There are a few ways to keep your butt off the ground when camping, and a couple reasons to do it. Reason one – the ground is cold and sucks heat out of your cheeks. Reason two – the ground can be rocky, uneven, hard, and uncomfortable. You can use a sit pad, which will cost you somewhere between free and $20 and will get the job done for somewhere south of five ounces. But, for true, yet ultralight luxury, you need a chair like the Helinox Chair Zero.
Why a Chair?
Chairs win over sit pads in certain situations, but lose in others. For pure ultralight, a sit pad will win every time. The lightest, Therm-A-Rest’s Z Seat, weighs only two ounces and insulates you from both cold and pointy rocks for $15. At just over twice the weight, REI sells its inflatable sit pad for $20 with even better insulation and cushioning than the Z.
A chair like the Helinox Zero can’t beat sit pads on weight or price, but it trounces them on comfort because it’s actually a chair. It has a seat and a back rest and lets you disengage your core after a long trail day. Whether that’s of value is up to you.
Helinox Chair Zero Specs and Features
First, at only 1 lb (454 g), the Helinox Chair Zero is the lightest camp chair available. Now, when I say it’s the lightest camp chair, I’m not comparing it to things like chair kits that convert your sleeping pad. And I’m not talking Crazy Creeks – though they’re actually heavier than the Zero anyway! I mean legit chairs with legs that keep your butt off the ground. The next lightest chair is the Alite Monarch, which somehow weighs more than the Zero even though it doesn’t have four legs.
The Zero’s frame is a single pole structure made from DAC Green poles and plastic hubs. The chair fabric appears to be standard 210d Dyneema gridstop. It does not stretch, giving the chair a solid structure once you have it assembled. The legs each have rubber feet. All told, it’ll hold up to 265 lbs.
Sitting in the Chair Zero puts you 11″ off the ground. When broken down, the Zero packs into a 14″x4″ stuff sack with room to spare. Leave the sack at home – it adds 45g!
Review: Helinox Chair Zero
This is the small-but-mighty; the David of camping chairs. Helinox angled the chair base and back to make the chair comfortable, not too upright and not to loungy. It’s wide enough to fit a robust, trail-hardened backside.
What I really like about the Chair Zero is that Helinox seems to have found the perfect height. You still feel close to the ground, but it’s not difficult to lower yourself into or get out of the chair.
I’ve never felt like the chair was going to collapse under me. It’s comfortable and sturdy despite its light weight. This is the only chair I’d bring with me if I wanted to bring a chair on a backpacking trip.
I normally have some suggestions on things to improve about the gear we review. I can’t think of any for the Chair Zero. Maybe they could make it lighter?
MSRP $120 and $20 for the ground sheet. (Don’t buy the ground sheet.)