07/10/2022
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Camping chairs: How to choose the right chair for your tent

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Being able to sit comfortably is almost as important as a good night’s sleep when you are camping in a tent

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Introduction

Your chairs will get plenty of use during camping holidays – you sit on them to eat meals, to relax in the sunshine with a cold drink and to socialise around the campfire in the evening.

So to make sure you buy a camping chair that will suit all your needs, you need to give it lots of thought.

The range of camping chairs available is massive with most manufacturers offering a wide variety of products.

It’s always best to get out to a camping shop and see and try the products for yourselves.

That’s when you get to feel what they’re like, for an indication of comfort and quality, as well as how easy they are to set up and pack down.


How much should I spend?

Prices for camping chairs can range from less than £10 for a basic, light model up to more than £100 for a top-of-the-range chair that provides luxurious levels of comfort.

Buying a cheap camping chair is fine if you are trying camping out for the first time or you are just looking for chairs for festival camping.

But the reality is that you get what you pay for, so if you spend £8 on a chair from a supermarket or a motorway service station, you should assume it’s unlikely to last very long.

If you're a regular camper, it's worth increasing your budget and spending more on a quality chair will last longer and provide you with far more comfort.

It will almost certainly turn out to be better value in the long run.


What will I use my camping chair for?

Vango Siesta camping chair

When you are buying a camping chair, it is important to get the right type to complement your camping activities – whether it’s family holidays, backpacking or festival-going.

The next thing to consider is how you're going to use your chairs. Are you going to be sitting at a camping table? Do you want to recline while reading your book? Or, are you spending lazy days sunbathing?

If you spend your evenings playing cards or board games or enjoy having the family sat around the table for dinner, look for a director’s chair or other chair with a more upright seating position so you can more comfortably reach the table.

And if you're going to be sunbathing or spending some time in the chair during the day, consider extra features such as whether there's a cup holder or a side table available for your beer or book

Features designed to improve comfort levels include lumbar support, height-adjustable armrests and neck rests.

Camping chairs that double up for use back home in the garden on sunny days are always a bonus.


What size camping chair should I buy?

The Vango Kraken Excalibur camping chair

The size of your camping chair is important for packing away and transportation as well as how much space it takes up inside in your tent.

Before buying, check the dimensions and make sure the chair will fit into your car along with all your other camping gear.

Camping chairs come in a range of different folding methods that will also affect the amount of space they take up for transporting.

Most camping chairs either fold flat or ‘umbrella’ style and often come with their own carry bags.

Don’t buy what you can’t transport, not just to your chosen campsite, but maybe also to the beach, park or festival arena.

Lightweight chairs that fold away into tiny packages are perfect for backpackers or if car boot space is at a real premium.

Seat height is another factor worth paying attention to – especially if you want to sit at a table.

Lower chairs are more suited for use in smaller tents (especially where there’s not much standing room).

Specially designed chairs for kids are also worth considering if you are camping with very young children. You could even match the chair up with a kids-sized table.

There’s no polite way to put this, but some of us are a little bigger than others.

It’s something many suppliers have noticed in recent times, bringing out whole ranges that can cope with chunkier bodies.

If that’s you, look out for XL or oversize camping chairs like the Vango Kraken that will offer you more comfort.

Check the manufacturer’s recommended weight limits to make sure the seat’s construction is strong enough - not just the frame, but the fabric you’ll be sitting on, too.

What are the best camping chair materials?

Despite being designed for the outdoors, camping chairs aren’t going to last long if they are left out in the elements for long periods.

If you expect your chairs to be exposed to the weather – both rain and sunshine – for long periods, look for a model made from textaline instead of polyester, which won’t get damaged if left outside.

In general, polyester fabric will be more comfortable, especially if it is padded.

Mesh panels allow breathability and will be welcome when the weather is hot.

But, you might want to add a cover when there are cool breezes or if most of your camping is done out of season.

Generally you have a choice of steel or aluminium frames. Steel is heavier, but tends to be less expensive.

Aluminium is more expensive but is lighter and of course it won’t corrode in the same way.

Chair maintenance is relatively straightforward. Make sure you clean up spills from food and drink as soon as possible. And, as ever, don’t pack your chairs away if they’re wet.

 


Camping chairs put to the test

Iain Duff puts a selection of camping chairs through their paces. See what he thinks of each one...

#1 Outwell Emilio

Outwell Emilio chair

(Photo by Iain Duff)

Our review:

It’s a fact that the longer you go camping, the more gear you accumulate. Which is great, until it comes to trying to fit it all in the car. That’s why the compact design of this chair works so well for families, in particular.

