Updated June 2017
This spring, we updated our 2017 camping chair review, bringing you the best of the best of 14 top tier chairs. The ALPS King Kong remains our Editors' Choice, and the Kijaro is still the Best Bang for the Buck. We have a new Best Buy on a Tight Budget, the Moon Lence and two new notable mentions: the Helinox Chair Zero and the Onepack Ultralight. While conducting this review, we wanted to find chairs that excel in a variety of metrics, ranging from the most comfortable to the one that can withstand the most abuse. Fortunately, we tested several excellent products that raised our expectations of camping chairs.
Best Overall for Camping
ALPS Mountaineering King Kong
Material holds water
This prized award goes to the ALPS Mountaineering King Kong
. It is the undisputed most comfortable chair and was always the first model to be occupied around a fire ring. The fabric is ever so slightly padded which makes the chair ideal for long lounging sessions. The seat itself is super roomy and the frame is incredibly stable. The weight capacity is 800 lbs (which we tested, of course) and as a result, its reinforced fabric is very durable. This added reinforcement comes at the price of several extra pounds making the King Kong being the heaviest model that we tested at 13 lbs. Set up of this chair is super simple and takes a matter of seconds. Testers appreciated all of the functional storage features that the King Kong had, including two cup holders, two side pockets, and an additional small pocket behind the head rest. If you need a chair and don't mind a bit of bulk, we highly recommend the King Kong. Camping, tailgating, fishing, you name it - if you are someone who uses a camping specific chair regularly, we think this model will stand up to all of your needs.
Read full review: ALPS Mountaineering King Kong
Best Bang for the Buck
Kijaro Dual Lock Folding Chair
Great back support
Built-in carrying strap
Easy to set up
Small cup holders
Potentially less durable
Sometimes the Best Buy goes to a product that performs well considering its price. Other times, you find a product that performs great and is affordable. Meet the Kijaro Dual Lock Folding Chair
, which costs just $40. This chair is super comfortable and easy to set up, and its taut fabric provides the best back support of any of the models we tested. Additionally, the back is constructed from a sturdy mesh material that makes for comfortable, well-ventilated lounging on sunny days. Testers loved the carrying strap as it made this model much more portable than all of the other traditional models. Although we initially questioned its durability, we didn't notice any wear or tear during our testing process (although the yellow fabric did get quite filthy). What is most important to note is that the Kijaro is well-made, supremely comfortable, and supportive. Add to that the fact that it is one of the cheapest models we tested, and it was an obvious pick for our Best Buy Award.
Read full review: Kijaro Dual Lock Folding Chair
Top Pick for Portability
Big Agnes Helinox Chair One
Good back support
Stable for a portable model
Packs down small
No neck support
Less stable than traditional competitors
Many testers worried that a portable chair would force them to sacrifice their favorite qualities: comfort, stability, and bonus features (cup holders, coolers, etc). However, the Big Agnes Helinox Chair One
did an excellent job at representing all of the perks one can have in a small and lightweight seat - comfort, stability, and durability. While not the lightest or smallest chair we tested, it weighs less than two pounds and packs up in a pouch that is only slightly larger than a 2-liter water bottle, and is therefore still extremely portable - much more so than the traditional camping specific chairs we tested! Though not the most portable chair we tested, with well-ventilated mesh backing, good back support, and a medium seat height, the Chair One does an outstanding job balancing "front country" comfort with backcountry portability. Moreover, the Chair One retained the highest level of comfort, stability, and durability among all the portable chairs in this review, earning our pick for the Best Portable Competitor in our fleet.
Read full review: Big Agnes Helinox Chair One
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
Packs down small
Easy to Set Up
Not as stable
Material stretches with use
With so many portable camping chairs carrying a high price tag, we wanted to see what more affordable options were out there. Enter the Moon Lence
. At first glance, it looks eerily like the Helinox Chair One, making us wonder why anyone would pay extra for the Chair One at all. While our testers really liked the Moon Lence, their biggest complaints about it were the lack of stability and lessened durability, ultimately lowering the comfort of this chair. Made with slightly less durable materials, the seat stretched unevenly with each successive use, and the weight rating just isn't as high as that of the Chair One. However, overall this is a pretty good chair, and with a price under $40, we feel it's hard not to keep a few in the back of the Subaru.
Read full review: Moon Lence
Notable Mention for Absurd Portability
Big Agnes Helinox Chair Zero
Packs down small
Easy to Set Up
One of the most portable chairs we tested, the Helinox Chair Zero
also exhibits a good level of comfort and a surprising amount of durability! Though it couldn't quite outcompete the Chair One, as we found it to be much less stable, the low weight of just one pound makes this chair hard to ignore! Lighter than many chairs billed as "backpacking chairs", the Chair One is by far the most portable chair we tested. Its smaller size added to its portability but was a hit-and-miss item for our testers. The Chair Zero seems to be well-suited for smaller individuals and those who desire portability and comfort above all else.
