Credit: Grand Trunk
Some ultralight thru-hikers think of chairs as dead weight. Others can't imagine not bringing some comfy option to rest their legs in after a long day of hiking. When backpacking, you want an ultralight chair that weighs under two pounds and fits in your pack.
We tested some of the best backpacking chairs on the market today. Read on to see how they performed, which model is best for you, and to get some buying advice.
Table of Contents
Best Backpacking Chairs
The best backpacking chairs are:
- Best Overall Backpacking Chair: SEA TO SUMMIT AIR CHAIR
- Best Ultralight Backpacking Chair: THERM-A-REST Z-SEAT PAD
- Best Premium Backpacking Chair: HELINOX ZERO
- Best Budget Backpacking Chair: REI CO-OP TRAIL STOOL
- Most Comfortable Backpacking Chair: ALITE BY GRAND TRUNK MAYFLY
|MODEL||PRICE||Packed Weight||Packed Size||SCORE|
|1. SEA TO SUMMIT Air Chair||$59.95||8 oz||12 x 2.75 x 2.5 in||9/10|
|2. THERM-A-REST Z-Seat Pad||$33.95||2 oz||12 x 2.5 x 2.75 in||9/10|
|3. HELINOX Zero||$129.95||18 oz||13.5 x 3.5 x 3.5 in||8/10|
|4. REI CO-OP Trail Stool||$24.95||18 oz||4 x 22 in||8/10|
|5. ALITE by Grand Trunk Mayfly Chair||$139.95||25.6 oz||12 x 4.3 x 4.3 in||8/10|
|6. EXPED Chair Kit||$66.73||15.5 oz||21.65 x 3.94in||8/10|
|7. CRAZY CREEK Hex 2.0 Original Camp Chair||$64.95||18.5 oz||15 x 4 in||7/10|
- Packed Weight: 8 oz (0.5 lbs)
- Packed Size: 12 x 2.75 x 2.5 in
The Sea to Summit Air chair is an adaptor to turn your inflatable sleeping pad into a backpacking chair. It works by folding your mat in half, sliding it into a mesh pocket, and clipping the straps to create a chair shape. We like this clever design and found it provides good comfort and excellent packability.
This design cuts down on weight since it’s essentially a sleeve for your air mattress. We are a little hesitant about the effect on durability because it exposes your inflatable mattress pad to environs outside of the tent. However, if you use it carefully the nylon on the air chair provides ample protection.
It is designed to work with Sea to Summit's pads, but will work with other pads with similar dimensions. Because of its high scores in every category, the Sea to Summit Air Chair is our best overall backpacking chair.
✅ Packs away small
❌ Low comfort
- Packed Weight: 2 oz (0.13 lbs)
- Packed Size: 12 x 2.5 x 2.75 in
The Z-Seat Pad takes Therm-a-Rest's popular closed cell foam sleeping pad and trims it down to a 16 x 13-inch rectangle. We love the accordion folding design which fits easily inside a backpack or on the outside of your pack for easy access on a break. Being closed cell foam it’s almost indestructible too.
The low price is a big plus for us. And of course we can’t help but fawn over its 2 ounce weight, the lightest on our list. The drawback is the comfort. We didn’t like the lack of back support and thin foam offers only minimal extra comfort. However, if you’re looking for an ultralight option the Z-Seat Pad is our top pick. Read in-depth review of the Therm-a-rest Z-Seat here.
✅ Packs down small
❌ Can be tippy
- Packed Weight: 18 oz (1.13 lbs)
- Packed Size: 13.5 x 3.5 x 3.5 in
The Helinox Zero is one of the lightest foldable chairs on the market and it packs down to the size of a water bottle. As a folding chair, we love the Zero’s excellent comfort. You can sit off the ground making it easy to get in and out of. We found the Zero to be tippy if leaning or reaching out over your center of gravity.
Weight-wise this chair sits around average. Being a premium hiking chair the big drawback is the cost, the second most on our list. But if you want luxury in the backcountry this is our pick for the best premium backpacking chair. Read in-depth review on the Helinox Chair Zero here.
Best Budget Backpacking Chair:
REI CO-OP TRAIL STOOL
Price: $24.95See on REI
✅ Low cost
✅ Easy to use
❌ Low comfort to weight ratio
- Packed Weight: 18 oz (1.13 lbs)
- Packed Size: 4 x 22 in
If you want a simple, inexpensive chair that lets you sit off the ground at the end of a long day, the REI Trail Stool is our best budget pick. At $25 this is the least expensive chair on our list, surprisingly even cheaper than the Therm-a-rest foam sit pack.
The weight of this chair isn’t outrageously heavy, but we found it offers less comfort than similar chairs in its weight class, like the Helinox Zero. It folds out easily, but its lack of back support and a rather small seat made it less comfortable for us.
✅ Ultra comfortable
- Packed Weight: 25.6 oz (1.60 lbs)
- Packed Size: 12 x 4.3 x 4.3 in
The Alite Mayfly is a foldable chair that gets you off the ground and gives you the most comfortable sitting experience of the hiking chairs on our list. We liked the large, roomy bucket seat and the front and back legs make this a stable chair. But you’re going to pay for this luxe seat.
At $140 it’s the most expensive chair on our list. It’s also the heaviest option, a full 7 ounces heavier than any other model we reviewed. But if comfort is your ultimate objective this chair is for you.
The Other Noteworthy Models
✅ Full coverage sleeping pad adapter
- Packed Weight: 15.5 oz (0.97 lbs)
- Packed Size: 21.65 x 3.94in
Another inflatable sleeping pad adaptor is the Exped Chair Kit. Unlike the Sea to Summit Air Chair, we like that this chair kit completely covers your inflatable sleeping pad providing extra protection. It also can fold flat while still remaining in the chair kit, giving you extra protection while you sleep too. It comes in different sizes so it'll work with a variety of pads, Exped or other.
