After a long day of hiking, climbing, biking, even fishing or snowshoeing, there’s nothing better than kicking your feet up and relaxing around your campsite and a warm fire to unwind and give your tired and tense muscles a chance to recuperate. In these moments, you don’t want to have to sit on an old stump or bumpy rock—no guarantee either will even be available—or have your back up against an uncomfortable tree. To fully enjoy sitting for hours around the campfire, enjoying a fresh meal, some tasty beverages, and swapping stories, you’ll need to invest in a high-quality camping chair.
So, we put together the following guide to camping chairs, including all the details you need to know—from design and intended uses to materials and variations—and our top picks for the best of each style. Scroll on and enjoy (and hopefully learn something useful).
Different Kinds of Camping Chairs
A camping chair can mean just about any kind of chair that can be collapsed, thrown in the back of a car, and carried to your final destination, be it a few feet to your campsite or several miles to your location. When looking at buying a folding camp chair to add to your camping gear, you’ll want to consider several factors:
If you are using your portable chair most often for backpacking, its weight and compact size are crucial components. If you do more camping at a campsite, then comfort should be your top priority.
If you are larger or prefer to spread out and stretch while sitting, a roomy, larger chair is better. Low chairs are perfect for concerts and sandy or uneven areas. Higher chairs are easier to get in and out of but take up more space when packing.
Some camping chair options include the classic or standard camp chair, a two-legged chair, three-legged rocker, scoop chair, suspended chairs, camp stools, and more.
Once you know what you’ll be using your folding chair for, you can decide on what kind of chair is best for your needs. There are three main categories of chairs you’ll want to select from:
Minimalistic camp chairs typically come in two main styles: folding seats and stools. Since these are lightweight, they are ideal for backpacking trips where you want to make every pound and inch of space count. The folded dimension of this kind of lightweight chair will shrink dramatically, and the fabric and frames are thinner than the other chair options, so you’re not lugging around extra weight. This means that they aren’t the most comfortable for everyday use. Still, their streamlined design is popular among passionate hikers or backpackers who have the way they want their outdoor gear to be arranged, and its weight ratio to their body weight down to a science.
These are the standard chairs you see at get-togethers or outdoor concerts or at 4th of July picnics. They have aluminum legs, armrests, and cloth seatbacks. They also usually come with a carry bag that you can sling over your shoulder with a strap. If you’re not moving to a different campsite every day, but instead are staying at the exact location or have extra room on a multi-day river trip, these are the perfect kind of chairs. They are ideal if you only go camping a few times in the summer and are looking for something under $50. The chair frame may not be quite as well built as a top-of-the-line camping chair, and the fabric for the seat and backing may be a bit thinner, but you can still find plenty of viable and sturdy options in this price range.
Comfortable & Luxurious:
These designer chairs are like you brought a recliner on your camping trip. You will feel like a king or queen in the lap of luxury with these comfortable chairs. They have taller backs, are higher off the ground, and offer lots of support and stability. The camp furniture usually has the most features and could include reclining capabilities, leg rests, cup holders, a storage pocket or two, a canopy to keep you shaded from the sun, and more. While this heavy-duty camping chair may seem bulky with the extra comfort level and accessories, it usually only weighs five pounds.
Double Camping Chairs:
These are like a loveseat couch, but for your outdoor adventures. They are perfect for couples to snuggle up close together for warmth or enjoy each other’s company. Most of them have two armrests and an open double-wide seat like a couch. However, some more closely resemble two individual chairs fused with a middle storage compartment, cup holder, or armrest between them, like at the movie theater. Understandably these chairs are bulkier than a single chair and can weigh up to sixteen pounds, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when you’re packing and planning a trip. They can also be a bit pricier, but keep in mind that you are purchasing two chairs combined into one seat. Overall, double camping chairs can be an excellent choice if you want to spend the time at the campfire as close to your loved one as possible.
Our Picks for the Best Camping Chairs for All Types of Outdoor Recreation
Once you’ve decided on the type of camping chair you need, you can dive more into the nitty-gritty of camp chair styles, as outlined below along with a corresponding product suggestion based on our own experiences in the backcountry.
Classic Camp Chairs:
These standard camping chairs have four legs, a straight back, and a flat seat, typically made of cloth. They are usually relatively cheap and sturdy enough for you to sit up and down on with ease and without wobbling.