Read full review: Helinox Chair Zero
Notable Mention for Hybrid Design
Hybrid of portable and traditional chairs
Headrest and feet discs
Challenging to set up
Potential durability issues
While not a particularly high-scoring chair in this review, the Ultralight exhibits a combination of portable and traditional camping chair features that make it stand out, as well as a low price tag! Packing down much smaller than a traditional chair, and weighing barely more than a third as much as the next lightest traditional chair, the Onepack beats traditional models for portability. With a higher seat, taller back, and built-in headrest, it stands out from the portable chairs. Again, not our favorite for comfort or durability, but it does have a low price tag, retailing for around $40. With this combination of crossover chair features and an affordable price, we think this competitor is worth our Notable Tag.
Read full review: Onepack Ultralight
Analysis and Test Results
Camping chairs are a useful luxury item that can be used not only while camping, but as additional seating for a barbecue, for hanging out at the sidelines of a soccer game or on the beach, or for tailgating. They should be comfortable, relatively portable, and user-friendly. And need we mention, versatile? The main problem with typical lightweight camping stools and chairs is that they often forgo comfort as if the austere conditions of the camping environment exclude kicking back and relaxing. Fortunately, we were able to test several models that offer a variety of features but still hold up to the one golden criteria: comfort.
When choosing the best contender, we had a LOT of demands. It needs to be portable and durable just like all our other camping equipment, but it also must maintain the comfort of a standard chair without being too complicated to use. These are pieces of equipment that regularly get thrown in and out of vehicles, dragged across campsites and parking lots, and might live in your backyard for months on end. Despite all this abuse, we still expect them to let us kick back and relax.
So why even have a camping specific chair? Well, in regards to car camping, the easy answer is that you don't need one. In fact, there are probably millions of people in campgrounds all around the US lounging about on the ground or sitting on the hard bench of a picnic table as we speak. These alternatives, however, are far less comfortable. Once you take a camping trip using chairs, you won't want to be without them again. They make eating significantly easier, lounging more enjoyable, and most of them even keep your adult beverages chilled for you. Ah, modern innovations! For other uses where sitting is the predominate activity, such as spectating at sporting events or tailgating, we feel that a good chair is more of a necessity. They make cheering on your favorite team much more pleasant and can provide valuable storage for many of your daily use items.
Comfort was our most highly weighted metric, accounting for nearly half of the overall score. After all, deciding to buy a chair instead of sit on the ground means you probably value comfort. So don't waste your money on a chair that isn't comfortable. Factors we considered when evaluating comfort were armrests, lumbar support, a headrest, back ventilation, and overall design of the chair.
For the most part, we felt that all of the chairs were reasonably comfortable, with the portable contenders being the least so of all of the models we tested. In fact, even our lowest ranking chair in the comfort criteria is significantly more comfortable than sitting on the ground for an extended period of time.
Testers loved lounging in the Eureka, but wished it had cup holders accessible in its armrests.
There were two chairs that we thought were exceptionally comfortable, the ALPS Mountaineering King Kong
and the Eureka Curvy High-Back
. The Alps
was roomy, slightly padded, and had large armrests. It was supportive but still cozy. The Eureka
has a high back, which was unique among the models that we tested. This provided good head and upper back support and although the chair does not recline, did make it feel recline-able as you could relax with your head back. The center of the chair's back and seat had mesh fabric which provided for much-needed ventilation if you were using this chair in the sun. One component that affected this chair's comfort were its armrests. They were small and almost too low to be functional. When sunbathing, we didn't miss the armrests, but reading, eating or drinking was a nuisance without any place to rest your elbows.
The padded seat was much appreciated in the comfort department. Do be aware that it can soak up water during rainstorms (which results in a wet bum). The King Kong earned a 9 out of 10 in the comfort department. Along with the Eureka Curvy, it was the only other contender to earn this near perfect score.
The least comfortable chair that we reviewed was the Therm-a-Rest Treo
. Its small, narrow build demands that your hips and thighs conform to its awkward egg shape. Most testers preferred it to sitting on the ground, but not by much. Its small frame makes the chair unstable, so sitting is a bit of an interactive experience as one must be wary of leaning too far in any direction or the Treo's
tripod could topple.
One tester contemplating what exactly makes a great camp chair.
The smaller the person was, the less they seemed to mind this small seat. Regardless, if you want something that is compact, we would recommend our Top Pick for Portability, the Big Agnes Helinox Chair One
, which is slightly more comfortable.
