The Best Ultralight Backpacking Chairs in 2021

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Want a new backpacking chair so you can camp in style?

Worry not, we’re here to help.

A backpacking chair can make the difference between a comfortable trip into the mountains and a long few nights of roughin’ it in the outdoors. But, finding the right chair for your backpacking trips isn’t easy because there are so many great options to choose from.

In fact, there are three main characteristics that make for a good backpacking chair :

  • Lightweight. Quality backpacking seats should weigh less than 3lbs (1.4kg)
  • Durable. Backpacking chairs should be made from quality materials that can stand the test of time
  • Strong. Any chair you take backpacking needs to be strong enough to support your weight

Read More : 6 Things to Know Before Buying Backpacking Chairs

With that in mind, we know how tricky it can be to find the perfect chair for a backpacking trip. To get you started, we’ve created a list of 8 of the best models available today and we’ve also crafted a detailed buyer’s guide, complete with everything you need to know before you buy.

Our top picks

Here’s a quick round-up of the best chairs for backpacking. If you want to know more about what we think of them, read on.

For the Budget Minded : Travel Chair C-Series Joey Chair
“Comfort doesn’t have to come with a major price tag.”

Best Value for Money : Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Chair
“Striking the perfect balance between comfort and weight.”

Best Ultralight : REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair
“One of the lightest fully-featured options on the market, making it ideal for longer trips in the mountains.”

Best for Comfort : Leki TimeOut Chair
“Provides a luxurious place to rest at the end of the day.”

Best for Backpackers : Helinox Chair One
“One of the best strength-to-weight ratios on the market.”

Travel Chair C-Series Joey Chair

Travel Chair C-Series Joey Backpacking Chairs
Photo Credit : Travel Chair
  • Chair Weight : 2lbs / 0.9kg
  • Weight Capacity : 275lbs / 125kg

The Travel Chair C-Series Joey chair reminds us that comfort doesn’t have to come with a major price tag. This budget-friendly option keeps things simple but, at just 2lbs (0.9kg), it also doesn’t add a substantial amount of weight to your pack.

With its classic folding aluminum pole design, it collapses down into a small size that fits neatly into a compact stuff sack. Plus, its wide-leg and hub pole construction provide backpackers with a sturdy seat, even on rocky, uneven surfaces.

The Travel Chair C-Series Joey Chair is also among the most breathable options on our list. Thanks to its full mesh seat fabric, this chair allows for plenty of ventilation and airflow, which is essential on backpacking trips to hot climates.

What We Like

  • Affordable. Budget-friendly price for a full-size camping chair.
  • Breathable mesh fabric is great for hot environments.
  • Small packed size is better for transport on the trail.

What We Don't Like

  • Low Strength-Weight Ratio. Not as strong as the alternatives.

Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Chair

Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Backpacking Chairs
Photo Credit : Big Agnes
  • Chair Weight : 2.5lbs / 1.1kg
  • Weight Capacity : 300lbs / 136kg

Striking the perfect balance between comfort and weight, the Big Agnes Mica Basin chair shows that you can lounge in style without bulking up your pack.

With this chair, you get a tough-as-nails aluminum pole frame with a hubless construction that allows for a smaller packed size. These poles are also strong enough to support up to 300lbs (136.1kg) and are color-coded for easy set-up.

The seat on the Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Chair is also made from a mix of 100D nylon and 300D rip-stop polyester to blend comfort and weight savings. Plus, the threads in this fabric are made with Robic yarn, which is 30% stronger than the alternative for extra robustness on the trail.

What We Like

  • Rugged Fabric. Offers a mix of durability and weight savings.
  • Easy Set Up. Color-coded poles simplify set up.
  • Compact. Hubless pole design creates a small packed size.

What We Don't Like

  • Heavy. Slightly heavier than most alternatives. 
  • Pricey. Expensive for a backpacking chair.

REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair

REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair Backpacking Chairs
Photo Credit : REI
  • Chair Weight : 1.0lbs / 0.5kg
  • Weight Capacity : 250lbs / 113kg

When weight savings are a priority, the REI Co-op Flexlite chair offers a lot to love. At just 1lb (0.5kg) in weight, it’s one of the lightest fully-featured options on the market, making it ideal for longer trips in the mountains.

This option boats a burly aluminum frame with a maximum weight capacity of 250lbs (113kg), so it’s strong enough to accommodate most backpackers. It also has a seat made from durable bluesign-approved ripstop nylon that’s durable water repellent (DWR) treated to prevent stains and mildew.

One area where the REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair doesn’t quite impress is in its narrow leg base, which can be quite wobbly on uneven ground. However, these aluminum legs are purposefully designed this way so that the chair can fold down to a compact size for backcountry use.

What We Like

  • Durable Materials. Ripstop nylon seat and strong aluminum frame.
  • Compact And Lightweight. Weighs just 1lb (0.5kg).
  • Stain-Resistant. Treated with DWR to fight stains.

What We Don't Like

  • Wobbly Base. Can feel unstable on uneven ground.

Leki TimeOut Chair

Leki TimeOut Backpacking Chairs
Photo Credit : Leki
  • Chair Weight : 1.9lbs / 0.9kg
  • Weight Capacity : 320lbs / 145.2kg

With the Leki TimeOut Chair, comfort is king. Built with a very strong polyethylene seat with large mesh panels, this chair provides a luxurious place to rest at the end of the day. It also has a cup holder built right in for added convenience in the mountains.

Although it’s one of the more affordable full-size camp chairs on our list, this model doesn’t slack when it comes to its strength-to-weight ratio. Boasting a 1.9lb (0.9kg) weight and 320lb (145kg) total weight capacity, this chair certainly pulls its own in terms of durability thanks to its fiberglass poles.

Additionally, the Leki TimeOut Chair is quick to set up and it packs down into a convenient storage bag. The feet on this chair also have rubber teeth, which allow it to get a good grip on soft ground in the backcountry.

What We Like

  • Lightweight. Highly packable option for backpacking.
  • Added Features. Includes a nifty cup holder.
  • Strong Frame. Can support up to 320lbs (145kg).

What We Don't Like

  • Stability Concerns. Base construction can be wobbly on uneven ground.

Helinox Chair One

Helinox Chair One Backpacking Chairs
Photo Credit : Helinox
  • Chair Weight : 2.1lbs / 1.0kg
  • Weight Capacity : 320lbs / 145kg

Camping innovation at its finest, the award-winning Helinox Chair One combines comfort, portability, and a strong frame into one great package.

Designed specifically with backpackers in mind, this chair weighs just slightly over 2lbs (0.9kg) but is capable of supporting upwards of 320lbs (145kg), which gives it one of the best strength-to-weight ratios on the market.

All of this strength is a result of the chair’s burly shock-corded aluminum poles which fold up into a stuff sack that’s just 13.5” (34.3cm) long.

As far as comfort goes, the Helinox Chair One has a durable nylon and mesh seat, providing you with a well-ventilated place to lounge on a hot day. The chair is also designed with a bit of flex so the seat can mold to the natural shape of your body for added comfort.

What We Like

  • Strong Frame. Aluminum poles have a great strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Compact. Fits in a 13.5” (34.3cm) long stuff sack.
  • Ventilated. Mesh seat paneling offers breathability on hot days.

What We Don't Like

  • Low Seat Base. Just 11” (27.9cm) off the ground.

Alps Mountaineering Weekender Chair

Alps Mountaineering Weekender Backpacking Chairs
Photo Credit : ALPS Mountaineering
  • Chair Weight : 1.3lbs / 0.6kg

For backpackers that want just that extra bit of comfort without committing to a full chair set up, the Alps Mountaineering Weekender Chair is a sure bet.

