For a folding metal-and-cloth contraption, the term “camping chair” covers a remarkably wide spectrum of outdoor furniture. On one end are the kind of lightweight options you might take on a multiday backpacking trip, and on the other are the lounger variety that probably won’t make it far from your car. Here we present our five favorites for their durability, ease of use, comfort, and portability.
We started by setting up these chairs on the front patio for a week and invited people to sit, drink, eat, and ruminate on their favorite features. We then hiked seven rugged miles into Yosemite’s Upper Cherry Creek—a remote Class V+ California kayaking classic—to give a group of professional kayakers a comfortable place to sit on their overnight trip and get their opinions. We threw the chairs off ledges and ran them over with a packed adventure trailer to test their durability and opened and closed them more than a dozen times to gauge their ease of use. Here’s what we found.
Alite Mayfly ($100)
Weight: 1.6 pounds
Unfolded Size: 20 x 20 x 15 inches
Best For: Traveling fast and light
The Verdict: The deep seat of the tiny-statured Mayfly was surprisingly comfortable, despite testers having to bend into a full-on squat to get in and out. Testers also found they had to be diligent about cleaning sand from the bottom of this chair to keep the joints working properly. At 11.5 by 4 inches, the Mayfly packed down to the size of a large Chipotle burrito and is arguably lighter at 1.6 pounds.
Therm-a-Rest Treo ($100)
Weight: 2 pounds 6 ounces
Unfolded Size: 20 x 22 x 27 inches
Best For: Getting you off the ground for a low-weight buy-in
The Verdict: Therm-a-Rest did something brilliant by using a heavy-duty plastic tripod to anchor the folding base and double as a protective cover for the entire structure. The result is an incredibly sturdy little container that we felt comfortable brutalizing when folded up. The tripod feature also gave the Treo an impressive (for the weight) 13-inch seat height, which was about six inches higher than other chairs in the light-chair category. Those six inches make a huge difference getting in and out on legs that are tired from hiking all day.
Helinox Sunset Chair ($150)
Weight: 3.2 pounds
Unfolded Size: 22.8 x 27.6 x 38.6 inches
Best For: All-around use
The Verdict: This chair gained only half a pound on the Treo, but it sat high and comfortable like a recliner. The Sunset doesn’t pack down much, and 3.2 pounds is a little heavy to bring on a backpacking trip, but we wouldn’t flinch about strapping it to a daypack. The aluminum tent pole–like system that creates the Sunset’s structure essentially puts itself together—one tester was able to assemble it with one hand—and the upper is deep and reclined, which made for an incredibly relaxing feel.
REI Camp X Chair ($40)
Weight: 7.3 pounds
Unfolded Size: 31 x 32.5 x 20 inches
Best For: Solid product for the value
The Verdict: We strapped the Camp X to the top of our pack for a hike out of Upper Cherry; as a result, it saw the most abuse of any of the chairs in this test. I even threw the 70-plus pound pack down multiple 10-to-15-foot sheer granite drops so I could climb down unweighted, but the Camp X remained no worse for the wear. The upper of this traditional folding chair has ample lightweight mesh that proved plenty hardy for our heaviest testers, with the bonus of drying within an hour of getting drenched.
Coleman Vertex Ultra Hard Armed Chair ($60)
Weight: 8.4 pounds
Size: 24 x 24 x 35 inches
Best For: Replacing your recliner
The Verdict: The heavy-duty plastic arms, which connect to the chair structure when folded, added quite a bit of weight to this chair but also proved darn comfortable when kicking back with a cold beverage. The Vertex Ultra’s heavy-duty 600-denier polyester upper and steel frame ensure the chair will last for years of car camping. Thoughtful details like the wide seat and high back were well appreciated by our lounge-expert testers. Bonus: This chair can hold two beers and a glass of wine in a holder that swings out of the body, meaning you can be the center of any camping party without having to get up for a new beverage.
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