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Are you on the hunt for the best backpacking chair? We've tested close to 40 different models over the past 10 years. In this review, we compare 17 of the best backpacking chairs available today. We evaluate each seat on its comfort, identifying crucial elements of each product's performance. We look at the stability of each chair on a variety of surfaces, and we set up and packed away each one over and over to assess ease of use. Whether you're heading deep into the backcountry or around the block to the park, we've got the perfect chair for you, so take a seat and read on.
The Big Agnes Skyline UL is our favorite backpacking chair thanks to its comfort and stability in a small package. The deep-pocket seat means that it's comfortable to sit with your legs in a variety of positions, and your backside won't slide forward. It also facilitates better posture and keeps the back in a straighter, less curled position than most models. This chair has a unique bent leg design that creates a wider base and seat while keeping the packed profile slim. Along with its reasonable price, these attributes make it one of the most well-rounded products we tested.
This chair is still a decent amount heavier than the lightest model in the category, so for those that are ultra-conscious about going ultralight, 29 ounces may still be too heavy. We also found that the space-saving hubless pole design takes slightly more time to assemble than the hubbed pole models, but only by around 10 seconds, so we're splitting hairs here. All in all, this is the seat we'd most like to end up in at the end of a long day.
The Moon Lence Backpacking Chair is a value pick that outperforms its price point. It has a well-defined bucket seat that makes it lounge-worthy but not so deep that it's hard to get out of it. The square base is also stable enough that we weren't fearful of tipping over, and we appreciate the side pockets for phone and sunglasses storage. In terms of out-of-case performance, it stacks up well for its price point.
Having said that, we have some questions about its longevity. The seat fabric is stiff, leading to several pressure points over time. Attaching the seat fabric to the aluminum frame also takes a little finessing. Additionally, this chair is really gangly. It has a lot of short tube segments, and the legs are especially challenging to fold up and pack away. Gripes aside, for those on a budget, this chair is a solid pick for more casual adventures.
Backpackers willing to put in extra work for extra comfort will rejoice when discovering the Big Agnes Big Six chair. The spacious seat is wide and tall and offers a high enough back for a headrest, a feature not found on any other chair this compact and lightweight. Its size is enormous for the small 5.5" x 5.5" x 21.5" bundle it makes when packed up, and the comfort it offers may even encourage you to take a catnap.
We found the hubless pole design on the Big Agnes Big Six to be great for reducing bulk and increasing stability, but it does mean the setup requires a bit more focus than poles that spring into place mostly on their own. There's no getting around the fact that this model is substantially heavier than the superlight models on the market. That said, we all know that person willing to haul an extra pound or two to improve their camp amenities. If you don't mind a bit of extra weight, this model offers unmatched comfort wrapped up in a reasonably small travel size.
Though 2 ounces could be a deal-breaker to some hikers, the vast majority of even the most ultralight backpackers are willing to add the minuscule weight of the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat to their kits. It's hard to pass up this kind of versatility — this foam pad can act as your seat, sleeping pad extension, pack cushion, and more. Add in the facts that there is zero setup involved and that these seats are known to last for decades, and you've got a winner.
However, this isn't really a chair, per se — you are still basically sitting on the ground. If you find getting up off the ground difficult and uncomfortable, then this seat may not be suitable for you. But for those who want a dry, warm spot to park their rear without adding more than a couple of ounces to their packs, this one could be your ideal solution.
The Helinox Chair Zero is our favorite chair for ultralight luxury. It barely misses being the lightest chair of its kind, yet it's significantly more comfortable and stable than its lightweight counterparts. When sitting down in the Zero, we immediately noticed the back support provided by its shape and the stability of the legs that keep its wobble to a minimum for such a light chair.
The seat pocket isn't as deep as some, so we did find our legs feeling less supported and our bums sliding forward. You'll find yourself sitting pretty low to the ground, so this may not be the chair for folks who have trouble getting up from a low crouch. However, for those of you wondering who the heck would bring a chair backpacking in the first place, we think this is the product that might change your mind.
The Big Agnes Skyline UL Stool incorporates a modern backpacking chair design into stool form. The wide, scooped seat offers plenty of support and space for your rear, unlike some of the small tripod stools that have the unfortunate appearance of being swallowed up. The wide, 4-legged design with hubless poles enables this seat to be comfortable, stable, compact, and one of the lightest we tested.
Since this is a stool, there is no backrest, so reclining is off the table. However, our testers found themselves surprised at how comfortable they were sitting on this model. For an elevated sitting spot from which you can cook dinner, share a snack, or take in the sunset, we are stunned by how much we enjoy the Skyline UL Stool.
We start each of our reviews with market research, which yielded an initial selection of nearly 50 contenders for our backpacking chairs. From there, we purchased the most promising models and tested them for several weeks, updating the review frequently to reflect new products. Over the years, we have taken out close to 30 chairs and sat on everything from rocky cliff bases to desert sand to city parks. We pay attention to each model's comfort during an extended sit, how much work it is to set up and break them down, their sizes and weights, and how stable they feel on different surfaces. You'll find this review helpful in narrowing down your options in a market full of excellent chairs.
