Camping Chair: How to Choose the Right One for YouPublished on 09/27/2023 · 14 min readLooking to up your comfort levels on your camp trips? Make an informed decision on choosing the perfect camping chair for your needs and camping style!
Photo by Vera Petrunina
TL;DR: Whether you’re a casual camper or an avid backpacker, this comprehensive buying guide provides valuable insights to make an informed decision. To find the right camping chair for you, identify your camping style and needs. Make sure to focus primarily on durability, solid materials, and construction, but don’t forget that a camping chair should be comfortable and make your camping trip more enjoyable.
My name is Hunter, and I am a Camping and Hiking Expert here on Curated. I have been camping since I was a little kid and have done all sorts of camping, from car camping and backpacking to month-long segments of camping out of my truck. I have tested all types of gear, and at this point, I'm pretty well-versed in what to look for and what to avoid.
An often overlooked or forgotten piece of camping gear is a camp chair. It might not seem as important as a tent, sleeping bag, or sleeping pad, but having a camp chair can add to your overall experience of sleeping outdoors. In this guide, I will run through the basics of what to look for in a camping chair, the different types of camp chairs out there, and how to find the best one for you!
What Is a Camping Chair?
A camping chair is a foldable, portable chair designed for outdoor use, especially during camping trips. Lightweight and easy to travel with and carry, a camping chair gives you a place to sit outside when you’re making dinner, having a campfire, or relaxing after a long day of hiking. Though camping chairs are primarily designed to bring along on your camping trips, they can also come in handy for outdoor concerts, soccer games, or backyard barbecues. I personally like to keep one in the back of my truck at all times in case I want to sit outside and drink some water or a beer after a long hike or trail run. A sturdy and high-quality camping chair can make your time outside much more relaxing and comfortable!
What to Consider When Buying a Camping Chair
1. What Type of Camping Will You Be Doing?
Narrowing down what kind of camping you plan on doing is an important first step when searching for the perfect camp chair. If you’re backpacking, you will need a chair that's lightweight and packs up into a compact size so that it’s easy to carry with the rest of your gear in a backpack. If you are car camping, comfort and durability might be a top priority. Make sure whichever camp chair you settle on fits in with your style of camping!
2. How Important Is Comfort?
This might seem like an obvious one, but camping chairs come in a variety of different designs, some more comfortable than others. Some campers want a chair that gives them somewhere to sit around the fire, while other campers are more focused on minimalism and low weight than comfort. Most campers who aren’t worried about space or weight should look for a chair with extra support and comfort features. This can look like basic lumbar support, extra padding, armrests, or a specific shape that is comfortable for your body type to sit in for long periods of time. Though comfort might be low down on the priority list for backpackers, most car campers will want to spend a little extra time looking for a camp chair that fits their comfort needs. There’s nothing better than having a nice spot to relax after a long day of hiking or exploring!
3. How Durable Is the Chair?
As with all camping gear, your camping chair should be designed to withstand the elements and rugged outdoor use. Even if you take excellent care of all of your camp gear, your chair will still be outside, where it’s prone to getting dusty, dirty, and wet. The most common places I see camping chairs break down are in the fabric or the legs (shown below).
The fabric should be made from a durable nylon material that won’t get rips or holes in it, and the legs should be made of a sturdy aluminum or steel to withstand being packed, unpacked, and used regularly. There are also extra steps you can take to prolong the life of your camp chair. Most camp chairs come with a carry bag that protects the chair when it’s not in use. Try to keep your camping chair in its bag whenever you’re storing it or traveling to and from your camping destinations to avoid excess exposure to sun, dirt, or rain.
If your camping chair gets wet on any of your camp adventures, remember to let it dry completely when you get home to avoid any rusting in the metal legs. More durable camping chairs might be slightly more expensive than the really cheap Walmart options, but in the long run, having a sturdy camp chair will save you money since you won’t need to constantly replace it when it inevitably breaks!
4. How Easy Is it to Set Up and Pack Away?
Though it might seem silly to be overly worried about the setup and takedown of your camp chair, trust me, it’s not! Some camp chairs are super intuitive to set up. The last thing you want is a complex setup after a long day of hiking or when it's getting dark. Make sure whichever chair you choose is easy to set up and take down.
