After whittling down our selection of chairs to the top ten that we were going to order and test hands-on, we were excited to test this one. The Helinox Chair Zero is by far the lightest chair in this entire review, taco style chairs included, and we had high hopes that it would solve our backcountry back pain woes. We're sad to say, though, that despite its weight, the Chair Zero falls short in every other category. We found it to be uncomfortable and unsupportive, overall receiving the second lowest total score in our review.
Helinox Chair Zero Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Lightweight
Cons: Expensive, uncomfortable, wobbly
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
While extremely lightweight, our testers ultimately failed to believe that even the 17 ounces were worth carrying into the backcountry. Its uncomfortably shallow seat, lack of breathability, and wobbly design left us disappointed in the Chair Zero.
The Chair Zero is more comfortable than having no chair at all, but our praise 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 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 a poor choice for hot weather.
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 were in constant fear of tipping over, resulting in a unpleasant experience. For a product designed primarily for comfort, we were surprised to see this one miss the mark so badly.
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 shined far above 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 Kelty Camp Chair, and is ironically the only product that received a lower overall score in this test than Chair Zero. The very light weight of this seat is most likely due to the lack of extra features, tiny legs, and thin material, which we don't think makes the chair worth it. However, 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. Its flimsy construction left us wary about investing, though.
Despite being a backpacking review, we always appreciate items that we can use in a variety of settings. We failed to find any good uses for the Chair Zero, and its feet made it difficult to use on any uneven surface.
Whether in the grass or sand, the Chair Zero was unstable, leading us to feel like it would be nearly useless in a backcountry setting. Its lack of extra features like pockets or straps forced us to leave this chair in the car while we took its competitors on more adventures.
We would hesitate to use this chair on sand or grass because of its small legs and found it to be stable only on smooth surfaces, rendering it impractical in the backcountry where smooth, flat campsites can be an anomaly. If you're truly looking for the lightest possible chair to bring backpacking, you can't deny the weight of the Chair Zero. Our testers thought that it was no more comfortable than leaning your sleeping pad on a rock or your pack, though, so buyer beware.
If this chair was at the bottom of our price range, we might be more inclined to argue for its backcountry usefulness. However, at $120, we have no reason to believe this is a worthy investment. For $75 you can get a way more comfortable camp chair in the Joey, or for $25 the ALPS Mountaineering Weekender makes for a great, light alternative.
We think we understand what Helinox was trying to do with this chair. It is unbelievably light, but for a luxury item, it ultimately fails to do the one thing we want our chairs to do: make us more comfortable.
— Lauren DeLaunay