The Emilio folds up umbrella-style, so it’s easy to slot into your boot alongside all the other “essentials” you’re taking. It’s also light and easy to transport in its own carry bag, so is ideal for taking to picnics or festivals as well as for sitting around the campsite or relaxing in your tent in the evening.

Although the pack size is small and light, this is no flyaway piece of kit. The Emilio has a sturdy steel frame and large, flat feet for extra stability, especially on soft ground.

And, unlike some foldable chairs, I found it really easy to set up. The frame unfolds and pops up instantly, and the fabric is easily attached with the assistance of small straps in the four corners. Just make sure you do it in the right order as it is impossible to fit otherwise.

The high back provided me with plenty of lumbar support and the comfortable headrest can be adjusted to suit your height, or removed completely if you prefer.

Price £51.99
Weight 3.1kg
Max load 100kg
www.outwell.com

 


#2 Easy Camp Swell

Easy Camp Swell

(Photo by Iain Duff)

Our review:

The bright colour scheme and traditional style of the Swell chair reminds me so much of 80s family holidays to the seaside and I suspect that’s exactly what Easy Camp’s designers were going for. Even the name conjures up images of the ocean waves rolling in on the beach.

But, while this chair is ideal for days out at the coast, it’s also perfect for using around your tent. It’s comfortable enough to sit outside and relax in the sunshine, but its upright back and stable base make it just as useful for sitting around the dinner table in your tent. Or for relaxing with a book after the kids have gone to bed.

The old-school style means there’s no assembly required; it simply folds opens and closed in seconds. Because it folds flat, rather than telescope-style, it’s more awkward to pack in the car, but we managed to slide it into the boot on its side easily enough.

The Swell is lightweight and easy to carry without feeling flimsy and has sturdy plastic armrests and an easy-to-operate lock function to prevent the chair from collapsing.

Price £46.99
Weight 4.2kg
Max load 100kg
www.easycamp.com

 

Buy it here 


#3 Coleman Maximus

Coleman Maximus

(Photo courtesy of Coleman)

Our review:

This new chair from Coleman has already been named the best item of camping furniture in our 2022 gear awards, where our judges declared: “Sturdy and packed with features, this is no ordinary camping chair”. So, what’s actually so good about it?

Well for a start it’s super-comfortable, which has to be the number one consideration. But there’s more than that. There seems to be a misconception among some equipment manufacturers that everyone who goes camping or spends time in the outdoors is superfit and skinny as a rake. Well, I’m here to tell them, that is not the case! Campers need gear that suits normal people, who come in all shapes and sizes. And that’s exactly what the Maximus does. The steel frame and 1,200 denier polyester fabric make it ultra-strong, with a mighty weight capacity of 135kg (21st).

Features include a cup holder in one armrest and a large, zippered pocket in the other. It also has a removable organiser with a handy mesh pocket, which clips to the armrest. It folds flat and can be stored and transported in its own carry bag.

Price £69.99
Weight 5.5kg
Max load 135kg
www.colemanuk.co.uk

Buy it here 


#4 Vango Osiris

Vango Osiris chair

(Photo courtesy of Vango)

Our review:

The Earth Collection of eco-friendly tents and camping equipment from Vango continues to impress us.

Part of the range is the Osiris chair, which features EcoStem fabric, made from 100% recycled single-use plastics. Even the carry bag is made from 100% recycled fabric.

One question I am always asked about recycled material is whether it’s as reliable and comfortable as ‘normal’ material. Clearly, if it wasn’t it would be difficult to persuade people to buy it, so I’m pleased to say there are no complaints with this at all.

The embossed fabric is soft to touch and feels just as strong as any other camping chair I’ve encountered. The seat and backrest are both padded for extra comfort and the steel frame is pretty sturdy – the chair has a load capacity of 120kg (18st 12lbs).

The folding design is good for storage and transporting. It also features an insulated cup holder, designed to keep your drink cold (or hot) for longer. This is also the lowest-priced chair in our round-up, so it doesn’t cost the earth... in either sense.

Price £32
Weight 3kg
Max load 120kg
www.vango.co.uk

 

Buy it here 


#5 Craghoppers Reclining Chair

Craghoppers Reclining chair

(Photo courtesy of Craghoppers)

Our review:

I’ve been hugely impressed with the new range of retro-inspired camping equipment from outdoor adventure and travel specialist, Craghoppers. The collection includes a really smart ridge tent (which we review elsewhere in this issue of Camping), sleeping bags and two types of camping chair – including this recliner.