5. How Much Should a Camping Chair Cost?
Camp chairs come at a variety of price points. Some are more expensive because they have extra features (more padding, cupholders, really low weight, etc.) or because they are more durable. While it’s always better to get an option that fits your budget, make sure you also get a chair that won’t break the first few times you use it!
- Cheap Price Point: At the lower end, around $30, you'll find the most basic, foldable chairs. They probably won’t be quite as durable and won’t have many extra features, but they’ll get the job done and are great for occasional use.
- Mid-Range Price Point: Chairs between $30-$100 are typically more durable and generally have some additional features like cup holders or UV-resistant fabric. If you aren’t looking for anything too fancy, this is a great price range to look for.
- High-End Price Point: Above $100, you can expect top-tier materials, ergonomic designs, extended durability, and a lot of extra features. If comfort is your top priority, there are great options above $100 that will last a long time and make sitting around a camp feel a lot like sitting in your living room recliner at home.
What Are the Different Types of Camp Chairs?
To narrow down the right option for you, let’s take a look at some of the different types of camping chairs out there along with some of their pros and cons.
Traditional Camping Chair
Traditional camping chairs are simple, foldable chairs that usually have a seat, backrest, and armrests that are supported by a metal frame. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and price points. Traditional camp chairs are the most common types you’ll see and are a great fit for most car campers.
- Come in an array of price points, so are generally affordable
- Usually have some basic features, like cup holders
- Won’t have more advanced features, like lumbar support
- Cheaper options are generally not as durable
- Browning Camping Fireside Chair
- Big Agnes Six Armchair
As the name suggests, these chairs are meant for backpacking. They are designed to be lightweight and compact so that they don’t add a ton of extra weight to a backpacking backpack. Some of these are standard four-legged chairs, while others are three-legged chairs or even very minimalist camp stools.
- Easy to carry in a backpack
- Not as many features
- Less comfortable
- Helinox Chair Zero
- Helinox Speed Stool
Reclining Camp Chair
Reclining camp chairs allow users to recline, just like a recliner at home. For campers who have back issues or want to spend a bit of extra money on something that has a backrest and padded seats, reclining camp chairs are a great option. They offer a higher comfort level and often come with padded seats and backrests.
- Super comfortable
- Added support for those with back issues
- Heavier and bulkier
- More steps to set up and take down
- Higher price point
Rocking Camp Chair
These chairs come with rockers on the bottom instead of the standard four-leg design seen in classic camp chairs. This makes it easy to rock back and forth instead of staying stationary like other camp chairs. They typically also have extra back or lumbar support and handy side pockets or cupholders.
- Comfortable and relaxing
- Added support
- Heavier and bulkier
- More expensive
- More difficult to set up and take down
- Nemo Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair
- ALPS Mountaineering Rocking Chair
Features to Look Out for When Buying a Camping Chair
Now that you understand the different types of chairs let’s take a closer look at some of the features to look out for in specific camp chairs. Depending on your style of camping, not all of these may be as important, but it’s still good to have an idea of what kind of features are out there to help you narrow down the perfect option for you!
Materials and Fabric
The first feature you’ll want to look at is the material and fabric on the chair. Chairs made with durable materials like ripstop nylon or polyester tend to last longer than chairs made of mesh materials or non-ripstop nylon. Both ripstop nylon and polyester are resistant to tears and can handle UV rays, rain, and whatever other outdoor elements they are exposed to. Nylon is a popular material in backpacking chairs since it’s lightweight, but it doesn’t typically last quite as long with heavy outdoor use.
Next up is the frame construction. Steel or aluminum frames are both great options. Steel is the sturdiest material but is a bit heavier, so if you expect you’ll need to carry your chair very far, look for aluminum. Aluminum is lighter than steel, though not quite as heavy-duty, and sturdy under heavy weights. If you’re a backpacker, carbon fiber is a great material to look for. It’s super durable, even sturdier than steel, and lighter than aluminum. The downside of carbon fiber is that it’s a bit pricier, so if you want a chair with a carbon fiber frame, expect to spend a bit more money.
