One of the great pleasures during a hike is being able to sit down and take a short rest while enjoying the sights and sounds around you. It’s an unforgettable experience and can be very addictive. You’ll need a seat though, and you may be wondering if a backpacking chair is worth it.
A backpacking chair is worth it, as having a portable place to sit greatly improves your hiking experience. But an informed choice needs to be made so that the chair is best suited to you. This is easier said than done in an ever-growing backpacking chair market.
Carrying the wrong chair for hours on end can drain your energy as well as diminishing the chances of a memorable and enjoyable experience. You need to be comfortable carrying the chair and sitting in it. We take a close look at the all the options of backpacking chairs available below.
What Are Backpacking Chairs?
Backpacking chairs are chairs that fit into a backpack. There are a number of things that affect their utility and comfort, hence the need to make a careful choice. The range of backpacking chairs have different types of construction. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Types Of Backpacking Chairs
1. Foldable Chair
Foldable chairs come in many varieties due to their compact and useful structure. In its most basic form, it consists of two sets of sturdy yet light metal tubes that make up its basic framework. This frame serves as the support upon which mesh, nylon, or other synthetic materials are attached. In spite of the lightweight metal used, the typical weight of these chairs is around 2 lbs or more.
The seat of the chair and the backrest are strong enough to support heavy weights, with many manufacturers quoting a weight rating for their chairs that starts from 250 pounds and upwards. The disadvantage of these chairs is that the prices of quality ones start at around $99. However, of all the types of backpacking chairs, these are the most comfortable by far.
Some of these chairs are completely foldable which means that they can be unfolded in just a few seconds. Other chairs take time to be set up before they can be used, which may not be ideal if setting up in fading light.
The tubes used in the manufacture of foldable chairs are the same as tent poles, with variations of aluminum tubes and steel tubes for heavy weights. You need to check if it can support your weight before you buy. The material used for the seat and backrest varies from mesh to polyester, from nylon to cross-linked polyethylene, or even ripstop nylon.
The price of the chair will vary depending on which material was used, but all of them are washable, flame retardant, and very strong. The aluminum framework isn’t the typical garden folding chair variety but is equally strong.
Height, Weight, And Comfort
The height of the seat above the ground, as well as the height of the back rest, vary from company to company. These two parameters, along with the stability of the chair, are critical factors that need to be checked before using it. Some chairs have shorter legs while others have lower backrests to save on size and weight.
Regular-sized chairs with optimal leg and backrest heights are going to cost more. For larger hikers, the seat width needs to be checked along with the weight that the chair will safely carry. Since they are the most popular type of chair, due to their extra comfort, people tend to overlook a few other important considerations such as stability and time to set up.
A longer time to set up can be frustrating after a long hike, but there are chairs that unpack and are ready to sit on in a few seconds. The fabric used for the seat and the backrest needs to be waterproof and washable.
The Backrest Difference
The difference that makes a foldable chair worth every penny is the backrest that allows you to recline completely. Without it, or with a smaller backrest, there is very little to differentiate it from a stool. Chairs that are the most comfortable have long backrests, are wide, and also quite tall. But they are also the priciest, which is a reflection of the demand for them.
A sturdy chair that is stable in most environments can cost around $99, but a chair with a backrest can command an extra $50 to $80. Chairs that have the highest comfort rating are much more expensive compared to others as their prices start from about $150.
2. Air Pad Seat
These are inflatable pads with a short backrest but without legs, so you are sitting a few inches above the ground. Even though the seat can be quite thick and comfortable, the fact still remains that the seat has no legs. Their packed-up weight typically starts at 12 oz. Prices range from about $15 and up, depending on the quality.
The advantages of these seats are that they can be rolled up into a roughly 4-inch diameter roll, weigh very little, and are waterproof. In some ways it resembles a sleeping pad in thickness and size, although its backrest does provide some support.
Despite its small size and weight, and its low price, many will find the lack of legs to be a big inconvenience. Air pad seats are similar to sleeping pads in that they are manufactured from the same materials and can be extremely durable.
3. Ground Seat
These are very similar to the air pad seats except that they are not inflatable. The material used is usually closed-cell foam or plastic. They can be rolled up very tightly to take up almost no space in the backpack, as well as weighing just a few ounces.
As they also do not have legs, there are very few takers for these types of seats as compared to the regular folding ones. The only advantage they offer is their extremely small size and weight. Despite their low cost, these seats are almost indestructible as they are manufactured from reinforced nylon with proprietary reflective surface treatment to boost warmth.
The seat height is normally 3/4 of an inch, with 16-inch length by 14 inches in breadth. Cross-linked polyethylene is the lightest and most preferred material used. Many manufacturers offer a limited lifetime warranty, which says a lot about its strength. Plenty of colors are available, with lemon, blue, silver, gray, and many others.
