There’s nothing quite as blissful and relaxing as kicking back at camp after a long day. And while stumps and rocks may do as makeshift furniture in a pinch, they will never compare to a great chair. Whether you prize portability or luxury, this guide will help you learn how to choose the best camp camping chair for your next wilderness trip.
Types: There are three main types of camp chairs.
Minimal: Minimal camp chairs come in two main styles: folding seats and stools. These are the only chairs you should ever consider taking on a backpacking trip.
Regular: These are the folding camp chairs that have aluminum legs, arm rests, and seat backs. They typically come with a carrying bag with a strap. These are your go-to chairs when staying at a single campsite or if you have some extra room on a multi-day river trip.
Luxurious: Luxurious camp chairs are like bringing a recliner outdoors. They provide maximum stability and support, and commonly have numerous features including leg rests, reclining capability, and more. These can also be considered high-end regular camp chairs, and will turn any camp into a plush zone of relaxation.
Weight: Weight should be one of your primary deciding factors when shopping for minimal camp chairs. It becomes less important if you’re choosing regular or luxurious-style chairs.
You want a minimal chair (folding seat or stool) to weigh less than two pounds. What’s great about the stool is that it elevates you off the ground—a significant advantage if the ground is wet or frozen—and can handle more weight. A stool can hold excess of 500lbs while the typical folding seat maxes out at 250.
The beauty of the folding seat is its versatility. Typically weighing in around two pounds, folding seats often do double-duty for backpackers by also serving as summer sleeping pads.
Heavy on more than comfort, regular and luxurious camp chairs weigh in at 5lbs or more.
Materials: There are a variety of materials to choose from when shopping for a good camp chair. Here are some to keep in mind:
The legs of good camp chairs and camp stools are typically made of aluminum for its phenomenal strength-to-weight ratio.
Coated rip-stop nylon is the fabric of choice for the seating material in good camp chairs because of its durability, water resistance, and comfort.
Closed cell foam padding will not absorb water, making it preferable for water-based activities.
Folding seats typically feature carbon fiber stays to improve rigidity in the seat back. In an emergency situation, the stays can be removed from the seat and be used as splinting materials to demobilize an injury — just another attribute that make the folding seat the most versatile of the camp chairs.
Packability: How often and how far will you move your chair? It makes all the difference.
Camp stools and folding seats are the best options if you’re packing for the long haul. You can strap either directly to your backpack.
Regular-style chairs typically come with a carrying case that has a strap for easier carrying. You can bring these along on rafting or canoe trips no problem, but you’ll want to leave them at home before hitting the trail.
Luxurious chairs should only be considered when you’re going to stay at an easy-access area such as a state park or festival campground.
Features: There is a wide spectrum of features to consider when selecting the right camp chair. Typically the features escalate as you go up from minimal to luxurious chairs.
Cup Holders: A cup holder changes a normal camp chair into a plush camping chair. There are a couple different options. The lightest weight chairs will have mesh fabric. Regular chairs often use the same material as the chair. And luxurious camp chairs can have cup holders as advanced as having coolers and coozies attached.
Arm rests: Armrests make a nice, but heavy, addition to regular camp chairs. But they can be a game changer in terms of the additional comfort they provide.
Extended Pads: The main feature of a folding seat is to have an extended pad. This has three functions. First, it provides added cushioning to the regular seat. Second, it folds out to insulate your legs or to keep them out of the dirt and dust. And lastly, it can be fully-extended and used as a summer time sleeping pad.