Scores for each backpacking chair are weighted across four rating metrics:
Comfort (35% of overall score weighting)
Size and Weight (30% weighting)
Stability (20% weighting)
Ease of Use (15% weighting)
Backpacking enthusiast and lead reviewer, Elizabeth Paashaus has spent hundreds of mornings, evenings, and lunch breaks seated on the ground, which is enough to appreciate the comfort afforded by a lightweight camp chair. She has backpacked thousands of miles through the Appalachian mountains, the deserts of Southern Utah, and the high Sierra, both alone and with her husband and two girls. Elizabeth and her family can be found traveling the country, living in their converted school bus, seeking adventure through climbing and hiking, and enjoying our public lands as their outdoor living room. Support reviewer Ben Applebaum-Bauch is also an avid backpacker. He has spent hundreds of evenings in backcountry and front country campsites, parking himself on all sorts of seating. After 7,000 miles on some of America's most iconic long trails, he knows what to look for when it comes to ideal seat selection.
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 chair. We rate each seat on its comfort throughout 30 minutes of lounging, its size and how much it weighs, its overall stability when getting in and out, and its ease of use. We weight metrics accordingly based on our experience of what is most important in a backpacking chair, with comfort being at the top of that list, followed by size and weight, stability, and, finally, ease of use.
Our team defines "value" as the meeting point between performance and price. Some products have superior comfort or versatility, but do their costs justify their performance? Others may be very affordable, but does their performance lag?
This review has a wide range of prices. Of the products that offer the best value, the Moon Lence Backpacking Chair stands out. This lesser-known brand still performs above average in most areas while keeping the price astonishingly low. Our favorite chair, the Skyline UL is on the pricey end but offers an exceptionally well-rounded performance with high marks in comfort, size, weight, stability, and ease of use.
Sometimes the simplest answer is the best. This rings true with the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat, which is a basic piece of egg-carton style foam. Despite its simplicity, it offers exceptional value for its low price, extreme durability, minuscule weight, and versatility. Same goes for the Nemo Chipper which is even cheaper and made from reclaimed materials. For the most significant cost savings, look to the foam chairs, which are almost always less expensive than tent-style models but can still offer you a padded seat to comfort your derrière.
Most of the products we test 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 improve your outdoor experience. For this metric, we evaluated the myriad ways chairs can be more or less comfortable and used these characteristics to rate each product against each other. Our testers took a few measurements for this category, too. We measured how far each seat elevated us off the ground. In general, the higher the chair is, the easier it is to get in and out, and the gentler it is on the knees and hips. We also compared how far back the seat reclined (or didn't) and the seat's width. Because comfort is a significant part of this review, we allocated 35% of each chair's overall score to this metric.
We found four distinct sub-categories within our review; the "tent-style" chairs with legs that sit up off the ground, sit pads (totally unfancy foam rectangles), taco-style models that fold open like a taco, and the twist style, which has legs that pivot around a central axis (e.g., stools). The comfort between these categories is notably different.
Taco chairs like the Crazy Creek Hex Original 2.0 and Crazy Creek Original are harder to get in and out of since they sit on the ground and offer less support. Sit pads like the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat and Nemo Chipper are truly just a piece of foam that offers just a hint of padding and primarily keeps your butt from getting wet and dirty if you're sitting on the ground.
Twisting chairs are also less comfortable, primarily because they tend to have a smaller sitting surface and no backrest, as is true of the REI Co-op Trail Stool. Tent-style chairs like the Big Agnes Skyline UL, Big Agnes Big Six, and Nemo Moonlite excel in the comfort metric since their raised seats are easier to get in and out of. Because they keep their form, it is much easier to plop down and feel supported. The Helinox Ground Chair is a unique tent chair that sits even lower to the ground than its closest competitors, making it more of a recliner meant to extend legs forward. We are also intrigued by the Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair Kit. It's not a chair but a conversion kit that turns an inflatable sleeping pad into a backpacking chair. The sitting experience is super comfortable, but it's harder to get into and out of for fear of puncturing the sleeping pad.
When judging comfort, we also inspected the materials. How does the fabric feel on the skin? Is it breathable and ventilated? None of the taco-style chairs in our review has any breathability, and all use similar materials. Two tent-style chairs stand out for excellent ventilation: the Moon Lence Backpacking Chair and the TravelChair Joey with their large mesh panels.
We also considered what body position the chairs put us in. When spending just a few minutes in a chair, most are comfortable enough. But, some chairs stood out for supporting the back for longer sessions. We compared the depth of each tent-style chair, as some tipped us forward more than others. We prefer a deeper seat that lets us recline and relax, like the one found on our favorite model, the Big Agnes Skyline UL, and the luxurious Big Agnes Big Six. Comfort is decidedly lower in foam chairs — we noted that the PowerLounger curled our shoulders in and dug into our underarms the least.
Size and Weight
Unlike our camping chair review, this review is designed specifically for portable chairs that can be carried into the backcountry or during hikes. We analyzed packability and weight for this metric, knowing that a chair would have to be pretty compact to make it into an already heavy pack on your next trip into the backcountry. We considered both the relative weight of each chair compared to models of the same design (foam or tent style), as well as how it stacked up against every product we tested.
