Camping chairs

By: Mike and Anita Pavey, Photography by: Mike and Anita Pavey

With so many camp chairs on offer, there’s something to meet the needs of every traveller.

If you consider the essential items in your camping kit, chances are that the humble chair rates right up there with your most important items because you need a comfy pew wherever you travel. In most cases, that means something you can pull up to a table while you chow down on some tucker, while also lending itself to relaxing around the campfire or reading a book. In those cases, a slightly more reclined seating position works well.

In this mega-test, we’ve reviewed some of the most popular chairs on the market, as well as a few others which have stood the test of time. With so many similar options available, it’s difficult to pin down a winner, particularly as the buying criteria will differ for each person.

Value is in the eye of the beholder. The more expensive chairs are generally better constructed and use more expensive materials that will continue to age well, after cheaper units have long been discarded. And, in the case of the chairs, many bring greater comforts or useful additions. The best thing you can do is go to a camping shop and try and few out to see what works best for you, because the last thing you want on an extended camping trip is uncomfortable furniture.

Top 10 camp chairs

1. GCI Outdoors Quick-E-Seat

GCI Outdoor Chair

The Quick-E seat is a portable stool with padded back rest and base for added comfort. While small in stature, it is still rated to 113kg thanks to its steel frame. It looks attractive with its powder-coated frame and attractive polyester fabrics. Without arms to hold you in place, it’s not the chair to nod off in, but it is ideal for picnics and day trips.

2. TJP Camp Chair

TJM Camp Chair

With a wide entry and soft back design, the TJM is an accommodating place to park your butt. The folding mechanism is common to many in the market, locked into place by pivoting plastic knuckles. It scores a powder-coated steel frame, padded seat, rounded arm rests and attractive polyester fabric in TJM’s colours. A non-insulated drink holder and mobile phone holder round out the features.

  • Capacity: 120kg
  • Price: $58
  • Retailer: TJM
  • Rating: 4

3. Lifetime Folding Bench Seat

Lifetime Folding Bench Seat

The trestle bench is a good option for a younger family, keeping everyone together around the table. Constructed from a powder-coated steel frame and a UV-treated durable polyethylene seat, it is relatively lightweight and folds for easy transportation. A carry handle aids portability. Fitted with three legs, the extension mechanism has a lockout feature to prevent accidental closure. Comfort plays second fiddle to practicality, but a flat cushion goes a long way for those with a bony bum. It is also marketed under the Marquee brand name.

  • Capacity: 450kg
  • Price: $60  
  • Retailer: BCF and many other camping stores
  • Rating: 3.5

4. ARB Sport Camp Chair

ARB Sport Camp Chair

The ARB Sport Camp Chair is a mid-back style camp chair which works well in a number of uses, either pulled up to a table for dining or lounging around in relaxation mode. Like other similar camp chairs, the foundation is a steel frame, a lightly padded back and base, and a non-insulated drink holder and pouch. The colours work well within the Australian outback. The brushed aluminium hard arms provide some additional support for getting in and out of the chair, although some may not like the cold feel. The magazine pouch in the back of the seat is a thoughtful touch. A carry bag is provided.

Capacity: 120kg

Price: $70

Retailer: ARB stores and agents

Rating: 4

5. Ironman 4x4 Camp Chairs

Ironman 4x 4 Camp Chairs

The team at Ironman 4X4 have solved the hard or soft arm debate by offering both models, designated a strong arm chair and a soft arm chair, with both using a mid-back design. The back and base are padded and there’s some additional padding around the waist and upper back. Like the rest of the steel framework, the arms are finished in a slightly textured paint which isolates the chill. Both have insulated drink holders and mobile phone pouches while the soft arm has a few more pockets. They are supplied with convenient carry bags.

  • Capacity: 150kg
  • Price: $79 Strong Arm; $69 Soft Arm 
  • Retailer: Ironman 4X4
  • Rating: 4

6. Black Wolf Compact Director's Chair

Black Wolf Compact Directors Chair

Boasting a number of differences to most of the other chairs tested, the Black Wolf’s key difference is the integrated side table with cut out to accommodate a cuppa or a beer. It collapses down to a small footprint which is relatively square and flat, ensuring it can tuck into almost any space.