Always check the weight capacity of the chair. Chairs with a higher weight capacity tend to be more durable and stable. This can be especially important if you are camping with kids who inevitably will want to come sit on your lap around the fire. Camp chairs come in a variety of weight capacities, which are always listed on the packaging. If you’re shopping online, you’ll find it in the technical specifications of the chair.
Having hauled several chairs to campsites, concerts, backyard barbecues, and more, I'd stress the importance of having a chair that folds down into a compact size and is easy to carry. Most chairs have a carry sack with a strap that makes it easy to carry your chair around your shoulder. Some camp chairs even have backpack straps on the back, making them extra easy to carry long distances, such as to music events or sports games.
Chairs with extra accessories like cup holders, headrests, and built-in tables can seem unnecessary to some campers, but they add a touch of luxury and convenience to your camping trip. A built-in cupholder or table makes it easier to enjoy sitting around the fire without worrying ants will get into your s'mores supplies or your drink will get knocked over. A headrest or extra lumbar support will feel extra nice after a full day of exploring or hiking.
How to Choose the Right Camp Chair
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, but if you’re still not quite sure which option is the best for you, don’t worry! Below are three examples of Curated customers who I have helped to find their perfect chair for camping trips. Each person listed below has specific needs and features that they should factor in when looking for a chair.
Jerry, the Casual Camper
Jerry lives in Portland, Oregon and enjoys the occasional car camping trip during weekends. His camping style is relaxed and social, with nothing too intense and no backpacking. During the day, he typically goes on little hikes or explores the lakes and rivers near where he’s camping, and at night, he spends time around the campfire with his friends.
Needs in a Camp Chair:
- Comfort for extended seating periods
- Cup holder for his favorite beverages
- Nothing too pricey since he doesn’t camp a ton
Features to Look For:
- Padded seating and a backrest
- Built-in cooler or cup holder
- Stability without too much extra weight
Chair Recommendations for Jerry:
Benita, the Ultralight Backpacker
Benita is an avid backpacker who constantly seeks out new trails around her home of Leadville, Colorado. She is all about the ultralight backpacking lifestyle, always on the lookout for gear that can take a few extra ounces out of her pack weight without sacrificing functionality. When she sets up camp, it's usually in remote areas and at the end of a long day of hiking.
Needs in a Camp Chair:
- Lightweight, compact, and portable for easy carrying in her pack
- Quick setup to conserve energy for other activities
- Durable to withstand rough terrains
Features to Look For:
- Lightweight materials like carbon fiber or nylon
- Easy and quick setup mechanism
- Tear-resistant fabric to endure the rugged outdoors
Chair Recommendations for Benita:
- Helinox Chair Zero
- Helinox Chair One
Omar, the Comfort Seeker
Omar loves camping but also prioritizes comfort. He usually goes on leisurely camping trips in his van and likes to recline and enjoy a good book or gaze at the stars at night. He spends a lot of time camping, so he wants a chair that’s both durable and comfortable since he will get a ton of use out of it. He doesn’t care about finding a lightweight camping chair as much as he cares about all the features that will make his time outdoors more enjoyable.
Needs in a Camp Chair:
- High backrest for neck and head support
- Reclining features to adjust his seating position
- Padded armrests for added comfort
Features to Look For:
- Reclining capabilities with adjustable positions
- High backrest with cushioning or padding
- Durable materials that can withstand a lot of use
Chair Recommendations for Omar:
- Eureka Highback Recliner
- Nemo Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair
Find the Best Camping Chair for You
Just because you’re sleeping outside doesn't mean you have to compromise on comfort! Whether you're about to head out on your first-ever camping trip, prepping for a long thru hike, or looking for the perfect chair to convince your partner that camping is fun and comfortable, there’s a chair out there for you. The best camp chair for you is one that pairs perfectly with your style of camping and fits within your budget.
If you’re still feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the camp chair options out there, don't worry, we’ve got you covered! Chat with me or one of my fellow Camping and Hiking Experts here on Curated for free, personalized advice on the perfect camping gear for you, whether it’s a chair, tent, sleeping bag, or anything else you may need! We're here to ensure your next camping adventure is the most comfortable it can be. Happy camping!