An ultralight backpacking chair is an essential bit of gear. If you’re a very light traveller (like us!) and are reluctant to add to your packing list or you’re looking to upgrade your current chair – read on.
Our buying guide includes what an ultralight backpacking chair is, how to use one and what features to look for when shopping around. We’ve also listed our top five chairs that are all worth their price and that extra bit of weight on your back!
Why trust this guide?
We’ve tested several different types of lightweight camping chairs over many trips. Our favourites are always the simplest, ultralight models. The best ultralight backpacking chairs are super comfortable, easy to assemble and compact.
We’re very experienced backpackers so every ounce of weight has to earn its place on our backs. Opting for an ultralight backpacking chair is the way to go!
What is an ultralight backpacking chair?
Outdoor gear manufacturers can call any chair that weighs less than a few pounds an “ultralight backpacking chair”. We’d also include that an ultralight backpacking chair must fold down into a compact package. Usually, this type of chair has an aluminum frame and a bucket-shaped seat made from a tough fabric like ripstop polyester.
How to set up an ultralight backpacking chair
Setting up an ultralight backpacking chair is simple!
Step 1. Slide the chair out of its packaging. The poles of the chair are attached with elastic (like the poles of a tent) and slide into place. The shorter poles are for the seat section and the longer poles are for the backrest.
Step 2. With the poles in place, pull on the cover and secure.
Step 3. Sit down and relax 🙂
When it’s time to fold the chair away, follow the same steps backwards. Remove the cover then pull the poles apart and fold them. Slide the whole thing back into its sack and off you go!
Why you need an ultralight backpacking chair
Whether you’ve finally made it back to camp or are taking a break on the trail, your rest time is super important. Comfort comes first! It’s very difficult to rest properly when you’re sitting on cold, hard ground.
A simple chair that lifts you and supports your lower back is essential for any outdoor adventure. Go for an ultralight camping chair and you’ll hardly notice you’re carrying it!
Also interesting: The complete packing list for multi day hikes.
Different kinds of ultralight camping chairs
Most ultralight camping chairs are very similar. There’s not much difference between the most popular models but here are a few features to consider:
- The frame of most ultralight camping chairs is a simple shape. Usually, there are two long poles at the back, two shorter poles at the front and a simple four-leg base to lift the seat off the ground. The straight pole that holds the legs together will run side-to-side or back-to-front. Both are fine!
- To keep these camping chairs ultralight, the frames are most often made from aluminum. For durability, the seat is usually made from tough ripstop polyester or similar.
- Trail chairs or seats can also be ultralight and often double-up as sleeping mats. These chairs are for sitting on the ground so we don’t consider them “camping chairs”. For this reason, four out of the five chairs we’ve reviewed are those with frames but we’ve added our favourite “trail seat” too!
What to look out for when you want to buy an ultralight backpacking chair
So, you want to buy an ultralight camping chair. This chair is going to elevate your camping game and give you some much-needed rest after a day on the trails. You need to pick the right one! Here’s what you need to look out for before clicking “buy”.
The packed weight of the chair might be its most important feature! If you’re looking for an “ultralight” camping chair, you probably intend to take it backpacking. The lightest chairs out there weigh little over 0.45kg (1 lb) while some chairs still claiming to be ultralight weigh upwards of 1.8kg (4 lb). Be sure to balance the weight you’re saving with the overall performance of the chair.
Size and Design
Consider both the size and design of the chair and the size and design of your own body! It’s worth looking at the specifications for ultralight camping chairs. Most manufacturers list the maximum weight the camping chair can hold, the width and height of the seat and the height of the raised seat. All of these things will have a huge impact on how comfortable the chair is for you, especially if you’re taller than average!
The stability of the chair will also have a huge impact on how comfortable it is. Ever had that awful, weightless feeling when you sit down and a chair gives way! We have! So we need to be sure that any ultralight camping chair we buy is sturdy enough to hold our weight, even on rocky or sandy ground.
Some of the chairs on our list cost upwards of $100 so you want to be sure they’re going to last for more than one trip. Brands that use high-quality materials and have good reviews online are usually your best bet. Check whether the manufacturer/seller offers a warranty too.
Ease of Use
No one wants to mess about with overly complicated gear. Most ultralight camping chairs have the same click-and-lock frame design that’s easy to assemble. Avoid anything with extra accessories and too many poles, they’re not usually worth the time or the extra weight.
Also check out our top lightweight backpacking tents for an ultralight adventure
Top 5 ultralight backpacking chairs
Here’s our pick of the five best Ultralight backpacking chairs. We’ve included pros and cons for every chair to help you choose the best chair for your next big adventure!
1. Helinox Chair Zero | Best compact and super light ultralight backpacking chair
Weight: 500 gr (1.16 lbs)
- Very compact
- Extremely lightweight
- Best design
- Low seat
- High price point
Weighing in at only 0.5kg (1.16 lbs), the Helinox Chair Zero is the most lightweight chair on our list. Not only is this chair ultralight, but it is also incredibly compact. When folded down and packed into its stuff sack, the Helinox Chair Zero is the size of a water bottle and slips nicely into the side pocket of a backpack.
