A lightweight backpacking chair is a luxury item that can make the camping portion of a backpacking trip much more enjoyable and relaxed. If you like to sit around a campfire to socialize at night or read outdoors while sitting upright, bringing a lightweight trail chair along can really enhance a backpacking trip. With trail weights between 1 and 2 pounds, the added weight of carrying a backpacking chair isn’t that onerous, especially if it’s offset by using other lightweight backpacking gear.
Here are the top 10 lightweight backpacking and camping chairs we recommend.
|Make / Model||Weight||Seat Height||Weight Capacity|
|Helinox Chair Zero Chair||17 oz||8.5"||265 lbs|
|REI Flexlite Air Chair||16 oz||11"||250 lbs|
|NEMO Moonlite Chair||30 oz||10.5"||300 lbs|
|Helinox Ground Chair||23 oz||4"||265 lbs|
|Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair||28 oz||15"||276 lbs|
|Klymit Ridgeline Chair Short||30 oz||13.5"||265 lbs|
|Trekology Yizi Lite||26.5 oz||9.8"||220 lbs|
|Crazy Creek Hex 2.0||20.8 oz||0.5"||250 lbs|
|REI Trail Stool||18 oz||15"||200 lbs|
|Hillsound BTR Stool||14.1 oz||17"||240 lbs|
1. Helinox Chair Zero
|View at REI||View at Backcountry|
2. REI Flexlite Air Chair
3. NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair
|View at REI||View at Backcountry|
4. Helinox Ground Chair
The Helinox Ground Chair has a square base that spreads the load more evenly than feet, meaning it is not as likely to sink into the ground. Setup is fast and easy with shock-corded poles and intuitive seat attachments. Its supportive 500-denier polyester seat features breathable monofilament mesh side panels to keep you comfortable in hot environments. The only thing missing is an ottoman to prop your feet on.
5. Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair
6. Kymit Ridgeline Chair Short
7. Trekkology Yizi Lite Chair
8. Crazy Creek Hex 2.0
|View at REI||View at Amazon|
9. REI Trail Stool
10. Hillsound BTR Stool
How to Choose a Backpacking Trail Chair
There are several types of trail chairs available today: sling-style chairs with collapsing and shock-corded aluminum legs, stools, chair kits that incorporate a sleeping pad, closed-cell foam sit pads, and inflatable seat cushions.
The cost of a backpacking chair can vary widely depending on the type of chair you want. Upright chairs with backs and shock-corded poles are usually the most expensive, while the price drops the closer you get to the ground with sit pads or sleeping pad chair kits. In addition to price, we’d encourage you to consider warranties and return policies as well. For example, Helinox offers a 5-year warranty on all of their chairs, including the Helinox Chair Zero and the Helinox Ground Chair, which we think speaks volumes about the quality of their product. Purchases made of REI products or through REI also have a 1 year money-back guarantee, which is helpful if you find that the chair you choose doesn’t stack up.
While chair weight is important, you need to balance it against the weight capacity of the chair to ensure it can hold your body weight, seat height, and packability. For example, the Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair is probably the best chair for big and tall backpackers, but it is significantly heavier than the Helinox Chair Zero or the REI Flexlite Air Chair.
When choosing a trail chair, make sure it can support your body weight or the weight of the people who will be using it. You don’t want to break the chair or hurt yourself by having it collapse under you. The NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair is the strongest upright chair listed below with an extra-thick frame followed by the Big Agnes Skyline UL. Both are suitable for tall and big backpackers.
Trail chairs that are low to the ground like the Helinox Ground Chair can be very difficult to get up from. We generally aim for chairs that have a seat height of 10″. Much lower and you’ll want to add deep squats to your weekday workouts to get in shape to get up from your trail chair. But this is one of those things that varies from individual to individual. If you don’t mind crawling in the dirt, a low chair or sit pad may be perfectly suitable for you.
Seat width is another dimension of comfort that is important to consider because you want a chair that is going to be big enough for your butt. Stools like the REI Trail Stool are a good option if you don’t like having your derriere squeezed from the sides by a seat, as are sit pads like the NEMO Chipper or the REI Sit Pad.
If back support is a priority, you’re going to want to get a chair like the NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair which has an adjustable back angle, or the Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair which is more upright than other chairs.
