I have fond childhood memories of car-camping with my family, especially of sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows. I usually sat in a faded blue camp chair, one of the chairs my parents would also bring to watch my soccer games. When I was old enough to strike out on my own and began taking backpacking and boat trips, I had to leave bulky 5-lb camp chairs behind, instead using a foam gardening pad cut in half as a seat.

Four tennis balls slit to fit over the chair's feet keep them from sinking into sand.photographs by the author

Four tennis balls slit to fit over the chair’s feet keep them from sinking into sand.

When my life partner Kyle Hawkins and I were planning our Mississippi River trip, I went on a search for something that would offer better comfort and back support and found the Helinox Chair One. Weighing 2.1 lbs and measuring only 4″ x 13-3/4″ x 4-3/4″ when packed, this compact chair is made from especially strong TH72M aluminum alloy tubes, Nylon 66 junctions, and lightweight nylon fabric and mesh.

All of the aluminum tubes and junctions are linked with bungees, so there are no pieces to lose and the frame nearly assembles itself. The zippered carrying bag, also made of durable fabric, has two large loops that can be used to hang the bag from the chair for a handy storage space; it also has a webbing ladder that makes it easy to lash down or attach to a backpack. The compact package easily fits into our small hatch openings, reducing clutter in the cockpit.

When sitting in the Helinox Chair One, I am approximately 10″ above the ground—high enough to be comfortable, but low enough to easily tend to a campfire or cook on the ground. The molded feet endured over three months of daily use without cracking or breaking lose, and while they do help keep the chair from sinking fully into the ground, Helinox also offers a ground sheet, sold separately, to prevent the legs from sinking into sand or soft soil. We recently found that we could prevent the legs from sinking by putting tennis balls with slits in them to fit over the feet of the chair, distributing the weight. The tennis balls easily fit with the folded chair in the zipped carrying bag. On our three-month Mississippi River trip, we just pre-set the chairs by hand before sitting in them and they would usually stay level and support our weight just fine.

The Chair One weighs just 2.1 lbs and will support 320 lbs.

The Chair One weighs just 2.1 lbs and will support 320 lbs.

The first thing I would do when setting up camp was set up our Helinox chairs. The back support after a long day of rowing was a great relief, and I found myself sitting in mine while unpacking cooking supplies and digging a hole for the fire. Our chairs and carrying bags are a bit dirty but are as good as new. They are pricey compared to others on the market, but it’s true that you get what you pay for. Our Helinox Chair Ones have given us exactly what we expected and required: light, durable, compact, and comfortable seating.

Danielle Kreusch grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and spent a lot of time hiking and camping in the mountains. After moving to Florida to finish her BA in Psychology and Child Development, Danielle met Kyle Hawkins, who took her sailing on their third date. For the last few years they’ve been living aboard their 35’ Ben Bow cutter and cruise with it whenever possible. Their Mississippi River trip was their first small-boat excursion, and they have both fallen in love with the idea of continuing to travel in small boats.

Helinox chairs are available from the Helinox Store for $100 and from many outdoor retailers.

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