It’s a good looking chair with a powder-coated steel frame, mesh base and back to aid ventilation, plus a padded upper backrest. The steel arms are covered for extra comfort and insulation from the cold frame. There are also a couple of pouches for snacks and other knick-knacks, and a handle for easy transportation.

  • Capacity: 130kg
  • Price: $120  
  • Retailer: Ananconda
  • Rating: 4.5

7. Oz Tent King Kokoda/Goanna Chair

Oz Tent King Kokoda Goanna Chair

Comfort additions are the key features behind the Oz Tent King Kokoda. An adjustable belt around the lower back creates additional lumber support and feeling of sitting in, rather than on, the chair. Add to that the padded base, back and pillowtop, which cleverly uses the chair bag to create some extra comfort.

The solid arms provide some additional leverage when extracting yourself at the end of the night.

In contrast, the King Goanna Chair has soft arms for those who don’t like the coolness of the solid arms against the bare skin. Depending on the length of your torso, the fixed pillow might rest against your shoulders rather than your head, which impacts on comfort. But at least you can remove the bag.

Both chairs have a steel frame and attractive two tone polyester tops, an insulated drink holder and pockets. Better still, they are backed by a five year warranty!

  • Capacity: 150kg
  • Price: From $120
  • Retailer: BCF and many other camping stores
  • Rating: 4.5

8. Coleman 5 Position Padded Camp Chair

Coleman 5 Position Padded Camp Chair

Coleman Camp Chairs have been around for a while now. I remember purchasing a pair in 2006. Rather than having a soft back like most other chairs, Coleman uses a steel frame (25mm) which is a little thicker than others. A relatively thick padded polyester overlay covers the framework.

Its biggest strength is its reclining backrest with five adjustable positions, so it works just as well around the dining table as it does when you have a kip with the seat fully cranked back. For me, the best feature is the adjustable headrest, as you can move it around depending on the length of your torso. It also folds flat for storage.

The padding seems to flatten quite quickly with use, easily remedied with some extra flat cushions. The plastic hinges and locking mechanism require some care. That aside, it is a comfortable chair that lends itself well to a variety of uses.

Capacity: 130kg

Price: $119  

Retailer: BCF and many other camping stores

Rating: 4.5

9. Pico by Hannibal

Pico By Hannibal

Like the Black Wolf camp chair, the Pico by Hannibal has portability on its side, folding up to the size of a laptop bag. It uses telescopic arms with a locking mechanism to quickly shrink or extend as required. The frame is a combination of steel and anodised aluminium with a breathable nylon mesh and polyester fabric.

The other clever addition is the carry bag which hooks over the back of the chair to form a storage caddy. There is additional storage on each arm; on one side there’s a drink holder and storage pouch and, on the other side, a mesh storage pocket.

Comfort-wise, there is plenty of mesh to park your bum on, good elbow room and support. In particular, I liked the gap between the base and the back, allowing plenty of ventilation, ideal for the tropical zones. The bag with shoulder strap makes it easy to lug around if you’re walking to the beach.

It is a little more expensive than the other units, but the quality is right up there and it’s loaded with useful features.

Capacity:  113kg

Price: $160   

Retailer: Hannibal Safari Equipment, TJM

Rating: 4.5

10. Oztrail Sun Lounge Classic

Oztrail Sun Lounge Classic

While most camp chairs succeed for more upright duties, the Oztrail Sun Lounge does so lying down but, thanks to a flexible structure, still does a reasonable job in more upright positions. The seat back can be reclined easily to lock into a range of positions. Like the other chairs, it boasts a steel frame with a padded polyester top and there’s a padded pillow that can be moved around. These units are super comfortable. Their only real Achilles heel is their bulk but, if you’ve got the space, you’ll find these hard to beat in the relaxation stakes.

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