Featuring a classic clamshell-style folding design, this seat allows you to sit down and relax in nearly all types of terrain. It’s made from thick foam and durable ripstop fabric, which provides ample padding and durability in rugged environments.

Meanwhile, the Alps Mountaineering Weekend Chair weighs just 1.3lbs (0.6kg) and is easy to strap to the outside of your pack for easy transport to and from backcountry campsites.

The chair even has a large mesh pocket so you can store your headlamp, book, or other small bits of gear as you find that perfect spot to watch the sunset at camp.

What We Like

  • Lightweight. Perfect for longer trips into the backcountry.
  • Very Portable. Can be easily strapped to a pack for transportation.
  • Fully Adjustable. Easy to fine-tune specifically to your needs.

What We Don't Like

  • Not For Everyone. Clamshell-style chairs aren’t comfortable for all campers.

Therm-a-Rest Z Seat

Therm-a-Rest Z Seat Backpacking Chairs
Photo Credit : Therm-a-Rest
  • Chair Weight : 2oz / 56.7g

Lightweight and about as simple as it gets when it comes to backcountry comfort at camp, the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is a popular choice among thru-hikers, alpine climbers, and anyone that likes to measure their pack weight in grams.

Crafted from the same closed-cell foam that’s found in nearly all of Therm-a-Rest’s legendary foam sleeping pads, this sit pad offers a surprising amount of comfort in a small package. The foam on this pad is also treated with Therm-a-Capture technology to help it reflect heat and insulate you from the cold ground.

To make it even easier to pack, the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat also has an accordion-style folding design. It even comes with an integrated bungee cord to help you keep your sit pad organized and attached to your pack while you hike.

What We Like

  • Ultralight. So light, it’s barely noticeable in a backpack.
  • Compact. Folds up small for easy packing on the trail.
  • Insulating. Made with heat-radiating technology to keep you warm.

What We Don't Like

  • No Back Support. Not as comfortable as other options.

REI Co-op Trail Chair

REI Co-op Trail Backpacking Chairs
Photo Credit : REI
  • Chair Weight : 1.6lbs / 0.7kg

A no-frills backpacking chair that gets the job done, regardless of the conditions, the REI Co-op Trail Chair is a good all-around choice for campers that like to keep things simple.

Featuring a classic folding clamshell design, this chair is made from burly 420D Oxford nylon, which provides ample durability for frequent backpacking trips. It also has a built-in fiberglass frame to ensure better weight distribution around the chair and more comfortable sitting experience.

For added convenience, the REI Co-op Trail Chair also has a large rear pocket so you can quickly store snacks, books, and other essentials while you’re on the go. It’s also treated with a DWR coating for water-resistance so you can use your chair rain or shine.

What We Like

  • Water-Resistant. Treated with DWR for use in wet locales.
  • Storage pocket for stashing small pieces of gear.
  • Durable. Made from abrasion-resistant Oxford nylon.

What We Don't Like

  • Somewhat heavy for this style of chair.

Backpacking Chairs Buying Guide

A backpacking chair might seem like a simple piece of gear, but there’s actually quite a lot of technology and design that goes into making one of these outdoor relaxation systems.

Here are 6 of the most important things to keep in mind when shopping for that next backpacking chair.

Backpacking chairs vs seat pads

There are actually two different types of backpacking seating systems; backpacking chairs and sit pads.

Backpacking chairs, like the Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Chair, basically take your standard indoor chair construction and reimagine it into a lighter, more compact camping lounge system.

This style of chair allows you to sit about 11” to 15” (28 to 38cm) off of the ground and offers a backrest for added comfort. But, they’re generally bulkier and more expensive than their seat pad counterparts.

Seat pads provide cushioning, insulation, and a bit of extra comfort while you sit directly on the ground. There are two subtypes of seat pads; foam sit pads and folding clamshell-style camp chairs.

