Buying a Backpacking Chair – The Definitive Guide
Before buying a lightweight backpacking chair there are a lot of different things you should consider.
For example, how comfortable does it need to be? How lightweight do you want it? How easy should it be to setup? Will you be using it for other things (i.e. does it need to be versatile)?
Before thinking about these questions, however, there is one question you must first answer:
Do I Actually Need a Backpacking Chair?
Although some backpacking chairs are extremely lightweight, any item that you won’t use is taking up unnecessary space in your backpack.
Pitching it up against a large rock will give you something soft to sit on and back support (from the rock).
So why buy a backpacking chair then?
Well, they’ll be a lot more comfortable and easy to use than most improvised alternatives (as they’re specifically designed for the job) and they’ll provide you with stability when sitting down.
The thing that will determine the comfort of a backpacking chair the most are the materials used to create it.
Camp chairs with inflatable pads will naturally be the most comfortable, while those with foam padding will also provide you with a good, comfortable cushion.
Directly related to comfort is stability. The more stability a chair offers you, the more comfortable it’ll be. A chair’s level of stability is determined by its design.
Some of the lighter, flimsier chairs will require you to balance yourself as you sit in them (as they don’t offer massive amounts of support).
Camping chairs that have metal frames will be a lot more supportive and will therefore be more comfortable as they allow you to fully relax in them. The downside with these, of course, is that they’ll be a lot heavier than frameless chairs.
Some chairs have straps on the side (that attach the back of the camping chair to the bottom). While these straps help the chair stand upright, they can also press into your sides as you sit back in the chair. Being squeezed by a chair isn’t comfortable, but these straps do enable the chair to be lightweight and easy to setup.
Which kind of chair to buy largely depends on where and how often you’ll be using it. If you’re going to a place where the surface is uneven (such as the beach), it’s more important that you pick a chair with greater stability (otherwise you’ll find it hard to sit upright).
The lighter and more compact a camping chair is, the easier it’ll be to carry in your backpack, and the more.
If you’re spending the weekend hiking, for example, it’s more important to have a chair that’s lightweight and compact (as you’ll be carrying it in your bag for a lot of the time).
On the other hand, if you’re going to music festival (where you’ll setup your campsite upon arrival and not move your chair until you leave), buying a heavier (but more comfortable) camping chair is a good idea.
How Easy is it to Setup?
Some camping chairs can be unfolded and setup in a matter of seconds. Others can take a little longer.
Chairs that involve you have to inflate the seat might be comfortable, but can be a pain if you’ve just spent a long day hiking and you want somewhere to sit down.
Chairs that have side straps can be unfolded and sat on in an instant, if the side straps aren’t adjusted properly you’ll spend ages fiddling with them to try and get comfortable.
Chairs that take longer to setup are generally more comfortable, and are great if you’re settling in for a night sitting round the campfire. However, if you just want to have a quick sit down for a few minutes while you’re out and about the setup time will prove to be a bit of a hassle.
How Versatile is it?
Depending on how (and where) you plan to use your backpacking chair, you might want to look for one that’s versatile.
Versatility refers to the number of different ways a chair can be used (i.e. can it be folded open and used to lie down on?) and the number of different places it’ll work in (i.e. in a muddy field, on the beach, at a sporting event).
As I mentioned earlier, some camping chairs will have trouble keeping you stable on uneven surfaces, whereas others will have no problems doing so.
If you’re buying a chair for one specific application (such as giving you a place to sit down at a music festival), versatility is unimportant. In that situation you just want the best and most comfortable chair for the job.
If, however, you plan to use your chair for regularly (and in lots of places), versatility is something you need to think about.
For more information, check out this video:
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