Ready to kick back and relax, but don't know where to sit? We researched 50 of the most popular models on the market and carefully selected 9 of our favorites to test hands-on, side-by-side. If you're like us, the great outdoors is as much about taking in the view as having wild adventures, so we spent weeks reclining, resting, and soaking up the sun to bring you the most comprehensive chair review. We brought these chairs to the beach, into the mountains, and around town to find out which seat has the perfect balance between weight and comfort. We dragged them all around California, from the coast to the High Sierra, to see if they could withstand the rugged environments we love. We examined these chairs from every angle, learning their ins and outs, as well as their unique characteristics, to bring you the most detailed review available.
The Best Backpacking Camp Chairs
Just in time for the incredible summer, we've updated this review to make sure we've still got the best the market has to offer. We've added the Alite Mayfly, a great lightweight option that is sturdier than many of its competitors. Its downfall is in its height, which we found to be a bit uncomfortable. We stand by the award winners we picked last season, which includes the Editors' Choice Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger, noteworthy for its versatility and weight. Next up we've got the ALPS Mountaineering Weekender, an awesome budget-friendly option, and the TravelChair Joey, a heavier option great for the front-country.
Best Overall Backpacking Chair
Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger
The Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger is hands-down the best backpacking chair that we tested. Its versatile design that serves as a chair, lounger, and sleeping pad, makes it an excellent partner for adventure in the backcountry. The PowerLounger's lightweight construction folds and stores easily for efficient transportation, while its soft material and high back are sure to keep you comfortable at the park, crag, or river.
We appreciated the chair's durable reinforcements and feel confident that this will be in our backpacking quiver for years to come. If you're looking to make your friends jealous at the end of a long day on the trails, the PowerLounger is for you.
Read review: Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger
Best Bang for the Buck
ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat
While not the lightest chair in our review, the ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat is a great budget buy for everyday adventures and short stints in the backcountry. This model is equipped with a very comfortable seat and sturdy design and is perfect for picnics, belaying, and concerts. We loved its back pocket and stadium seat straps, which made it one of the most versatile products in our review.
At only $25, the Weekender was the least expensive product we tested, and its impressive comfort score made it a no-brainer for our Best Buy Award. You can bet we'll be taking this along with us nearly anywhere we go.
Read review: ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat
Top Pick for Car Camping
While we realize this is a backpacking review, we still had to recognize this awesome product. The TravelChair Joey has wide, sturdy feet, making it more stable than most of its competitors. On a variety of terrain, from sand to bumpy grass, the Joey kept us feeling relaxed and secure. It has a very comfortable seat with great ventilation and is an excellent choice for summer days at the park.
It is the least expensive tent style backpacking chair in our review, though it is a little on the heavy side. While we might choose the REI Flexlite for short backcountry missions instead, the Joey is an excellent choice for car camping and any activity that doesn't require much walking.
Read review: TravelChair Joey
Notable Mention for Sidecountry Missions
REI Co-op Flexlite Chair
We had originally thought that the REI Flexlite would win our Top Pick for Car Camping Award. It is very comfortable and impressively light, scoring a great balance between two of the most important metrics in this review. We finally thought that it was too much of a niche product to take home an award though. If going deep into the backcountry, the ALPS Weekender was significantly lighter. If staying close to camp, the TravelChair Joey was more comfortable. But we can't deny that the Flexlite finds a remarkable balance between all four metrics in this review, despite not excelling in any one category.
Our testers believe that this chair could make for an excellent backcountry purchase if ounces aren't paramount, as its 29-ounce weight is comparable to any of the taco style chairs we tested. If sidecountry or short backcountry trips are your thing, or you just can't imagine carrying the 38-ounce Joey with you even to the beach, the Flexlite's great blend of all four of our testing metrics may make it the perfect chair for you.
Read review: REI Flexlite
Best for Lightweight Versatility
Alite Designs Mayfly
The Alite Mayfly has one of the best blends of comfort and weight that we've seen in this review. A tent-style chair with a bit of a different design, we were also impressed with this chair's versatility. This chair has much more ground contact than some of its competitors, making it much more stable and much less likely to sink into soft surfaces.
The seat itself is comfortable and well-ventilated, with a great reclining angle. This chair surely would have been an award winner if it wasn't so close to the ground. We found it a bit difficult to get in and out of, but overall, we thought it was a great choice for backpacking, the beach, or the barbecue.
