We’ve rounded up this year’s best camping chairs to guide you through the different ways you can comfortably kick back in nature.
Our choice for best overall camping chair in 2020 is the Helinox Chair Zero, for its combination of lightweight materials, packability, durability, and comfort.
Best Overall Camping Chair
The Helinox Chair Zero is the ultralight answer to your traditional, bulky camping chair. Constructed with lightweight DAC aluminium poles and a ripstop polyester seat, it weighs just 1.1 lbs. It can be compressed into a 4”x4”x 14” stuff sack, roughly the size of a foot-long Subway sandwich. For its weight and size, you might think it flimsy; however, it can hold up to 265 lbs (120 kg) of weight.
For those who love both the adventure of hiking and the comfort of car camping, the Chair Zero is ideal. You’ll pay a little extra for this one, but the value is substantial.
Helinox is renowned for making durable and lightweight camping chairs, tables, and cots. So it’s no surprise they’ve made another appearance in our list with their Helinox Playa Chair.
What makes the Playa Chair so aptly named is its thoughtful design. Splayed legs make it perfect for set-up on sandy terrain, while its low-profile keeps you close to the ground and balanced. The 600 weave polyester seat is UV and weather-resistant. Comfy winged armrests and a built-in cupholder make it easy to relax and soak in your surroundings.
Weighing a total weight of 4 lbs 3 oz, this is not a chair you want to lug over long distances. That said, it has an impressive weight capacity of 320 lbs (145 kg). Oh yeah, and the included stuff sack doubles as a pillow. Neat, eh?
- Designed for sandy terrain
Coleman Big-N-Tall Quad Chair
As the name suggests, this sturdy chair provides plenty of room for comfortable relaxation. With 2 feet of sitting room, it accommodates up to 600 lbs.
Sink into the cushioned seat and back, and reach for your favourite drink in the insulated cup holder. A waterproof zippered sleeve keeps your smartphone protected while letting you use the touchscreen.
When the campfire sizzles out and it’s time to head home, the Coleman Big-N-Tall easily packs into its storage case. Great for camping, but not recommended for backpacking given its size & weight.
- Plenty of sitting room
- Padded back and seat
- Too large for backpacking
Helinox Swivel Chair
Who knew you could swivel at the campground? Stir your pot and quickly swing around to catch a glimpse of wildlife in the Helinox Swivel Chair.
Like all Helinox chairs, it sets up in snap and packs into an easy-to-carry sack. Lightweight at 2.13 lbs, it packs down to 4.5”x 5.5″x 15.5″. Made with advanced alloy DAC poles and weather-resistant fabric, this small-but-mighty chair can hold up to 260 lbs.
- On the pricey side
Sea-to-Summit Air Chair
Perhaps the most unique approach to the camping chair on our list is the Sea-to-Summit Air Chair, which, in fact, is no chair at all. Rather, the Air Chair is a lightweight and clever pad converter that can quickly transform your Sea-to-Summit sleeping pad into a comfy recliner.
The 70D base is durable and tear-resistant, while high-friction areas are reinforced with Hypalon patches. Elastic gussets keep your sleeping pad from slipping out of place and from rubbing against rough surfaces. 20mm adjustable straps hold the frame together and allow you to precisely adjust the chair’s angle.
- Clever design
- Easy to pack
- May not be compatible with other sleeping pads
Eagles Nest Outfitters AirPod Hanging Chair
Imagine taking the best parts of a chair and turning them into ultralight features. The AirPod Hanging Chair from renowned hammock-makers Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) does just that. Besides a simple seat, the AirPod includes an adjustable headrest and footrest.
The AirPod is made of a strong, double-walled tubular aluminum frame, with a breathable parachute nylon body. Though it’s a tad heavy at 29 oz, it can hold up to 250 lbs. It’s ideally suited for hammock-junkies who like a bit of swing in their sit.
- Head and footrest
- Requires something to hang it from
Sea-to-Summit Deluxe Delta Core V Self-Inflating Seat
The Sea-to-Summit Deluxe Delta Core V Self-Inflating Seat is about as minimal as you can go without sacrificing comfort. It’s a two-piece inflatable seat that can create a single 50mm cushion, or unfolded to create a seat and backrest when leaning against hard surfaces.
On top, the 30D face fabric is soft and stretchy, while the bottom is made of a durable 75D polyester. Because the Deluxe Delta Core is designed to be frameless, it comes in at an impressively low 7.8 oz. Firmness is easily adjusted with the mini-valve
- A bit bulky
What to Look for When Buying a Camping Chair
Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a camping chair:
Camping chairs come in three main styles or types. These are chairs, stools, and pad converters. Let’s take a look at what distinguishes one from the other, and the advantages of each.
A stool is a chair minus a backrest (who knew, right?). Because of this, camping stools are typically lighter than camping chairs. Their frames are also made of lightweight metal or carbon.
While stools are a lighter and more compact option, keep in mind that they won’t offer the same degree of lumbar support.
Easily the most recognizable style of the bunch, camping chairs are composed of two parts: a seat and a frame. The frame which holds the chair together is usually made of a durable and lightweight metal or carbon.
For frameless chairs (like the Sea-to-Summit Deluxe Delta Core V Self-Inflating Seat), the back can be folded down to create a thicker seat, or opened to lean against a hard surface. Chairs can also take the form of a hammock, such as the ENO AirPod Hanging Chair.
Pad converters are lightweight contraptions designed to transform a sleeping pad into a chair. They are generally frameless, instead relying on durable fabrics to hold the sleeping pad in place, with adjustable straps to create a chair-like angle (think Sea-to-Summit Air Chair).
Packability & Size
When it comes to camping chairs, you can find very affordable options at your local big box store—no doubt an economic choice for car camping. But, for those seeking a hiker-friendly alternative, you’ll have to look to the real outdoor companies listed above.
Always check the dimensions for the camping chair you fancy both when packed and when set-up. Cross-check this against how much room you have in your backpack.
Both the weight of the chair and the weight capacity of the chair are important metrics to consider. The former refers to the item’s mass, while the latter tells you how much it can support.
By choosing something that can tolerate a weight greater than your own, you can be sure it will maintain its shape over time and never break under your butt.
Things like can and bottle holders are common in traditional camping chairs; however, ultralight versions of camping chairs are more minimalistic with their features, mostly foregoing arms altogether.
Occasionally you’ll find a camping chair with a head or footrest, which can be a nice touch. Otherwise, most features are limited to pure functionality, like locking mechanisms, height adjustment, and high-tech materials.
FAQS FOR CAMPING CHAIRS
How much weight can a camping chair hold?
Always check the specs listed online or on the product tag.
How heavy is too heavy for a camping chair?
This all depends on how far you’ll be rucking it around and how much weight you can handle. Some camping stools are less than a pound, which is ideal for ultralighters on the move.
How do you clean a camping chair?
Most camping chairs have been weather-proofed. As such, it’s generally not recommended to throw it in a washing machine, as this can remove the coating or shrink the material.
Instead, a simple rinse under warm water with a light soap (think Dr. Bronner’s Original) will usually do the trick. You can also use a toothbrush dipped in a water-vinegar solution for especially tough stains and caked-on dirt.
Technological advances in material science have revolutionized the camping chair (who’d’ve thunk?). Now, what was once a glamping luxury is an ultralight essential for any happy outdoor adventure.
For its all-around versatility as a comfortable, lightweight, durable, and portable camping chair, we recommend the Helinox Chair Zero.