10 Best Backpacking Chairs of 2022

10 Best Backpacking Chairs of 2022

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.

Make / ModelWeightSeat HeightWeight Capacity
Helinox Chair Zero Chair17 oz11.5"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
REI Trail Stool18 oz15"200 lbs
Hillsound BTR Stool14.1 oz17"240 lbs
Therm-a-Rest Trekking Chair Kit10-13 oz4"300 lbs
Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 20.8 oz0.5"250 lbs
NEMO Chipper Foam Seat5.6 oz1"Unlimited

Here are the top 10 lightweight backpacking and camping chairs we recommend.

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.

Available from:
REI | Helinox | Amazon

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,

Available from:
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.

Available from:
REI | NEMO | Amazon

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.

Available from:
REI | HelinoxAmazon

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.

Available from:
REI | Amazon

6. 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.

Available from:
REI

7. 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.

Available from:
Garage Grown Gear | Amazon

8. Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair Kit

Thermarest Trekker Chair Kit
The Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair Kit turns your inflatable or self-inflating sleeping pad into a chair. Compatible with 20″ or 25″ wide sleeping pads, you can enjoy the support and comfort of a backed chair the comfort of being able to lean back and relax while in camp. While extra care is required when using an inflatable pad to avoid sharp objects that can puncture the pad, this chair kit is a worthwhile addition to your pack as it adds functionality, with easy assembly and a relatively minimal weight penalty.

Available from:
Therm-a-Rest | Amazon

9. 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!

Available from:
REI | Amazon

10. NEMO Chipper Closed-Cell Foam Seat

Nemo Chipper Foam Seat
The NEMO Chipper is a foam sit pad that folds compactly together making it easy to carry in a backpack or one of its side pockets. The Chipper is made from recycled scraps of closed-cell foam that are created while making NEMO’s other sleeping pads. It’s also designed to fit together more compactly than other foam sit pads, using offset “bumps” like those found in NEMO’s foam Switchback sleeping pad. The Chipper is a closed-cell pad, so it won’t absorb water and provides insulation to keep your bum warm when you sit on it in cooler weather.

Available from:
REI | NEMOAmazon

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.

About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its backpacking gear reviews and hiking FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the 36th person to hike all 650 of the hiking trails in the White Mountain Guide, a distance of approximately 2500 miles, completing a second round in 2021. Philip is the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire.

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12 comments

  1. A fair amount of the guys in my unit have the Nemo Moonlite. It is super packable and we take them with us all over the world. The Moonlite is not cheap! When you have limited space and want a comfortable chair I think the Moonlite is the way to go.

    • X2 on the Moonlight. After looking at/trying the competition, it’s burlier and has better feet than REI or Helinox. It is heavier, but it’s worth taking the weight the hit. Ditch the nice bag, put a velcro strap around the folded chair and it fits in my pack exterior side pocket.

  2. Having managed to fall out of both the Helinox ChairZero and REI Flexlite Air Chair, I consider myself a reigning authority on the difference between those two seating platforms… or am I a raining authority?… after all, rain does fall on the ground! If you look at the pictures you’ll see that the crossbar of the frame runs side to side on the Helinox model and front to back on the REI offering. As a result, the Helinox, at least to me, feels more stable side to side but tippier front to back. The REI chair seems to have greater stability front to back and is more prone to dump you off to the side if you lean too far that way.

    When I was first shopping those chairs, the REI salesman told me to spend the extra $20 and buy the Helinox ChairZero, that he thought it was a slightly better chair. My AT hiking buddy has the ChairZero and loves it and I really liked the feel of it on the few times something pried Larry out of his chair long enough to leave me with the opportunity to try it.

