10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Chairs

A guide to the best ultralight backpacking chairs and things to consider.

by Kelly Hodgkins
June 15, 2018


Some ultralight thru-hikers think of chairs as dead weight. Others can't imagine not bringing some comfy option to rest their legs in after a long day of hiking. Not every camping chair is suitable for the backcountry, though. You need to find the right mix of weight, packable size and comfort. We break down these qualities to help you find the best chair for your journey.

With armrests, drink holders and mesh pockets, camping chairs are the bomb. These are just as common to see at the beach or tailgating. As much as we love them, we don't want to lug one up the mountain. When backpacking, you want an ultralight chair that weighs under two pounds and fits in your pack. You will sacrifice your beloved armrests, but it is so worth it have a chair to kick back in at the end of the day.

Price Packed Weight Packed Size
HELIONOX Zero $120 1 lb 13.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 in.
REI CO-OP Trail Stool $22.50 1 lb. 2 oz. 4 x 22 in.
GRAND TRUNK Collapsible Micro Stool $30 10.5 oz. 12 x 6 1.5 in.
CRAZY CREEK Hex 2.0 Original Camp Chair $55 1 lb. 5 oz. 4 x 16.5 in.
ALITE MayFly $100 1 lb. 9.6 oz. 4.3 x 11.5 in.
THERM-A-REST Z-Seat Pad $15 2 oz 12 x 2.75 x 2.5 in.
REI CO-OP Flash Sit Pad $25 3 oz 2.5 x 5 in.
SEA TO SUMMIT Air Chair $50 8 oz N/A
EXPED Chair Kit $50 - $100 15.5 oz N/A
THERM-A-REST Neoair Jembe Seat Kit Deluxe $29.95 3.4 oz N/A

In a hurry? Skip straight to the reviews.

Types of Backpacking Chairs

FOLDABLE CHAIR: If you value comfort, then a foldable chair is for you. These chairs have tent-like poles for legs, a fabric seat and sit about 11-inches above the ground. They are more comfortable than most other backpacking chairs but tend to be heavy for ultralight gear. They also have thin legs which can sink in when sitting on sand and other soft substrates.

STOOL (Freestanding or Inflatable): Get you off the ground but lack the back support of a chair. They either have three legs that expand like a tripod or two bars that open and shut like a clamshell. They can be dropped into a pack and used for short stints, but don't expect to lounge in them for hours.

The air inflatable stools allow you to roll up your sleeping pad, stand it up horizontally, and use it as a cylindrical stool. Just like the air chair, you need an inflatable pad to make it work.

GROUND CHAIRS (Foam or Inflatable): Rest either directly on the ground or a few inches off the ground. They don't have legs making them lighter and more compact than the elevated chairs. They are close to the ground so you will pick up dirt, pine needles and other forest litter. They fold flat and can double as a sleeping pad.

An air chair straps around your inflatable sleeping pad and allows you to convert your pad into a portable chair. It's an excellent solution for backpackers who are already carrying an inflatable sleeping pad.

SEAT PAD (Foam or Inflatable): If you are looking for a no-fuss layer of cushioning between your arse and the ground, then you should consider these sleeping pad-inspired seats. Just toss them anywhere and sit on them. There is no back support so you can only use them for short breaks.

DIY: Find a log, or setup a few logs to make a bench. Nearby rocks work. Maybe rest your rain jacket on the ground to prevent your butt from getting wet. Bear canisters also double up as a durable stool. Your own sleeping pad, especially if it is a foam pad, could provide ample comfort to chillax on.

ultralight backpacking chair diy kit

13 oz ultralight backpacking stool - handmade by Sean Ricks

Main Considerations

WEIGHT: Look for chairs that are well under 2 pounds. Is a huge factor when deciding which chair to pack into the backcountry. You may be willing to carry some extra pounds for this luxury, but you don't want to break your back. 

PACKABILITY: Small enough to fit inside your pack. A chair not only has to be light, but it also has to be portable. You want a chair that fits in a bag that you strap to your pack or folds small enough to stuff inside your backpack.

COMFORT: Personal preference. You pack a chair because you want to be comfortable. Don't get so caught up on ounces that you overlook this critical feature. Look at the materials and stability of a chair. Is the fabric breathable? Is there padding? Is the chair stable when you lean? Visit local retailers and test out different chairs to find the one that is most comfortable for you.