Campers love how easy to carry the Helinox Chair Zero is and it’s always well-reviewed for its comfortable design. The shape of the seat on this camping chair offers extra support for your lower back. But if you’re a tall person you may find the shape of this camping chair a little restricting. The seat is only 20cm (7.5 inches) from the ground which is a little uncomfortable for long legs. Also, the back is tall but narrow so the corners may jab into your shoulders. For these reasons, we wouldn’t recommend this chair to anyone much taller than 6 ft.
Although small, this chair is sturdy. With a DAC aluminum alloy frame and UV-resistant ripstop polyester seat, this chair can hold up to 120 kg (265 lbs).
Get it here: Amazon
Big Agnes Skyline UL | Most comfortable ultralight backpacking chair
Weight: 800 gr (1lb 12oz)
- Super sturdy
- Superior comfort
- Better for larger people
- More difficult to assemble
The Big Agnes Skyline UL camping chair is the most robust and comfortable chair on this list. Go for this ultralight backpacking chair if comfort is your top priority. The deep seat of the Big Agnes Skyline UL chair is 15 inches off the ground, which is nice and high and more gentle on the hips and knees after a long hike. For an ultralight backpacking chair, the Agnes Skyline UL is fairly roomy. We’d especially recommend this chair to taller or heavier campers and those who find sitting on low chairs uncomfortable.
This ultralight camping chair has the same interlocking aluminum pole design as the other chairs in the Big Agnes range. These can be a little tricky to assemble. However, once it’s up, this camping chair is super sturdy, even on uneven terrain and can hold a weight of up to 125kg (275 lbs).
This chair is one of the heavier ultralight models on the market and weighs 0.8kg (1lb 12oz) when packed up. But if you’re willing to carry a few extra ounces, you’ll be rewarded with superior comfort for your entire trip!
Get it here: Amazon
Rei Co-op Flexlite Camp Chair | Best all-round ultralight backpacking chair
Weight: 750 gr (1lb 11oz)
- Very lightweight
- High seat
- Less sturdy
At 0.75kg (1lb 11oz), the REI Co-op Flexlite Camp Chair is slightly lighter than the Big Agnes Skyline UL. However, its unfolded dimensions make it considerably sider and deeper and its seat is 28cm (11 inches) from the ground which is about average.
Despite being a larger camping chair, the REI Co-op Flexlite packs down to a tiny little bundle that can be easily slipped into a pocket. This chair is recommended to anyone up to 113kg (250 lb) but we found the design a little unstable so it may be suitable for those on the lighter side.
This ultralight camping chair is made from Ripstop polyester that’s bluesign®-approved. This means it meets sustainability standards, which is great!
Get it here: Amazon
Exped Chair Kit | Best ultralight camping chair for versatility
Weight: 700 gr (1.5 lbs)
- No raised seat
The Exped Chair Kit is a cover with clips that you can use to transform the Exped sleeping mat into a chair. Instead of buying and carrying a sleeping mat and an ultralight camping chair, you can buy an Exped Chair Kit and kill two birds with one stone!
The Exped is affordable, versatile and lightweight. The cover weighs 0.7kg (1.5lbs), so can’t compete with the Helinox Chair Zero in weight but is a little lighter than the other chairs on this list.
You can convert the Exped Chair Kit from a chair to a sleeping mat by loosening the straps and releasing the buckles. It’s very easy to use but what you save in convenience you may lose in comfort. As the Exped Chair Kit is flush to the ground and hasn’t got the supportive bucket seat design of the other ultralight camping chairs on this list. We’d recommend using the Exped Chair Kit sparingly.
Get it here: Rei
G4Free Lightweight Portable high back camping chair | Best ultralight camping chair on a budget
Weight: 1300 gr (2.8 lbs)
- Headrest and pocket
- Less sturdy
The G4Free Lightweight Portable high back camping chair is the most impressive budget camping chair we’ve found.
Weighing in at 1.3kg (2.8lbs) the G4Free chair is the heaviest on this list but we still consider it lightweight. Extra compact, this chair folds down into a package small enough to slip into a carry-on bag or right into your backpack.
Like the other more expensive chairs on this list, the G4Free camping chair frame is made from high-strength aluminum. The seat is made of 900D oxford cloth (rather than ripstop polyester) and can hold up to 109kg (240 lbs). This chair also has a comfy sponge headrest and a side pocket for storing accessories. These things add to the overall weight of the chair making it more difficult to carry on a backpacking trip.
However, the G4Free lightweight camping chair is super comfortable and a great choice for a road trip or a day trip outdoors!
Have you tried out any of these ultralight camping chairs? Or do you have a favorite that’s not on this list? Let us know in the comments!
Get it here: Amazon
These were our top picks on ultralight backpacking chairs. If you have a question, or a tip, feel free to leave a comment below.