Editor’s note: Inventory can be unpredictable this year with COVID-19, so some of the items in this list might be temporarily out of stock when you read this guide. We’ll do our best to update it accordingly.
A great camp chair can make the outdoors feel as comfortable as your living room. But with so many options available, finding the right one may get confusing. Some are great for backpacking, while others shine closer to home. Some prioritize beverage holding and back support, some simply protect your bottom from the dirt. Camp chairs are not created equal.
Our team of 15 testers set out to evaluate the best camp chairs sold at the co-op. They considered everything from comfort to stability to cup holders, trying each chair on car-camping trips, overnight backpacking adventures, backyard naps and everything in between. So whether you’re planning a long trek through the woods or an easy night around a backyard campfire, chances are good we’ve found just the throne you’re looking for. All that’s left to do now is put up your feet.
Best Chair for Car Camping
- Weight: 4 lbs. 2 oz.
- Folded dimensions: 22 x 5 x 6 in.
- Capacity: 300 lbs.
- Price: $199.95
Test Results: Simply put, the Big Agnes Big Six Armchair is the champion of car-camping chairs, boasting superior comfort, stability, features and light weight. It starts with a deep, hammock-style seat that promotes lounging and helps eliminate pressure points, even for larger folks (“can confirm,” attests one 6-foot-4-inch tester). But the comfort story doesn’t end there: The Big Six has an extra-tall back that provides ample shoulder room and neck support that many camping chairs lack. “Sinking into this chair at the end of a day playing in the mountains is heaven,” one tester wrote on his feedback form after a camping trip in the Tetons. “Good luck ever getting out of it.”
Stability comes from the four-legged design and self-equalizing center pole below the seat, which allows the legs to move on two different axes that can handle off-kilter terrain. The clever design allowed one tester to sit wobble-free on uneven ground at a crag in Idaho. Beyond that, it’s all about the details in the Big Six Armchair. Shock-corded aluminum poles snap together for easy setup, cupholder-blessed armrests fit smartphones and cans, and grippy nubs on the legs add traction.
But for all that, the Big Six Armchair is surprisingly light and packable. It’s a hair over 4 pounds and fits neatly into its included stuff sack, which is just small enough that luxury-seeking backpackers could consider toting it along on quicker trips. Buy here.
Bottom Line: A throne-like car-camping chair that packs down small, the Big Agnes Big Six Armchair will be the envy of any and all nearby campers.
- Sitting hours: 31
- Testing states: Idaho, Wyoming
- Best testing story: One tester became so protective over the Big Six Armchair that he took it with him every time he visited the cooler for a refill.
Best Chair for Backpacking
- Weight: 1 lb. 9 oz.
- Folded dimensions: 16 x 5.5 x 4.5 in.
- Capacity: N/A
- Price: $44.95
Test Results: The REI Co-op Flash Trail Seat doesn’t provide the same luxury as a full-size camp chair, but it weighs next to nothing, delivering an assurance of comfort wherever you end up. It packs down to about the size of a loaf of bread thanks to a clever tri-fold design, then two elastic bungees secure it (and are far more user-friendly than a finicky stuff sack). The whole thing slides neatly into the bottle holder or daisy chain of a backpacking pack. “It’s always worth strapping to your pack,” one tester declares. “It doesn’t weigh anything and it makes a world of difference to have a seat when you’re cooking dinner.”
To use it as a chair, you just sit in the clamshell. Fiberglass stays keep it from folding over, and it’s easily adjustable—just pull or loosen the side straps when you’re sitting in it until it cradles you. (Your feet and butt are the points of contact with the ground.) But the beauty of a chair like this is that its uses outnumber its stated purpose: sit pad on quick trailside breaks, kneeling pad when cooking or, as one tester discovered, an extra insulator on cold nights. When the mercury fell to 25°F on an overnight trip in Wyoming’s Gros Ventre Mountains, our tester layered it beneath her sleeping pad around her core for extra warmth. The Flash Trail Seat is made of closed-cell foam like a sleeping pad. Unlike a closed-cell foam sleeping pad, however, the Flash is wrapped in ripstop polyester, giving it the comfort and insulation of a pad with the durability and protection of something like a backpacking pack. The interior knit lining is soft against bare skin.
