keeps you firmly planted while relaxing. Its weight of 29 ounces is a full 10 ounces heavier than some of the ultralight models, but our testers reached for this model more often than its featherweight counterparts.
With its deep seat and nice height off the ground, this chair easily captures a high score for this category. This is the chair our testers are most likely to grab when heading out for a couple of nights in the backcountry or even just for a day at the crag.
One of the major features of comfort is height. Getting in and out of chairs that are on or close to the ground can be a pain, especially for those with hip and knee issues. Additionally, when the knees are level with the hips, as opposed to higher than them, it's easier to be comfortable for a longer period of time. While the Skyline isn't the tallest chair we tested, it's much higher than competitors in the same price range.
Seat depth also contributes significantly to this chair's comfort. While many others are shallow and cause the sitter to slide down precariously, the Skyline is deep enough to truly relax in. We noticed a slight curve to the lower back, which knocks the comfort rating down from a perfect score, but overall, this model keeps the user's back fairly straight.
The backrest of this chair is a bit lower than ideal, coming in just under the shoulder blades of our 5'8" tester. As is a theme among these small backpacking chairs, taller and wider users may find the back too low for fully relaxing. That said, while the seat is small, the sides curve gently around the legs and back, offering a more forgiving fit for larger folks, and curved poles under the leg rest offer additional width.
Size & Weight
The Skyline, at 29 ounces, lands about in the middle of our testing group; lighter than all but a couple of the tent-style chairs and on par with the suite of taco-style chairs we tested.
While this chair in its stuff sack makes a longer bundle than most backpacking chairs at 17 inches long, it also comes in nice and narrow at only 3.5 inches wide, making it a good fit for the side pockets on most packs. We found it to be one of the easier ones to load, surpassed only by the ultralight options we tested.
How does a chair this tall and wide offer such a small packed size? It's the hubless pole design. Bulky plastic hubs take up a lot of space on a chair. By removing this bulk, Big Agnes has been able to reduce the packed size of its compact chairs.
While we don't recommend dropping yourself carelessly into the Skyline UL, it brings noticeably more stability than any other model we tested under 30 ounces.
When sitting and moving around in the Skyline, our testers have been able to reach for things off to the side, lean down to cook on the ground, and even tilt back on two legs with caution. This shows how supremely functional this chair is — for more than just sitting still.
The overall shape of the Skyline is similar to many in this review, but the rear legs have a unique curve at the bottom, broadening the base. The poles also curve outwards under the seat of the chair, offering additional width for both added comfort and stability. A wide center pole also adds to the stable feel of sitting in this chair.
Ease of Use
We knock a few points off the score in this metric because, while excellent in regards to stability and reduced pack size, the hubless poles take a little extra care to assemble.
We aren't talking rocket science here, but threading the notched poles through the holes requires lining up the notches correctly, meaning you need to actually look at what you're doing. I know, a ton of work, right? We are nitpicking here because we want you to have all the info, but overall, the Skyline is almost as quick and easy to set up as the other models that scored higher.
Something we love about this chair is the color-coded poles that match the color on the pockets at each corner of the chair. You can't go wrong setting the Skyline up when Big Agnes makes it this easy. We tried setting it up by inserting bottom poles first and also by doing the top poles first and found it possible to assemble both ways, although easier if the top poles go first.
Packing the Skyline back into its bag is straightforward. The long zippered opening makes it easier to get the chair put away than an end-opening stuff sack. We find it easiest to fold the fabric in half, wrap it around the poles, and insert the bulkier end into the bottom of the bag first. Because it's a narrow bag, it can be a little tight getting the zipper up if the rigid pole pockets on the fabric are taking up more space at the top end of the stuff sack.
The 9.5-inch butt-to-ground height is noticeable when getting in and out of the Skyline. While it isn't the tallest chair we tried, it sits a full 2 inches higher than the ultralight models. We feel that the blend of height and weight hits a sweet spot for a backpacking chair that doesn't require a deep squat to get in and out of.
This chair is right in the middle of the price range of tent-style chairs we tested. We like the Skyline because we find its combination of comfort, weight, and stability unmatched for such a reasonable price. If you're looking to make an investment in a quality piece of gear that you'll find countless uses for, this is an excellent choice and holds high value.
We awarded the Big Agnes Skyline UL our Editors' Choice in this review because of its remarkable combination of comfort, weight, and stability — the categories we feel are most important when choosing a backpacking chair. It sits decently high off the ground, has great seat depth, and a weight that makes it truly possible to bring anywhere. This model offers everything you could want in a backpacking chair and is as close to perfection as we have found. If you're ready to up your comfort game when out adventuring, this chair is an excellent choice.
— Elizabeth Paashaus