A stool is the next best choice to a folding chair as it provides some height above the ground, but the lack of a backrest relegates it to a distant second. Made from aluminum tubes with Dacron or polyester as the seat fabric, the total weight is a low 20 ounces. Seat height is only about 15 inches, although the bigger concern is its weight capacity.
Weight limits start from 200 lbs which could be a concern for some. The higher-weight capacity stools use powder-coated steel tubes for corrosion resistance, with cross-woven nylon material or ripstop material for the seat. Not all stools have 4 legs, as some of them have only 3. Stools with 3 legs are lighter but do not have the same weight capacity as the 4-legged stools.
Stools are comparatively much cheaper than folding chairs. A 3-legged stool starts at around $20. Higher-priced stools are made from stronger materials and come with higher weight limits. The 3-legged stools can sometimes be tricky to set up without practice or in low light.
Are Backpacking Chairs Actually Worth It?
Backpacking chairs are definitely worth it for the avid hiker. Being able to have a seat near the fire at camp, or to simply sit down to rest, makes being out in nature more enjoyable. With the low entry cost, small size, and low weight of some backpacking chairs, there’s no reason not to have one.
Backpacking chairs offer varying degrees of comfort determined by the type of chair. Most chairs with a backrest are more expensive but are much more comfortable compared to one without a backrest. A lot depends on what you are willing to pay and what is available at that price.
The chairs that have a quality backrest and legs start around $100, but more importantly, these chairs also weigh significantly more. The typical weight of chairs with a backrest starts at 15 ounces but the most comfortable ones weigh above 28 ounces. Some extremely comfortable chairs with backrests clock in at 18 oz, proving that it is possible to get a very comfortable chair with low weight.
How To Choose A Backpacking Chair
Before making any choice, you need to know what weight and size the chair is going to support. Based on this information and any other personal preferences such as price, weight, or chair type, an appropriate selection can be made.
Which Backpacking Chair Is Right For Me?
There are plenty of manufacturers selling backpacking chairs, with the lowest price at about $40, going up to well above $100. Many of these chairs have very basic seating and do not provide a backrest. Wider hips need a broader seat with sufficient stability after it is unpacked.
Ultralight folding chairs are available that score very highly on weight and size, but their prices are higher. Heavier hikers need to verify the weight capacity of any chair before making a purchase. If weight and size are not a problem, there are several manufacturers that make a number of extremely comfortable chairs.
Backpacking Foldable Chair vs Stool
The foldable chair vs stool debate boils down to just one key aspect: whether you are willing to accept a chair without a backrest or not. Both chairs and stools provide a seat at a reasonable height above the ground with the clear difference being the backrest. Unless the stool is much cheaper with corresponding size and weight benefits, it is not in your interest to take it.
A folding chair is the clear winner if a backrest is a must have for you. With some careful chair selection, it may be possible to find one that compares favorably with a stool in terms of price and weight. If you are ready to take on the extra weight, there are several backpacking chairs that can make your hike a delightful experience.
Price, Weight Limits, And Packed-Up Weight
Another aspect of the foldable chair that can make you think twice about buying one with a high backrest is the price. The best ones are priced much higher than a stool. A sturdy foldable chair can cost around $200, while a cheap stool starts from $20. The foldable chair usually has a much wider base compared to a stool, which can make a big difference when reclining in it.
Wide bases are more stable, which contributes to their comfort factor. While a foldable chair still has a weight capacity limit, it is normally much higher than the weight limit of a stool. This can be an issue for heavier hikers who need higher weight capacity chairs.
Foldable chairs with the highest comfort ratings are also much heavier, with the average weight at about 29 ounces. While this may not seem much, carrying it around for the best part of a day (or longer) can be a strain when added to the weight of a regular backpack.
Stool vs Air Pad Seat Or Ground Seat
The difference in price between a stool and an air pad or ground seat is marginal, and so it may be beneficial for you to look at the pros and cons of these two types of chairs to find out which one is best for you. The big difference between these two types of chairs is that the stool offers some height above the ground, while the air pad or ground seat is just a few inches above it.
Another major difference is that the stool has metal tubes that make it much heavier. If you are willing to make the tradeoff between comfort and weight, then the stool is the winner by a small margin. Of course, if the height above the ground is not an issue for you, then the best bet is the air pad for its comfort and low weight.
Most ground seats are pads without a backrest that make you sit on the ground with a foam seat as a cushion. Even though it appears to be a minimal solution to a chair requirement, it does offer some protection from sitting on the bare ground with sharp rocks and twigs.
The plus points of these chairs are their low prices and that there are no weight limit restrictions, although the air pad seat is still a superior choice for its inflatable cushioning and small backrest.
Backpacking chairs are worth buying as they contribute massively to enjoying the outdoors. Having a chair to sit on and enjoy your surroundings is one of the best parts of hiking. The variety of chairs available caters to every budget while providing you with the ability to enhance your trip.