Note: The Flash will never be as comfortable as a chair with legs. But if you’re the sort of fast-and-light backpacker who poo-poos chairs, this may be the one to convert you to a life off the ground. Buy here.
Bottom Line: The portability of the REI Co-op Flash Trail Seat makes it an invaluable asset for comfort seekers on longer backpacking trips.
- Sitting hours: 36
- Testing states: Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming
- Best testing story: One tester used the folded Flash Trail Seat as a pillow during an overnight spring ski tour in the Tetons. “Ideal for folks who want their pillow firmer than a bunched-up puffy jacket,” she says.
Best Value Chair
- Weight: 6 lbs. 14 oz.
- Folded dimensions: 26.8 x 23 x 3.5 in.
- Capacity: 250 lbs.
- Price: $59.95
Test Results: “Sitting in this low-seater is like eating a PB&J on the beach as a 10-year-old,” one tester wrote on her feedback form of this classic bifolding chair. But unlike the plasticky lawn chairs of your youth, the REI Co-op Outward Low is a vision fit for an Instagram shoot. (True, it’s part of REI Co-op’s collab with West Elm.)
With a bifold design, the Outward Low comes together in an instant and flattens easily for storage. At the campground, the lawn chair scored high marks for comfort, thanks to the biggest dimensions in our round-robin test (it’s about 2 feet wide and 10 inches off the ground). “I thought I wouldn’t like how low it is, but the design lets you extend your legs more comfortably than in taller chairs,” one tester said after sitting for four hours around a campfire in Idaho.
The Outward Low has a super-sturdy ripstop nylon seat that provides plenty of support during long sessions with your feet up. On a chilly evening in the Tetons, one tester also noticed that the seat’s double layer of fabric felt significantly warmer than traditional single-paneled camp chairs. Other features that round out the Outward Low’s credentials include backpack straps that allow for hands-free carrying if you venture far from the car and wooden armrests (no cupholders, though). Buy here.
Bottom Line: The REI Co-op Outward Low Lawn Chair has a classic feel and aesthetic, but it’s super comfortable and surprisingly portable for outdoor lounging.
- Sitting hours: 19
- Testing states: Idaho, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
- Best testing story: One tester went on a short hike along Washington's Middle Fork Snoqualmie River to picnic and watch the sunset and discovered he could carry beverages, a blanket and a few snacks in the fold of the chair while hooked together on his back.
Best Double Chair
- Weight: 15 lbs.
- Folded dimensions: 37 x 9 x 6 in.
- Capacity: 500 lbs.
- Price: $99.95
Test Results: Some like to share, and some don’t. Those who fall into the former category will immediately fall in love with the Mountain Summit Gear Loveseat. This double chair unfolds into a palatial hangout for two people (a few testers noted that two plus a dog still felt spacious). “It’s my portable couch for being lazy after long days in the woods or on the trail,” says one Jackson, Wyoming-based tester. “It’s bulky and tough to lug around, but redeemed by the fact that we only need to bring one for the whole crew.”
Any double folding chair is inherently hefty—this one packs up to the size of a large floor vacuum—so don’t expect to take it much farther than a car campground or the backyard. But that 15-pound steel frame creates the largest footprint in our test. Combined with its six legs, the Loveseat scored the highest marks for stability in our test. True story: During an afternoon windstorm in Idaho, every chair at camp was upturned (and some blown away) except for the Loveseat.
The Loveseat’s sturdy, 600-denier polyester fabric stood up to our round-robin test, plus more than a month of outdoor wear and tear living in one tester’s backyard (no sun damage either). After an especially ashy campfire in Idaho, one tester lauded the seat fabric, which looked good as new after a quick brush. Clunky? Sure. But the Loveseat stands its ground. Buy here.
Bottom Line: Settle into the Mountain Summit Gear Loveseat with pals, kids and furry friends.
- Sitting hours: 32
- Testing states: Idaho, Washington, Wyoming
- Best testing story: One tester logged an epic, four-hour nap in the Loveseat—the longest continuous testing session in our round-robin.
Other Top Performers
- Weight: 1 lb.
- Folded dimensions: 13.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 in.
- Capacity: 265 lbs.