Weighing less than 2 lbs, the Helinox is so portable it can be carried to your favorite lakeside lounge spot, no problem!
This metric was the second most important rating criteria that we evaluated. It accounted for a quarter of the overall score of the product. Given the variety of ways you can use your chair, it is mandatory to choose a product you won't mind moving and transporting. Factors that affected a chair's portability were its packed size, weight, and its traveling bag. Because of their design, the portable models scored higher than the traditional models in this metric.
Weighing one pound and fourteen ounces, the Big Agnes Helinox Chair Zero
was the only competitor to earn a perfect 10 out of 10 in this metric. It packed down into the smallest pouch, which you can see in the photo below. Followed by the Chair Zero
, the Big Agnes Helinox Chair One
and the Alite Mantis
finished at the top of our pack for portability. They both weighed less than two pounds and packed down into compact little bags that were smaller than a two-liter water bottle. The Moon Lence
, Onepack Ultralight
, REI Co-Op Flex Lite
, and Therm-a-Rest Treo
also earned near perfect 9 out of 10s in the portability metric, coming in at respectable weights and packed sizes.
What the Chair Zero lacked in stability, it made up for in portability and compactness. Our smaller testers loved this chair - and it doubled well as an outdoor work station! The dog also loved how much closer all the portable camping chairs allowed her to be to the testers. Easier to plop the ball right in our laps!
packs down a few inches smaller than the Helinox
. The Treo
packs down smaller than either of these models, but it weighs over a half a pound more. The Helinox Chair One and Mantis
come with separate storage bags, while the Treo
packs into its base stand. Although we liked the idea of the chair packing into its base, some testers questioned the durability of this storage system. The regular storage sack was a failsafe option and very easy to transport.
The smallest chairs we tested were just a little bit larger than a one-liter water bottle. Top left to right: water bottle, Treo, Chair One, Mantis. Bottom left to right: Chair Zero, Chair One, Moon Lence, REI Flex Lite, Onepack.
To no one's surprise, the Sport-Brella Recliner
was the least portable chair, earning a 3 out of 10. It was truly a pain to have to bring this chair anywhere. If you try to carry it without its storage bag, be cautious of tripping on the umbrella or the footrest which likes to flop out. What's more, it is heavy. So don't misplace the storage sack and try not to have to carry it very far. Finishing with a 5 out of 10 in the portability metric, you'll find the Alps King Kong
and Eureka Curvy High-Back
. If comfort is greater than portability, these might be right for your adventure. If light (and portable) is right, you might want to consider other alternatives.
Like anything you spend money on, you want it to be durable. Almost all of the chairs we tested seemed to be quite durable, meaning that testers felt they would be able to get multiple seasons of regular use out of a product. Wear and tear on the fabric and features and flimsiness of the frame were the most important specs that we monitored.
It should be no surprise that the only chair that can hold up to 800 lbs got our best scores on durability (9/10). The Alps Mountaineering King Kong's
steel frame and 600D nylon fabric surface didn't show any wear or tear after several months of testing. The frame doesn't shift or creak under load. The high denier fabric is not as breathable as the mesh that some of the other chairs has, but it will last a long time. Due to the increased demand for this chair (from testers), it sustained many ember burns from being around so many campfires. Despite these small melted holes, the fabric showed no extra signs of strain or wear. Closely following the King Kong
was the Eureka Curvy High-Back
. The High-Back
has been tested season after season and has shown minimal wear and tear, resulting in one of the highest scorers for the durability metric. At $40, the Kijaro Dual Lock
earned an above average 7 out of 10, along with the Big Agnes Helinox Chair One
and REI Camp X
The King Kong has an 800-pound limit...here, our testers pile on to see what it can really hold!
Even after our three-month long testing process, testers still had doubts about the durability of the three lightest portable chairs, which have thin, lightweight support poles that sometimes creaked under the load of a single person. This led to the logical question of "what would it take to break these seemingly fragile chairs?" Well, not much it turned out. One enthusiastic tester destroyed the following chairs, one by one by one.
Despite being slightly out of reach, the super durable storage pouch on the Eureka could hold a TON of odds and ends.
The Alite Mantis, Therm-a-Rest Treo, and Big Agnes Helinox
were all subjected to two tests: the "dynamic jump-and-sit" and being stood on. We felt both tests either 1) could happen and/or 2) represent the effects of general use over time. The Mantis
withstood a few jump-and-sits, but when stood upon its frame cracked. This damage rendered the chair completely useless. One of the foot pads on the Treo
cracked off the first time someone leaped into its seat. After disassembling the competitor, we discovered that one of its support bars broke at some point as well. The Helinox Chair One
failed after the second jump-and-sit. And by failed, we mean one of its aluminum frame bars cracked in half!