    Last fall, I used my REI 20% off coupon, bought that chair and used it on a hike with my brother in early January in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park. I have tremendous back problems and don’t have full control trying to sit down into a low chair and the two times I sat in it, I fell over backwards. The first time, I smacked my back on a rock, which was quite uncomfortable, the second resulted in a hilarious “feet up in the air” photo that my brother snapped at the perfect time. He was trying to get a picture of our campsite with me in the chair by the tent. Those consecutive spills made me worry that the ChairZero wasn’t the best choice for me.

    A few hours after the photobomb (bombs also hit the ground!), we met someone admiring the view from South Rim in the REI Flexlite Air Chair. She demonstrated dropping backwards relatively uncontrolled into the chair a few times and it never gave any indication of tipping backwards. I decided that was going to be the better option in my case. I took the very lightly used ChairZero back to REI (someone will get a deal at their garage sale!) and ordered the Flexlite with this spring’s 20% off coupon. I did manage to spill sideways out of the REI Flexlite Air Chair while testing it in the store but felt in my case that was less risky than going over backwards.

    I had two major back surgeries last month and the physical therapist points to my new REI chair as my goal in therapy–to get to the point I can safely sit and get up from something that low.

    There’s the lowdown from the king of screams on the differences to be expected between the Helinox ChairZero and REI Flexlite Air Chair. YMMV (Your Mistakes May Vary)

    • I never understood why REI, a few years ago, changed their chair-leg axis from E-W (side to side) to N-S–maybe your experience explains their intent. For me though, the lateral instability of the REI chair was a deal-breaker.

      • The instability of the REI was a dealbreaker for me too. The ChairZero just felt way more stable. I normally use my chair when cooking or playing cards, not leaning backward and looking at the sky. If I want to stargaze, I lie on my back :)

  3. El Diablo Amarillo

    I run a BA Skyline UL Stool. Not the chair. For bow and rifle backpack hunting it has been a real asset. There are no doubt times a chair with a back would be great but I can usually find a log, tree, or rock to serve that purpose. It is the perfect height for cooking and getting dressed inside my SO Cimmarron when I have the stove cranked up. I can pivot shooting positions on it that are not possible with the chairs.
    Just another view that may help someone out. In spite of the extra pound or so it weighs I gladly carry it everywhere in my pack

  4. Christopher Marshburn

    Add to the list the new Helinox High Back. 8 more ounces than the Chair Zero but it looks a lot more comfortable. https://helinox.com/products/chair-zero-high-back

  5. I have 2 of the REI chairs but looking it over I feel theHelinox chairs are a more stable leg design.
    I may just break down and get one. Somebody twist my arm.
    OW! That’s enough.I”buy one.

  6. I just picked up and REI Flexlite Air chair from REI on their 20% off spring sale. I had previously bought a Trekology YIZI-LITE chair for $40 on Amazon and though it was compact, not overly heavy at 750 grams and was better than a sit pad on a log, it sat a bit too low to the ground for my comfort. I had also purchased the YIZI-LITE Ground Sheet for $15. The YIZI-Lite chair uses the same leg design as the Flexlite Air and by chance, the groundsheet fits the REI Flexlite Air chair perfectly. Note, this only works for the YIZI-LITE Trekology chair groundsheet and not the groundsheet for the full sized chair.

  7. Big Agnes Skyline UL, all the way. It’s very comfortable because of the seat height and very sturdy because of how the joints are made – No plastic anywhere. It’s not the lightest but at the end of the day it’s well worth the weight penalty because of how comfy it is. I use it in the AZ desert where trees are not always available to use as back support.

  8. I’ve got my old Z-Rest seat that I paid $2 for 20ish years ago. It weighs a couple of ounces and has gone with me many places, cycling and hiking in several countries. It’s not only great for backpacking but also serves as a kneepad if I’m working on something. Also serves as supplemental padding or insulation in my hammock or on the ground. Also serves as back support in my frameless daypack. I tore it once several years ago but fixed it with some superglue and it’s still going strong.

    • Oh, and it makes a very comfortable place to sit, which is important in the jagged limestone that is everywhere around these parts.

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