Many of you have asked and debated about the value of bringing a camping chair on a day hike. I for one am of the opinion that if my day hike is a long one and will involve great vistas of mountains, lakes, streams or other sites that can be enjoyed for 15 to 30 minutes, then a camping chair is an essential piece of equipment. The rest and rejuvenation that occurs during a short, relaxing break is contributed to greatly by having a comfortable and sturdy place to sit. In my mind a camping chair is the only way to go.
With the advances in materials and engineering, lightweight backpacking style camping chairs are approaching the point where they weigh less than two pounds and are compact enough to easily fit inside your day pack, or at the least strap on the top of your pack with little trouble. For me, if the difference is a 12 pound day pack or a 13.8 pound pack with the bonus of a comfortable and easy to set up place to sit, then there is no debate, I will take the weight.
Another consideration for a chair to take day hiking is how easy is it to set up. Chairs that take a long time and are difficult to set up will likely lead to frustration and will cut into your time available to relax and enjoy your break. There are many chairs that are very lightweight, weighing just over a pound that are great in terms of weight, but are more difficult to set up, and therefore they have reduced utility on shorter hikes.
A camping chair is no good if it is not comfortable. In my mind comfort is made up of two elements: sitting position and chair stability. Sitting position is pretty simple, needs to be a bit reclined without being too much and should provide comfort and support for your back. Stability is very important to my comfort. If a chair feels like it will topple at any moment, then it is hard to relax. I am willing to compromise just a bit on sitting position to be able to relax confidently.
The best camping chair for day hiking will be compact and easy to store. It needs to be able to fit easily in your day pack or on top without compromising the space needed to take other essential equipment and supplies. I would rather not leave food and water or the first aid kit behind to make room for a chair. The best camping chairs for day hiking will usually take up less than 4 liters of space in your pack. Given that most day packs are in the 18 to 30 liter category, a folding chair this compact will leave considerable space for your other essential gear.
BRING IT ALL TOGETHER
From my experience, finding a chair that meets all the requirements above narrows the field of camping chairs to very few. There are still a couple of factors to consider, durability and cost. I want a lightweight camping chair that will last and reliably serve its purpose trip after trip. Again, going back to engineering and materials, it is possible to deliver lightweight, comfort and durability through intelligent design and high quality, advanced materials. The materials that are common to the best camp chairs are: ripstop nylon, aircraft grade 7075 hard anodized aircraft aluminum and durable and tough nylon plastic joints and hardware.
One of the unsung materials in the best camp chairs is the nylon plastic joints. This material is strong and holds its shape, while at the same time being resilient and providing give. Cheaper plastics are brittle and prone to cracking, causing full on failure at a joint, usually resulting in a spill onto the ground followed by a flash of anger and a few expletives. Take my word for it, look for nylon plastics in the joints.
Cost can be prohibitive for much of the best gear available. I found a particularly attractive and lightweight yet durable chair that would have suited me perfectly for a princely sum of $149.95! I do not know about you, but when I see chairs that are just a shade heavier (a whole 4 ounces heavier) that cost a third or less, I cannot justify that kind of money. I look at that as costing me $25 per ounce of weight. I would rather take that money and buy another piece of gear, but if your budget allows it, I would say go for it.
My favorite chair by far for my day hiking adventures is Premier Outdoor Gear’s Springer Lightweight Camping Chair. This chair is named for the first peak on the southern end of the Appalachian Trail, Springer Mountain. This chair weighs in at an astonishing 1 pound and 15 ounces. For this weight, you get a cool and comfortable rip stop nylon and mesh seating surface, hard anodized aircraft grade 7075 aluminum and tough durable nylon joints in the frame.
I have had my Springer Chair now for over a year and have used it on backpacking and day hiking trips, paddling adventures, my kids swim meets and days at the beach. It has yet to let me down and still looks new after continued heavy use. It is my go to chair when I need a light easy to set up chair.
Best of luck in your day hiking adventures I hope you elect to use your chair on your next day hike and this has helped you make the best decision in chair for you.