Most trail chairs will sink in soil, sand, or soft ground which can be pretty annoying because it makes it much harder to stand up and get out of your chair. When comparing chairs, look for ones with wide feet or accessories that prevent sinking. These can add cost and weight to the chair to make it usable in the field that offset the chair’s weight. For example, the Helinox Chair Zero has an added accessory groundsheet that prevents the chair from sinking in soft soil and sand. It costs and weighs extra though. The NEMO Moonlite and the REI Trail Stool have wider feet than other chairs, but they can still sink into the ground in certain cases. Our favorite accessory is a product called Chair Buddies (see our review), made in the UK, which attach to chair legs and prevent sinking. They’re only compatible with the Helinox Chair Zero and the REI Flexlite Chair though.
Since you have to carry a backpacking chair, you should give some consideration to how you pack it and how much extra volume it will take. Do you want to have the chair accessible for use during the day without unpacking your backpack or just in camp? If you pack it in your pack, how much extra volume will it consume? These are all useful considerations when choosing a backpacking chair.
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I have purchased both the Helinox ChairZero and REI Flexlite AirChair. Both are great camp chairs. I took the Helinox back to REI because it was more ‘tippy’ front to back, and with my back problems, I don’t need to be falling over backwards. I can lean WAY back in the REI chair, which has very good back support. I also bought the Chair Buddies, which were well worth the price to me.
Small error in the data table, the seat height of the Helinox is 8.5″, not 11.5″
Sorry…referring to the seat height of the Chair Zero
I used to carry a Coleman folding camp stool; it is easy to deploy with great seat height, but has no back support. My backpacking buddies convinced me to try the Chair Zero and I love it. In turn, based on Philip’s review, I tried Chair Buddies and introduced them to my group. We are all happy with our camp chair setup, but the new Helinox Chair Zero High-Back intrigues me.
I have the Chair Zero High Back. Supreme comfort but ridiculously expensive. Used my REI points to purchase but well worth the investment. One drawback is that it does not pack down as compactly as the regular Chair Zero
This is a bit off-topic, but has anyone tried the Mountainsmith Slingback Chair (on sale at Amazon for $19 right now; regular price is $24)? It’s not really a chair in the sense that these are: it has no legs or built-in support structure (and therefore sinking into the ground is not an issue.)
It’s a simple piece of nylon, with two pockets in the upper end. You insert your trekking poles, cross the poles left to right, and extend the poles to the desired length behind you. It’s a bit finicky (going on gizmo-like) to get into, and you are sitting on the ground, but it’s surprisingly comfortable and, once you get the hang of it, really convenient to deploy. It appears to have been inspired by the Colin Fletcher trick (which all of us used who are old enough to remember Howdy Doody) of propping up his external frame pack with his hiking staff to form a chair. If the ground is cold or hard, there’s a little pocket for holding a closed-cell sit pad like the Nemo Chipper.
I’ve been playing around with it this spring, and it may just replace my REI chair. Or it may end up being one of those damnably clever devices that turns out to be furiously impractical. Jury’s still out.
I’ve looked at it. I think a tree is probably more practical.
I have the Quickback chair kit from Litesmith Backpacking.com. It’s aiong the same order as the Slingback Chair and weighs less than 3 oz. and pretty expensive. I also have the Chair Zero,but sometimes take the Quickback for that truly ultralight experience.
I have both the Helinox Chair One and Chair Zero. I use the pole structure from the One, which is taller than the Zero’s, but the seat and carry sack from the Zero which drops the weight about 10 ozs from the full One which brings my “Chair .5” to about 23 ozs.
Great review Phil. Next time I hike in southern Arizona I will bring a chair. No logs to sit on and the rocks are too pokey I hike late and like to brew coffee and enjoy the sunrise in the morning. Would strongly consider a light hammer for those stakes, no such thing as soft ground out there. Msr hammer pretty heavy though.
I chose the Trekology chair because of price, weight and a very strong camp chair/cover. Works well for me, was a little tough to get used to but it keeps my bottom dry and packs easy.
I have had the REI Flex Lite chair for some time and like it very well except when I try to put it back inside its bag. If they had added 1/2inch of material to the bag it would have been so much easier to get it back in and I would have not taken the REI name in vain so many times.