The full coverage does make it weigh more. At 15.5 ounces it’s only 2.5 ounces lighter than the Helinox Zero or the REI Trail Stool, which would make us debate if the risk of popping an air mattress was worth the weight savings.
We didn’t like the higher cost compared to the Sea to Summit Air Chair, but it does provide more coverage.
✅ Rolls up easily, can be used as a sleeping pad
❌ Low comfort to weight ratio
- Packed Weight: 18.5 oz (1.16 lbs)
- Packed Size: 15 x 4 in
The Crazy Creek camp chair is a dual-purpose closed-cell foam chair. Side clips hold the foam in a stadium chair shape, giving you back support while you sit on the ground. When unclipped, it can be flattened out to a half-length sleeping pad. We would recommend that it be used as a sleeping pad only in an emergency though, as it is too thin for full comfort.
The dual-purpose nature of this chair allows it to pack away easily, simply flatten and roll up. The thin closed-cell foam offers some comfort but being on the ground we found it less comfortable than a folding camp chair. The back support makes this a great upgrade to the Therm-a-rest Z-Seat Pad for those wanting additional comfort with the ruggedness of a closed cell foam pad.
Key Factors To Consider When Choosing
Chairs vary widely in price. Foam sit pads and simple stools can be as low as $25. Premium folding frame chairs offer luxurious comfort at camp but cost well over $100. Air chairs that inflate or convert your sleeping mattress into a chair occupy the middle ground in price and can offer good value for money.
Backpacking chairs that provide the greatest value:
Affordable backpacking chairs:
Premium backpacking chairs (most expensive):
Weight is a huge factor when deciding which chair to pack into the backcountry. How heavy should a backpacking chair be? We recommend 2 pounds maximum for chair weight. You may be willing to carry some extra pounds for this luxury, but you don't want to break your back. The lightest chairs are simple foam sit pads and inflatable air chairs.
The lightest backpacking chairs:
Arguably the most important factor. A hiking chair is a luxury item, so make sure it provides comfort. Look at factors like seat size, stability, back support, and padding. The most comfortable chairs are folding frame chairs that have a full bucket seat and get you off the ground. Foam sit pads are light and inexpensive but offer the least amount of comfort.
The most comfortable backpacking chairs:
A chair not only has to be light, but it also has to be portable. You want a chair that fits in a bag that you strap to your pack or folds small enough to stuff inside your backpack. Inflatable air chairs and small sit pads pack down the smallest. Full-featured chairs that require poles and setup take up more space.
The backpacking chairs with the best packability:
Other Things to Consider
Types of Backpacking Chairs
FOLDABLE CHAIR: If you value comfort, then a foldable chair is for you. These chairs have tent-like poles for legs, a fabric seat and sit about 11-inches above the ground. They are more comfortable than most other backpacking chairs but tend to be heavy for ultralight gear. They also have thin legs which can sink in when sitting on sand and other soft substrates.
STOOL (Freestanding or Inflatable): Get you off the ground but lack the back support of a chair. They either have three legs that expand like a tripod or two bars that open and shut like a clamshell. They can be dropped into a pack and used for short stints, but don't expect to lounge in them for hours.
The air inflatable stools allow you to roll up your sleeping pad, stand it up horizontally, and use it as a cylindrical stool. Just like the air chair, you need an inflatable pad to make it work.
GROUND CHAIRS (Foam or Inflatable): Rest either directly on the ground or a few inches off the ground. They don't have legs making them lighter and more compact than the elevated chairs. They are close to the ground so you will pick up dirt, pine needles and other forest litter. They fold flat and can double as a sleeping pad.
An air chair straps around your inflatable sleeping pad and allows you to convert your pad into a portable chair. It's an excellent solution for backpackers who are already carrying an inflatable sleeping pad.
SEAT PAD (Foam or Inflatable): If you are looking for a no-fuss layer of cushioning between your arse and the ground, then you should consider these sleeping pad-inspired seats. Just toss them anywhere and sit on them. There is no back support so you can only use them for short breaks.
DIY: Find a log, or setup a few logs to make a bench. Nearby rocks work. Maybe rest your rain jacket on the ground to prevent your butt from getting wet. Bear canisters also double up as a durable stool. Your own sleeping pad, especially if it is a foam pad, could provide ample comfort to chillax on.
13 oz ultralight backpacking stool - handmade by Sean Ricks
Ease of Use
After a long day of hiking the last thing you want to do is spend time setting up a fussy camp chair. Sit pads are the easiest. They fold out in mere seconds but are less comfortable. Chairs with folding frames can take longer to set up and sometimes require a learning curve to set up successfully.
Chairs need to stand up in tough conditions. Foam sit pads are almost indestructible and are used in any condition. Folding chairs have more parts that can potentially break, but being off the ground protects the seat from wear and tear. Air chairs, like all inflatable items, are prone to popping. Take care when using and avoid sitting on rough and rocky terrain.
What should you sit on when hiking?
When you are hiking you should sit on a lightweight backpacking chair or sit pad. In a pinch, you can sit on a log or a rock.
How do I choose a backpacking chair?
How you choose a backpacking chair depends on the type of hike you are on. Consider factors like weight, packability, and comfort when choosing a chair. Sit pads are the lightest, least comfortable chairs but are the best for ultralight hikers. Ground chairs are a good middle ground of comfort, weight, and packability. Folding chairs and stools offer the most comfortable experience but tend to weigh more and add bulk to your pack.