The much-awaited fall season is upon us, and we all know that it’s the perfect time to enjoy the premium campfire weather. Some folks like to sit around the fire in a nice big camping chair with all the padding, support, and features of their favorite living room recliners. Others just want a sturdy, simple seat between them and the hard ground, and maybe a little lumbar support to boot.
And hey, anything is better than that makeshift seat we’ve all used a time or two out of the “most comfortable” rock or log we could find. Whether you’re in the market for a luxurious outdoors recliner or a minimalist chair that packs down into your bag, The Manual has you covered with our latest roundup of the best camping chairs in fall 2021. Below we’ve broken down each category of camp chair available, our favorite picks for each, and we’ve even tracked down some cost-conscious alternatives for adventurers on a budget.
Looking for a classic camping chair that does as well around the campsite as it does at the ballgame or your next outdoor concert? The car camping chair is your best friend. These full-sized, full-featured chairs are as comfortable as they are rugged. Support, padding, armrests, and the almighty cup holder are all in the car camping chair’s wheelhouse.
Best Car Camping Chair Overall: Kelty Deluxe Lounge Chair
Kelty is often the go-to brand for outdoor enthusiasts looking for a happy medium of features and affordability. And while Kelty may not be the go-to for super technical or super lightweight gear, they know their stuff when it comes to car camping. A few highlights really make the Kelty Deluxe Lounge Chair stand out. For starters, it’s extremely well built. The frame is powder-coated steel, the fabric is a hefty 600D polyester, and there’s double-stitching and reinforcement on the grommets and other high-stress areas.
The “Deluxe” title is also well-deserved thanks to some unique features. The cupholders, for one, are insulated, meaning hot drinks stay hot and cold ones stay cold. The armrests are height adjustable, the sitting area is padded yet breathable, and the backrest has three-position adjustability, allowing you to sit upright, recline back, or kick back between the two.
The icing on the cake for us is Kelty’s version of a carrying case. Rather than fumble with stuffing a folding chair in a drawstring bag, the Deluxe Lounge comes with a matching polyester roll-up mat that works as a carrying case for the bag, but also rolls out flat. Whether you use it as a clean place to rest your feet, a carrying case for firewood or a mat for your pup to hang out on is up to you. Either way, it’s a thoughtful addition to an already competitively priced camping chair.
Best On A Budget: Coleman Cooler Quad Chair
At this price point we’d expect a well-made no-frills camping chair from the folks at Coleman, but believe it or not, it’s actually the frills that make the Coleman Cooler Quad stand out. Most notably will be the integrated cooler on the left chair arm, which holds four cans and enough ice to keep them cold for a few hours of leisure time. It’s also worth pointing out that the Cooler Quad has quilted padding for some added comfort, a sizeable mesh side pocket large enough for a book or magazine plus your phone/keys/wallet, and the obligatory mesh cupholder. Whether it’s your main chair on a budget or a backup chair for guests, you just can’t go wrong at this price.
Honorable Mention: Yeti Trailhead Collapsible Camp Chair
Let’s be honest here: If we were making a choice based purely on design, comfort, and indestructibility, the Yeti Trailhead camp chair would have to top our list. Unfortunately, there’s just no tiptoeing around the fact that this chair costs $300. Still, much like its wheeled coolers, the price of the Yeti Trailhead hasn’t deterred its die-hard fanbase from buying them in bulk. It’s a lot of money to spend on a collapsible outdoor chair, but you could make a convincing argument for the Trailhead’s features.
It’s easily one of the most comfortable and supportive chairs on the market, for instance. There’s none of the usual camping chair “slouch” thanks to the Yeti’s locking frame design, which pulls all the slack out of their Flexgrid fabric while still allowing it to conform to the shape of your body. Speaking of that Flexgrid fabric, the Trailhead is rated up to hold a full 500 pounds’ worth of camper, gear, and lapdog. It’s also UV rated, which Yeti claims to allow the fabric to stand up to years of abuse from the sun without breaking down and becoming brittle.
If a comfortable camping chair is good, then a rocking camp chair is great. No more precarious teeter-tottering on those back legs for you. These bad boys let you rock to your heart’s content with all four legs firmly on the ground. And, in typical camp chair fashion, they’ll also fold up and pack down into a convenient carrying case when you’re done.