We put each chair on a scale, brought out the measuring tape, and recorded what we found. Then we assessed if the bulk and weight were worth it for the comfort each model offered. The lightest 'chairs' in the category are the ground pads: the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is a feather-weight 2 ounces, and the Nemo Chipper is a mere 3.3 ounces. Both are easily packable on a long-distance backpacking trip and fit neatly into a water bottle side pocket.
Assuming that you are already carrying an inflatable sleeping pad, the Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair Kit is a scant 10.8 ounces. It is tall and skinny and also fits easily into an exterior side pocket of a backpack. The REI Co-op Trail Stool is a lightweight in-between option at 17 ounces — it doesn't have a backrest, but it does have legs that keep you off of the ground.
A few of the tent-style chairs come in next in the weight category: the REI Flexlite Air at 16 ounces, followed closely by the 17-ounce Chair Zero. These tent-style chairs are lighter than any taco-style competitor we tested despite having legs. For those looking to keep your bums out of the dirt while shaving ounces, we recommend trying out these two chairs and seeing which fits you best.
Despite being light, we generally find the taco-style chairs like the Crazy Creek Hex Original 2.0 and Crazy Creek Original harder to pack than the tent-style chairs because they are so stiff. These two are 19.7 ounces and 24 ounces, respectively. Despite its heavy weight, the Crazy Creek PowerLounger does have a compression strap just for this purpose and is very convenient to roll up. It can be stowed beneath the lid or on the side of many backpacking packs.
We got a lot of feedback on the chairs in this review, and one thing quickly became clear: if a chair is stable, our testers didn't even think about it. If, on the other hand, a chair is unstable, it's the first complaint you'll hear. The sign of a great product is one you can use easily and effortlessly, and chairs are no different.
Looking first at tent-style chairs, some really stand out. The huge base and larger diameter poles of the Big Agnes Big Six, while heavy, significantly increase its stability. The Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair and Big Agnes Skyline Stool are excellent; they both have a broad base that creates a secure sitting experience.
Sometimes cutting down the weight can decrease durability, but it can also decrease stability. We noted that most testers, upon sitting in the Flexlite Air, quickly threw their arms out to maintain their balance in this model with its uber-light fabric and flexible poles.
Foam chairs are a bit trickier to differentiate in this category. Because you sit directly on the ground, models like the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat and Nemo Chipper generally offer consistent stability or are as stable as the ground beneath them. Hopefully, that's solid. Our only comment about sit pads like these is that because they are so light, if you get up to grab something on a windy day, they'll blow off of whatever surface you had them on.
The taco-style chairs, like the Crazy Creek Hex Original 2.0 and Crazy Creek Original require body weight and tension to remain stable. We found these models are stable from side to side, but if you put your weight too far back, you're liable to take a tumble. The Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair Kit is similar in that it relies on tension from leaning back in it, but it also has a much broader base than Crazy Creeks.
Ease of Use
As a group of people who have wrestled with our share of outdoor equipment, we feel that the product you are willing to take with you will be one that doesn't make you want to pull your hair out. Sometimes we may be willing to learn how to operate a more complicated piece of gear when the benefits balance out the struggle, but often we want to be able to pick it up and have it work. Setting up these backpacking chairs is by no means difficult, but some models have the setup dialed in.
To put the chairs to the test, we first set them up without reading or looking at any instructions, and we attempted to pack them back into their bags. We were surprised that every model we tested had no issue fitting back into its stuff sack. Some fit tighter than others, but nothing compared to the notoriously difficult task of putting a tent back into its bag!
Foam seat pads require almost no setup. The Therm-a-Rest Z Seat and Nemo Chipper only need a quick unfurl from their accordioned positions, and they are ready in an instant.
As for taco-style chairs like the Crazy Creek Hex Original 2.0 and Crazy Creek Original, all you need to do is fasten the side clips together and park your booty. The angle of repose is adjustable with a sliding buckle, and we found the models that allow you to cinch by pulling down rather than up to be the easiest to use.
The chairs we tested from Big Agnes have color-coded poles and pole pockets for a quick visual cue during assembly. We love that some of the Helinox models include picture directions printed on the chairs, making your first setup as easy as your fifteenth. The REI Trail Stool can barely be more effortless. It just requires a quick twist and your body weight on the chair to set it up.
Though we like to get out and get after it, we also consider ourselves experts at sitting back and taking in the view. We have spent weeks on end with all these chairs, taking them everywhere we went, from Southern Utah's canyons to backpacking in the High Sierra to the lush Appalachians. We jammed out at outdoor concerts and soaked up the sun in the desert. We got to know each product in this review, from small details to more extensive impressions. We compared them all side-by-side, taking detailed notes as we went along. By evaluating comfort, size, weight, stability, and ease of use, we feel confident that you now have the information you need to select the best chair for you. Whether you're looking for the lightest option on the market or the most comfortable spot to park your booty tent side, we've got you covered.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.