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Gear Guy

Are portable chairs practical for backpacking?

In one of your long-ago columns, you gave the scoop on the well-known Cascade Designs Chair Kit and the Therm-a-Rest Chair Lounger. But in the spirit of "discovering" unknown, neglected products, does the Gear Guy have a take on the Sling-light chair (naturally, at Does this alternative, lightweight product deserve our consideration? Marshall Atlanta, Georgia

A: Camp comfort is important, of course. And one of the best ways to add a few stars to your overnight lodging is to have a decent place to sit. Not as easy as it sounds, though: boulders and logs often aren't where you need them to be (to enjoy the sunset, for example, or sit near the campfire). Solution: Carry your own chair, which I've done for about five years on trips where weight is not an issue. My preferred solution is a "chair kit," something like the Therm-a-Rest Ultimate 20 ($50; These slip over a self-infalting pad and use carbon rods to stiffen the sides. A strap-and-buckle system turn the pad into an L-shaped chair. Very comfortable.

The Sling-light ($100) takes a slightly different approach. It's a metal-frame chair with a nylon seat. One advantage: Your butt is off the ground. At 18 ounces, it's competitive weightwise with most chair kits.

Still, I'll stick with my chair kit, simply because I like to read in the tent while sitting up. With a chair kit, it's a simple matter to set up your pad for reading, then unbuckle the side straps so it lies flat for sleeping. The Sling-light is more of a single-purpose device, and really isn't practical for hauling into a tent. Still, for car-camping or even some backpack trips, it would get the nod for comfort without adding too much weight.

Keep sittin' easy!

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