Killer Value: The GCI RoadTrip Rocker Camp Chair
This seat holds its own against competitors that are twice as expensive
I love to sit. I know sitting is the new smoking, but I have to speak my truth. Even though we’re living in the age of standing desks and watches that tell you to stand up every 12 minutes, I don’t think I’m alone in my love for sitting, because there are some really, really expensive camp chairs out there. You could easily drop $300 on a chair that’s relegated to the backyard and occasional car-camping adventure. But I don’t think a comfortable camp chair should cost as much as a car payment, which is why I’m big on GCI’s RoadTrip Rocker, a ridiculously comfortable camp chair with all the bells and whistles that costs just $80.
I’ve tested plenty of camp chairs: roll-up versions, the REI Co-op Flexlite Air, the Nemo Stargazer, the ENO Lounger DL, and the cheap ones you can get at big-box stores for less than $30, which usually break the first time my kids sit in them. But for the past two months, I’ve been parking my butt exclusively in the RoadTrip Rocker. I’ve lost track of the number of baseball and soccer games I’ve watched my kids play while sitting in this chair. It’s pulled lawn-chair duty during multiple backyard fire-pit sessions as well. Dollar for dollar, I’m choosing the Rocker over all others I’ve tested, because it strikes the perfect balance of cost and comfort.
What I Like
The RoadTrip is essentially a folding chair with spring-loaded legs that the brand uses across a line of its rockers. It has a mesh backrest and a fabric seat, and it packs into a fabric carrying bag. Unlike most camp chairs, the RoadTrip has sturdy plastic armrests, which are surprisingly luxurious compared with the more common fabric-and-pole armrest design, which often sags.
It’s bigger than most of the competition, too—the seat is 20 inches off the ground, and the back rises 39 inches from there (high enough to serve as a headrest for most folks). Compare that to the REI Co-op camp chair, with a seat that’s 10.5 inches off the ground and a shoulder-height back. The RoadTrip is so tall that people would probably yell at you if you whipped it out at a festival, but if you’ve got a long back, or don’t like having to do a deep squat to get into your seat, then you’ll find the added table-height stature of the RoadTrip delightful.
I’ve found the fabric and mesh backing firmer than other options on the market. Put it all together, and you have a camp chair that feels like an actual piece of furniture. It’s like you’re taking your porch rocker camping with you.
The rocking technology seemed a little gimmicky to me at first, but I’m fidgety, so having the capability to rock gives me something else to do other than tap my foot. The real benefit, though, is being able to kick your feet up on a stump and lean back, turning the chair into a recliner and putting you in the perfect catnap position. Because the only thing that’s better than sitting is catching a quick snooze while sitting.
What Could Be Improved
All of that furniture-grade comfort comes at a cost. At 12.8 pounds, the RoadTrip isn’t light. And while it does fold up into a carrying case, it’s not the most compact option out there, with a folded size of 43.5 inches long by 8.7 inches wide—so big that the first time I brought it to one of my son’s baseball games, it felt like I was toting an E-Z Up tent on my shoulder. But as soon as I set it up (it both folds and unfolds in 2.3 seconds—I timed it) and sat down, all of my worries about its unwieldy size drifted away.
The RoadTrip also only comes with one cup holder, which is a ridiculous oversight in 2021. Every camper needs at least two cup holders—one for your drink and another for your phone (or your second drink). Ideally, there would be some sort of snack tray that folds out, too, but I might be asking for too much here.
Even though it’s not perfect, the RoadTrip Rocker holds its own against competitors that are twice—and even thrice—the price. Is Yeti’s $300 Trailhead camp chair a better chair? Maybe. Is it $220 better? I don’t think so. I really like Nemo’s Stargazer ($220) and ENO’s Lounger DL ($125), both of which hug you like a koala but take roughly 45 minutes to put together. (That’s an exaggeration, but not by much.)
The RoadTrip Rocker comes in at a fraction of the price of many camp chairs and offers a sitting experience that’s just as comfortable. If GCI can give me another pocket and a snack tray, I’d call it the perfect mobile sitting unit.