Best Backpacking Chairs of 2021: Buying Guide & Reviews

Last Updated: January 2021


Quick Recommendations



Backpacking doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. While the thought of sitting on the cold, wet ground, might not be too terribly exciting, there are plenty of ways to make your entire outdoor experience much more pleasant.

The answer? A quality backpacking chair. 

With a great  chair, you can comfortably lounge next to a roaring fire or enjoy the sunset from the top of a remote peak.

In this buying guide, we will provide our best backpacking chair recommendations and then break down the different types of backpacking chairs and what to consider when choosing the best one for you.


The Best Backpacking Chairs

With so many great backpacking seats to choose from, it can be hard to know precisely which one is the best for your needs. So, to get you started, here’s our ultimate guide to the best backpacking chairs on the market today, complete with reviews of our favorite models.

Best Overall Backpacking Chair: Helinox Chair Zero

Price: $119.95

Weight: 1lb 2oz (510g)

The Good:

  • Very lightweight for a folding chair
  • Packs down to the size of a 1 liter Nalgene water bottle
  • Four very stable legs and a comfortable seat fabric

The Bad:

  • Expensive for a chair

The Helinox Chair Zero wins our award as the best overall backpacking chair because of its great mix of weight savings and portability. This chair tips the scales at just 1lb 2oz (510g) but packs down to around the size of a 1 liter Nalgene water bottle.

However, unlike other lightweight seating options, the Chair Zero doesn’t sacrifice comfort. This model is a fully-featured folding camping chair with four legs for stability. The legs on the Chair Zero are made from anodized DAC aluminum poles, which are durable enough for regular use.

With this chair, you can sit about 11 inches (28cm) off the ground. It has a ripstop polyester fabric for the seat that offers both comfort and durability. The Chair Zero can support up to 265lbs (120kg) of weight and is very easy to set up thanks to its shock-cord pole design.

Runner-Up: Big Agnes Skyline UL

The Big Agnes Skyline UL is one of the most comfortable backpacking chairs on the market today. It rivals the Helinox Chair Zero both in terms of price and quality, but it does take a bit longer to set up. Plus, it’s nearly 50% heavier than the Chair Zero, which is why it’s not quite the top pick in our review.


Best Budget Backpacking Chair: Kelty Camp Chair

MSRP: $29.95

Weight: 1lb (453g)

The Good:

  • Very lightweight
  • Highly durable materials
  • One of the most affordable options

The Bad:

  • Some people just don’t like sitting in ground chairs 

The Kelty Camp Chair is a modern take on a classic ground chair design. It is both simple and affordable but doesn’t sacrifice functionality.

This chair weighs just 1lb, which makes it one of the lightest in our review. It is made from a sheet of closed-cell foam and a 600D polyester fabric shell. This means that it is both comfortable enough to sit in for extended periods and durable enough for regular camping trips.

What we really like about this chair is its packability. The Kelty Camp Chair can easily be folded and rolled up for quick strapping to the side of a backpack while in the backcountry.

Runner-Up: Therm-a-Rest Z Seat

The Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is one of the most affordable options in our review, so it certainly deserves an honorable mention in the budget-friendly category. But, it’s not super comfortable (at least when compared to something like the Helinox Chair Zero), so it’s not for everyone. But for weight savings, value, and versatility, it’s a solid choice.


Best Backpacking Stool: Big Agnes Skyline UL Stool


MSRP: $79.95

Weight: 1lb 2oz (510g)

The Good:

  • Lightweight
  • Very durable design
  • Stable platform for lounging in camp

The Bad:

  • Somewhat expensive for a chair that doesn’t have a back

The Big Agnes Skyline UL Stool is a comfortable seating option for the lightweight hiker that wants some semblance of comfort on the trail. This stool is made from an ultralight 70D Robic fabric with added panels of 66D ripstop nylon for extra robustness and rip-resistance.

It has ultralight aircraft-grade aluminum poles that are fully shock-corded for a quick and easy set-up process. We also like this stool because it has a color-coded frame that makes set-up even simpler.

Additionally, the Skyline UL Stool has a hub-less pole system that allows for a smaller pack size in your bag. Overall, when it comes to lightweight camping stools, this model is hard to beat.

Runner-Up: ALPS Mountaineering Tri-Leg Stool

The ALPS Mountaineering Tri-Leg Stool is our top pick for an affordable backpacking stool. While it’s a bit heavier and bulkier than the Big Agnes Skyline UL Stool, it’s the perfect choice for budget-conscious backpackers that want a good mix of comfort and value.