Just imagine being able to pack all the explosive entertainment of your favorite front porch rocking chair into the trunk of a Mazda Miata. Buyer beware: Your friends can and will be stealing your seat every time you get up.
Best Rocker Overall: GCI Roadtrip Rocker Chair
You can’t talk rocking camp chairs without mentioning GCI Outdoor. Its proprietary spring-loaded suspension systems are the secret sauce of its smooth and easy rocking motion, and are by far the popular option out there today.
We’re taking the Roadtrip model as our top pick in the category. The Roadtrip has a ton of thoughtful features like full-length back support, solid molded arm rails, and a breathable mesh backing. Of course the cupholder comes standard as well, as does the well-built shoulder carrying case.
Yes, the Roadtrip is a little on the spendy side for a single camp chair, but if we’re being honest it’s still less expensive than other “premium” chairs on the market, and it’s an investment that will last you a long time thanks to the rust-resistant powder-coated steel frame and sturdy hardware.
Best Rocker On A Budget: GCI Outdoor Kickback Rocker Chair
Of course, if you love the GCI Outdoors Roadtrip Rocker above but aren’t so enamored with its price tag, you can always check out the Kickback Rocker. It uses the same great rocking frame design but in a lighter, more compact, and more affordable package.
The Kickback Rocker sits lower to the ground, has a shorter chairback, and swaps out the molded armrests for a sturdy textile version. It also ditches the carrying sack altogether and gets a frame-mounted carrying strap instead. GCI also includes a frame-mounted closure strap that keeps the chair securely folded when you’re carrying it. All things considered, the Kickback is a ton of chair for the money and shares the same great build quality as the larger camp rockers from GCI Outdoors.
If a rocking camp chair is great, then a camping recliner is absolutely decadent. These camping chairs are the bees-knees. The most comfortable design imaginable … The height of glamping luxury. They’re also the ones you’re most likely to accidentally fall asleep in. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Best Camping Recliner Overall: Nemo Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair
Spoiler alert: The Nemo Stargaze is hands down the coolest camping chair currently available. It’s a recliner. It’s a rocker. It’s what you’d get if the best camping chairs money can buy had a baby with your favorite hammock. We love this thing. What’s really surprising about the Nemo is how compact and lightweight it is, especially considering how much it fits in its 24-inch by 6-inch carrying case. It’s got a full-height back, a cushion for your head, and a cupholder worked right into the seat. Did we mention it’s basically a hammock?
More surprising still is how quick and easy the Stargaze camping chair is to set up. Open the bag, click the poles into place, put the chair over the frame, then click the headrest into position. It takes all of 60 seconds to set up and/or pack the Stargaze down. It also manages to weigh about half as much as the other full-size/full feature chairs on our list. And yes, as you might have guessed, it’s expensive. Still, if you’ve got the cash to spend, the Stargaze will always be the most coveted seat around the fire.
Best Camping Recliner On A Budget: BCP Zero Gravity Lounge Chair
Full disclosure: The BCP Zero Gravity Lounge Chair weighs in at a well-fed 17.5 pounds. And while that rules out anything but the most proximate sort of car camping you can imagine, there’s really nothing quite like wheeling a pair of these bad boys out to the firepit and kicking back around camp.
In addition to that sweet, sweet reclining action, these rugged lounge chairs also boast a full-height supportive back, an adjustable cushion for your head or neck, bombproof fabrics that will survive any weather you throw at them, and, of course, a pair of nice big cup holders to give you more lounging time between trips to the cooler. You can also pick up a pair of them for much less than the cost of the Stargaze above, and for your money, you’ll be getting a set of chairs that’s perfect for any outdoor excursion.
The art of backpacking has always been the tradeoff between keeping it light and allowing yourself a few choice luxury items. For many long-distance backpackers, there’s no creature comfort more worth its weight than a good place to sit (and a little back support) after a hard day on the trail. Kick off those hiking boots, hang your hiking socks out to dry, and kick your feet up in one of the chairs below while you wait on your camping stove to do its thing.
Best Backpacking Chair Overall: Helinox Chair Zero
Before Helinox came on the scene in 2009, if you needed somewhere to sit in the backcountry, legless camping chairs were pretty much the only option light enough to even consider taking along for the journey (those are still great too, more on that below). When Helinox introduced their original Chair One, that all changed. The Chair Zero is the latest and greatest iteration of the chair one, but Helinox has managed to drop the weight down to just 1 pound, 1 ounce.
