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Helinox Swivel Camp Chair Review

A unique design and comfortable seat make for a great chair that is ultimately too heavy for the backcountry
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Price:  $150 List | $112.39 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Swivels, comfortable back position, open feeling
Cons:  Expensive, heavy
Manufacturer:   Big Agnes Helinox
By Elizabeth Paashaus ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 6, 2020
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 11
  • Comfort - 35% 6
  • Size & Weight - 30% 4
  • Stability - 20% 8
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8

Our Verdict

A unique chair in our review, the Helinox Swivel Chair has — you guessed it — a swivel. Initially skeptical of the usefulness of this feature, we quickly realized how fantastic a little additional mobility is for camp enjoyment. Unfortunately, this chair is pricey, too heavy for backcountry use, and not as comfortable as some of the others we tested, but it could be a great buy for the right camper. Side note: every kid we let sit in our chairs, picked this one as their hands-down favorite. They decided fun is more important than any other metric.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

We find the Helinox Swivel especially useful for cooking, fishing, and playing music. Its spacious seat and sturdy design make it a solid choice for any comfort enthusiast. The unique swivel gives you the flexibility to turn around and grab a sandwich from the cooler before focusing your attention back on the unfortunately slack fishing line dangling off the river bank. At 46 ounces, though, you won't be wanting to carry this seat too far from the car.

Performance Comparison


If you're saving weight by hammocking  you might find you can splurge on a comfy but heavy chair like the Helinox Swivel.
If you're saving weight by hammocking, you might find you can splurge on a comfy but heavy chair like the Helinox Swivel.

Comfort


While the Swivel is leagues more comfortable than sitting on the ground and we found it more comfortable than any taco style chair that we tested, it still doesn't feel quite as nice as some of our top scorers.

One thing Helinox seems to nail in its chairs is the back positioning. Chairs that curl your lower back may feel comfortable at first, but models like the Swivel keep your back straighter and feeling good even for longer periods of sitting. The backrest is also nice and tall, reaching well beyond the bottom of the shoulder blades on our 5'8" tester. However, the depth of the seat leaves something to be desired. The fabric under the legs is not very long and makes sitting feel less secure.

We love the open feel of this model. The back doesn't squeeze the shoulders, and the leg rest is wide open, accommodating various sizes of users.

Multiple testers noted that upon sitting down, they could feel the support poles through the fabric. Sure enough, the seat is not suspended high enough off the front set of poles, and you'll notice them pushing into your hips/thighs. Not a good feeling, but overall, we find that the comfort of the Swivel ranks about average among the models tested.

The straight back feels nice even when sitting for longer but you can also see how short the leg support is  leading our testers to feel like they might slide forward.
The straight back feels nice even when sitting for longer but you can also see how short the leg support is, leading our testers to feel like they might slide forward.

Size & Weight


As one of the heaviest chairs in our review, the Swivel lost major points here. While we do think that it makes for an excellent camping chair, this is a backpacking review, after all. And in that sense, this chair is entirely too heavy to bring into the backcountry. At 46 ounces — nearly three times as heavy as the ultra-lightweight models — it's hard to justify carrying this one too far.

It's easy to see where the weight comes from, though. With an additional swiveling hub, the base of this chair is much bigger than the other tent style chairs we tested. We think that its weight is pretty reasonable for what you're getting, but it still pales in comparison to the other products in this review in this metric.

The Swivel packs down smaller than a taco-style chair but still larger than nearly any other tent-style folding chair.
The Swivel packs down smaller than a taco-style chair but still larger than nearly any other tent-style folding chair.

Stability


As seems to be the trend, a chair can't be both light and stable, and this chair is no exception to the rule. The Swivel offers excellent stability due to its bulky and strong hub and larger diameter poles — but it comes at the expense of weight.

The base of this chair is surprisingly small at only 12 x 12 inches, so we attribute its stability more to the materials than purely to its size. The swiveling hub allows for some rocking back and forth and side to side, but the chair remains firmly planted on the ground and it doesn't feel like you are putting too much force on the poles or fabric.

The hub is enormous but results in a very stable  supportive base.
The hub is enormous but results in a very stable, supportive base.

Ease of Use


At 10.5 inches off the ground, the Swivel sits higher than nearly any other product we reviewed, making it much easier to get in and out of. We also found the set up to be pretty much fool-proof. The logo on the chair fabric makes it clear which side is up. The one thing that drops its score here is the way the backrest poles flop down when assembling the chair. Still, it's easy to set up and easy to get back in the stuff sack with its wide zippered opening.

Get confused while assembling this chair? Here are instructions that you can't lose!
Get confused while assembling this chair? Here are instructions that you can't lose!

Value


This chair is a hard sell. By far the most expensive in our review, the price forces us to limit our recommendation of this product. Unless you're dead set on the swivel motion, or you're looking for a fishing, birdwatching, or photography-specific chair, we think you'll be happier with something that is both more comfortable and half the price.

Conclusion


As a specialty piece, we loved having the Swivel in our chair quiver. However, if we were only going to have one chair with us (instead of eleven), we would be hesitant to pick this one because of its weight, less comfortable design, and expensive price tag.

Every dang time. You assemble the poles  go to attach one side of the fabric  and the other pole flops down away from you. A minor problem  but frustrating nevertheless.
Every dang time. You assemble the poles, go to attach one side of the fabric, and the other pole flops down away from you. A minor problem, but frustrating nevertheless.

Elizabeth Paashaus