The Helinox Chair Zero is one of the most popular and best-known backcountry camp chairs on the market. It is known for offering a comfortable sitting experience while still being incredibly lightweight. However, that lightweight comfort comes at a cost: this chair has a larger price tag than its competitors.
Helinox Chair Zero
❌ Takes time and strength to set up
- Weight 1 lbs 2 oz (website), 1 lb (home scale)
- Material: Ripstop polyester fabric and aluminum poles
- Type: Foldable
- Packed Size: 13.5 in x 3.5 in x 3.5 in
- Dimensions: 18.5 in x 20 in x 25 in (W x D X H)
- Base Size: 13.5 in x 10 in (W x D)
The Helinox Chair Zero is great for backpackers looking to add a bit of luxury to their backcountry experience and is best for those who will be spending a large amount of time at camp or who have a hard time getting up off of the ground.
The base orientation in relation to the seat offers a surprisingly stable sitting experience and the larger seat size is comfortable enough to sit in for hours at a time. Shock cords in the poles make the frame incredibly easy to set up.
However, I struggled to get the seat onto the poles the first few times even after reading the directions due to the high tension of the fabric. Fortunately, the effort is worth it as the Chair Zero packs down to a size that is easy to store on the outside of almost any pack.
To see reviews on other backpacking chairs, see our post on the best backpacking chairs.
Performance Test Results
How We Tested
The Helinox Chair Zero was an excellent luxury item to bring along for a quick thru-hike of the Lone Star Hiking Trail near Houston, Texas. The chair was used in primarily dirt and sandy conditions on road beds and cleared areas due to the dense brush found along much of the trail. The chair was also tested out in southern Colorado with conditions consisting primarily of mud and snow.
Weight can be a contentious topic among backpackers, particularly when it comes to bringing luxury items on the trail. Overall, the Chair Zero is relatively light for what you get, making it a worthwhile addition for those who really benefit from a chair in the backcountry.
Considering the Helinox is essentially a full-blown chair that you can sit in, albeit slightly closer to the ground, a pound is a relatively small price to pay. This is especially true when looking at the Chair Zero compared to other chairs on the market. It is certainly on the lighter end of the spectrum.
The Helinox Chair Zero weighs 1 lbs 2 oz.
It’s no secret that the more ultralight the gear item, the more expensive it will be. This is true of the Chair Zero as it falls on the more expensive end of the spectrum along with its similarly weighted competitors.
Lighter materials and a unique design contribute to the cost. Whether the price tag is worth it will depend on the individual and how much use they get out of the Chair Zero.
The large fabric area and relative stability of the Chair Zero made for a comfortable seating experience on the trail. Even after sitting in the chair for several hours, it was still comfortable to use. That said, the fabric can become cool on the back and arms which is something to consider if using the chair in colder weather.
Another slight irritation was the side slits in the fabric which allowed objects you place in the chair, such as a phone, to fall on the ground if you aren’t careful. Because the chair is closer to the ground than a traditional car camping chair it can be challenging to stretch out the legs in a comfortable way, particularly if your feet are sore after a long day of hiking.
I suggest finding a log or rock to prop your feet up on to help alleviate this problem. Overall, I found this chair to be a great intermediary to have in the backcountry and was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable it was.
Size and Packability: 8/10
REI touts that the Chair Zero has the same packed width as a 32 oz water bottle. In the field, the packed chair was easily able to fit in an outside pocket next to my water bottles making for easy transportation. This is probably the easiest place to store the chair for most people as this allows for easy access during the day.
Other options could include using sleeping pad straps or storing them under the brain of your pack. The Chair Zero includes a stuff sack. While I generally don’t use stuff sacks on the trail, I found this one to be helpful given that the fabric seat is not permanently attached to the poles.
The stuff sack helped ensure that the seat didn’t get lost and made it easier to store in the side pocket of my backpack. The Chair Zero is comparable to its competitors when it comes to packability and it really is not difficult to find a spot on the outside of the pack to store the chair while hiking.
I was able to place the Helinox Chair Zero in the side pocket outside my pack.
Ease of Use: 7/10
The Chair Zero possesses several features that aid in the setup process, but it can still be a bit challenging to go from a bundle of poles and fabric to the final chair form. The frame consists of poles that are attached to each other and the joints by shock cords.
These shock cords make it incredibly easy to put together the frame, especially the first time, as most of the poles snap into place with little effort. In fact, the shock cords can almost be a hindrance when trying to take the frame apart to put it away as you will need to hold onto the collapsed poles to prevent them from snapping back into place.
On the other hand, getting the fabric seat onto the poles is rather tricky the first few times. Directions do come with the chair and “this side up” is printed on the back of the fabric to help with orientation.
The challenge is getting each pole into the corner pockets of the fabric due to the tension that makes the chair comfortable to sit in. A decent amount of strength is required to pull the fabric onto each corner. This is a common design among backpacking chairs, so not unique to the Chair Zero. Just something to bear in mind.
Overall, I found that the setup and tear-down process took long enough that I was reluctant to use the chair during breaks. The chair was much more handy at camp where it would be set up for a period of time before taking it apart the next day.
Setting up the Helinox Chair Zero took me a lot of time (and strength).
When it comes to stability, this is an area where I was pleasantly surprised. Between the relatively low center of gravity, the wide span of the base poles, and the orientation of the chair to the base I never felt as if I would spill out of the chair or that it would collapse beneath me.
I was able to reach over to grab items from my backpack as well as prop my feet up on logs without issue. There is a certain amount of movement in the frame if you really move around in the chair in comparison with a car camping chair, but it never felt insecure.
One challenge was finding a sufficiently flat place to set the chair in sandier soil. At times it felt as if the chair was leaning forward a bit so I would have to move the chair around a few times until I found the best spot.
The chair-to-frame orientation and the wider base are both features that I would recommend looking for when it comes to stability, so the Chair Zero outshines many of its competitors in this department.
In terms of stability, I can freely move around on the Helinox Chair Zero without the fear of falling off.
The overall trend in the backpacking chair market is to use aluminum for the frames and ripstop nylon for the chair fabric. This also happens to be the case for the Helinox Chair Zero.
Aluminum provides a balance between weight and cost. While it is not as light as other materials such as carbon fiber, it is more affordable. Aluminum can also take a bit of abuse without breaking, instead, it tends to bend which can be either a pro or a con. In this instance, it is likely more of a pro as you can keep using your camping chair depending on the situation.
Ripstop nylon also provides various benefits and deficits. It is more comfortable to sit in than some other fabrics as it is pliable and it is much more durable than any sort of netting. While there are more durable fabrics in the outdoor market, ripstop nylon generally provides the best value and balance of packability, durability, and weight.
Conclusion? This chair should last with proper care in the backcountry. The Chair Zero is on par with its competitors when it comes to durability as most options in the market are made of the same materials.
The Helinox Chair Zero is made of Ripstop polyester fabric.