Best Ultralight Backpacking Chair: Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair


MSRP: $39.95

Weight: 8oz (290g)

The Good:

  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Highly packable
  • Can turn a sleeping pad into a very comfortable chair

The Bad:

  • Requires an inflatable sleeping pad to use
  • Can result in damage to your sleeping pad

The Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair is hands-down the lightest chair in our review. At just 8 ounces (290g), none of the other models in this article come even close to the weight savings that the Trekker Chair offers.

This is one of the most unique backpacking chairs out there because it is essentially a conversion kit for your sleeping pad. To use this chair, you simply need to slip it over your sleeping pad, inflate the pad, and then connect the buckles.

Thanks to this ingenious design, the Trekker Chair saves weight and bulk in your pack while giving your sleeping pad a second function outside of the tent. Plus, it comes with built-in fiberglass poles that give the entire chair extra support and structure for added comfort as you lounge.

Runner-Up: Exped Chair Kit

The Exped Chair Kit is slightly more expensive than the Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair. But, it completely covers the outside of your sleeping pad, which means it provides more protection against punctures and tears when you’re lounging in camp. Plus, with the Exped Chair Kit, you can convert your sleeping pad into a chair without ever getting up off the ground.


Most Comfortable Backpacking Chair: Helinox Chair One

Price: $99.95

Weight: 2lb 2oz (963g)

The Good:

  • Can accommodate a wide range of hikers up to 320lbs (145kg)
  • Sits slightly higher off the ground for added comfort
  • Breathable fabric is a plus in hot environments 

The Bad:

  • Less packable and slightly heavier than similar alternatives

The Helinox Chair One is the Chair Zero’s beefier and slightly more affordable big sibling. One of the main benefits of this chair over the Chair Zero is that it can accommodate hikers that weigh up to 320lbs (145kg).

This chair also has a slightly higher height of 13.8 inches (35cm), so it’s a bit more comfortable for taller hikers that have a larger frame. Like the Chair Zero, this model is made with super-durable DAC aluminum poles for added robustness on the trail. It also has a shock-corded pole design, which allows for quick and easy set-up when you get to camp.

Plus, the Chair One features large, breathable mesh panels on the sides of its ripstop nylon fabric. These panels allow for added breathability and ventilation on particularly hot days in the mountains. 

Runner-Up: Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Longback

The Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 Longback is a reliable alternative to the Helinox Chair One. It’s a good option for backpackers that want a lightweight and highly packable chair that’s also really comfortable. This chair is one of our favorites in the ground chair category because it has a longer back that’s decidedly cozier for taller campers than similar models. Plus, it’s quite affordable when compared to some snazzier folding alternatives, including the Helinox Chair One.


Backpacking Chair Comparison Table


backpacking chair cold snow white camping

Backpacking Chair Buying Guide

A backpacking chair might seem like a simple piece of gear. But, there’s a whole lot of technology that goes into creating the perfect outdoor lounging device. Here’s everything you need to know before you buy your next camping chair.

Types Of Backpacking Chairs

There are multiple types of backpacking chairs out there, each with their advantages and disadvantages. This is what you should know about how each type will affect your backpacking experience:

Foldable Chairs

Foldable chairs are perhaps the most ideal seating option if you’re trying to find something as similar as possible to what you sit in at home. These chairs are generally made with a durable aluminum pole frame that supports a single thick piece of fabric.

In general, foldable chairs are the most comfortable option on the market. They also allow you to sit up off the ground, which means you’re less likely to get wet or dirty if the soil is particularly damp.

While they do tend to be quite lightweight and packable, some foldable options can be reasonably heavy. However, foldable chairs are the most expensive option available, particularly when compared to sit pads or ground chairs.

Backpacking Stools

Backpacking stools are a bit of a hybrid between a foldable chair and a stool. They usually feature the same aluminum pole structure that you’d find on a folding chair, but they don’t have a back to lean on. Due to the lack of a backrest on these seats, stools are a good mix of weight savings and functionality. Of course, they’re not going to be as comfortable as a folded chair, but they come quite close.

Additionally, backpacking stools are generally more affordable than foldable chairs and are often a bit lighter. So, they’re a good choice for people who want weight savings but not the hefty price tag of a folding chair.

Ground Chairs

Ground chairs or “taco chairs” are one of the most classic backpacking seating options. They feature a folding L-shaped piece of foam that’s covered in durable fabric and connected with adjustable nylon webbing straps.

These chairs are quite affordable, which is one of the reasons why they’re so popular. Additionally, ground chairs are surprisingly comfortable for something that’s just made out of foam.