Read review: Alite Mayfly
Analysis and Test Results
With so many backpacking chairs on the market, how do you pick the right one? In this article, we've identified the four most important qualities to look for in a backpacking chair. For each category, our testers awarded the products numerical ratings from 1-10. After assigning a weighted percentage to each metric, we were able to give all nine products a final score out of 100, though we realize that your needs may be a little different than what we've predicted. We describe all four scoring metrics in detail below to help you decide what you're looking for in your perfect backpacking seat.
After researching the top fifty products on the market, we were able to identify two distinct categories of chairs. The first of these we've dubbed "taco-style chairs." These products are cheap, light, and relatively comfortable. They are constructed out of a folding piece of material supported with internal rods and adjustable side straps. These chairs are held upright by the oppositional force of the user's legs and back. We have included four chairs of this design in our review, and they range in price from $25 to $76. Chairs of this style are perfect for outdoor concerts, backpacking, picnics, and cragging.
The second type of product we found was the "tent-style" model. These products have two parts: poles and seat. The poles attach at a central location, much like a tent. The fabric seat has holsters on four corners to sit on top of the poles. The user sits suspended in the material in between the poles. These chairs are much more expensive, and the five we picked for this review range in price from $75 to $150. These chairs are perfect for car camping, beach lounging, and cragging; they are often not allowed at outdoor concerts because they sit too far off the ground. (However, this could be a great selling point for the Alite Mayfly which is tent-style but sits very close to the ground.)
We've included a chart below which highlights all of the products in our fleet. In our graph, you'll find overall performance scores, which are based on the metrics we've used during testing. You'll find that our Best Buy award winner, the ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat is an incredible bargain and scores in the top five overall.
Most of the products we test here at OutdoorGearLab are performance driven. They're lightweight, sleek, and designed to help you in your most adventurous pursuits. But this review is different. Chairs are made for luxury, and they'd serve no purpose without comfort. In order to justify lugging a purely luxurious item around with you, it must make traveling considerably more comfortable. For this metric, we evaluated the myriad of ways chairs can be more and less comfortable than others. We used these characteristics to rate each product against the others. Because there were two different styles of products in this review, we compare each chair to its direct competitors as well as to every chair we tested.
The very first thing we looked at when judging comfort was materials. How did the fabric feel on our skin? Was it breathable and ventilated? Did the material add to or detract from our enjoyment? Not one of the taco style chairs we tested had any breathability and most were made out of similar materials. Two tent style chairs stood out for excellent ventilation: the REI Flexlite and the TravelChair Joey. We found ourselves using these products on hot summer days, and the breathable mesh vents were always appreciated. The Helinox Chair Zero also stood out, but less favorably. Its slippery fabric made it difficult to sit in, and we often found ourselves sliding out. On the other hand,
We examined the seat of each chair, but what we were looking for varied depending on which style model we were testing. For taco style chairs, we compared the amount of cushioning on the seat itself, noting the thick, cushy bottom of the ALPS Mountaineering Weekender and the thin yet smooth seat of the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger. For tent style chairs, we compared the depth of each chair, as some, like the Helinox Swivel tipped us forward more than others. We preferred a deeper seat that let us recline and relax, like the one found on the REI Flexlite.
Our testers took a few concrete measurements for this category, too. We examined the back height of each of our taco style chairs, noting that the most comfortable was the 20-inch back of the PowerLounger. We considered strap heights as well and noticed that a high seat, like that of the Kelty Camp Chair is useless if its side straps are too high for our arms. For tent style chairs, we measured how far each seat elevated us off the ground. In general, we thought that the higher seats were easier to get in and out of. We also compared how far back the seat reclined and the width of the seat. The Joey, for instance, is much easier to access than the Alite Mayfly, which is too close to the ground.
Finally, for tent style chairs, we looked to stability. We analyzed the legs and feet of each chair and gathered data on its performance on a variety of surfaces, from sand to rocks to concrete. It's difficult to relax when you're worried about tipping over, so we rewarded products that kept us feeling secure on a broad range of terrain. The most stable tent-style chair we tested was the Mayfly. Instead of four separate legs, this chair has two long bars. With a higher surface area of contact with the ground, we felt much less likely to tip over in this chair.
Because comfort was a huge part of this review, we allotted it as 35% of the overall score of each chair.
Unlike our camping chair review, this review was designed specifically for portable chairs that could potentially be carried into the backcountry. We analyzed weight and packability for this metric, knowing that a chair would have to be pretty compact to make into your already heavy pack on your next trip into the backcountry. We considered both the relative weight of each chair compared to its direct style competitors as well as how it stacked up against every product we tested.
