A backpacking chair isn’t exactly essential backpacking gear.
You can certainly get by without a chair altogether. Or you can use a large rock, a log, or even your sleeping pad as a makeshift seat. But if you’re not a lightweight backpacker, then adding a backpacking chair into the mix isn’t as crazy an idea as you might think.
The best backpacking chairs are lightweight, compact, and easy to carry. The lightest weigh just over a pound. They’re durable and versatile. Of course, they’re also comfortable to sit in to take in amazing outdoor views.
Here are the best backpacking chairs for 2020 plus all the details you need to know to feel confident in your purchase.
Top Backpacking Chairs Comparison Chart
|Helinox Chair Zero
|Crazy Creek PowerLounger||L-Shaped||22||$$|
|Crazy Creek Original||L-Shaped||26||$$|
Best Backpacking Chairs Reviews
Here is our roundup of the 7 best backpacking chairs for 2020:
The Helinox Chair Zero is by far one of the lightest backpacking chairs available in 2020.
Clocking in at just 17 ounces, it’s the best choice for those seriously concerned about weight or on the fence about packing a chair along with them.
In addition to its lightweight design, the Chair Zero packs down small. It comes with a lightweight stuff sack that the chair rolls down into. This makes it a no-brainer to throw the chair in with the rest of your backpacking gear before your next trip.
Of course, the lightweight does come with its drawbacks. Namely, comfort. This is one of the most uncomfortable chairs reviewed here due to the shallow seat and low back (although it certainly beats no chair at all). The chair is also relatively unstable, especially on uneven terrain, although we didn’t notice any issues with durability.
If you’re willing to sacrifice a few more ounces, there are far more comfortable, stable, and durable backpacking chairs available at the same price point. That said, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything quite as lightweight.
- Lightweight (17 Ounces)
Over double the weight of the Helinox Chair Zero, the Alite Stonefly certainly isn’t the lightest backpacking chair on the market, but it’s one of the most comfortable and versatile.
The Stonefly shines in the comfort department. It is relatively spacious with good depth and a high back. The seat boasts a tacky finish so you don’t slide out.
Couple that with stable legs and this chair is even more comfortable. The legs are stable enough to use on even terrain with confidence. This Alite backpacking chair even performs well in sand, making it a good option for beach outings.
Yet another highlight is the durable construction. When you dish out over $100, you deserve to feel confident in the longevity of your purchase. 210D ripstop nylon and an aluminum frame ensure you’ll be using this chair for years on end.
The major downside to this chair is weight. It’s heavy. And it doesn’t pack down that small compared to others. This makes it ideal for short trips and for those that don’t mind carrying extra weight. If two extra pounds is too much to add to your pack, there are much better backpacking chairs (i.e. the Helinox Chair Zero) for you.
- Durable (210D Ripstop Nylon)
- Stable on All Terrain
Another crazy light backpacking chair, the Crazy Creek PowerLounger clocks in at just 22 ounces.
Utilizing a folding, L-shaped design, this Crazy Creek chair does without legs to further shave off weight. It sits directly on the ground.
For this type of chair, the PowerLounger is very comfortable. Even though it’s thin, the high back and deep seat make for a comfortable place to sit. Not only that, but the bottom of the seat actually extends to full leg length to keep all of your legs off of the ground.
Better yet, this backpacking chair isn’t only very light, but it folds down small as well. Throw it in your pack and you’ll barely notice it’s there (unless you’re seriously concerned about shedding every single ounce). The chair can even double as a sleeping pad, although it’s not nearly as comfortable to sleep on as the best sleeping pads on the market.
Honestly, there’s very little to complain about when it comes to the Crazy Creek PowerLounger. Sure, the actual cushioning is thin, but it’s still quite comfortable. It also has a fairly high price tag for what it is: a simple, folding backpacking chair.
- Packs Down Small
- Doubles as a Sleeping Pad
Budget campers rejoice – the ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat is one of the best budget-friendly backpacking chairs available today!
For less than $25, you get a comfortable and versatile chair with a built-in mesh pocket on the backside of the backrest. This is the perfect place to stash small items, like a book or a snack if you take this chair to the beach or to a picnic.
The thoughtful and user-friendly design is a key selling point. This chair is simple and straightforward to use. It has straps underneath the seat that attach to picnic benches or even bleachers to create a makeshift chair up off the ground.
The ALPS Weekender boasts durable construction. The chair will last for years on end, even with heavy outdoor use. It has a decent packed size, although it’s heavier than many other backpacking chairs. In fact, it’s one of the heaviest legless models we’ve tested.
