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Hands-on Gear Review
Big Agnes Helinox Chair Zero Review
Cons: Stability, cramped, high price tag
Bottom line: A favorite among our smaller users and so light and comfortable it might warrant a spot in your next thru-hike!
The Helinox Chair Zero earned a Notable tag from us for its overall comfort, remarkable durability, and absurd portability. While it couldn't quite outcompete its predecessor, the Helinox Chair One, to win our Best Portable Camping Chair award, it came very close! The Chair Zero is comfy enough to satisfy tired users, more durable than its lightweight construction might lead you to believe, and lighter than almost all of the seats in our backpacking chair review. Due to its short stature and smaller dimensions, the Chair Zero was a favorite among our smaller users. It stood up to our durability tests, surprised us with its ease of set-up, and blew all the other chairs in this review out of the water concerning portability. If you want a comfortable chair that you can slide easily into the water bottle pocket of your backpack, or stick it in your oversized purse or beach bag for the day, then read on to see why we think the Helinox Chair Zero is an excellent choice.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
An easy-to-use, comfortable and almost absurdly lightweight chair from the outdoor gurus at Big Agnes? We just HAD to get our hands on this teeny chair and see how great it really was! By far the shortest and lightest of the portable camping chairs we tested, the Helinox Chair Zero had some surprisingly fantastic features. For that reason, we included it in our head-to-head tests with other portable camping chairs to see how it rates. Even lighter than many of our backpacking chairs, this chair took us all by surprise and won a Notable tag from our testers for its combination of comfort and portability.
While the Helinox Chair Zero couldn't quite outrank the Helinox Chair One and win our Best Portable Camping Chair award, it came quite close! See how it stacked up next to all the camping chairs in this review (in blue), and read on to learn why we rated this model how we did.
Big Agnes fixed a few of the features we didn't like about the Helinox Chair One when they created the Chair Zero. This chair sits you more upright, and less recliner-style than the Chair One and the thinner, more flexible seat fabric isn't quite so constricting or as heat-trapping. Also, with a single-fabric seat, the Chair Zero has no mid-back seams, and the entire seat retains the same amount of give - unlike the Moon Lence (a cheaper version of the Chair One), whose mesh backing continued to stretch with each continuous use!
However, our testers did feel that the Chair Zero had some drawbacks that might make it more of a niche-market chair. At a mere 8.5 inches from the ground, this chair was just about the lowest model we tested. Depending on your preference, this might not bother you, but it does make beach use a near-sand experience! But at the end of the day, the thing all our testers disliked the most, was the lack of stability of the Chair Zero. Though it feels like a fairly sturdy construction, our reviewers found it all too easy to tip over backward with a simple act of re-adjusting their belt or stretching their arms. Though we liked the comfortable cradle of the Helinox Chair Zero, its lack of stability in this regard is what made us lower the comfort score of this chair. We give it a 6 out of 10.
Portability is where the Chair Zero scores its highest marks in our tests. While all the portable camping chairs score pretty high marks for portability (obviously), the Chair Zero takes the cake! Weighing in at 1lb, and packing down to just larger than a 1-liter water bottle, this chair is practically begging to be slipped into the side pocket of your backpack to join you on your next adventure.
The Chair Zero is an impressive 10oz. lighter than the next lightest portable camping chair we tested, the REI Flex Lite, and an astonishing 14oz. lighter than its older sibling, the Helinox Chair One! With multiple accounts of this chair being taken on long thru-hikes (PCT, AT, among others), it's hard to find much fault with just how portable this chair is. We give it a 10 out of 10 for portability.
With the lightweight construction of the Chair Zero, as well as its lower weight capacity (265lbs compared to the 320lb load of the Chair One), we were as curious as you all probably are now about the durability of this chair. The poles do seem to be nearly as thick as those of the Chair One and are constructed of the same durable DAC aluminum. While the fabric is thinner in the Chair Zero, it's crafted from ripstop polyester, lending it added flexibility and keeping it very lightweight while still maintaining a high level of durability.
