Outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and fishing have been gaining immense popularity in the last decade or so, as people seem to be regaining their love and enjoyment of nature and fresh air. However, for most people, roughing it is not part of the agenda, and there is increasing emphasis on bringing along items of equipment to make participants more comfortable. Next to sleeping bags, probably the most common and essential comfort item on most trips is camping chairs.
Why Use Camping Chairs?
Camping chairs are a particular type of folding chair made specifically for use in hiking and camping activities. They differ from other types of folding chair, such as garden chairs, in that they are constructed of particularly lightweight and sturdy materials, making them easily portable, yet able to withstand harsh conditions.
Many camping chairs have a metal frame with an X-shaped hinge, which allows them to fold up to a compact size. Camping can be hard work, and after a strenuous day’s hiking, followed by the effort of setting up camp, you really, really feel like sitting down.
Under those circumstances, the last thing you want is to sit on the ground, or prop yourself against a rock. Camping chairs can seem like the ultimate in comfort when your limbs are aching, and without them you will not enjoy your camping experience nearly as much.
Folding camping chairs are very easy to use, since they don’t require any work to set them up — you just open them out. They are very lightweight, so are easy to carry, and easily repay the effort of bringing them along. They enable campers to sit and relax, chat and enjoy a drink, without having to worry about what might be underneath them, or crawling over them.
Types of Camping Chairs
Camping chairs may have started off with a simple basic design, but they have evolved into many different styles, to suit the differing needs of campers, hikers and caravanners. Standard folding camping chairs come in a number of different comfort levels, with or without armrests and padded backs.
There are two basic designs — quad fold and flat fold, with quad fold camping chairs being the lightest. Quad fold camping chairs have four independent legs touching the ground, and fold up to the most compact size and shape for transporting.
Flat fold camping chairs fold either from front to back, or from side to side, and cannot be reduced to such a compact shape as quad fold chairs. Those that fold from front to back include reclining camping chairs — that is, the backrest is higher and can be set in up to 8 different positions.
Some more high-end ones also include extendable footrests, as well as such add-ons as cup-holders and cooler attachments, and padded or inflatable headrests and backrests.
Most family camping trips include young children, and if they are quite small, normal camping chairs will not be suitable for them. It is quite possible to find kids’ camping chairs, including chairs for toddlers and preschoolers.
Many of the chairs carry cartoons or other fun motifs to make them appealing for children. More importantly, they feature safety locks which lock the chair in a seated position, and are sufficiently lightweight for the children to carry themselves.
Families also want to be able to sit down to meals properly, without having to balance food on their laps or on the arms of the chair. You can also find family sets of camping table and chairs, some with backrests and some without. Coleman also does deck chairs with a table attached.
Shopping for Camping Chairs
There are such a wide range of camping chairs on the market that choosing can be difficult. When shopping for folding camping chairs, obviously the first factor you need to consider is exactly what you will be using them for.
If you will be using them mainly for camping and hiking trips, weight and portability will be important criteria, especially if your trips will be largely on foot, rather than in the car or camper van. Durability is an issue too, and this is largely bound up with price.
You can find plenty of camping chairs for less than 10 dollars, but if you go on frequent trips, these are unlikely to last you for more than a season. However, if you are just an occasional camper, you might get away with cheap camping chairs.
Durability largely depends on the material from which the chairs are made. Frames are usually made of steel, aluminum or plastic, with plastic being by far the least durable. Steel is stronger, while aluminum is lighter. Look for a rust-proof frame, especially if you will be spending a lot of time in damp areas.
Where fabrics are concerned, look for fabric that is UV resistant, otherwise it will fade quickly. If you are likely to be camping near the ocean a lot of the time, look for open-weave fabric, which sheds salt water and sand. This may cost slightly more, but will pay for itself in ease of maintenance.
For most people, comfort will be crucial. If comfort is important for you, you should try to buy at a physical store rather than online, as it’s really difficult to know whether a chair will be comfortable for you without trying it out. A good store will allow you to sit in a chair for five or ten minutes, to see how it feels.
Size is a major factor in the comfort of a chair — if you have a larger hip measurement, you will not be comfortable if a chair is too narrow for you. Check the weight limit too, if you don’t want the chair to collapse on you. The smaller or cheaper chairs often have a weight limit of around 175 pounds or 80 kilograms.
The other factor determining comfort is the material. Most camping chairs are constructed of foam enclosed in nylon, the more foam used, the more comfortable the chair. The most comfortable chairs of all have inflatable padding, these are the most expensive ones. You have to decide where your priorities lie.
While it is possible to find perfectly adequate own-brand camping chairs at most major stores on both sides of the Atlantic, there are a few brands which are recognized as leading the field in terms of quality and excellence. In the USA, it is Coleman camping chairs that are generally considered to be the leading brand.
Coleman is a company which has been providing Americans with camping equipment for over 100 years. Particularly popular Coleman camping chairs are the Oversize Quad chair with cooler at around $29.99, and the Broadband Quad chair at around $19.99. The Coleman Deck chair at $59.49 has also received rave reviews on Amazon.
Close behind Coleman camping chairs in the US come Eureka and Travelchair. The Eureka Curvy High-Back chair has won industry awards for comfort, though this is more expensive at $79.99. The Travelchair Easy-Rider at $56.00 and Slacker at $21.50 are also rated outstanding for comfort, durability and ease of use.
In the UK, one leading and highly-regarded brand is Outwell, which is actually a Danish company, but the brand is sold at many UK outlets. One very popular Outwell chair is the Black Hills folding chair at £34.99. This is seen as extremely comfortable, portable and easy to use.
Where to Buy Camping Chairs
If you are concerned with testing chairs for comfort, you can look for retailers with physical outlets in most cities. For camping chairs US, one example is Rei Stores, who sell a range of camping chairs in the price range $40-$70. Camping World also have stores throughout the USA, but many of their most popular camping chairs are only available online.
For really cheap camping chairs in the USA, it’s hard to beat Ali Baba, who sell them for as little as $3-$4. Camping chairs Walmart also come in a very good price range, including some well-known brands such as Ozark for $7-$9. Walmart also sell leading brands including Coleman camping chairs — the Coleman Oversize Quad chair is $24.99 here.
For camping chairs UK, one of the best-known physical outlets is Towsure, with large camping superstores in the north, midlands and south of England. They also have a specialized Outwell brand store. Their price range is generally from £30 to £60, but luxury brands are priced at well over £100.
To find cheap camping chairs in UK, the easiest way is to visit the major supermarket chains, though you will probably only be able to try out the chairs in the physical stores during the main camping season. On the Internet, you can find camping chairs Tesco and camping chairs Asda for prices at well below £10. Argos is another good source of cheap camping chairs.
Some people turn up their noses at camping chairs, insisting that they negate the whole point of camping, which is to maximize the outdoor experience and use only what you can find in nature.
However, if you are like most people, you find that nothing ruins your enjoyment of the great outdoors as much as being uncomfortable. Folding camping chairs can turn a good camp site into a perfect one, and help you regain your energy and strength for the exertions of tomorrow.
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