Overall, this is a great value backpacking chair. For a very low price, you get a quality chair that’s actually comfortable than others more than quadruple its price. The downside is a little extra weight to deal with in your pack.
- Versatile Design
The TravelChair Joey might be designed for backpacking – but it’s actually one of my favorite camping chairs, bar none.
The Joey is quite comfortable with a deep seat and tall back. The thick canvas provides extra support but mesh ventilation areas ensure breathability. This chair offers a very comfortable place to kick back after a long day outdoors.
The chair also shines in terms of durability. It’s built with heavy-duty materials, unlike many backpacking chairs that hope to shave every ounce of weight. Even typically high-stress areas, like the spot where the poles and canvas meet, are reinforced and durable enough to stand up to all the abuse you can throw at it.
Although it clocks in at 38 ounces (the same as the Alite Stonefly), the Joey packs down quite small for its weight. It’s one of the most compact pole chairs we’ve used. That said, we probably wouldn’t take this TravelChair on a long backpacking trip, although it’s ideal for shorter trips where a little extra weight won’t hurt anyone.
All told, The TravelChair Joey is a great value camping chair. You get a lot of bang for your buck, especially compared to other products in the price range. But the chair is a little too heavy to be one of our backcountry go-tos.
- Durable Materials
- Versatile Applications
If you want a classic backpacking chair, look no further than the Crazy Creek Original Chair.
As the traditional backpacking chair, the Original Chair is truly the “original” in the sense that it has served as a template for many models created by other brands.
The simple, time-tested design fits a lot of performance into a small package. The chair is comfortable, relatively compact when packed down, and is very durable.
Not only that, but this Crazy Creek backpacking chair is also pretty affordable. It’s not the cheapest that we reviewed, but it’s a good middle ground considering the overall value that you get. A multitude of colors and designs (including tie-dye) are available to spice things up in the backcountry.
Our main gripe is the narrow seat and lack of breathability. Use this chair on a hot day and your back will start sweating. That said, these are minimal nuisances to deal with for the benefits you get overall.
- Durable Construction
- Lots of Colors Available
The REI Co-op Flexlite doesn’t stick out in any particular category – but it’s a solid workhorse through and through.
It boasts a durable and rugged construction without sacrificing weight. It’s still lightweight enough for short backpacking trips, although those extra concerned with weight should look elsewhere (or not take a chair at all!).
This REI backpacking chair is particularly good in hot weather. The mesh panels in the back of the chair offer excellent breathability to keep your back cool while lounging at the campsite.
The Flexlite isn’t exactly cheap, but it is affordable compared to other options. Its overall comfort and versatility make it a good choice for those that go backpacking on occasion, but also want a chair that doubles as a quality camping chair for car camping, picnics, and other activities.
The only downside to this REI backpacking chair is its legs. Short legs and small feet make for a relatively unstable sit. The chair is particularly wobbly on uneven terrain, including sand, although we feel this isn’t reason enough to exclude it from your list.
- Fairly Lightweight
Backpacking Chairs Buyer’s Guide
Most backpacking chairs are fairly simple – but don’t let that deceive you. There’s actually a whole lot of different features that set the best backpacking chairs apart from the pack. Keep these in mind to find the right one for your needs.
Here’s what you need to know to buy the best backpacking chair:
There are two main types of backpacking chairs. These are “L-shaped” and “pole.” Here’s a bit more about each style:
- L-Shaped – An L-shaped chair is a folding chair with a simple L-shape. Most use the basic design of the classic Crazy Creek Original Chair (reviewed above). They sit directly on the ground. Sometimes these are called “taco style” chairs.
- Pole Style – A pole style chair (for lack of a better name) consists of a fabric seat and leg poles. The two are separated from transport and reattached at camp. Most sit around a foot above the ground. Due to their superior comfort, they are quickly becoming the most popular type of backpacking chair around.
Both types of backpacking chairs have their pros and cons. L-shaped chairs are lightweight and quicker to set up. However, they are typically not as comfortable since they minor require muscle engagement to sit in comfortably.
Pole chairs, on the other hand, are usually slightly heavier (since they require poles) but are far stable and comfortable to sit on (another downside is a higher price tag).
Weight and Packed Size
For backpackers, one of the most important features of a backpacking chair is weight.
The lighter the chair, the better. Luckily, the top chairs reviewed above are all incredibly lightweight. It’s not difficult to find a chair around the one-pound mark if you’re seriously concerned about saving weight.