Hanging out in the backyard on a warm spring afternoon. Left to right: Helinox Chair One, REI Flex Lite, Onepack Ultralight, Moon Lence Ultralight
Due to its significant wear over time, the Sport Brella
received our lowest marks in durability (a 2 out of 10). Halfway through our testing process, one of the buckles on the footrest failed. A couple of weeks later, we noticed that the whole underside of the seat fabric was delaminating. At the end of the testing process, the stitching on the seat was starting to look stretched and stressed, and testers knew to approach the Sport Brella
with caution. We liked the idea behind a chair with so many bells and whistles, but could not recommend a chair that won't even last a full season outside.
Ease of Set-Up
Ease of assembly referred specifically to how hard it is to assemble the chair. Fortunately, the mental capacity that is required to assemble these products is limited. Most of the traditional models only required pulling apart two opposing vertical frame pieces to be set up. The most complex of the traditional models, the Kijaro Dual Lock Folding Chair
, has a single button that must be pressed in order to assemble and disassemble the chair. The portable models had a more involved setup. The Helinox, Big Agnes, and Alite
all had a separate frame and fabric seat that had to be assembled. It wasn't difficult, but it was certainly more involved than the assembly of any of the traditional chairs.
The cup holder (left) on the Camp X was cleverly designed to be able to fit drinks of many sizes. Its arm storage pouch (right) could be used for another drink or many other odds and ends.
Many chairs received a perfect score in ease of set up: the Alps Mountaineering King Kong, the Coleman Overside Quad Chair with Cooler, and the REI Camp X
. All of these chairs just needed to be pulled apart at opposite ends and would be set up in three seconds. Several other models opened in a similar fashion but had materials that would catch or were just slightly awkward for some reasons, so they didn't get perfect scores. The Stowaway Low was the only portable model we tested that received a perfect score.
The Coleman Quad was easy to use and versatile. And for $35, you might as well have a couple around your house for impromptu summer BBQs!
The Therm-a-Rest Treo
received the fewest points in ease of set up. It has the most parts to assemble (6), and the pole/seat connection wasn't as secure as it was for either Helinox or the Mantis
. This junction was only stable when all four poles were attached. Until this point, you could repeatedly set the pole in its little pocket in the chair fabric then watch it immediately slip out.
An unassembled Treo. This product was one of the hardest to set-up.
Although we did not rate the chairs according to their features, we have included this section to describe the bells and whistles some of these chairs have. Want a seat with a built-in bottle opener? Then skim through our individual reviews to narrow down which models have this feature. Want a chair that has a cup holder big enough for your favorite mug? Then add that to the list of specs to check out too. All of the traditional model chairs come fitted with extra features, but the Sport Brella
possessed all of the bells and whistles you would expect from a new age camping chair - plus an umbrella. This chair also has a footrest, cup holder, arm cooler, bottle opener, and two storage pouches. If you want to give yourself as many reasons as possible to not
get out of your camping chair, then you better get the Sport-Brella
The Sport-Brella sounded too good to be true...and testers found this to actually be the case. Although it's loaded with features, there were multiple problems with material quality and the chair itself wasn't very comfortable.
An unfortunate result of making some chairs more portable was that they lost all of these extras. Neither the Treo, Mantis, Stowaway, or Helinox
had any storage. Fortunately, the ground is only a couple of inches away in these low riding models, so it was readily accessible for storing beverages but not a safe place to store a phone, keys, etc. The more feature-rich models are typically the contenders that weigh more; you'll want to keep this in mind when choosing a chair that is more comfortable (for adventures like car camping or beach lounging) versus one you'll have to lug around long distances. All chairs were weighed and all measurements can be found in our spec table.
While the Ultralight wasn't the most comfortable chair we tested, it did have a combination of features we didn't find in the rest of the chairs in this review - lightweight, high back, low cost, and doesn't get swallowed so easily by a beach!
The luxury of having a comfortable chair while camping or lounging in your backyard can really add to your outdoor experience. In addition to making relaxing, eating, and drinking easier, you can maximize your lounging enjoyment - holding your drink and keeping it cool at the same time. To find the best overall competitor in our fleet, we measured each one's comfort level (which we consider to be key), along with size and portability. Whether you're car camping, sitting in the chair by the campfire, or lounging after a dip in the deep blue, the best model for you will ultimately depend on your lifestyle. We hope that we've been able to offer enough information in shopping for a new chair that will accommodate the adventures you go on. If you're still left in the dark, check out our Buying Advice
article to find the model that best fits your needs.