  • Folding clamshell-style models, like the REI Co-op Trail Chair offer a mix of weight savings and comfort by way of a backrest. However, taller people often don’t find them to be comfortable enough for an extended period of time because they don’t provide as much back support as a traditional backpacking chair.
  • A simple foam sit pad, like the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat is going to be your best choice if you really want to keep your pack light. However, it doesn’t offer much in terms of back support, which limits its overall comfort.

Weighs below 3lbs

Backpacking chairs are decidedly lightweight, so the top models, like the Leki TimeOut Chair, will be well under 3lbs (1.4kg). This is particularly important for backpackers who already have to carry around a lot of gear in their packs.

That being said, for particularly long trips and thru-hikes, superlight options, such as the Therm-a-Rest Z Seat or the Alps Mountaineering Weekender Chair that are under 2lbs (0.9kg) are even more highly valued.

Maximum weight capacity

Unless you’re looking to get a seat pad-style chair, you’ll want to pay close attention to the maximum weight capacity of your backpacking chair.

For the most part, backpacking chairs have an upper weight limit of around 300lbs (136.1kg).

But, some like the Travel Chair C-Series Joey Chair, offer just 275lbs (124.7kg), while others, like the Helinox Chair One, can accommodate up to 320lbs (145.2kg).

For many campers, this is more than enough weight capacity for their needs, but it’s always worth checking the maximum limit before buying. It’s important to know the weight limit of a chair before you buy because exceeding it can cause your chair to break when you need it most.

It’s also worth mentioning that most backpacking chair maximums are substantially less than what you’d find in a camping chair that you might use at a campground. This reduction in weight capacity is due to the lightweight materials and compact designs that make backpacking chairs so portable in the backcountry.

Made from lightweight and durable materials

Backpackers generally aren’t too interested in heavy chairs, and for good reason; they have to carry all of their gear on their backs through rugged terrain.

Manufacturers create their backpacking chairs out of lightweight, yet durable materials to strike a perfect balance between longevity and portability.

Aluminum legs, such as those found on the Leki TimeOut Chair, are a nearly universal choice among backpacking chairs because they offer that perfect mix of durability and weight savings.

For the actual seat of the chair, companies opt for either mesh, like what’s found on the Travel Chair C-Series Joey Chair, or ripstop nylon, such as what we see with the REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair.

In general, ripstop nylon is the more durable material, but it is less breathable. So, some models, such as the Helinox Chair One, offer a mix of both nylon and mesh to get the best of both worlds in one great package.

Packs up small

In addition to being lightweight, the best backpacking chairs will also pack up to a small size and be highly portable.

Most models, like the Helinox Chair One, will fold down to under 13” x 4” (33 x 10cm) and pack away into a stuff sack so they can easily fit inside your backpack.

Others, like the REI Co-op Trail Chair and other clamshell-style models, don’t necessarily have a very small folded size. But, they come with carry handles and can easily be attached to the outside of a backpack for transportation.

Manufacturer warranty

Most backpacking chairs do come with a manufacturer’s warranty.

Some models like the Helinox Chair One come with a 5-year warranty, while the Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Chair comes with a warranty for the reasonable lifetime of the product.

The lifetime of a product is a bit of a vague concept.

You can usually expect a camping chair to last between 5 to 10 years of occasional use and 2 to 5 years of regular use.

Seat pad-style chairs have breakable parts and can often last much longer, so you may get 5 to 10 years out of them even with regular, heavy use.

Although some companies offer specific maximum time limits on their warranties and others don’t, it’s important to note that the vast majority of backpacking chairs are only covered under warranty if the issue was caused by a defect in the product.

This means that damage caused by normal wear and tear or from improper use (read: exceeding the stated weight maximum) will not fall under the terms of the warranty. Generally, normal wear and tear in a backpacking chair refers to ripped seat fabrics, snapped poles, and tears in carry cases, which do sometimes happen after years of heavy use.

That being said, even if your chair is no longer covered under warranty, most companies will offer to repair your broken backpacking chair for a reasonable fee so you can keep enjoying the gear you love.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.