Best Classic Camp Chair: REI Co-op Outward Classic Low Lawn Chair, $80
Folding Camp Chair:
A benefit of a folding camp chair is additional back support, rear end comfort, and stowability. However, a downside is that it will take up a lot of room in your car or house, and is best suited for casual car camping or even backyard chilling. The nicest of the lot, like our top pick, is so attractive it could even be used in the home.
Best Folding Camp Chair: Snow Peak Bamboo Camp Chair, $220
Best Folding Ground Chair: Stoic Lightweight Trail Chair, $19
Lightweight Camping Chair:
Weighing a mere 17 ounces, the Helinox Chair Zero is so lightweight you might even wonder if you forgot it at home. The four-leg design offers plenty of support, with a deep-scooped seat for comfort. And it easily packs down for transport.
Best Ultralight Camping Chair: Helinox Chair Zero, $120
XL Camp Chair:
Whether you want a giant chair for the extra room or the extra support, the Big-N-Tall Quad delivers. From the tough steel frame to the oversized feet and cushioned seat area that boost the chair’s foundations, it also includes nifty features like a water-resistant cellphone sleeve.
Best XL Camp Chair: Coleman Big-n-Tall Quad Chair, $50
Since lower chairs are closer to the ground, you have better balance, and they can still be sturdy on the sand or uneven terrain. They are perfect for bringing to outdoor events or concerts where there is a limit on chair backs’ seat height.
Best Low Camping Chair: Helinox Ground Chair, $110
Suspended Camp Chairs:
This is a new, modern chair design on the market, but it is well worth the extra expense with a suspended chair that hangs from the frame so you can swing a bit and not have to stay still all the time. And, since you’re suspended high above the ground, you don’t need to worry about how uneven it is.
Our Pick for Best Suspended Chair: Nemo Equipment Stargaze Recliner, $220
A scoop chair is the catchall name for any chair that doesn’t have a distinct and separate back and seat. It gives you plenty of comfort in the form of a lightweight portable chair.
Our Pick for Best Scoop Chair: REI Co-op Flexlite Camp Boss Chair, $80
Rockers and Gliders:
These rocking chairs or gliders are perfect for people that don’t like to stay in one place and fidget all the time while they’re seated. The soothing motion of rocking back and forth is perfect after a long day of hiking and sore feet. Since the rocking chair isn’t quite as sturdy as a chair with four legs, you’ll want to be sure to use the freestyle rocker on even ground.
Our Pick for Best Rocking Camp Chair: REI Co-op Kingdom Rocker, $75
The most basic three-legged chair is a camp stool, with no back and only the seat. Others are accompanied by a chair back, but they will still weigh less than their four-legged companions, which is a definite plus. A downside to a three-legged chair is that it is not as stable as a four-legged chair since it has one less leg.
Our Pick for Best Three-Legged Chair: ALPS Mountaineering Grand Rapids, $33
A two-legged is an acquired taste, but those that love it are die-hard fans. Your feet act as the chair’s front feet, which allows you to rock back and forth a bit. Just be careful that you don’t lean back too far, or you can tip over. These are ideal for outdoor concerts, festivals, and even beach visits.
Best Two-Legged Camping Chair: Helinox Incline Festival Chair, $120
Two-seat Camp Chair/Bench:
With enough room for two people to sit side-by-side, supported by a solid steel frame and with a nicely cushioned seat, this couch-like camp chair from Kelty is perfect for fireside snuggling. And yes, there are two cupholders.
Best Two-seater Camp Chair: Kelty Loveseat, $110
Cheap Camp Chair:
The classic camp chair. It’s sturdy. It’s comfortable. It sets up and folds down easily. It has a cupholder. And it’s affordable.
Best Cheap Camp Chair: Mountain Summit Gear Anytime Chair $30
What Materials Are Camping Chairs Made Of?
A big price differentiator is the quality of the materials, both for the frame and fabric of the seat and back. If you are strictly using your chair for backpacking, you’ll want the chair to be as light as possible, whereas if you’re just going to be keeping it at your campsite, you can get a thicker and more comfortable chair.
Some of the material that is typically used for the backrest, armrest, and the camp seat is either polyester fabric, coated rip-step nylon, or closed-cell foam padding. The polyester and coated rip-stop nylon are recommended fabric for the seat material since they are durable, water-resistant, and comfortable. Closed-cell foam padding doesn’t absorb water, so it is preferable for water-based activities. Make sure you get a chair with one of the fabrics listed above and not one with cheap quality fabric, even if it saves you a few dollars at the time since the flimsy seat fabric can sag over time, the seams can fray, and the mesh pockets or panels can tear and develop holes that your keys or cup can slip through.