However, these chairs are definitely not for everyone. They can be quite tricky to get out of, and you can certainly expect your legs and rear end to fall asleep after about an hour or so. But, they are a great choice for budget-conscious backpackers that want some semblance of comfort on the trail.

Sit Pads

Sit pads are essentially a single piece of closed-cell foam, much like what you’d find in a foam sleeping pad. These are going to be your most lightweight option for backpacking, so they’re quite popular among thru-hikers.

As you can imagine, they’re also the least comfortable, as all they really do is provide a small amount of padding for your rear end. However, they’re super packable and, if you lean against a tree or your pack, they’re just as comfortable as any chair out there.

Inflatable Chairs (Sleeping Pad Conversion Kits)

Inflatable chairs, or sleeping pad conversion kits, are one of the most unique options on the market. These chairs essentially convert your existing inflatable sleeping pad into a super cozy chair in just seconds.

Most of these kits are compact pieces of fabric that can slide on top of your sleeping pad. Then, you just need to fold the pad up and adjust the straps for a comfortable seating option that doesn’t weigh down your pack.

These kits are an ideal option if you already have and use an inflatable sleeping pad. But, you need to be careful with where you choose to sit as you can reasonably easily puncture your sleeping pad if you set it down on sharp rocks or twigs.

Man Sitting On Brown Camping Chair

Backpacking Chair Buying Considerations

There are a whole lot of things to consider when buying a backpacking chair. Here are some top things to keep in mind as you shop to ensure that you get the best chair for your needs:

Conditions/Intended Use

Perhaps the number one thing to consider when buying a backpacking chair is what you actually intend to use it for. As you can imagine, someone that’s an ultralight thru-hiker is going to have vastly different needs from someone that occasionally goes backpacking but mostly sticks to established campgrounds.

So, before you start seriously shopping for your next camp chair, think about what you plan to use it for. It helps to write down a list of your top priorities, so you can narrow down a shortlist of potential models to choose from.

Weight

Weight is a significant factor for any backcountry traveler. No one likes to carry more weight in their pack than they have to, so a lightweight chair is certainly a plus. In general, sit pad, inflatable, and folding-style chairs are going to be your lightest options. In contrast, ground chairs tend to be a bit heavier because of their closed-cell foam construction.

Comfort

The main reason to get a backpacking chair is to improve your comfort levels while you’re outdoors. As you can imagine, folding chairs, which are the most similar to the seating options we have at home, are usually the most comfortable option.

But, they are also the most expensive, so it’s important to find a good balance between your budget and your comfort. On the other hand, inflatable chairs offer a high level of comfort, but they require that you already have an inflatable sleeping pad, which is also quite a substantial monetary investment.

Portability

When you’re backpacking, having compact gear is of the utmost importance. This is particularly true if you’re planning on hiking for an extended period as you only have so much room inside your pack.

Inflatable chairs and sit pads are usually the most portable option. Alternatively, ground chairs tend to be quite bulky, so they generally need to be strapped to the outside of your pack for transport. This can be potentially problematic if you spend a lot of time hiking off-trail as you could rip or damage your ground chair during a particularly heinous section of bushwhacking.

Ease Of Set-Up

As soon as you get to camp for the evening, the last thing you want to do is spend half an hour trying to set up your chair. Instead, you probably want to grab a seat, pull off your hiking boots, and relax after a long day of backpacking.

Thus, ease of set-up is a top priority when choosing a backpacking chair. Ground chairs and sit pads are usually the easiest options as they just need to be unfolded. Stools and foldable chairs are similarly easy since you just need to take them out of the included stuff sack and unfold them.

Inflatable chairs can be a bit challenging, though, as you have to both set up the chair and inflate the sleeping pad.

Price

While we all wish that we had unlimited funds to spend on backpacking gear, that’s sadly not the case for the vast majority of us. So, price is always a factor when determining what gear we can buy.

Foldable chairs tend to be the most expensive option for backcountry seating, while sit pads are usually the most affordable. When it comes to backpacking chairs, though, there’s a pretty strong correlation between price and comfort. So, if comfort is your top priority, you should expect to pay a bit more for your camp chair.


Key Takeaways

At the end of a long day on the trail, there is nothing better than settling into a comfortable chair to enjoy an evening in nature. 

And while a backpacking chair might seem like a simple piece of gear, there’s a whole lot of technology that goes into creating the perfect outdoor lounging device. 

We hope through this guide you can find the best backpacking chair for your next adventure.

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