What I like about this is that it looks a bit different to everything else on the market at the moment, strongly evoking that retro feel from the 70s and 80s, but very much made using modern materials and techniques.

The polyester seat fabric is predominantly blue, with a brown panel at the top (Craghoppers calls it Potters Clay but I’m sticking with brown!), while the frame is aluminium with responsibly sourced beech arms.

The comfortable high-back chair has three reclining positions and it all folds down fairly small into the supplied carry bag for transporting. The other thing I like about it is that it is made with recycled material – around 13 single-use bottles were turned into fabric (don’t ask me how!) to create the seat and back.

Price £100
Weight N/A
Max load N/A
www.craghoppers.com

 

Buy it here 


#6 Outdoor Revolution Campese Thermo armchair

Outdoor Revolution Campese Thermo armchair

(Photo courtesy of Outdoor Revolution)

Our review:

When I was a student back in the early 90s, I had a bright orange inflatable armchair in the living room of my flat. It seemed like a good idea, but turned out to be ridiculously uncomfortable, prone to spontaneous deflation and, in the end, was punctured by a stray fork.

So I was dubious when it came to trying out the new super-soft Campese Thermo collection from Outdoor Revolution. I needn’t have worried. The range bears as much resemblance to my blow-up chair as an inflatable tent does to a bouncy castle.

The range includes an inflatable armchair, a two-seater sofa and a foot stool. It features foam-padded luxury fabric in blue/grey with stylish stitched quilted panels on the seat, arms and chair backs. The armchair can hold an impressive 200kg (31st) and, to be perfectly honest, if you didn’t know in advance it was inflatable you’d never guess from sitting on it.

It provides plenty of comfort and support and there are a couple of handy side storage pockets – perfect for stashing your copies of Camping magazine!

Price £109
Weight 5.5kg
Max load 200kg
outdoor-revolution.com


#7 Helinox Chair One

Outdoor Revolution Screenhouse

(Photo courtesy of Helinox)

Our review:

When you’re backpacking, the number one priority is to keep the weight of your kit down as much as possible, without completely disregarding comfort and usefulness.

The Chair One from Helinox fits the bill perfectly. It’s a modern-day classic, packing away to fit snugly into your backpack, before springing up in seconds to provide a comfortable place to park yourself after a tiring day on the trail. It weighs less than a couple of 500ml bottles of Coca Cola, but is a lot more comfortable to sit on.

The maximum load is an impressive 145kg (23st), which is considerably more than some of the apparently sturdier chairs we’ve looked at. A good deal of the reason for that strength is the fact that the Chair One’s frame is made from ultra-lightweight DAC aluminium alloy poles. The material was developed for high-level adventure tents that need to survive in extreme conditions, and Helinox is the only furniture brand to use it.

The polyester fabric is strong but soft to the touch, and the back and side mesh panels improve breathability and reduce the overall weight.

And you don’t have to be an adventurer to make use of the Chair One. While it’s a high-spec piece of kit, it’s versatile. The compact size means it’s perfect for anyone with limited boot space and I’d be happy to take it to festivals or days at the beach.

Price £99.95
Weight 0.96kg
Max load 145kg
www.helinox.eu

Buy it here 


#8 Robens Driftwood Al

Robens Driftwood AI

(Photo courtesy of Robens)

Our review:

Robens equipment fills that middle ground between family camping and technical gear. It’s designed for campers looking for something more lightweight, but who aren’t necessarily going to be carrying everything on their back.

It’s basecamp equipment, with a hint of glamping to it, and I’m a big fan of almost everything the company does. Robens products always mange to succeed in that tricky task of getting the balance right between performance and good looks.

The Driftwood Al is a new addition to the brand’s folding furniture range and it fully lives up to expectations. The frame is made from durable anodised aluminium so is light to carry but still robust enough for the campsite.

It has a maximum load of 150kg – the equivalent of almost 24st. The large feet give it good stability, especially on sand and soft ground. The fabric seat and back feature mesh panels for extra breathability and comfort and the wide armrests provide excellent support. There’s an attachment point for a Robens Bottle Holder, which is available separately, and it all folds down into a carry bag for transporting.

Price £64.99
Weight 2.49kg
Max load 150kg
www.robens.de

 


Finished reading?

Want more great camping equipment information?

Our "Buying camping equipment: How to choose the right gear for you" is full of great kit buying advice.

  Buying camping equipment: The ultimate guide


 

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