The REI Flexlite was a strong contender for an award, especially in the car-camping variety. Its lightweight design and mesh back panel make it an excellent choice for hot weather camping, though we found some of its competitors to have stronger performances in other vital metrics. The Flexlite's wobbly construction and lack of versatility left it falling short from coming away as our favorite car camping chair, but its significantly lighter weight could make it an excellent option for when the balance between comfort and weight is more important than scores in any single category.
REI Co-op Flexlite Chair Review
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This chair was unanimously comfortable amongst all our testers, but we found it hard to use on less than solid surfaces, making it a questionable choice for the outdoor activities we love.
Unlike many of the products we normally review, chairs have the unique privilege as being designed specifically for comfort. A luxury item, we couldn't deny the importance of a quality place to rest our weary bones after a long day in the mountains. The Flexlite was a crowd favorite amongst our testers, and we loved its deep seat and soft materials.
At first sit, the Flexlite was our favorite. We like the mesh material that is both soft and breathable, giving us a great place to relax on a hot day, of which there have been many this year in California. Compared to the Helinox Chair Zero, which has minimal ventilation, the Flexlite stood out as a great summer camping piece.
The seat on this chair felt deeper than most, and we loved the way we could recline and relax in this chair. We never felt like we were slipping out of it, and the sides are low enough to allow for free range of arm motion. The Flexlite sits 10 inches off the ground, which is nicer than the short seat of the Chair Zero but still noticeably lower than that of the Joey.
We enjoyed this chair until we put it on an uneven surface. While ideal for cooking or packing in the parking lot, this chair wobbled on grass and sunk quickly in the sand. The legs and feet are amongst the smallest of any of the tent-style chairs we tested, leaving us to question our sitting security and dock the Flexlite one point in this metric. It's important to note, though, that this chair is way more comfortable than any taco-style chair in our review, giving it a significant advantage over some of its competitors.
Size isn't everything, but for the ounce-counting backpackers amongst us, the Flexlite could be a great choice. Tipping the scales at 29 ounces, the Flexlite is a similar weight to that of our favorite taco-style chair, the ALPS Mountaineering Weekender. Compared to other tent-style chairs, the only lighter product in this review is the Chair Zero; at a mere 17 ounces, this is the clear choice for true backpacking missions.
For this metric, we tried to find the spots that we thought would be the first to show signs of wear and tear. On the tent-style chairs in this review, we identified the weakest point to be the holster where the fabric seat rests on the poles. We were generally unimpressed with REI's attempt to protect this area.
Whereas the TravelChair Joey features thick, durable holsters, the Flexlite's holsters are less than ideal. They use a thick canvas material, and while we saw no wear and tear during our tests, this seems to be a significant weakness compared to competitors.
Here at OutdoorGearLab, our minimalist-minded reviews always appreciate a product that performs a variety of functions. We found the Flexlite to have less practical applications than its closest competitor, the Joey, but we still agree that it makes for a decent backpacking chair.
The Flexlite's small legs and tiny feet make it difficult to use on soft surfaces like sand and grass. While we still think this chair would be better than no chair, we'll be reaching for the Joey and its wide feet on our next trip to the beach.
We loved the side pocket on this product and were surprised that some of the other contenders didn't have a similar feature. The pull tabs on the upper holsters make the chair easy to disassemble, but in the end, the feet prohibited us from using this chair in many situations.
We won't deny that this chair would make a solid backpacking choice. It is near as light as the taco-style chairs in this review and considerably more comfortable. If we were spending time in the backcountry adventuring daily out of a central base camp, like on one of our tester's recent trips to Alaska, we think this chair would be the quintessential camp chair. We would be happy to use this in almost any car camping situation, but we would be jealous of the TravelChair Joey's strong legs if the site was soft or uneven.
At a very reasonable price of $80, this chair is significantly less expensive than our Editors' Choice Award winner and even lighter than one of the Best Buy Award winners. It is, however, significantly more expensive than any of the taco-style chairs in this review, but we do think that the extra money is proportionate to the added comfort.
We wanted to give the REI Flexlite an award for its great blend of comfort and weight, but we had a hard time finding the exact right application for it. Diving deep into the backcountry, we'd pick something more versatile like the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger, and when car camping without weight restrictions we'd pick the more comfortable and feature-laden Alite Stonefly. We think the niche use for this chair lies in short backpacking missions or extended trips with a base camp, where the combination of weight and comfort are equally balanced. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend this chair to our friends and believe it could easily be the best option for you depending on where you plan to use it.
— Lauren DeLaunay