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we're in the business of making observations, not guesses, so we put each chair on a scale and recorded what we found. Next, we used our in-field results to determine which chairs were too heavy for long-term backcountry missions and which were suited for thru-hikes and beyond. The lightest contender in this review by a longshot is the Chair Zero. Weighing in at only 17 ounces, this tent style chair was lighter than any taco style competitor we tested. For the ounce-counting backpackers among us, this is a product to watch. We also noted how impressively light the Alite Mayfly was. This chair is definitely heavier than the Chair Zero but also much more comfortable. For those looking to shave ounces without sacrificing comfort, we'd recommend trying out these two chairs and seeing which fit suits you best.
Additionally, we gathered information about how each chair packed up. We rolled them, stuffed them in our backpacks, and carried them by hand to determine which, if any, were the most compact and easily transportable. The PowerLounger stood out here; with a compression strap just for this purpose, it is very convenient to roll up and stuff in your backpack. Despite being lighter, we generally found the taco-style chairs to be harder to pack than the tent-style chairs which break down easily and store nicely into stuff sacks. Packing size accounted for 25% of the total score of each product.
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we know that you see your gear purchases as investments in your future. We expect our purchases to bring us years of adventures, especially if we're shelling out the big bucks. And with chairs costing up to $150, we're looking for high quality. For this metric, we looked to the smaller details of each chair to figure out its weak points and evaluate how the manufacturer has preemptively worked to enhance the product's longevity.
For taco style chairs, the weakest point is where the internal support rods rub against the fabric. When folded, these rods poke at the crease of the seat, so extra reinforcement is needed. Crazy Creek did a fantastic job with the Hex 2.0 PowerLounger and the Original Chair by including stiff, leather-like patches to this area. Next up was the ALPS Mountaineering Weekender, our Best Buy Award winner, whose thicker fabric helped its score in this category. In last place was the Kelty Camp Chair which included no reinforcement to this zone and had significant fraying after just a few uses.
We looked to a different feature of the tent style chairs for clues as to its potential longevity. Each of these chairs has a fabric seat that sits on top of four poles. There are conical holsters in each corner, and we found some of these to be sturdier than others. The holsters of the Helinox Swivel, Alite Mayfly, and TravelChair Joey were our favorites: they were stiff, thick, and enhanced our confidence that they wouldn't rip under our body weight. The Joey, however, has plastic connectors that introduced doubt as to the chair's durability. Next up was the REI Flexlite, whose holsters were not quite as strong but did include a handy grab loop for easy disassembly. And finally, the Helinox Chair Zero's holsters had plenty of room for improvement. This metric accounted for 20% of the overall score of each chair.
We know what you're thinking: how does a chair become more versatile? While you might be looking for a chair to fit one particular activity, we awarded extra points to seats that could be taken anywhere: into the mountains, to the beach, to the park, you name it! Could you play music in it? Cook? Read? You might know exactly what you're looking for, but we tried to figure out the best ways to use and abuse these products.
Our testers wanted to know, first and foremost, if any of these chairs could act as something other than a chair. We were impressed with the versatility of the PowerLounger which can easily double as a sleeping pad. This feature helped win it our prestigious Editors' Choice Award. We generally liked taco style chairs that had easy to open buckles on the side for this very reason; the Kelty was the only one that didn't. Some of these chairs had some great extra features, like the pocket and straps of the Weekender that make it a great picnic and stadium seat.
For tent style chairs, we looked to the feet to help us decide where we could use it. Our Top Pick Award-winning Joey has wide feet that make it a great purpose for sand, grass, and other uneven surfaces. The Mayfly's increased surface contact was great for stability and never sunk into softer surfaces. The feet of the Flexlite, by comparison, often sunk into sand and dirt, while the Chair Zero's feet were wobbly even on pavement. We allotted 20% of the final score of each chair to versatility.
While we here at OGL like to get out and get after it, we also consider ourselves experts at sitting back and taking in the view. We spent weeks on end with all nine of these chairs. We took them everywhere we went, from park-hopping in San Francisco to backpacking in the High Sierra. We soaked up the sun at the river and jammed out at outdoor concerts. We really got to know each product in this review, from its small details to its larger impressions. We compared them all side-by-side, taking detailed notes as we went along. We're very pleased with the review we've written and believe it to be the most comprehensive backpacking chair review available. By evaluating comfort, size, durability, and versatility, we feel confident that we've got the information you need to make an informed decision. Whether you're looking for the lightest option on the market or the most comfortable spot to park your booty, we've got you covered.
— Lauren DeLaunay