Looking for a light chair to comfortably sit? To help you find the best backpacking chair, we researched 50 of 2019's top models and carefully selected 9 to test side-by-side. We took these chairs from the sea to the mountains, up steep hills, and to backyard barbecues to find out which products had the best blend of comfort and weight, versatility and durability.
The Best Backpacking Chairs of 2019
|Price||$104.97 at Backcountry|
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|$70.88 at Amazon||$56.89 at Amazon|
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|$109.99 at Amazon|
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|$148.21 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Comfortable, versatile, cup-holders||Versatile, comfortable, and lightweight||Comfortable, study, inexpensive||Lightweight||Comfortable, versatile|
|Cons||Expensive, heavier than most||Thin cushioning||Heavy||Expensive, uncomfortable||Expensive, heavy|
|Bottom Line||The Stonefly is a super-comfy chair great for any occasion.||The PowerLounger is a comfortable, lightweight, and versatile backpacking chair.||The Joey is an excellent camp chair that provides a comfortable and sturdy seat.||The Chair Zero is an expensive chair with an uncomfortable seat and incredibly low weight.||The Swivel's unique design and comfortable seat make for a great car camping chair.|
|Rating Categories||Alite Stonefly||Hex 2.0 PowerLounger||TravelChair Joey||Helinox Chair Zero||Helinox Swivel Camp Chair|
|Packing Size (25%)|
|Specs||Alite Stonefly||Hex 2.0 PowerLounger||TravelChair Joey||Helinox Chair Zero||Helinox Swivel...|
|Main Material||210D ripstop nylon, aluminum frame||Foam and nylon||Ripstop nylon with aluminum frame||Polyester with aluminum frame||Polyester with alloy frame|
|Measured Weight (oz)||38||22||38||17||45|
Best Overall Backpacking Chair
The Alite Stonefly was new to this review for Spring 2019 and immediately captured our hearts. This chair is high enough to be comfortable without sacrificing too much weight, and its leg design is incredibly sturdy, never putting us in fear of tipping over. We found it to have a great fit and excellent mesh panels. The icing on the cake? Two side pockets that can hold your phone, your drink or your keys.
If the Stonefly has any downfalls, it's its weight. At 38 ounces, it's one of the heaviest chairs that we tested. To put that into perspective, the lightest chair in this review is 17 ounces, while the bulk of tent-style chairs are around 30 ounces. At just over two pounds, many hikers will have to think carefully about whether or not they should bring this into the backcountry. We think they should.
Read review: Alite Stonefly
Best Bang for the Buck
Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger
The Hex PowerLounger from Crazy Creek must be one of the best backpacking products around. We were blown away by this taco-style chair's comfort; its high back and extended bottom kept us dry on wet grass, clean in the mud, and cozy no matter where we were. This chair is incredibly versatile since it can easily double as a sleeping pad, or at least a great addition to your inflatable pad when the surface is sharp or uneven. With a much lower price than our Editors' Choice award winner, the PowerLounger can save you even more money if you forego the sleeping pad as well.
On the flip side, the PowerLounger does put you right on the ground, which is less comfortable than some of the elevated, tent-style chairs we tested. It would not be our first pick for a sleeping pad, as its padding is quite thin, but it would be a great addition in a pinch.
Read review: Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger
Best On a Tight Budget
ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat
The Alps Mountaineering Weekender is not the lightest chair in this review, but it is the most comfortable taco-style chair we tested and one of the least expensive. The arm straps are low and not constricting. The rear pocket and stadium straps increase this chair's versatility and ensure that we'll be taking it just about everywhere. On top of all that, the Weekender's low price tag makes it a no-brainer.
The Weekender isn't perfect. Taco-style chairs are generally less comfortable than tent-style ones, and it is a few ounces heavier than some of its competitors. That said, it is undeniably the best taco-style chair in this review, so if you're looking for something that can go to ball games and the backcountry, look no further.
Read review: ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat
Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures
Helinox Chair Zero
Blowing away the competition with its 17-ounce design is the Helinox Chair Zero. Nearly every positive thing we have to say about this chair is related to how incredibly lightweight it is, especially when compared to others in its class. This chair was lighter than even the lightest taco-style chair in this review, making it an obvious choice for backcountry travel when every ounce counts.
