Podcast Episode June 29, 2019

Episode 12 | Lightweight Chairs & Seats for Backpacking



chair pod featured image
In this episode longtime BPL author Doug Johnson (right) gives us a run-down of his favorite ultralight backcountry seating options.


Tired of sacrificing comfort for a low base weight? So is Doug Johnson, a longtime BPL author on a multi-year quest to discover a luxurious-but-ultralight backcountry experience.  Doug has treated himself (and his family) to extensive cook systems, thick sleeping pads, and cozy hammocks – now he’s turned his expert eye to the world of ultralight backcountry seating.

It’s a fascinating gear category, and one with wildly different approaches to solving what appears to be a simple problem – how to sit comfortably at the end of a long day. Andrew and Doug get things started by setting some parameters – no sit pads allowed in this podcast (or stools, or hammocks,  or…well…just give it a listen, you’ll catch on).

Next, they jump into a few of the categories covered by Doug’s extensive Gear Guide: Inflatable Seat Kits, On-Ground Pole Supported Seats, Suspended Seats, and Frame Seats (among others).

Doug touches briefly on the design elements and performance considerations of each category, then elaborates on some of his favorites seats in each category. He finishes by choosing his two favorite seats before taking a brief sidetrack into the hammock world.

As they wrap up, Andrew challenges Doug to make a believer out of any die-hard gram counters that might be listening.


  • Intro
    • Doug Johnson – ultralight luxury connoisseur
    • Check out our Ultralight Seating Gear Guide!
    • Doug’s journey from die-hard Ultralighter to Ultralight Family Man.
    • What are the parameters of the conversation?
      • Leaning back
      • Weight limit
      • Comfort!
      • No hammocks, pads, or stools
  • Categories, Performance Considerations, and Design Elements.
    • Inflatable Seat Kits
      • What they are and how they work
      • Pros
        • Comfy
        • Light
        • Compressible
        • Easy to move around
      • Cons
        • Low to ground
        • Expose sleeping pad to sharp things
        • Brings dirt into your shelter
        • Less and less of them around (newer options on the market)
      • Doug’s favorite
    • On-Ground Pole Supported Seats
      • What they are and how they work
      • Pros
        • Light
        • Minimalist
      • Cons
        • Low to ground
        • Can be uncomfortable depending on the model
        • Collapse when you stand up
      • Doug’s favorite
    • Suspended Seats
      • What they are and how they work
      • Pros
        • Fairly light
        • Packs down fairly small
        • Keeps you off the ground
        • Great for kids!
      • Cons
        • Needs hardware to be able to hang
        • Need specific locations/vegetation in order to set up
        • Foot position
      • Doug’s favorite
    •  Frame Seats
      • What they are and how they work
      • Pros
        • Comfortable!
        • Good leg angle
        • Keeps you off the ground
        • Stable
      • Cons
        • Relatively heavy
        • Not super-compact
        • Unstable in sandy soil
      • The Alite 2-Legged Monarch Chair is an interesting design that is strong in loose soil where other frame chairs fail.
      • Doug’s favorite
        • Doug is a huge fan of the REI Co-Op Flexlite Air Chair and Helinox Chair Zero – in fact, these are his favorite options out of all the seats he tested.
        • For an in-depth comparison of these two chairs (including math, a flow chart, and lots of exciting diagrams), check out Ryan’s article and video.
  • Final Thoughts
    • Doug takes a brief side-trip into hammock land
    • Andrew gives Doug 45 seconds to make a believer out of a theoretical “determined to be uncomfortable” listener.

Feedback, Questions, Tips?


  • Backpacking Light – Executive Producer
  • Ryan Jordan – Director and Host
  • Andrew Marshall – Producer and Host
  • Brian Rigby – Guest Interview
  • Look for Me in the Mountains – Music


  • This episode of the Backpacking Light Podcast is supported and kept advertising-free by Backpacking Light membership fees. Please consider becoming a member which helps support projects like this podcast, in addition to a whole slew of other benefits!


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