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How We Tested Camping Tables

By Jason Wanlass ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday May 14, 2020

There's no better way to test a product than by buying and using it. We traveled around Utah, visiting its Rocky Mountains, and winding through its southern red rock canyons. We hiked, played, and enjoyed the view, but most of the time was spent examining a truck bed full of tables.

We designed tests to measure the four metrics we felt were the most important to any table design: Stability and strength, portability, durability, and ease of set up. Some of our tests were simple, and some were a little more complex. In the end, after months of use, we are confident we found the results necessary to determine which tables are the best and which are not. This article describes the lengths we went to when assessing each table across our performance metrics.

Reviewer Jason Wanlass carries three cook stations to today's campsite.
Reviewer Jason Wanlass carries three cook stations to today's campsite.

Stability and Strength


What better way to determine a table's stability and strength than loading it down until it tips over? Tables are designed to hold our stuff, so we decided on a designated corner, and stacked increasing weight until the table hit the deck. Some fell over quickly, others never moved, while others collapsed completely.

We stacked increasing weight onto one end of each table to determine how stable they could remain under lopsided weight. In the end  the square tables performed the very best. Larger cook stations did not.
We stacked increasing weight onto one end of each table to determine how stable they could remain under lopsided weight. In the end, the square tables performed the very best. Larger cook stations did not.

We were aware of the manufacturer's weight limits when we conducted this test, and in each case, it was exceeded. The goal of this test was not to see how much weight the table could hold, but rather, how much imbalanced weight could be placed on the table before it tipped.

Another key aspect of stability is wobble. How much natural movement does the frame allow or create? After all, a table can be very strong, but if it wobbles, things could get messy or broken quickly.

A little bit of wobble allows a table to adapt to uneven ground more effectively. However  too much wobble can be disastrous. We found the tables that could be forced more than an inch away from the wall were often less stable.
A little bit of wobble allows a table to adapt to uneven ground more effectively. However, too much wobble can be disastrous. We found the tables that could be forced more than an inch away from the wall were often less stable.

To determine each table's wobble-factor, we placed each of the table's four sides separately against a straight wall. Then, while ensuring the base of the table stayed unmoved, we measured how far each end of the table could be pulled away from the wall, added all of the measurements and divided the sum by four for an overall wobble measurement. Some tables didn't move at all, while others could be pulled one to two inches from the wall.

Portability


For this metric, we asked ourselves the basic questions we would have and then applied them to each table. Questions like: Does the table have adequate handles, a carrying case, or shoulder straps? How much does the table weigh? Once set up, can the table be moved or repositioned easily? How compact is the table when stored?

Portability is a key to the functionality of any camp table. It must be easy to carry and store.
Portability is a key to the functionality of any camp table. It must be easy to carry and store.

After asking the questions and making the necessary measurements, we used them. We carried them, moved them, lifted them, and stored them until we had enough experience with each.

Durability


Let's get down to brass tacks: A camping table should be tough. One of the first places we looked to determine this metric is each table's manufacturer warranty. Do they back their product, and if so, for how long? We feel the most acceptable warranty is a limited lifetime warranty, so we measured each table against that expectation and scored them accordingly.

After completing all of our tests  we nitpicked every inch of every table and gave each our own subjective score for durability.
After completing all of our tests, we nitpicked every inch of every table and gave each our own subjective score for durability.

We also assembled and disassembled each table at least 10 times, examining each for small signs of wear that could be larger problems down the road. That may not sound like much, but times it by ten tables, and the result is a lot of sitting at camp playing with tables. Additionally, after days of using each table, our testers developed their own opinions on the durability of each table and scored them accordingly.

Ease of Setup


If you're camping, most likely, you have plenty of gear to manage. The last thing you want is a luxury item (like a table) that comes with complicated parts and instructions. You didn't come to the woods to be tested on your DIY skills; you came for relaxation. Therefore, we expected the tables we chose to study to easily setup and easily tear down.


One of the tests we conducted was a simple timing test. We grabbed a stopwatch and set up each table ten times. We also timed how long it took to stow them away. We then took the average of the ten attempts and scored each table for set up and tear down accordingly.

We also got a little extreme (and had some fun) by determining whether one person could assemble each table, and with just one hand. We realize that this test isn't very practical; however, it was an excellent measurement for determining exactly how easy each table is to use.