It’s got a lot of the same features that made the original great like a super-strong and lightweight DAC aluminum frame (the same DAC that makes some of the best tent poles in the business), as well the collapsable hubs which now pack down to just 13.5 by 3.5 inches. An even lighter and stronger fabric rounds out the package, and is rated to support up to 265 pounds. To top it all off, the Chair Zero is backed by Helinox’s five-year warranty against any manufacturing or workmanship defects. You can keep the Chair Zero inside your pack or simply lash it to the outside, but either way, its convenience far outweighs every ounce of the weight it adds to your pack.
Best Backpacking Chair On A Budget: Trekology YiziGo Camping Chair
If you’re itching to try out a lightweight backpacking chair but can’t justify the cost of a Helinox, check out the YiziGo from Trekology. We’ve been carrying around a set of these for about two years now, and they’re so compact and convenient they pretty much live in our cars 24/7 when we aren’t camping with them. Yes, the design is about as “derivative” of the original Helinox chairs as it gets, but so is just about every other brand you’ll find out there including the REI Flexlite below.
Granted the Trekology YiziGo is almost a full pound heavier (2 pounds total with the included carrying case) and doesn’t use DAC-branded poles or superlight fabrics. Still, the frame is made from sturdy anodized aluminum and packs down much the same as chairs two or three times its asking price. The seat material is a tough 600D fabric (same as the carry bag) and is reinforced in all the right places, while the mesh side panels add some ventilation. We’re also happy to report that the dual side pockets are the perfect size for a cold can of whatever you’re sipping on around the fire plus your phone, keys, or second beverage of choice.
Honorable Mention: REI Co-op Flexlite Air
REI’s in-house Co-op brand is back with another value-added proposition with its Flexlite Air backpacking chair. Ultimately the Helinox took our vote for its overall quality, materials, and outstanding warranty, but the Flexlite Air is such a close second we think many campers will prefer it for its slightly lower price point.
The Flexlite is super light weighing in at just 1 pound and supports up to 250 pounds thanks to its durable aluminum frame and rugged ripstop nylon seat. And while the REI Co-op camping chair doesn’t carry the same five-year warranty coverage as the Helinox, it is covered under REI’s blanket one-year “100% satisfaction guaranteed” policy, as well as the lifetime warranty on all products against manufacturing defects.
Godfather of the collapsible backpacking chairs above, the humble legless camping chair is still a long-time favorite of backpackers, sports fans, and concert-goers everywhere. These super-simple seats are light enough to take on the trail, are virtually indestructible, and are actually surprisingly comfortable, especially when used together with your favorite sleeping pad.
Best Legless Camping Chair Overall: Crazy Creek Original
The no-frills backpacking chair that started it all. Crazy Creek’s Original Camp Chair has been in production for the better part of three decades, and we have no doubt there are more than a few original ones still going strong out there. The Crazy Creek Original is built like an absolute tank, using 420D ripstop nylon and 600D coated polyester fabrics for an outer shell that you can bank on passing down to your next of kin. Nylon webbing and Delrin buckles let you dial in the ideal seating position, and a super-light carbon fiber internal frame provides extra support.
All this is wrapped around a half-inch of high-density closed-cell foam for an even compromise of cushioning and compactness when folded up for transportation or storage. The Crazy Creek Original camping chairs come in a variety of colors, but let’s be honest: Tie-dye is the only serious choice.
Best Legless Camping Chair On A Budget: REI Co-Op Trail Chair
There are a few brands that have adopted the Crazy Creek formula to their own line of simple legless camping chairs, but our current favorite is the REI Co-op Trail chair. REI’s latest version of the trail chair gives a slightly larger seating area than the Crazy Creek above, but uses the same half-inch thick closed-cell foam padding, so customers with wider waists/hips may actually prefer this budget-minded alternative.
We also appreciate the added outside mesh pocket on the Trail Chair, which makes for a nice place to stash a book, some hiking snacks you’ll want later, or even a poncho for outdoor events with a little rain in the forecast. Speaking of rain REI also applied a durable water-resistant (DWR) finish to the outer shell of the Trail Chair, which they claim gives it enough water resistance to shake off light rain. The fabrics themselves are a little less robust than the Crazy Creek, but the Trail Chair’s 420D (nice) oxford nylon is still built to last for years and years.
