Helinox and DAC are one of the better creative partnerships to be found in the outdoor gear world right now – the two companies work together to make some really top-notch trekking poles. They have now come out with a camping chair built around the idea of lightweight comfort for nights ’round the fire; they’re retailing through Big Agnes, whose String Ridge Mountaineering tent (featuring DAC’s NSL Green poles) we recently reviewed. The Helinox Chair One was voted “Number 1 Outdoor Accessory” at this year’s ISPO in Munich, so I was stoked to test out this chair.
Big Agnes Helinox Chair One Features:
- Weight: 836g
- Packed Size: 14″ x 4″ x 5″/ 35 x 10 x 12 cm
- Assembled Dimensions: 26″ H x 21″ W x 20″ D/ 65 x 52 x 50 cm
- Seat Measurements: 13.5″/ 34cm from ground, 13.5″/ 34cm deep
- Load Capacity: 320lb/ 145kg
- Available in Black (tested), Red, Green and Multicam
- MSRP: $89
Helinox is engineered for comfort
The Helinox Chair One is quite a testament to good engineering – just 9 sections of aluminum pole, two sturdy plastic hubs, shock cord and a mesh seat body go into this innovative product. The Chair One is remarkably easy to set up thanks to the self-locating shock cord technology that snaps the pole sections together. I’ve found that the easiest way to set up the chair is to snap all of the poles together and then insert the longest poles into the fabric body, followed by the shorter bottom poles.
In action the Chair One delivered in spades – I particularly like this design because it keeps you high enough off the ground that it’s very easy to rise from or sit in. The fabric panel has enough mesh area to provide lots of ventilation without sacrificing strength. Overall the chair is comfortable to sit in, doesn’t create significant pressure points, and is flexible enough for either sitting up or reclining. I intentionally abused the chair’s tolerances while testing it, but I never picked up any sign of weakness from either DAC’s plastic hubs or the aluminum poles. The chair uses rubber grips on each leg for traction; I like the four-legged design more than trestle-style chairs since they handle uneven surfaces well.
The problem with the Chair One is that it has a competitor: REI’s Flex Lite chair is virtually identical, weighs less (794g) and costs $30 less. I had the opportunity to test the Flex Lite at REI Boise and, well, it felt just like the Helinox. The only substantive difference that I noticed was that the Flex Lite has more mesh than solid paneling – the mesh on the Flex Lite goes all the way down the middle of the chair, whereas the Helinox Chair One has a solid panel for your rear end. This has two consequences: the Helinox is presumably more durable since it has more solid fabric, but that’s also where some of its extra weight (a total of 52g difference) comes from. Conversely, one advantage to REI’s design is that rainwater wouldn’t pool in the bottom of your seat.
When it comes down to it, the two chairs are ridiculously similar: the REI Flex Lite is lighter but the Helinox is a wee bit more durable. REI will save you $30 but Helinox has a lot of brand loyalty thanks to their trekking poles. Reglardless, both are comfortable, lightweight chairs that will keep your bottom off of the ground.
- Very comfortable, no pressure spots
- Remarkably quick to set up
- DAC’s pole systems continue to set industry standards
- Keeps you high off of the ground
- Four-legged design is superior to other trestle-style chairs
- Rain can pool in the chair
- Heavier and more expensive than REI’s Flex Lite
The Bottom Line: Helinox Chair One
The Helinox Chair One is a great product by itself, but the fact that you can save $30 and buy almost the same thing from REI gives me pause. The Helinox’s chief advantage is its added durability over the REI model (and, according to the commenter below, extra comfort), which might be particularly important if you’re a heavier hiker. On its own, though, it’s a great little camping chair that sets up easily and keeps you nice and high above the ground.
Buy Now: Available at REI