Another thing that makes camping chairs stand out from your basic lawn chair or plastic beach chair is their aluminum, carbon fiber, or steel frame. The legs of a high-quality camp chair or stool are typically made of metal due to its phenomenal strength-to-weight ratio. Folding seats typically have carbon fiber stays, which improve rigidity in the seatback. In a pinch, when you’re in an emergency, you can even remove the metal stays from the chair and use them as splinting materials to stabilize an injury.
What Features Should I Look For In My Camping Chair?
Other things to consider on your chair hunt before finalizing a purchase are:
Ensure that the chair can hold your weight since all camping chairs don’t support the same weight limit. If you are shopping for a minimal-style camping chair like a folding seat or stool, its weight capacity should be considered. The stool or folding seat itself should only weigh two pounds or less. A stool stands out since it easily keeps you off the ground and can hold up to 500 pounds. A folding seat can only hold 250 pounds, but it is more versatile. In addition to it being a folding seat, it can also double as a summer sleeping pad for backpackers. A regular or luxurious camp chair will weigh about 5 pounds.
If you want your outdoor sports chair to be extra fancy, there are plenty of chairs with additional features. Some of the chair’s accessories can include:
Head Pads, Footrests, and Lumbar Support: Even if it can add a bit to the price or the chair’s weight, it is well worth it for the additional level of comfort.
Armrest: While they do add some extra weight to your camp chair, they can make all the difference when it comes to comfort.
Cup Holder: A drink holder can upgrade a regular camp chair into a plush camping chair. It can be a huge pain to have just brewed yourself a nice hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate in the morning and remember you left something in your tent and have nowhere safe to set down your drink. You don’t want to carry it with you when you crawl back into your tent since it could spill, and you don’t want to leave it on the uneven ground where it could tip over or get dust in it. That is where a chair with an essential cup holder comes into play. The lightweight chairs will have mesh fabric for the cup holder. The standard camping chair will often use the same material for the cup holder as the chair’s seat and backrest and keep your hands free when you need to set down your drink to hold your plate or bowl of food in one hand and use a utensil in the other. For luxury camp chairs, their advanced cup holders are turned into koozies or even coolers to keep your drink’s temperature just the way you like it.
With some camping chair options, you can quickly pop them open on the ground, and you’re ready to sit down and settle in for a comfortable outdoor evening at your campfire roasting marshmallows or in an open field stargazing. Other chairs could be a little more challenging to set up since they have multiple parts and hubs that you have to reassemble, so you’ll want to take that into account in planning how long it takes to set up and take down your camp.
The ground-to-seat height is simply the measurement from the bottom of your seat to the ground. For people who go to a lot of concerts or sporting events where there are height requirements or don’t want to bother the people behind you, you’ll want to get a low seat, only five to nine inches off the ground. The downside to a low seat for your camping chair is it is a less comfortable position for your legs and can be more challenging to sit down and get back up again since you are so close to the ground.
The taller the ground-to-seat height, the more natural the seating position for most people since it feels like you’re sitting at a desk or kitchen table. The most comfortable standard camping chairs have seat height anywhere from fifteen to eighteen inches. However, with a backpacking chair, the ground-to-seat height is closer to nine to thirteen inches since they are smaller and more compact. No matter what the height is, it still is worlds better than sitting on the cold, hard, dirty ground.
You’ll want to ask yourself how often and where will you be taking your chair? You’ll want to choose a camp stool or folding seat if you want the lightest chair possible for your trip. You can strap a backpacking chair directly to the outside of your backpack.
The standard style of camping chair usually comes with a carrying bag or case with a strap so you can carry it over your shoulder. These kinds of chairs are perfect for bringing on a rafting or canoe trip, where your boat is holding most of your gear, but if you’re planning on doing a long, grueling hike before arriving at your campsite, you may want to leave the chair at home or in your vehicle.
A larger, luxury chair is the ideal choice if you will be doing a lot of car camping or staying at an easy-access area like a state park or festival campground.
As you can see, purchasing a camping chair is an essential piece of gear to add to your camping supplies. They typically don’t take up too much space, there are plenty of budget-friendly options to choose from, and they are sturdy, stylish, and extremely comfortable. Make sure to buy a camping chair today based on our tried and true, tested reviews, and begin your camping adventures in comfort and style!