Aside from that, the main difference in cost is the Trail Chair’s internal frame. All things considered, the frames are roughly equal in comfort and support, but REI uses a budget-friendly fiberglass composite frame in place of Crazy Creek’s premium carbon fiber construction.
Ultimately, finding the best camping chairs for your next adventure depends on a few factors. Most importantly is going to be what sort of activity you’re getting into. That’s because while we’d all like to have a big cozy camping recliner to spend evenings lounging in, you can’t exactly take them with you on a multiday backpacking trip.
And while you absolutely could get away with bringing a minimalist backpacking chair to your next group camping trip, chances are you’ll have the least comfortable chair in the circle, and definitely the worst cupholders (if you’ve got any at all). That being said, consider some of the following while keeping your intended use (or uses) in mind.
Size And Portability
While size and weight are absolutely crucial when shopping for a backpacking chair, they’re not nearly as important if you’ll be sticking to camping out of a car or RV and sticking to designated campgrounds.
With that being said, some full-sized camping chairs definitely pack down smaller than others and are much easier to load into a trunk or backseat for folks who don’t have a truck at their disposal. You’ll also have to store them somewhere when not in use, and not everyone has the garage space to spare. Check out the “packed size” before you buy.
The same goes for weight. Even if you won’t be carrying a chair a long distance, you don’t want to lug it between A and B to be a chore either. Honestly, for heavier chairs like the zero-gravity loungers above, you may not want to carry them at all and should consider using a dolly or hand truck to keep your trips back and forth to a minimum.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but the features that make one chair more comfortable than another aren’t always obvious until you sit in them. Support, for one, is a common shortcoming of many camping chairs. That’s where chairs like theabove really earn their keep: They’re comfortable, but it’s added structure rather than added padding that make them that way.
Speaking of padding, most campers prefer a padded chair to an unpadded one, but pay attention to the kind of padding you’re getting. Closed-cell foam padding is the most common, and it’s the one you want if you don’t want your chair to retain moisture from rain, sweat, or spilled drinks (no judgments here, it happens). If you do opt for a padded chair, just know that they tend to breathe a little less than unpadded or fully mesh designs, making them great in the colder months but a bit much in the warmer months.
Materials And Durability
As is often the case with the best camping gear, the materials of a good camp chair play a huge role in its lifespan and durability. Many of the chairs above are made with quality ripstop nylon, treated polyester, steel, aluminum, and even carbon fiber.
It’s always a good sign when a company advertises the specifics on their materials like the denier rating of their fabrics. Remember a higher denier (like 600D) is most robust than a lower denier (like 200D) of the same material. Most companies who spend serious money on their materials are going to let you know it. Companies who cut corners on their materials tend to describe them in general terms because the details don’t sound nearly as good.
Some of the chairs on our list are rated to 250 pounds, others are rated for a full 500 (we’ll let you guess which one). And while you may be well under 200 pounds with full gear and pockets full of lead, having a friend, spouse, or dog come over to “share” your seat could become the straw that broke the camel’s back. This typically isn’t an issue with a well-made camp chair, but you’ll want to be mindful of your chair’s weight rating if you want it to last as long as possible. When in doubt, get more than you need.
For our money, we’ve gotta say we’re either going with a recliner or a rocker. Ultimately theis the chair to beat here considering it does it all and also happens to be less than half the size and weight of some other chairs on our list.
If you’re not looking to drop several hundred dollars on camping chairs, no worries. Our top pick for the best car camping chair, the, is comfortable, adjustable, and even does a little reclining of its own, all for under $100. It’s also roomier than most chairs and has some closed-cell foam padding quilted into the body for added cushion.
Again, finding the best camping chair for your next adventure depends entirely on what you’ll be doing. With that being said, we’re confident that no matter what you’re into, the best chair for your next adventure is somewhere in the list above.
If you’re after one chair that works in every scenario, it’s going to have to be a backpacking chair, and there’s no better one out there currently than theabove. It’s small, has no cupholders or armrests to speak of, and certainly doesn’t rock or recline, but it’s a piece of gear you can take literally anywhere knowing you’ll always have a comfy place to sit.
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