The corner reinforcements take up less space in the Chair Zero than the Chair One, but this did not seem to take away from their strength during our testing, keeping in mind that overall this chair is designed to hold 55lbs less than its predecessor. While the poles bend slightly during regular use, even during our 'plop test', the 170lb self-named "Plop Master" was impressed with how easily this chair held up to his plopping. His biggest complaint was actually how hard it was to plop into a chair so low and how easy it was for that plop to send him reeling backward! So while we were impressed with how well it stood up to our testing, we also recognize that this chair just isn't designed to handle as much weight as the Chair One. Overall, this competitor earned a 6 out of 10 for durability.
Ease of Set-Up
Like most of the portable camping chairs we reviewed, the Chair Zero takes very little time to set up and has a familiar two-part construction. The poles are all attached by bungie cord and slide together snugly and quickly. One feature our testers really liked about this chair, that was different than all the other portable camping chairs in this review, is that the middle bar connecting the left and right halves is not free-spinning. Instead it's fixed in place, which makes setting up and orienting the poles of this chair a snap! There are also helpful directions on the easiest way to set it up - printed right on the bottom of the seat, so you can never forget. The pole pockets on the corners are a tad wider than those of the Chair One, making it even easier to set up. Once you're familiar with the basic chair set-up, it's straightforward to get the Chair Zero from the bag to sitting-ready in about 30 seconds.
The lack of rotation around that center pole also makes taking this chair apart easier than all the other portable contenders we tested. The thinner seat material, as well as the significantly more compact design of the corners, make rolling this chair up a simple task. While the storage bag is a drawstring top, rather than a full-zippered pouch, our reviewers found that this chair rolled up so neatly and quickly that it wasn't an additional hardship! Overall, we found the Chair Zero to be one of the easiest portable camping chairs to set up and take down. We give it a 7 out of 10.
While it's nothing to write home about, there is a handy little glow-in-the-dark tab on the end of the pull string for the storage sack that may help you find this chair if you get into camp after dark. The instructions for assembly are also helpfully printed on the bottom of this model, so you'll never lose them and forget the handiest way to put your favorite camp friend together.
As much as we like the REI Flex Lite for portability, all our testers agree that without a doubt, the Helinox Chair Zero is the most portable camping chair in this review. We feel this is an awesome addition to a backpacking set-up for those looking to have a little extra comfort at the end of their day - or during lunch! With how absurdly light it is, you could justify taking it on a long thru hike, or even just a day hike! While it might not be the favorite backyard BBQ chair, the compactness and ultralight characteristics make it a fantastic option for those looking to be comfortable at the beginning, middle and end of their journey. Small enough to fit in a tote bag, bookbag, or oversized purse, the Chair Zero is our favorite no-brainer comfort item to bring anywhere, anytime, for any reason. And that's why we feel this chair is a Notable Mention!
If you're looking for a cheap portable camping chair, you'd be better off checking out the Moon Lence or Onepack Ultralight. But if you're willing to spend the extra dough on an extremely portable and pretty darn comfortable camping chair, the Chair Zero might be for you. Retailing at around $120, it's among the most expensive portable camping chairs in this review. But if you're worried about weight, we think this chair is well worth the extra cash. The next lightest contender, the REI Flex Lite, is about $40 cheaper but weighs an additional 10oz! Depending on what you're looking for in a chair, this may or may not be the right chair; but if you ask us, we think the portability and durability are well worth what you'll pay.
Overall, our testers thought the Helinox Chair Zero was a fabulous portable camping chair. Coming in just a few points shy of its predecessor, the Helinox Chair One, we think this is still a Notable chair. Weighing in so light and packing up so compactly, the portability alone was enough to grab our reviewers' attention. Combined with a pretty high level of comfort and surprising durability, it's no surprise this chair scored as well as it did. Our reviewers biggest complaints were the small size of this chair, which seemed to be less accommodating the larger the user. For our smaller testers (5'4" and less), this chair seemed to be a perfect fit - and light enough that leaving it behind just seems silly! If portability and comfort are your two biggest concerns, and the size of the chair doesn't throw you off, then the Helinox Chair Zero might be exactly what you're looking for!
— Maggie Brandenburg
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