REI Co-op Camp Stowaway Low Review
Cons: Very close to ground, learning curve to fold up
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Stowaway Low is a near-ground, low-profile perch that sits just 5 inches off the earth. It lacks any extra features but is simple to fold up and stick in its carry bag, which features an over-the-shoulder strap and top handle.
If you're seeking a seat from which you can survey a large area, you're looking at the wrong chair. However, if you're on the hunt for a way to upgrade your lawn concert experience from a lumpy blanket, we think the Stowaway Low is a solidly comfortable option. Being just 5 inches off the ground, REI designed this chair to have a slight recline that gives the illusion of being at home with your feet up on the couch. Simple foam-covered armrests are more comfortable than we anticipated, without being in the way of you reaching for the book you set down next to your chair. Their sturdy design and forward-facing orientation also make it easier to get back up again from this ground seat. Both the fabric and the mesh (and the seams that join them) are comfortable against bare skin - which we can't say about other chairs we tested. The cleverly placed mesh also delivers a cool breeze to key areas on a summer's day, adding to its overall comfort.
Without long legs to pack up, this little gadget makes for a pretty small overall package. It also cuts off some excess weight, further adding to the portability of the whole thing. A wide, non-adjustable shoulder strap makes it fairly comfortable to carry, though that lack of adjustment is less pleasant than the adjustable options we tested. If a shoulder strap isn't your jam, there's also a handy handle on the top that's equally easy to use.
With a 250lb capacity, the Stowaway is actually on the bottom end of the range of chairs we tested, while simultaneously being adequate for the majority of users. We beat this chair up both during much use and by literally jumping in it. Through all that, we're pretty impressed with how solid and sturdy it is - certainly those short legs help it stay quite stable. The mesh dries pretty quickly - even after getting covered by some early fall snow - and we can't find anything about this chair that makes us worried it won't do the job. A few online users made notes of the fabric fraying along the edges or coming unraveled, but we didn't notice anything of the sort after our intensive testing process. REI does offer a one-year manufacturer's warranty that covers potential flaws.
Ease of Setup
A simple enough concept, the Stowaway joins the ranks of folding chairs. We love that REI has added little bungees on the back to stop the seatback from sliding off the bars when you put it away. Other, similar chairs lack this feature, and it makes them much more annoying to set up again. However, there's something about the frame design that makes it a bit more challenging to fold up than we had expected. It took several times of trial and error to figure out how to actually get this little job to fold up easily - pressing inward on opposite corners seems to do the trick for us. Once we made this discovery, packing up the Stowaway became much more enjoyable. Another thing we appreciate about putting this chair away is that it comes with a bag that's plenty large enough and has no extra features or spindly legs to get caught. It's, thankfully, one of the easiest models we tested to fit back into its carry bag.
This chair has a mesh seat and back and foam-wrapped armrests. It relies on your proximity to the ground for beverage and book holding, keeping it a simple, fairly featureless seat.
One of the least expensive options we tested, we think this chair is a pretty solid value. It may be a bit of a niche seat, with its low stature, but if it's the type of chair you're looking for, we think you'll appreciate the sheer usability and obvious thought and quality that went into making this piece of outdoor furniture.
Though we thought this little chair would be hard to get out of and easy to forget, we found ourselves continuing to choose it at barbecues and around campfires. It's simple and easy to use and works in all the ways we want a shorty chair to work.
— Maggie Brandenburg