Almost as important as weight is packed size. As a backpacker, you need a chair that folds down as small as possible for easy transportation. All of the models above pack down relatively small and can easily be stowed in or on your backpack with the rest of your equipment.
There’s no point in buying a backpacking chair if it doesn’t increase your comfort at the campsite.
Although all seven of the best backpacking chairs reviewed above are comfortable in their own ways, we strongly recommend testing them out in person if possible. At the very least, try one L-shaped chair and one pole-style chair to see which is more comfortable for you personally.
That said, pole-style chairs are most comfortable for the majority of people. They require zero effort to sit in (L-shaped chairs require some muscle engagement). They also sit off the ground giving you more room to stretch out and kick back.
The materials the chair is made out of directly affect its durability.
We put each of the top seven backpacking chairs reviewed above through the ringer to test out just how well they hold up to the wear and tear of long, grueling backpacking trips.
Although all the chairs did well in the durability department, we’ve found that taco-style chairs are the most durable. The simple reason is that they have less parts. The lack of legs in particular makes them more durable.
We noticed that the legs on some backpacking chairs (none of the ones we review here) have the potential to bend, warp, or possibly even break after serious use. The best models are reinforced for extra strength, but it still might be best to choose a legless model depending on the nature of your trip.
The best backpacking chairs are not only stable in perfect conditions – but on a wide variety of terrain. They should remain stable and comfortable on uneven surfaces, including sand.
Alternatives to Backpacking Chairs
A backpacking chair isn’t the only way to stay comfy in the backcountry. You have a handful of other seating options. As well as a few different ways to construct makeshift seats.
Here are the best alternatives to backpacking chairs:
- Ground – Just sit on the ground if you didn’t bring a chair with you!
- Natural Objects – Rocks, logs, and other objects found outside are classic seats for backpackers and campers since the beginning of time.
- Sleeping Pad – Fold your sleeping pad in half and voila! you have a comfortable place to sit. Closed-cell foam pads work best for this, although inflatable air pads also get the job done.
- Chair Kit – A sleeping pad chair kit, like the Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair Kit, quickly and easily turns an inflatable sleeping pad into a comfortable chair. They slide over the top of your sleeping pad to create a comfortable, chair-like shape to sit on.
- Sit Pad – A sit pad, like the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Pad, act as a comfortable place to sit on rough terrain. They’re basically just a lightweight, mini version of a sleeping pad made just for sitting!
- Jacket – Bunch up your jacket and sit on it to keep your bottom off the cold ground at the campsite.
- Camping Hammock – If you’re backpacking with a hammock instead of a tent, then you can actually use your hammock as a chair in addition to a comfortable place to sleep.
The options for makeshift chairs are just as numerous while car camping. Of course, you can use a traditional camping chair, but camping coolers and bouldering crash pads work as well.
Backpacking Chairs for Car Camping
Just because it’s a backpacking chair doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for car camping too.
In fact, my favorite backpacking chair doubles as a camping chair for car camping. Despite its lightweight design and small size, it’s nearly as comfortable as my favorite camping chair.
Of course, a good backpacking chair works just as well at other venues. In addition to camping and backpacking, these lightweight, portable chairs work well at the beach, for picnics, and while attending outdoor concerts and festivals.
As expensive as the best backpacking chairs can be, dishing out the additional money is well worth the investment if you think about your new purchase as your go-to chair, in my opinion.
Backpacking Chairs FAQ
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions (with answers) about backpacking chairs:
Q: Do I need a backpacking chair?
A: No, a backpacking chair isn’t a necessity. You can easily use rocks, logs, or just the plain old ground. However, lightweight backpacking chairs are light enough for shorter trips. Many backpackers find that the additional comfort at the campsite is well worth the extra weight.
Q: What is the difference between a backpacking chair and a camping chair?
A: A backpacking chair is much smaller and lighter than a camping chair. Weight and packed size are of concern so these chairs boast minimalist designs. Car camping chairs are generally much larger with less thought going into saving weight.
Q: Are backpacking chairs comfortable?
A: Yes, the best backpacking chairs are very comfortable. The key is finding a model that meshes well with your body type and preferences. L-shaped and taco-style chairs are very different and you might find that you much prefer one style over the other.
A backpacking chair can make an already great backpacking trip even better. If you have any more questions on how to select the best one, let us know in the comments below! And, don’t forget to check out our ultimate guide to planning a backpacking trip in the meantime!