Lightweight Backpacking Chairs: REI Flexlite Air Chair vs. Helinox Chair Zero
May 24, 2019 at 8:23 am #3594363Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
Companion forum thread to: Lightweight Backpacking Chairs: REI Flexlite Air Chair vs. Helinox Chair ZeroMay 24, 2019 at 10:49 am #3594369James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Yes, seat to back angle is very important. It is usually between 10-25° for any chair. Normally the seat angle is set to around 5-10° average is around a 15°. Steeper backs put you in a closer to horizontal position (good for lounging) and shallow angles are used for work chairs where leaning forward has advantages. Obviously, a steep back angle requires a lot of energy to lean forward and a shallow angle requires less.
The seat height is very important. 11-12″ is low and barely workable. around 18″ is considered a standard heat height. This is important because the low design of chairs It will force your legs out and can be difficult to lift your body out of the chair. You invariably need to shift your feet under your body and lift.
For camp chairs, a series of compromises exist. 18″ heights require a fairly good stability and these can be uncomfortable on uneven ground. The poles need to be thicker and heavier. A 12″ seat height needs less stability, the triangular overall shape allows the base to twist somewhat on uneven ground, and is stronger than a higher chair allowing for lesser pole material. Generally a good set of compromises for a camp chair.
The back angle can usually adjust with fabric. Provided there is enough angle at the seat to force you body back, the fabric can do a good job.
Overall, the REI chair has my vote, too. Thanks, Ryan.May 24, 2019 at 3:22 pm #3594400Jon FongBPL Member
@jonfongLocale: FLAT CAT GEAR
IMO, chair ratings are conservative because all of the testing is on new, pristine chairs. With use, the aluminum structure will get nicks, scratches and dents. Look at any trekking pole or aluminum camp chair. These imperfections create stress risers which reduce the overall strength of the structure. Additionally, the chair has plastic components and by definition plastics creep over time, temperature and loading.
Finally, most of the aluminum structures are in a bending mode as there is a torque on the tubes (Force X Distance). An idea ultralight chair (say 8 oz) would have stresses that are axial (tension or compression only). The “optimal” structure might be possible using tensegrity concepts. A simple example is the inflatable mattress or inflatable chair. The structural members there are all in tension with no bending moments. In tensegrity structures, tensile members are usually rope and compression members are tubes. It takes a fair amount of engineering time and practice to effectively design these kinds of structures. My 2 cents.May 24, 2019 at 11:41 pm #3594468Jacob CranerBPL Member
- The higher back height of the Helinox Chair Zero provides enough noticeable increase in fabric to increase comfort notably, regardless of your height (but especially for taller sitters). The back fabric edge may dig into your back when you lean far backward, and that may be disconcerting to some.
I actually went to REI last weekend to buy a Helinox Chair Zero, but I left with the REI Air Chair. I am 6’4″ and quite thin (42ish” chest) and the Helinox was incredibly uncomfortable even when leaning back. The upright supports dug into my lats really bad.May 25, 2019 at 1:14 am #3594494JohnBPL Member
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
The Helinox Ground Chair (and now the Chair Zero) have been amazing for me. Time in camp is more comfortable and enjoyable now. I originally bought the chair to take on “easy trips”, but it comes almost all the time. I tried sitting in the REI chair and thought it awkward – it felt like I was leaning back too far and that the front piece of fabric was too high off the ground.
In the article, it says:
However, aren’t both of those options are heavier than the Chair Zero and Flexlite Air chairs?May 25, 2019 at 5:29 am #3594520Monty MontanaBPL Member
@tarasbulbaLocale: Rocky Mountains
The Helinox Ground Chair was my first lightweight “luxury camping” purchase, and I loved it! Then I got the the Zero because it’s 4 or 5 oz lighter, and it was ok…I found I liked the lay-z-boy reclining positioning offered by the Ground better. Also, the big, gnarly plastic hubs of the Ground are on the ground, providing absolute stability, whereas the tiny diameter of the Zero’s feet are on the ground, and if the ground is soft they start to sink in, not at the same rate either and so starts to tip over. Yikes!
But more recently eschewed the chairs in favor of my Hummingbird hammock ( 7.5 oz including tree straps and whoopie straps). By adjusting the amount of fabric behind my back I can replicate the various angles and comfort of the Ground, Zero, and Flexlite. And I can go to sleep in it! Of course if I’m going above tree line to fish (Aero Lakes), then I’ll go to the trouble to pack in one of the chairs, and if I’m taking a packraft then the choice will be the lighter even though less comfortable.
Thanks for the in-depth review!May 25, 2019 at 5:35 am #3594522Monty MontanaBPL Member
@tarasbulbaLocale: Rocky Mountains
I just noticed the time and date stamp on my post above and it’s messed up. Did BPL move to China or something? I’m sitting here on the 24th of May, and the clock reads 11:30 PM. Whazup?May 25, 2019 at 5:14 pm #3594566Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
The Ground Chair is amazing. That’s my favorite chair, I hope they bring it back.
