Helinox Chair Zero Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Extremely lightweight, comfortable positioning
Cons: Pricey, small
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Helinox Chair Zero stands out in our test as one of the most comfortable and lightest, and it was barely beat out for our Editors' Choice award. For the highly weight-conscious users, we believe there isn't a better option in our review.
The Chair Zero is not your tailgating, beer holding, pull-your-legs-up-inside with-you chair but is a small, ultralight, backpacking model, so its comfort is in line with its intended use. That being said, it ranks more highly in comfort than many of the heavier and more capacious models we tested. Our testers will pick this model over many of the larger ones due purely to the comfort it offers.
The shape of the bum-pocket — that nook where you place your derriere — is such that your lower back will be held nice and straight rather than curled in. We found in testing that this positioning feature is the main differentiator in comfort from chair to chair. In addition, the back is fairly high for such a small chair, coming up above the bottom of the shoulder blades for average-sized users.
However, taller and wider folks may find the narrow back allowing the top corners to fold in too far and jab into the armpits or shoulders. Because of that, the Chair Zero is best suited for folks under 6 feet. Campers with wider bums may also notice pressure on their hips during extended sitting sessions.
Sometimes, in small chairs, you can find yourself with the awkward problem of where to place your arms. Smaller users can tuck their arms inside the fabric with their bodies, but larger folks often don't find that comfortable. Happily, the soft fabric of the Chair Zero will give way when you rest your arms over the edges and won't cut uncomfortably into your flesh.
While the bum-pocket is shaped well for back support, it doesn't offer much depth to hold you in place, and our testers felt like they might slide forward. The length of the set bottom is fairy short and brings with it both some pros and cons; there is no pressure put on the bottom of your thighs and you can sit comfortably with your legs bent or stretched out in front of you, but the small size can add to that feeling of sliding forward.
The Chair Zero has slits for breathability. It's hard to tell how much ventilation these actually offer, but they certainly are better than nothing and also keep the chair from collecting piles of dirt and sand.
Size & Weight
At a mere 18 ounces, this is one of the very lightest options in our review and also one of the tiniest when packed. It fits easily in the side pocket of most backpacking packs and weighs right around the same as half a liter of water.
Even though it is one of the lightest models tested, the fabric on the Chair Zero is a sturdy rip-stop nylon that feels substantial and durable. Reinforced corners offer added peace of mind where the poles are held, and the molded plastic hubs impart confidence.
We find the Chair Zero to be on the lower end of stability among tent-style chairs in our test; however, it still ranks significantly above taco-style chairs that require body tension to maintain stability. The lower stability in this model isn't unstable to the extent that we wouldn't still highly recommend it to our friends.
This lowered stability score is due to lightweight materials that cause you to feel more wobble when you sit. It isn't too hard to tip over backward if you choose to lean on the two rear legs, but the side to side stability is excellent, and it even maintains its upright position when you lean forward to tend your camp stove on the ground in front of you.
Unfortunately, the small feet of the Chair Zero will sink into soft ground more easily than larger, less packable, feet would. A hard, mostly flat surface is necessary for the most relaxation to be achieved.
Ease of Use
It doesn't get much easier than a bold arrow that says "THIS SIDE UP" unless you also print picture and text directions on the chair. Helinox has dummy-proofed the set up of this model… almost. Because the logo is along one side of the chair material rather than at the top, in a rush, we actually still attached the fabric upside down more than once. I'm not sure Helinox can be faulted for that, though.
We like that Helinox chose to rivet the pole hubs to the crossbar, helping keep the poles in place as you set the chair up rather than swiveling around each other. In comparison with other tent-style chairs, a similar amount of force is then required to get the fabric onto the pole frame.
When packing away the Chair Zero, the stuff sack opening is a bit narrow, but as long as you've rolled the fabric neatly around the poles, it shouldn't present too much of a challenge to get everything inside. We like folding the fabric into thirds then rolling it around the poles for the least bulky package. This method puts the rigid pole receivers away from the bulky hubs when rolling it all together.
Because the Chair Zero packs so small, the chair itself is also small. The shorter pole lengths set you a mere 7 inches above the ground, meaning a deep squat is required to get in and out of this model. This may be fine for many young athletic types, but if you have knee or hip issues, the low position may make it difficult for you to fully enjoy.
The Chair Zero has a slightly above average price. That said, when you consider the low weight and comparatively high level of comfort and stability, we think the price is justified, especially for backpackers needing to count every ounce.
We stand impressed by the weight of the Helinox Chair Zero and feel confident in our Top Pick for Ultralight Adventures designation. This chair is certainly more comfortable than we ever expected from something barely over a pound. Without adding a significant amount of ounces, we can't find a chair we would recommend more highly than this one. Backpackers should rejoice in the level of comfort Helinox has been able to offer. However, if your main use for this chair isn't on backcountry trips where size and weight are everything, we tested other options that can bring you even more comfort and stability.
— Elizabeth Paashaus