The Helinox Chair Zero is a lightweight portable backpacking chair that weighs 17 oz and packs up surprisingly small. Before I bought it, I never thought I’d use it on a backpacking trip because I didn’t want to carry the extra weight. But it’s nice to bring on trips that I know have awesome viewpoints (like the one above) and it’s really grown on me. While a chair is definitely not an essential piece of backpacking gear, it’s nice to be able to kick back on a summit, when you’re cooking dinner, or to relax in camp with friends when you want to enjoy yourself.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 17 oz
- Seat Height: 9 inches
- Seat Width: 18.5 inches
- Weight Capacity: 265 lbs
- Frame: Aluminum
- Seat Material: Ripstop polyester
- Folded dimensions: 13.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches (about the size of a 1L Smartwater bottle)
- Warranty: 5 years from Helinox
There’s really not much to the Helinox Chair Zero. It has two components: a sling-style seat and a multi-segment, multi-hub aluminum pole, similar to those used for tents. It also comes with a stuff sack, which is handy to keep everything together although not essential. To pack it, you just collapse the pole structure, roll it up in the seat, and fit the stiff sack over it. The entire package is about the size of a 1L Smartwater bottle and can easily fit horizontally or vertically in most multi-day backpacks. For example, I carry mine horizontally in the HMG 3400 pack I use for most of my personal trips.
The seat has four reinforced corners that fit over the ends of the poles and “this end up” is printed on one side of the seat so you can orient it properly when attaching it to the frame. You’d think that printing “this side up” would be an obvious thing to do for a chair like this, but apparently, it’s not. I also own an REI Flexlite Air Chair and a NEMO Moonlite, and neither of them has this important self-documenting feature (you’d be surprised how stupid you can be after backpacking all day in the hot sun.)
There are a few things you need to understand about the Chair Zero and similar chairs. The seat is pretty low to the ground (9″) so it can take a little effort to stand up from one if you’re not used to doing squats. If you’re sitting on anything except rock, the legs will sink into the ground even though they’re capped at the end with fittings designed to prevent this. I’ve heard the solution is to cut holes in practice golf balls (looks like a wiffle ball) and fit it over the leg ends to prevent them from sinking but I have yet to try this.
On the plus side, the Chair Zero is wide enough (18.5″) to accommodate most butts, which is not always the case with such lightweight chairs. You’ll also notice that the seat has two vertical slits cut into it, which let it expand even further width-wise to gently cup your cheeks.
Helinox Chair Zero
Ease of Use
The Helinox Chair Zero is a portable and collapsible backpacking chair that weighs 17 oz and is easy to fit into a multi-day backpack. While it is a luxury item, there’s a good chance you’ll come to see it as an essential after a few trips: it’s that comfortable and lightweight. With a weight capacity of 265 lbs, it can fit most backpackers regardless of their height or their width, especially the part that you sit on!
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I frequently take a chair, but my go to has long been a Coleman Rambler because it’s taller. Nearly two pounds, though. But recently, following a LOT of helpful physical therapy, I find I’m able to use a Helinox Chair Zero pretty comfortably. Thanks for the tip on the wiffle balls.
My journey to UL was all about comfort. It is more comfortable to hike with less weight on your back. But as I got near the extremes of the process, I realized that having eliminated anything not absolutely necessary, and minimizing the weight (generally by whatever means possible) of the gear I did pack, I was *less* comfortable in camp. As I sat on a rock, back hurting and being uncomfortable I realized the value of adding some “luxury weight” back in. I was so light that the extra pound (or two) was barely noticeable, and with what I added I became comfortable both on the trail and in camp.
First thing I added was a Helinox Chair One. Bought it the moment it was announced and loved it from first sit. When the Chair Zero came out I immediately bought one, cutting my chair weight in half. I leave the Zero home on only the longest, most challenging hikes…and then I pack a 10oz Chammock. For me, not having a chair makes time in camp much less enjoyable. I’ll gladly schlepp the chair thank you.
Also, I don’t know if this is where Philip heard about adding golf ball feet, but there is a lot of information here (https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/helinox-chair-zero/?forum=gear%2Fgeneral-gear) about the retro-fit.
No. I didn’t read it there.
Great perception on the fabric sides issue! As for setup, I find putting the fabric on the front posts first, then the rear as the rear posts have more flex, easier to pull fabric over. After a few uses the fabric stretches enough that it’s not an issue.
Philip, do you find the Helinox frame more stable that the REI Flexlite Air?
I think the helinox is just a little bit more stable and comfortable for the butt. But it’s close. You could be happy with either.
