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10 Best Backpacking Chairs of 2023

10 Best Backpacking Chairs of 2023

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 / ModelWeightSeat HeightWeight Capacity
Helinox Chair Zero Chair17 oz8.5"265 lbs
REI Flexlite Air Chair16 oz11"250 lbs
NEMO Moonlite Chair30 oz10.5"300 lbs
Helinox Ground Chair23 oz4"265 lbs
Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair28 oz15"276 lbs
Klymit Ridgeline Chair Short30 oz13.5"265 lbs
Trekology Yizi Lite26.5 oz9.8"220 lbs
Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 20.8 oz0.5"250 lbs
REI Trail Stool18 oz15"200 lbs
Hillsound BTR Stool14.1 oz17"240 lbs

1. Helinox Chair Zero

Helinox Chair Zero
The Helinox Chair Zero is a super lightweight but sturdy camp chair with a single shock-corded pole structure that makes for easy setup. It packs up small making it easy to carry in the side pocket of a backpack and is easy to assemble when you want to have a seat. Slits in the polyester ripstop seat expand to accommodate your backside for increased comfort. Helinox also sells several accessory products including a groundsheet to prevent sinking in soft ground or snow, an issue experienced by all backpacking chairs, which we address below in our section on How to Choose a Backpacking Chair.

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2. REI Flexlite Air Chair

REI Flexlite Air Chair
The REI Flexlite Air Chair is quite similar to the Helinox Chair Zero with the same style shock-corded poles and hub assembly. It also breaks down compactly making it very easy to pack in a backpack or in an outside pocket. Weighing 16 oz, it is one ounce lighter than the Helinox Chair Zero, but is best used on hard surfaces as a groundsheet is not available to prevent sinking in soft soil or sand.

View at REI

3. NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair

NEMO Moonlite Chair
The NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair is an adjustable trail chair that lets you lean backward for stargazing. The backward lean is created by loosening/tightening the arm straps along the sides of the chair. The collapsible legs are oval-shaped aluminum tubes that offer a just-right blend of rigidity and flexibility for rock-solid support. The Moonlite’s extra-large feet help prevent the chair from sinking into sand or the ground, while the seamless engineered seat mesh conforms to your body when you sit.

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4. Helinox Ground Chair

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.

View at Amazon

5. Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair

Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair
The Big Agnes Skyline UL Chair has a fully shock-corded architecture and color-coded frame that offers a simple setup and breakdown, like the other chairs listed above. But it has a 15″ seat height and a wider, more stable seat for added comfort, especially for larger and taller backpackers. Steel reinforcements in the chair’s aluminum frame and fittings make it much sturdier and more durable than is readily apparent.

View at Amazon

6. Kymit Ridgeline Chair Short

Klymit Ridgeline Short Chair
The Klymit Ridgeline Chair Short is a 30 oz camp chair with a seat height of 13.5″ and a max weight capacity of 265 lbs. That seat height makes it a lot easier for people to get off the chair after use. The frame is aluminum with a 900D polyester seat that has mesh panels for breathability and a side pocket to keep track of valuables. The chair folds up small and is easy to set up.

View at Klymit

7. Trekkology Yizi Lite Chair

Trekology Yizi Lite Chair
The Trekology Yizi Lite is a compact and lightweight camping chair that weighs 26.5 oz with a chair height of 9.8 inches and a max recommended load of 220 lbs. Its claim to fame is its compactness (12.6” x 5.9” ) making it very easy to pack and carry in a backpack. The chair has a heavy-duty 7075 aluminum frame with a durable 60 nylon ripstop polyester seat. The seat also has a side pocket to hold small items close while you sit like a bottle opener or a smart phone, which can easily fall out of your pockets and become misplaced. While this chair is super comfortable to sit in, it can be a little challenging to stand up from for bigger people. But it’s a great value and quite lightweight.

View at Amazon

8. Crazy Creek Hex 2.0

Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Chair
The Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 folding chair is a lightweight (1 lb 4.8 oz) folding foam-cushioned chair covered with a durable 210-denier coated ripstop nylon that protects you from wet ground. It has an internal carbon fiber stay to provide support while sitting and rolls up compactly (4″ in diameter) making it lash to the outside of a backpack. Finally, you can have a chair and lean back too!

Shop at REIShop at Amazon

9. REI Trail Stool

REI Trail Stool
The REI Trail Stool is a lightweight folding stool with a 15″ seat height. It has a million and one uses around the house, in camp, for fishing, or on the trail when you want to sit and have a rest. Weighing just 1 lb 2 oz, it folds up compactly, making it easy to carry on hikes. It has a mesh seat and sturdy aluminum legs that fold together when not in use, and wide feet that resist sinking on soft ground. A shoulder strap is provided but there is no carrying case. We like to bring it on hikes and walks with elderly relatives so they have a clean place to sit and rest if they become fatigued.

View at REI

10. Hillsound BTR Stool

Hillsound BTR Stool
The Hillsound BTR Stool is a tripod stool with telescoping legs that folds up compactly and is easy to carry in a backpack side pocket. It has a waterproof nylon mesh seat and is available in two seat heights, 14″ (12.2 oz / 346g ) and 17″ (14.1 oz / 399g ) with a max load capacity of 240 pounds. While it is very easy to pack, it’s kind of tippy when you sit on it on uneven ground and doesn’t provide the same level of comfort as a chair with a back. Then again it is also much easier and less bulky to pack.

View at Amazon

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.

Price

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.

Chair Weight

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.

Weight Capacity

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.

Seat Height

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

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.

Back Support

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.

Chair Feet

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.

Packability

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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13 comments

  1. 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.

  2. Small error in the data table, the seat height of the Helinox is 8.5″, not 11.5″

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Clifford R Ward -Sparks-

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. Any thoughts on the S2S Air Chair? I have the REI flexlite but it’s temperamental, digging into the dirt, aftermarket feet are too heavy to bring & it’s a pain to find stones or use other work arounds. Tippy too. I miss my old (heavy) Crazy Creek (?) chair I used to stuff my old thermarest in & lean back beautifully. I think it’s ~ 8 ozs. Less bulky in the pack too I recon. I carry a thermarest sit pad (z seat?) anyway in my bladder sleeve of my HMG so that might protect my pad enough along w the chair fabric.

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