Helinox Beach Chair Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Head/neck support, lightweight and stable, won’t sink in sand, stuff sack converts to pillow
Cons: Expensive, low to the ground
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Beach Chair is a low-slung chair with a high back. It comes apart into smaller sections that fit into a relatively small carry bag. Sitting so close to the ground, it lacks many features other than the storage sack that doubles as a headrest.
The Helinox scores highly in the most important category - comfort. This category is 40% of the overall score of any chair, as it's one of the most important reasons to love (or not love) any seat. The Beach Chair sports a high back to provide head and neck support as you bask on the shore. While it doesn't have a built-in pillow, the storage sack is designed to fill that gap (literally). By filling it with an extra clothing layer or beach towel, you can then attach it via a large velcro patch to the height that's comfortable for you, and you'll be snoozing in comfort in no time. With mesh side and back panels, the Helinox Beach allows quite a bit of breathability. If you need more though, Big Agnes also makes an all-mesh version of the Helinox Beach. This chair provides what we feel is an excellent balance of comfort and support. It has a wide seat that prevents that hammock feeling of being bum-funneled into a singularity. The Beach also has a wide and sturdy base that isn't about to tip over when you lean out of it for another beverage or plop into it after a refreshing swim in the waves.
We have very few complaints about the comfort of this chair. While its relatively low seat height of just five inches may make getting in, and out of this chair more of a challenge than taller models, we appreciated being close to the sand on our beach day. This seat does have a relatively narrow space for your arms (do they go inside, next to your body, or outside over the edges?) which may be constricting for larger folks. The edges also aren't the best design for resting arms or elbows to read that book for an hour, as they dig in a bit uncomfortably. We also noticed that the very top of the chair has a relatively hard bar across it. While this bar is padded, very tall folks might need the extra cushion of the storage sack/pillow to really get comfy. However, notwithstanding these minor complaints, we are quite pleased with the comfort of the Beach Chair.
For as large and sturdy as this chair is, we find it to be very portable. It packs down to just 18 inches long and 5-6" diameter, which is an acceptable size to fit into a beach tote with our other lakeside accessories. This chair is the lightest we tested, at just 3.3 pounds. Compared to many of the other models in this review that we felt were just as or more comfortable, this chair is practically featherweight.
The only real complaint that we have about the Beach is that it has only a hand carry strap and not an over-the-shoulder version like nearly every other chair we tested. Though, with a small weight and pretty little packed size, it isn't a huge detriment to not have this type of strap. We are pretty impressed with the lightweight, compact portability of this highly comfortable chair from Helinox.
This is yet another area where we felt the Helinox Beach shines. Constructed of sturdy DAC tent poles and 600D polyester fabric gives this small chair an impressive capacity of 320 pounds. All the seams holding this chair together are double stitched, and an extra layer of fabric protects the edges. The corners for pole insertions are padded, and all junctures and pressure points are backed up with extra stitching. The poles are strung with bungee and fit together snugly in the thick plastic joints. When we had one of our 170-pound testers plop down repeatedly on this chair, he reported that he bounced "like a trampoline" but didn't feel wobbly or worry that the chair might fail.
We didn't find any issues with the durability of this chair no matter what we did to it, where we took it, or how much sand and dirt made their way into this chair. However, with a weight capacity of 320 pounds, this chair is above average for chairs of its size but doesn't come close to some of the ultra-beefy models we tested. Overall, we are quite impressed with the ruggedness of the Helinox Beach, which scores highly in our durability tests.
Ease of Setup
The Beach takes a little time to set up. Though all the poles are attached with a shock cord, it takes a bit to assemble them. It's technically possible to accidentally insert the legs into the base upside down, but your mistake becomes extremely obvious very quickly, as it's impossible to use this chair with the legs upside down. Directions and helpful hints for setting this chair up are also helpfully printed on the bottom of the seat fabric. We also greatly appreciate the side-opening stuff sack of this model. It makes packing this chair back up a total breeze.
That being said, this chair is, of course, going to be more involved in setting up than any of the simple open-and-place models we tested. There's a bit of a learning curve to set this chair up, as it boasts a rather tight construction. With a little practice, we were able to set this chair up well under a minute every time. One important thing to note though is that this chair is not going to give you a stable base if it's set on an uneven hard surface - like a rocky space or large-graveled area. Big Agnes recommends using this chair on flat and forgiving surfaces - like sandy beaches, front porches, and level camping sites. At the end of the day, this chair is reasonably straightforward to set up and we think the extra time it takes is worth the portability and comfort it gives.
The Beach doesn't have any extra pockets or cup holders, but we like the storage-bag-turned-pillow feature. It is easy to use and lets you choose the firmness or squishiness of your headrest, as well as its placement. And if you don't want a pillow, you can also use the storage sack to keep items off the ground and safe by velcroing them to the back of the chair instead.
Retailing for triple digits, this chair is an investment. If you're looking for a chair for all surfaces or one you can eat from a normal-height table in, this chair probably isn't for you. However, if you spend a lot of time enjoying life at the beach, park, or on your deck, this chair is a comfortable, durable, and portable option that we think you'll love.
With solid construction and a decent amount of portability, this highly comfortable chair is no less than we have come to expect from Helinox. Though a bit of an investment, this chair is far and away the best beach chair we tested and just might be exactly the beach day accessory you've been searching for.
— Maggie Brandenburg