Longterm camping is hard on gear. We knew this going in but are honestly thrilled to report that the majority of our gear has been holding strong. Not so the case with our camp chairs.
Just over 14 months on the road and we are on our second pair of chairs. Chairs that are covered in duct tape, falling apart, and at this point horribly uncomfortable to sit in. Yep, it’s time to, once again, search for the perfect camp chair if any such animal exists.
We started with REI Camp X Chairs. And, to be fair, we had them for a good two years before we left Oregon. Granted, we weren’t using them daily at that point, but we did camp at between 75-90 days a year so they were well broken in.
The PROS: Super lightweight and comfortable, we loved the mesh material which made for a cool seat in hot weather and if accidently left out in the rain they dried quickly and easily. They slipped into their carry bag with little effort and their lightweight design(just over 7lbs) made it a breeze to cart them off to the beach or a concert. I was particularly in love with the dual pocket system with a cup holder on one side and a pouch on the left. Most likely meant to hold sunglasses or such but, just FYI, perfect for holding the wine bottle because ya know, you don’t want to have to get up to get more wine!
The CONS: Even before we left Oregon there were some wear issues on the side seams where the leather enclosing the frame passed through. After constant daily use it only took about three months for the rivets in the diagonal bar where the legs cross to break. We nursed them along for another month or so but by the time we hit San Diego to fix the camper we knew new chairs were a must.
After calling ahead to the REI we were assured that they would take back the chairs for a full credit, allowing us to purchase new options. We planned on picking out an alternative, rather than simply getting the same chairs but, alas, the ONLY chair they had in their small location were the Camp X chairs and a few Helinox chairs, great for backpacking or as a 3rd chair in camp but certainly not what we were looking for.
We took our money and left, knowing we had about two weeks to come up with a perfect alternative which proved challenging. We researched online. We questioned other overlanders. We checked out numerous outdoor stores.
What we found from the overlander crew was what we already knew. Camping equipment is not really meant to be used every day all year around. It is meant for the average weekend camper who uses them around 10-15 days a year. Most of our overlanding gang were multiple chairs in. Their advice. Buy something cheap and plan on replacing it often.
The other option was to go big with something like a Kermit Chair. These high-end wooden folding camp chairs are beloved by their owners, but at over $150 each PLUS an additional $40 per carrying bag that was so far beyond our means to even consider.
Back to the hunt. We finally ended up at Walmart looking at their rather extensive collection of Ozark Trail products. Since we were getting new chairs anyway, we thought ones that sat up a bit more might be a pleasant change. Enter the Ozark Trail High-back chair with two seat back position comfort. Heavier than our REI chairs at 13lb, they still came with a carrying bag and since we never generally carried our chairs a great distance seemed doable. For around the same price as new Camp X chairs, the Ozark Trail option came home with us.
At first we loved them. PROS: Comfortable and the recline position great for napping or reading. They did sit up more than our REI chairs making dining at our camp table easier. The light turquoise color was appealing and they still folded into a carry bag. They do have a cup holder, although it is too small for our plastic, stemless wine glasses.
CONS: These chairs last only four months or so before total meltdown. First the seat stitching on both chairs began ripping out. We don’t claim to be skinny, but are both well under the weight they are meant to hold. We applied duct tape. Then more duct tape. As the seat continues to sink they become less and less comfortable. We are now at the point where these “rugged” chairs, per manufacturers claims, are almost incapable of folding up to fit in their bag due to rusting (no we don’t leave them out in the rain) and wear so much they simply refuse to fold up well.
And so, the hunt begins again. We have been checking out all of our neighbors camp chairs and thought we might have found an alternative in some Cabela chairs that looked quite heavy duty. Until the husband of the couple said they had already had to replace them once and they were wearing again.
At this point we may head back to the REI Camp X chairs. In spite of them not lasting long on the road, they still lasted significantly longer than their Ozark Trail replacements.
Perhaps our overlander friends are correct. Perhaps there is no chair out there capable of truly standing up to life on the road. But then again, perhaps we just haven’t discovered it yet. Wish us luck and any suggestions much appreciated.