A camp chair is something that I've never camped with. I've viewed them as far too bulky, heavy and simply cumbersome. How could I rationalize another trip back and forth over a portage just to carry a chair when I could enjoy nature's true splendours when sitting around a campfire... namely on a stump. Ok, so a stump isn't the most enjoyable of seats, especially long term when gazing into the fire. Shifting your weight every so often to prevent numbness, and being envious of fellow campers who slogged the extra weight and are currently all nestled into their chairs, were commonplace. With today's technology, you would think there would be a better solution. I'd considered a camp stool. They seemed to be on the right track, small, light, but no back support. I had toyed with one a few times at my local outdoors store, pondering how the proper way to sit on a triangle shaped seat would work. Finally, years later something new entered the market.
The Helinox Chair One from Big Agnes is 900 grams and when packed away, is smaller than a pineapple (35 x 10 x 12cm). Right away this means that for every camping trip, it's attached to the outside of my knapsack without a second thought. Small enough to stow away into a Kayak, pack into a pannier on a bicycle, or have with you when snowshoeing.
The water resistant zippered carrying case keeps the chair nice and dry, and includes set-up instructions printed on the inside. Once you set the chair up once however, you won't need the instructions again.
Simply remove the cloth chair and the tent-like DAC Aluminum poles and you'll be set up within minutes. The poles pretty much pop into place by themselves around a hub as they are elasticized inside leaving you to slip the chair fabric itself over two long poles, then using your weight slip the cloth over the two shortest poles. Ta-da! Simple as that. Assembled dimensions are approximately 66cm tall, 53cm wide and 53cm deep and the load capacity is 145 kg (which is a fair bit of weight for such spindly little legs. Hooray for technology!).
Even 'tear down' is accomplished within seconds. You will have the poles wrapped up in the chair material and packed away before traditional camp chair owners have finished struggling trying to get their hefty chairs to stuff properly into their carrying bag.
You will be sitting about 30 cm off the ground which was easy to get out of vs. some of the traditional chairs that have you sag deep inside them. You can still be mobile while in the chair such as leaning forward to roast a marshmallow without the worry of toppling forward into the fire. The mesh backing allows your back to breath on hot days (with vents along the side of your legs) while the material itself dries very quickly if you leave it out overnight and it rains.
Going to an outdoor concert or lining up for an event? No more walking numerous blocks from the parking lot, switching shoulders while carrying your hefty chair.
Downsides? I can't really fault it for much. There are no cup holders, not that I ever use them while camping. It does seat a little lower than traditional chairs, so if you were at an outdoor concert you will be a little lower than others. The Helinox Chair One doesn't come with armrests per-say. The material that runs along the edge can be flexed out with your arms to make an armrest, or in turn left as it is to cradle your body in the cool night's breeze. It did blow over once during some strong winds due to its lightness, so just keep that in mind when leaving it un-attended.
The chair is just an all around winner in every regard and a must-have for camping. On the next trip, you can have my spot on the tree stump, I'll be taking the Helinox Chair One.
The Helinox Chair One retails for $89 Canadian.
Update: December 18th, 2012 - Helinox announced
Update: June 1st, 2013 - We always love to update our reviews, well after they have been posted to our website so that readers know if we're still using the gear... and if we've changed our minds since we wrote the initial review.
When it comes to the Helinox Chair One, we couldn't be happier. It comes with us on all of our camping trips and has yet to falter. The small compact size has always made it worthwhile to include it on every one of our adventures in our canoe.