GROUND ELEVATION: Personal preference. Ground elevation how high off the ground you sit. This can be super helpful if you are in a particularly wet ground environment. Some people also find that elevated chairs are easier to get in and out of and are more comfortable than their ground-based counterparts. Other people prefer a small ground chair which is lighter in weight and easier to carry around.

Best Ultralight Backpacking Chairs

best ultralight backpacking chair helionox zero


Price: $172 on rei.com

Weight Capacity: 265 lbs

Packed Weight: 1 lb

Packed Size: 13.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches

The Helinox Zero is one of the lightest of the foldable chairs on the market. It weighs a mere 16 ounces and packs down to the size of a water bottle. The Zero is comfortable but can tip, so you have to be careful not to lean too much.

best ultralight backpacking chair rei co-op trail stool

REI CO-OP Trail Stool

Price: $22.50 on rei.com

Weight Capacity: 200 pounds

Packed Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz.

Packed Size: 4 x 22 inches

The REI trail stool uses a lightweight tripod design that is quick to open when you want to sit and easy to fold back up.

best ultralight backpacking chair grand trunk collapsible micro stool

GRAND TRUNK Collapsible Micro Stool

Price: $16

Weight Capacity: 250 lbs

Packed Weight: 10.5 ounces

Packed Size: 12 x 6 1.5 inches

The Grand Trunk micro stool has a clamshell frame that adds minimal weight to your pack and is quick to set up. You can use the mesh under the seat as a temporary storage place to keep items off the ground.

See on amazon.com

best ultralight backpacking chair crazy creek hex original camp chair

CRAZY CREEK Hex 2.0 Original Camp Chair

Price: $70 on amazon.com

Weight Capacity: 250 lbs

Packed Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.

Packed Size: 4 x 16.5 inches

The Crazy Creek camp chair is dual purpose foam chair. The chair folds like a stadium chair, giving you back support while you sit on the ground. When flattened, the chair works as a sleeping pad providing cushion and insulation from the ground.

best ultralight backpacking chair alite mayfly


Price: $100 on rei.com

Weight Capacity: 250 lbs

Packed Weight: 1 lb. 9.6 oz.

Packed Size: 4.3 x 11.5 inches

The Alite Mayfly is a foldable chair that sits on the ground. Definitely the most clunky and robust chair on the list. It has an optional front leg that you can attach for stability or leave at home if you are trimming ounces from your kit.

best ultralight backpacking chair therm a rest z seat pad


Price: $15 on thermarest.com

Packed Weight: 2 oz

Packed Size: 12 x 2.75 x 2.5 inches

The Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat Pad uses the company's popular closed cell foam sleeping pad and trims it down to a 16 x 13-inch rectangle. It folds up like an accordion and fits easily in a backpack.

best ultralight backpacking chair rei co-op flash sit pad

REI CO-OP Flash Sit Pad

Price: $25 on rei.com

Packed Weight: 3 oz

Packed Size: 2.5 x 5 inches

The REI Co-op Flash Sit Pad is an air inflatable seat pad that can double as a pillow.

best ultralight backpacking chair sea to summit air chair


Price: $50

Packed Weight: 8 oz

The Sea to Summit Air chair fits on the outside of an inflatable sleeping pad and uses two straps to keep you sitting upright.   It is designed to work with Sea to Summit's sleeping pads, but may also work with other brands.

See on seatosummitusa.com

best ultralight backpacking chair exped chair kit

EXPED Chair Kit

Price: $50 - $100

Packed Weight: 15.5 oz

The Exped chair kit completely covers your inflatable sleeping pad. You can fold your sleeping pad into a chair and then undo the straps and lay the pad out flat for sleeping. It comes in different sizes so it'll work with a variety of pads.

See on amazon.com

best ultralight backpacking chair therm a rest neoair jembe seat kit deluxe

THERM-A-REST Neoair Jembe Seat Kit Deluxe

Price: $29.95 on thermarest.com

Packed Weight: 3.4 oz

The Jembe seat kit allows you to roll your Neoair mattresses into a ball and use it as a stool. It's super lightweight, but it can be tricky to roll the pad into place without it slipping out.

Kelly Hodgkins photo

About Kelly Hodgkins

By Kelly Hodgkins: Kelly is a full-time backpacking guru. She can be found on New Hampshire and Maine trails, leading group backpacking trips, trail running or alpine skiing.

About Greenbelly

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

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