If you look at the frames of the two chairs, they’re actually turned 90 degrees. Both have one fixed “trunk” bar that joins the legs. On the Helinox your butt is parallel to the trunk bar, while on the REI chair, your Butt is perpendicular to it. Just an observation.
What container is that in the 2nd photo? Thanks!
A big plastic box that has a couple of stoves and stove fuel in it. I wish I knew where I got it because I’d buy another. It’s my car camping stove box.
I love my Chair Zero but, I have broken one before. Something so light can be delicate so be careful. The plastic knuckle that one of the aluminum poles goes into broke rendering the chair useless. Luckily it was replaced under warranty but it took about 3 months. I also have two Alite Chairs that have aluminium knuckles but they are too heavy for backpacking I think. That said, treat the Chair Zero with respect and it should work for you. I should add that I weigh under 160 lbs. It may have been damaged on a trip when everyone had to try my chair and did not treat it gingerly.
That looks like a toasty puffy. Who makes it ? Looks like a great chair I never was interested until i went to the desert No logs!!!
tennis ball trick works very well, they make a ground sheet that you hook in the feet
same way the seat hook in, very happy with this, also will still fit in the bag too
the tennis balls can be stuffed in and bag zipped
I have the REI Flexlite. A chair is a must have luxury at the end of the day.To keep the feet from sinking I cut 2 PVC crossbars with elbows to slip the feet into. Works great. It adds just a little weight.
Nice assessment of a UL chair’s value. I tend to take mine more then I don’t. My REI flex lite is 16.2 lbs (w/o sack). I’ll have to look into the golf balls. Thanks Philip.
I’ve been interested in a chair for a while but just could come to grips with the $100+ cost of the Helinox chair zero or REI flexlite. I found the new Trekology YIZI LITE 750g Hiking Backpacking Chairs for $40 on Amazon and although not as light as the lightest Helinox or REI ultralight chairs, still comes in under 2 lbs at 749 grams (26.4oz) on my scale with the included stuff sack. I’ve used it a few times on overnight trips and it’s comfortable and definitely beats sitting on a rock. It also has a side benefit of packing up small enough to pack sideways in my pack instead of using up one of my pack side pockets.
May be a dumb question but would you/do you use the chair inside your tent?
Not a dumb question at all. You’d need just need a big enough tent. Last year, I used the inner tent on a big 2 person dome I had on my back porch during bug season as a screen room for my camping chair. You could do the same on a camping/backpacking trip as well.
I find that putting my hands by my hips, with the thumbs in, over the seat fabric, and then pushing out/down, helps eject me from the chair
Since I KNOW I’ll never take it backpacking I picked up two similar REI chairs last week. Easy to chuck in the trunk B/C they take up little space.
If they mede these suckers with a carbon fiber frame I might get one for a short backpack or when backpack base camp is planned.
Though I’ve not taken one apart to weigh the various parts of the chair it from what I’ve seen/felt, the Aluminum frame isn’t a huge component of the weight of the chair. If in Carbon Fiber might knock off a couple of ounces, at the extreme maybe 4 ounces. Not sure the cost-benefit is really there to justify mass production. If there was money to be made at that configuration they’ll likely come out with it.
The carbon fibre would be more for strength with just some weight loss.
I stumbled on this 3D printer feet solution for the sink-into-the-ground feet problem.
Have not tried it yet, but looks good.
Also, when the ground is really soft, I switch to a Helinox Ground Chair. It has a box frame on the bottom
instead of “legs” and sits lower. As packaged, it’s heavier than the Chair Zero because the sling is much beefier. Both slings are interchangeable, so I use the Chair Zero sling on the Ground Chair frame. Without the bag, the hybrid deal weighs in at 18.1 oz. Since it’s lower, getting in an out is more of a challenge!
Just finished the GA section of the AT. There were eight if us and we pretty much all had either a Chair Zero or a Flexlite. Mornings, evenings and any extended break in between saw those chairs being put to good use. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting my base weight down. Being able to lean back and relax up off the ground may be a luxury but it’s definitely weight well to me.
It is nice to be able to sit.
I went to REI yesterday to test sit both the Helinox Chair Zero and REI Flexlite but neither were in stock. Although there’s a town in Wyoming named Wamsutter, mine was left cold with nowhere wam to sutt. My AT hiking buddy has wammed his sutter on both chairs and prefers the Helinox because it’s more stable side to side, a function of the leg frame architecture. The REI guy told me Helinox must have patented the design, otherwise REI might have imitated it but instead rotated the leg truss 90°. He says for the extra $20 he would buy the Helinox version rather than his store’s brand.
Last year, during the REI Anniversary sale, I ordered both. I kept the Chair Zero and took the 1 oz hit over the Flexlite. The Flexlite’s upper support rods dug into my back and was not comfortable.