Camping chairs tend to fall low on the camping-trip packing list, which is a shame because when you're forced to cook a campfire supper while kneeling on damp, cold mud, you'd probably give up all the hot, tasty food in the world for a comfortable camp chair. Or a bug-infested log. Or a slightly sharp rock.
But you can't really blame yourself for leaving them behind, at least in theory. After all, camp chairs have for decades been more suited to tailgates, outdoor concerts or picnics than actual camping. They're bulky and heavy and not really suited for anything but car camping. In fact, one of those generic folding camp chairs you can find anywhere is actually longer, thicker and not that much lighter than my whole four-season tent — including its optional footprint.
Many manufacturers have tried to compensate by introducing camp stools. But stools lack any back support, and it only takes a few minutes on one before you start imagining yourself as one of those poor students in 1950s etiquette classes walking around balancing books on their heads.
When I saw Trekology's Yizi-Go camping chairs on sale for 40 percent off this summer, I immediately bought two of them. I'd seen them in action before at a Brooklyn park picnic this summer and was impressed. They were easy to assemble, stable even on a slight hill and surprisingly supportive for my back considering a relatively low profile. Plus, they folded down into an appealingly small package — somewhere between a jumbo fanny pack and a shoebox. That and the lightweight (about 2 pounds each) meant I could simply clip a pair of them onto my backpack and not really feel more encumbered.
So far, I've been happy with them, though there are two things that I think could be improved. For one, I had to stretch the actual seat, which is stiff nylon, onto the corded aluminum frame. And I mean streeeetch: It took a little elbow grease to get the stiff nylon onto the pole ends. I found it helped to pre-stretch the fabric by laying a stack of hardcover books on the seats before I took them out into the wild. Of course, any experienced camper will be used to having to do the make-it-fit jiggle with any camp equipment that spends a lot of time in the elements, from tents to tables, so this isn’t unusual — often, these sorts of fits are expected to loosen up with use. And at this price point, it’s a bit like looking a gift horse in the mouth.
Second, and this is largely a personal preference, the storage bag serves no use once you've taken the chair out, and you must hang it under or from an unsightly corner of the chair or just try not to lose it before you break camp. I don't understand why the bag couldn't have been integrated into the fabric seat somehow, perhaps even serving as side or back storage, where campers would surely have found a use for it. But, hey, that's mostly an aesthetic complaint — the same thing irks me about a certain, otherwise perfect, Japanese-inspired brand of reusable shopping bags. If you’ve been camping even once, you know that this mostly extraneous bag is pretty much standard with camping equipment, and you’ll have to have a bag for all the other bags (tent bag, chairs bag, dry sacks, compression sacks, stove mesh, etc.) that’ll probably end up in your tent under your feet.
Other camping chairs to consider
If you really need to shed the ounces from your pack on the next trip, or if comfort is king in your campsite, then the Trekology camp chairs may not work for you. Here are some highly-rated alternatives that meet common needs like those.
With a similar aesthetic and engineering as Trekology's offering, the Helinox Chair Zero is even lighter (1 pound) and packs down smaller — but comes at about triple the list price. If you're really concerned about keeping the weight down, this may appeal to you — and it has earned a 4.7-star average rating from more than 1,400 reviewers on Amazon.
The Coleman Cooler Quad Chair was designed with tailgates, outdoor concerts, car camping and beer in mind: It has a built-in cooler bag in the arm that keeps up to four cans cool without you having to get up. It has a 4.7-star average rating from nearly 42,000 reviews on Amazon.