- Price: $119.95
Test Results: For backpackers who want a chair—not a sit pad, not a stool, not a Crazy Creek—there may be no better option than the Helinox Chair Zero. This four-legged chair tips the scales at a scant pound and packs down smaller than some water bottles. (One tester carries it inside her bear canister when on the move.) Helinox teamed with tentpole-maker DAC to design the ultralight system that can be put together in 10 seconds. At the weight and size, it’s not the most stable or versatile chair, but when compared to sitting on the ground, it’s pure backcountry luxury. Buy here.
- Weight: 20 lbs.
- Folded dimensions: 36.4 x 30.3 x 6.1 in.
- Capacity: 300 lbs.
- Price: $100
Test Results: The GCI Outdoor Freeform Zero Gravity Lounger was built for those who take lounging seriously. “Reclining in this chair is a statement,” says one tester, who brought this chaise car camping in Idaho and, admittedly, had trouble keeping all her friends from stealing it. A large handle on the side (yes, like your grandpa’s recliner) allows you to smoothly kick your legs up or slide back into Zero Gravity Mode, which is as comfortable as it sounds. The trade-off for all that comfort is, of course, packability: This oversize lounger folds together into a 20-pound package about the size of a sofa cushion. It has no backpack straps or any way to improve hauling, so save the comfort king for car camping and picnicking no more than 20 feet from the car. Buy here.
- Weight: 3 lbs. 5 oz.
- Folded dimensions: 23.6 x 7.1 x 5.1 in.
- Capacity: 320 lbs.
- Price: $179.95
Test Results: For indecisive folks, the Helinox Chair Two Rocker is a noncommittal way to ensure a little bit of rocking or a stable platform. Removable rocker legs slot smoothly into the rubber feet to transform this chair into an outdoor rocker. “It seemed like a complex design initially, but it only took about a minute to figure out,” one Washington tester says. The Chair Two Rocker folds into a compact storage sack that can be strapped to the outside of a backpack if you want to push this chair into the backcountry. Or leave the rocker legs at home and you’ve got a 2.5-pound seat that makes more sense on big-mile trips. Buy here.
When looking for a camping chair, consider your use for it first, then its design.
Simply: Are you going to take this chair backpacking? If you are, weight and packed size matter. If you’re going to use your chair car camping, picnicking, festivaling and backyarding, then weight and packed size aren’t as important as comfort and stability.
In our lineup, the REI Co-op Flash Trail Seat and Helinox Chair Zero are the only chairs specifically designed light and small enough to sneak into an overnight pack. The Big Agnes Big Six Armchair and Helinox Chair Two Rocker could be taken backpacking (but they’d likely require ambitious and creative packing).
Next, consider the design of the chair. If space is an issue, either in storage or in the back of your vehicle, you’ll want a chair that packs up into a smaller case like the Big Agnes Big Six Armchair or Helinox Chair Two Rocker. If space isn’t an issue, then consider double chairs like the Mountain Summit Gear Loveseat or recliners like the GCI Outdoor Freeform Zero Gravity Lounger.
Spring 2020 provided ample opportunities for sitting around, so we enlisted a team of 15 member-testers to stop moving and start chair testing. They logged a heroic amount of reclining to evaluate the best camp chairs sold at REI.
Our testers stayed close to their homes, camping in the Tetons, picnicking along Washington’s Snoqualmie River, roasting s’mores in Idaho’s Big Holes, hauling their gear through Wyoming’s Gros Ventre Mountains and chilling in their yards. After a season of hard sitting, each tester scored every chair on comfort, stability, portability, ease of use and durability. We averaged their scores to come up with this list of seven chairs. The Big Agnes Big Six Armchair, REI Co-op Flash Trail Seat, REI Co-op Outward Low Lawn Chair and Mountain Summit Gear Loveseat scored high in all categories, relative to their intended uses (car camping versus backpacking). The Helinox Chair Zero, GCI Outdoor Freeform Zero Gravity Lounger and Helinox Chair Two Rocker scored high in most categories.
Article by Lily Krass. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Lily Krass is a freelance writer living in Jackson, Wyoming. Lily’s work has been featured in SKI Magazine, Teton Gravity Research, Ascent Backcountry Snow Journal and Elevation Outdoors Magazine. Lily is a self-proclaimed Type II-fun enthusiast and when she’s not writing you’ll likely find her out in the Tetons on skis, bike or foot. REI Co-op member since 2005.