Hammock as a chair: something that’s probably not considered enough! I love that option as well, but the lack of mobility (I like sitting by my tent and reading, then moving to the fire, then hanging out by the river…) is something to consider.
Timestamp: server is on UTC time, I think?May 25, 2019 at 5:32 pm #3594569Jenny ABPL Member
@jenniferaLocale: Front Range
Well, comfort is in the eyes (seat?) of the beholder. I have both of the tested chairs and find the REI model to be slightly more comfortable and feel more stable when in the favored “kick back and relax with a beer in hand” position. Both are easy enough to sit in and get out of, and both are low enough to the ground that an emergency or unplanned exit can be easily achieved by just rolling out of the darned thing. I am 5’3″ with short legs.May 25, 2019 at 7:18 pm #3594585William ChiltonBPL Member
“Timestamp: server is on UTC time, I think?”
I don’t know if the timestamp is the same wherever you’re accessing the forum from (I suspect it is), but viewing from here in Turkey the timestamp is set to GMT.May 26, 2019 at 3:33 am #3594670Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
UTC & GMT are the same. I found the Helinox chairs uncomfortable as the back dug into my shoulder blades. The Alite though much heavier are larger and fit me better.May 26, 2019 at 5:33 am #3594683William ChiltonBPL Member
Thanks, K/@here. Every day a lesson.May 26, 2019 at 12:40 pm #3594703JCHBPL Member
Well, comfort is in the eyes (seat?) of the beholder.
Yes! Everyone’s butt is unique. My butt tells me:
- The higher front edge of the REI seat cuts into the back of my thighs. I much prefer the more stretched out leg position (as you can clearly see in the articles photos).
- The chairs feet form a rectangle. With the Zero the long side of the rectangle is oriented side to side making it much more stable in that direction. The REI is oriented front to back. In the Zero I have never felt like I might tip over backward, but in the REI I often felt like I would tip over sideways.
- It is possible to orient yourself such that the top corners dig into your back…this is true of both chairs. It is also possible to orient yourself such that they do not :) I find the increased side-to-side stability of the Zero allows me to rotate slightly (in either direction) such that one leg is between the front corners, the other leg is between one corner and the back, and my shoulder is between the two top corners. Regardless of where your opinion falls on points 1 and 2, the ability to shift left and right into several different positions without loss of stability is what, for me, makes the Zero the clear winner.
The price and weight differences are trivial in my mind, so it is important to test drive both and decide for yourself.Jul 24, 2019 at 8:30 pm #3603310Oleg ZBPL Member
I prefer Zero over Air for
- More upright and longer (about 2 inches) back support.
- Comfortable leg stretching (on Air it’s painful for me because of tight front edge).
- Ears/ fabric pole holders are thicker and look more durable.
- No ground sheets feet Air legs, I had to put long stitches across Trekology Sand Cover to narrow it by 2 inches at least to make it work. For Zero that pad was fine without alterations.
I am a male, 5’7″, 144 Lb. My hips are not wide which is important with a narrow Zero seat, for some girls could uncomfortable…Aug 23, 2019 at 12:39 am #3607224DGogginsBPL Member
@hjuan99Locale: Mountain West
Throwing my vote in for the helinox zero. Brought both on the wonderland (group of 5) and everyone preferred the zero vs the flexlite.
Stretching legs out straight in the flexlite is painful (bottom fabric gets too taught).
I can feel the back support poles of the flexlite when leaning back.
Helinox felt much more stable, in both directions.
Also….which might not have been mentioned yet…but the flexlite twists at the bottom pole…or rather, the large plastic hubs on both sides can rotate freely on the bottom pole. They are fixed on the helinox. Thus….its a lot easier for me to put the seat cover on the helinox since they always stay in the correct position. PLUS….I found the flexlite to squeak a lot…I think its because of those plastic hubs being able to rotate though I’m not sure.May 1, 2021 at 7:52 am #3711094Richard SullivanBPL Member
@richard-sLocale: Supernatural BC
Can I upload an image from my phone here?May 2, 2021 at 10:58 am #3711212Richard SullivanBPL Member
@richard-sLocale: Supernatural BC
Years ago I discovered that the REI Flexlite chair and the Helinox chairs both used frame sets made by DAC and the spatial endpoints were more or less identical. So I created a hybrid ground chair thus saving about 2 oz. Does anyone know if this is possible with the new generation of chairs?
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Our Community Posts are Moderated
Backpacking Light community posts are moderated and here to foster helpful and positive discussions about lightweight backpacking. Please be mindful of our values and boundaries and review our Community Guidelines prior to posting.