Backpack Chair:
Best Choices For Backpacking
And Car Camping

by Diane Spicer

Meet Hiking For Her's Diane

Sore, achy back getting you down on a backpacking or car camping trip? These tips for choosing the best backpack chairs can help! #backpacking #backpackingchairs #hikingtips #hikingforher

A backpack chair is considered an optional piece of hiking gear.

Except by those who are not fond of sitting on cold, hard rocks.

Or it might tempt a hiker with back pain, looking for a bit more support than the nearest soggy stump.

To get a complete picture of why you might want to carry a backpacking chair into the wilds, let's take a look at not only the benefits, but the various types of lightweight outdoor chairs that are available to you.

Skip down to recommendations:


Benefits of using
a backpack chair

It's tough to talk about benefits without talking about where you're going to sit in the chair.

Because backpackers are also campers, there are at least 2 scenarios where a chair comes in handy:

  • car camping at a tent site that doesn't have a picnic table or handy log
  • backpacking for multiple nights when the cold, wet or rocky ground is unappealing for sitting down to a meal

But nothing says you can't use the same chair at the beach, a family gathering, a tail gate party, or your own backyard, right?

So versatility is the first benefit.


Protect your back

Back support and reduction of muscle fatigue is also important, especially after a long day wearing a backpack. 

  • Hunching over your evening meal will only aggravate those sore muscles.
  • The proper alignment the best backpacking chairs give you will remind your back muscles what proper posture feels like.


A helpful extra layer

Insulation from cold and damp ground is important for maintaining body temperature.

And it just feels great to have an extra layer between you and the damp, rocky or gritty surfaces you're routinely encountering on your hiking trip.


Convenience

In order to achieve these benefits, you'll have to consider how compact and heavy the chair is in/on your pack.

And don't neglect to factor in convenience.

  • If the backpack chair takes five minutes and three hands to set up, you won't be using it at your impromptu lunch spot.
  • And you might be too weary at the end of the day to go through the ordeal of wrestling with an unwieldy set up process.

What matters most to you?

As with all of the best hiking gear, you have to do a delicate dance between the pros and cons, keeping price in mind.

I'm not a fan of sitting on cold, hard bear canisters. Even with my fleece jacket between me and the unforgiving plastic, it's not fun.

So I've used lots of camp chairs, and a few backpack chairs, and have some definite opinions on which are most comfortable.

Let's get to the recommendations!


Chairs for car camping

Car camping means that you set up a base camp at your camp site to enjoy day hiking for however many days you are lucky enough to be in that spot.

You want a chair because you are likely to:

  • eat snacks and meals at regular intervals
  • read a book
  • make field notes
  • lay out the next day's navigational strategy 
  • simply take in the sounds, sights and smells of the camp site from the comfort and support of your lovely camp chair

And it sure beats sitting in the dirt! Unless you're amused by ants crawling up your legs.

(What? You've never done the ant dance??)


Car camping chairs:
best choices

Car camping chairs will be heavier and more luxurious in terms of comfort, ease of set up, and stability.

The fabric in a camping chair is typically more durable, and there's more of it to provide back support.

The chair might have "deluxe" features such as a cup holder and storage pocket(s).

  • If these are "must haves", be prepared for additional bulk and a larger footprint in your car or truck.

A great camp chair will let you sit up comfortably while eating.

It is designed to provide enough seat room so you don't feel trapped in the chair, and to give you a stable base on uneven surfaces.

Here's a thorough review of how to purchase the best camping chairs.

It names names, too.

Or go with the brand I trust for a sturdy, well built but heavy camp chair: REI Co-op Camp Xtra Chair.



My humble opinion on the
best chairs for car camping

My favorite camp chair is pretty minimalist: the REI Co-op Camp X Chair.

It sits high off the ground, but supports and distributes my weight evenly.

It has a cup holder so I don't have to juggle my hot tea with my dinner plate. 

It has its own stuff sack, making it easy to pack in the car as well as in the camping gear locker.

And the price point is reasonable enough that if it were to get too close to the camp fire, I wouldn't cry.

Having said that, I should warn you that it's not the sturdiest chair in terms of holding weight. If you weigh more than 150 pounds, consider the chair I mentioned above, the Camp Xtra .

And it weighs a lot: 7+ pounds.

  • So it's strictly a camp chair.


Best backpack chair features

Prepare to give up a few things in a backpacking chair, in order to trim weight and increase portability.

  • The good news is that you will also trim the price to a certain extent.

A decent backpack chair will provide back support and stability, weigh something less than a few pounds, and dry quickly if it's left out in the rain.

It should be compact and easy to set up, too.

Legless chairs for backpacking

However, don't expect the lightest, cheapest chairs to keep you off the ground.

  • Instead, you'll be sitting on the ground on top of a padded surface with straps that connect the bottom and back pieces of fabric.

A legless chair can easily ride at the top of your pack, making rest stops and lunch breaks more enjoyable.

  • No set up time necessary
  • Keeps your body heat in your body, not warming up the rocks on chilly or damp days
  • Really relaxes your muscles while you're resting, allowing you to tackle the trail with renewed enthusiasm
  • Proactive against back pains, worth the small investment of money IMHO

if you're looking to enjoy dinner and then crawl into your tent for some much deserved sleep, this type of chair will work well for you.


Best legless chair for backpackers

Here's my top recommendation for affordable comfort for a legless chair: the REI Co-op Flash Trail Chair.

It has an easy to pack tri-fold design, so it works well with a backpack.

If you need back support at your campsite after a long day of hiking, and are willing to carry 1 pound 9 ounces more weight, take a look.



Now let's look at a backpacking chair with legs.


Best backpack chair to keep you off the ground

Here's the chair I recommend over and over again, based on rock solid reviews and personal experience: the one pound REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair.

Note that because you want to sit off the ground, this chair will be somewhat tippy on anything other than level compact dirt surfaces.

Expert balance required if you're sipping hot chocolate on rocky ground!

But it will hold you up, and that's what counts.

Meet the entire Flexlite family in a detailed look at what these chairs can offer you, and how to select the right one for your plans.

This review of the best backpacking chairs also includes videos, giving you plenty of data for making the decision about which chair will make you happiest as a backpacker.


Lightweight is the right weight
for backpacking

But it's not the only thing that matters.

When looking for a good chair for backpacking, consider how fast you can grab it out of the backpack and get it deployed for some premium camp lounging.

  • Outdoor seating with a view, hopefully.

If you've noticed how few places there are to lounge in the back country in terms of stretching your legs and having back support for longer than ten minutes, toting a chair begins to make sense.

Sore back and legs after hiking?

Also a great motivation for carrying a backpacking chair.

You might not want a backpacking chair to do much beyond cushioning and insulating your back side.

  • Sitting on the ground, but with a bit of padding and insulation.

Alas, it may not be comfortable for longer than an hour of sitting.

  • But will you be sitting that long after a tough day of hiking? Wolf down your backpacking dinner and turn in for the night already!


Comfort is key to your happiness

There are so many ways to provide for your personal comfort as a backpacker and a car camper, way beyond one chair.

More tips on camping and backpacking comfort


Best backpack chair
conclusions

Car camping chairs can't be backpacking chairs, but the opposite is not true.

If you're looking to save money and buy only one chair for both purposes, you will inevitably sacrifice a bit of design comfort.

And it's not unheard of to have two (or more) chairs, like me.

Watch for end-of-season REI sales, and you'll be a happy, cushioned camper regardless of your destination!


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Best Backpack Chair For Camping And Hiking



About the author

Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.

She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.


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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.


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