That said, the Chair Zero does have some significant drawbacks. It is not nearly as comfortable as some other competitors, like the TravelChair Joey, and has no bonus features, like the pockets of the Alite Stonefly. It is wobbly and not quite as durable, but for missions where weight is paramount, the Chair Zero is as light as you can get.
Read review: Helinox Chair Zero
Notable Mention for Car Camping
We realize this is a backpacking review, but we couldn't get away without recognizing the TravelChair Joey. This small, tent-style chair is the most comfortable chair in this review. With a decently high rise off the ground and a wide, reclining seat, we found ourselves gravitating toward this chair time and time again. Its mesh panels add breathability, while the sturdy legs make for a stable, never-wobbly seat. The Joey is a great bargain.
The main reason the Joey didn't win an award was its weight. At 38 ounces, the Joey is more than twice as heavy as the Chair Zero, and we decided quickly that we would never carry this chair deep into the backcountry. For picnics or car camping, however, the Joey is an excellent buy.
Read review: TravelChair Joey
Why You Should Trust Us
Review author Lauren DeLaunay brings us this comprehensive assessment of camp chairs. Lauren engages in a variety of outdoor activities regularly and can appreciate the comfort afforded by a lightweight camp chair. She also works outdoors, for Yosemite Search and Rescue, while not trail running, climbing, or skiing. Additionally, she holds a degree in International Relations from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The work of this review started with market research, which yielded an initial selection of 50 contending camp chairs. Of these, we chose the 9 most promising. We bought these and tested them for several weeks during the summer. We recruited friends, took them everywhere, and sat on everything from parking lots to beach sand, all the while paying attention to four testing metrics that we identified as most important in the overall functionality of a camp chair. Overall, we think you'll find this review to be a useful tool in your camp chair selection process.
Related: How We Tested Backpacking Chairs
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 11 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.
Related: Buying Advice for Backpacking Chairs
After researching the top 50 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 use 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, at a range of prices. 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 broadly. These chairs are perfect for car camping and beach lounging; they are often not allowed at outdoor concerts because they sit too far off the ground.
We have defined "value" to be the meeting point between performance and price. Some products have superior comfort or versatility, but do their prices justify the performance? Others may be very affordable, but do their performances lag?
This review has an extensive range of prices, from $25 to $150. We've awarded two products with a Best Buy award to showcase their exceptional performance when compared to others in their price range. The Alps Mountaineering Weekender, for example, is one of the least expensive products in this review and is simultaneously the most comfortable taco-style chair we tested. The Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger is in the middle of the price range but also shows incredible value by its high comfort and versatility scores. Lastly, the Alite Stonefly is much more expensive, but with the highest ratings across the board, we think it is an excellent investment.
No matter what your price point is, we've found a chair for you. Whether you're looking for a lightweight taco-style chair for the backcountry or a comfy addition to your camp setup, our Best Buy award winners will help point you in the right direction.
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 for luxury, and they'd serve no purpose without comfort. 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 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 all use similar materials. Three tent-style chairs stood out for excellent ventilation: the REI Flexlite, the TravelChair Joey, and the Alite Stonefly. We found ourselves using these products on hot summer days, and the breathable mesh vents were always appreciated.
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 and Chair Zero tipped us forward more than others. We preferred a deeper seat that let us recline and relax, like the ones found on the REI Flexlite and Alite Stonefly.
Our testers took a few 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 any of the taco-style chairs.
Finally, for tent-style chairs, we looked at 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 chairs we tested was the Stonefly. Instead of four separate legs, this chair has two long, horizontal 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 or on hikes. 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. The lightest contender in this review by a longshot is the Chair Zero. Weighing 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 REI Flexlite was. This chair is 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 that break down easily and store nicely into stuff sacks. Packing size accounted for 25% of the total score of each product.
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 as much as they do, 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, a 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 their 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 Stonefly, 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 Best Buy award as it has the potential to save you money on a sleeping pad as well. 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 at the feet to help us decide where we could use it. The Joey has wide feet that make it an excellent purpose for sand, grass and other uneven surfaces. The Stonefly has increased surface contact that 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 11 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 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