The Helinox Chair Zero stood out to our testing team before we even had it in our hands, and once we did, we barely knew we were holding it! As the lightest chair in this review, even compared to the minimalist taco-style products, the Chair Zero does have some drawbacks. It is not nearly as comfortable or sturdy as some of the other products in this review, but if you're on the fence about carrying a chair with you into the backcountry, you'll be glad you picked this one. The Chair Zero took home our Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures award for finding a reasonable balance between weight, durability, and comfort.
Helinox Chair Zero Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Lightweight
Cons: Expensive, uncomfortable
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
While extremely lightweight, the Chair Zero does have some downfalls, and we wouldn't be likely to use it at our next backyard picnic. That said, it is more comfortable than being on the ground and is lighter than even the taco-style chairs that we tested.
The Chair Zero is more comfortable than having no chair at all, but our praise nearly stops there. Its slick material, small feet and shallow seat depth make it a frustrating product to use, especially when compared to some of its super cozy competitors.
The material of this seat is thin and slippery, which made us feel unsupported and unstable in the chair. We had a hard time staying upright in this chair because of the slick fabric, and its lack of breathability left room for improvement. Compared to the mesh back of the REI Flexlite or the vents of the TravelChair Joey, we felt the Chair Zero was not the best choice for hot weather.
Because it's only eight inches off the ground, we had a hard time getting in and out of this seat. Compared to the extra four inches of height that you get with the Helinox Swivel, this chair was too low to sit in comfortably. Moreover, once we did get there, the chair's narrow design made it difficult to stay in, as we felt we were always sliding forward.
The Chair Zero's small legs and feet led to a very wobbly experience. We did feel a bit of nervousness about tipping over, which we did not have in the Alite Stonefly with its horizontal bar construction.
Because this is a backpacking review and not a camping chairs review, size and packability were critical to our scores, as this is the one area in which the Chair Zero flew far, far past the competition. Coming in a neat, light stuff sack, the Chair Zero is easy to roll up and pack into its bag. We could easily imagine throwing this into our overnight backpack without a second thought.
At a mere 17 ounces, this product is lighter than any other review in this chair by at least four ounces. In second place is the taco-style Kelty Camp Chair, which we found to be uncomfortable and lacking in durability. The very light weight of this seat is most likely due to the lack of extra features, tiny legs and thin material, which is fine if all you're looking for is a place to park your butt after a long day on the trail. We can't deny that this chair is a pièce de résistance of the backpacking chair industry for its extraordinary size.
For this metric, we tried to identify all the potential weak points of the products to see what the manufacturer had or hadn't done to increase their life expectancies. The main hot spot on the tent style chairs, of which the Chair Zero is included, is the small umbrella-like holsters that attach the fabric seat to the poles. We thought the Chair Zero had a decent holster, and so it received an average score in this metric.
While the holsters of the Helinox Swivel and TravelChair Joey were promisingly thick and sturdy, the Chair Zero's was a little less so. We saw no wear and tear during our testing, but we were not particularly impressed with the way Helinox attempted to cut weight by potentially sacrificing durability. The Chair Zero is an expensive chair and at $120, we'd expect to enjoy this product for a long time.
Despite being a backpacking review, we always appreciate items that we can use in a variety of settings. For this section, we looked at any special features present and how each product did in a variety of settings.
Whether in the grass or sand, the Chair Zero was unstable. We never fell completely over, but it was definitely a bit harder to relax in this chair than in some other products we tested. Its lack of pockets or straps lowered its versatility score as well; we probably wouldn't bring this chair to the beach or anytime we could spare a few ounces for added comfort. The Alite Stonefly, by comparison, had a great blend of features and weight and would be our top pick if we could only ever have one chair.
If you're truly looking for the lightest possible chair to bring backpacking, you can't deny the weight of the Chair Zero. While definitely more comfortable than not having a chair at all and arguably more comfortable than the taco-style chairs in this review, we would only grab this chair when weight was absolutely paramount. In that realm, the Chair Zero is unbeatable.
Value, in our minds, is where performance and cost meeting. We want to know how much bang we get for our buck in comparison to other chairs. The Chair Zero is one of the more expensive chairs we tested at $120. For the same price (or even for much less), you can get a much more comfortable seat. That said, if ounces are truly critical to your mission, this chair is much lighter than any other product we tested.
We stand impressed by the Helinox Chair Zero's weight and with that in mind had no choice but to crown it our Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures. That said, there are much more comfortable chairs out there, and if you can spare some ounces, you'd be happier spending time in some other seats.
— Lauren DeLaunay