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Beautiful design, very well-made, and light enough…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: About $90
Beautiful design, very well-made, and light enough for backpacking; a bit low for tall people
- Light enough for backpacking
- Gets you off the ground...
- Beautiful design
- One size fits all?
- Critical ambiguity in assembly instructions
- ... but too high for vestibule use
Sometimes I get the impression that UL hikers think comfort is a dirty word. For my part, I try to solve the weight-time-distance-comfort equation to maximize the FQ (fun quotient) for any given trip. Something to sit in or at least lean against can dramatically enhance the FQ on some trips, especially those that allow time for sitting around reading, sipping coffee, and nibbling bonbons.
So ever since lightweight-ish chairs for backpackers came out years ago, they have always been somewhere on my “maybe” list for any given trip, usually coming along on weekenders and sometimes even three- to five-day trips, depending on other considerations and necessities.
All the lightweight chairs that I have tried until now were all of the simple “monofold” (Crazy Creek) type, either standalone or ones that work with a self-inflating mattress. The welcome introduction (for my aging bones) of inflatable mattresses has worked against the latter type, because they just don’t work well with a full-length, two-inch-thick mattress. It was always hassle converting between uses anyway.
When I read some rave reviews of this little beauty, I immediately thought “his and her Christmas presents!” The Zero is pricey enough that I broached the idea with my wife (rather than spring a surprise at Christmas), and she was in favor. With a 20%-off-any-one-item sale going on at a local retailer we hustled right on down, tried out the Zero, and compared it with a couple of other, somewhat heavier, but also less expensive, backpacker’s chairs. Despite the reservations noted below, we set a premium on the saved ounces and got us a couple.
We tried them out on a car-camping weekend, just enough to get a first impression. When we tried them out in the shop, we both noticed a soft spot at the lower back; where other chairs gave some support down there, in the Zero it was missing. But it’s so light! So with the discount bringing the price down to under $100, we got a brace of them anyway.
I felt the same soft spot on my lower back when we sat around in them at camp, and cooncluded that the chair just wasn't sized for a tall guy like me. Then after I posted my initial review, another user ponted out that I seemed to have the sling rotated 180˚(see comments below) -- the logo on the chair in the picture above should be on the lower right. The assembly instructions are printed on the back of the sling, and to me (and I think to the people in the shop) it was only natural that they should go right side up on the back rather than under the thighs. There's no indication of the correct rotation in the assembly instructions, so I think it's an understandable error.
Now that I've tried it the other way round it's much better, but I'm finding that I'm sort of locked into a single sitting position, with my long legs stretched out front. People with shorter legs might get a little more variety. My old monofolder has an adjustable angle that offers a little more variety.
I wouldn’t dream of using the Zero inside a tent because the four legs could potentially damage the floor. I see that Helinox makes a weight spreader to help keep the legs from sinking into sand or soft ground, another potential problem, but that adds 5 ounces and I still wouldn’t trust it on a tent floor.
But during our weekend test, where were using a tent with a roomy vestibule, it occurred to me to try sitting in the vestibule in the Zero, thinking that in inclement weather it might be desirable to be able to do so. Fully loaded, it puts your butt about 6.5 inches off the ground, so using it in a ca. 40 inch high vestibule was a no-go for me, whereas a ground-level monofolder might work just fine. I guess that's just a trade-off, because it is nice to get up off the ground a bit.
Otherwise it's a beautiful piece of design in a very light package. In the stuff sack it weighs in at 505 g, just shy of 18 oz, so it doesn’t quite meet the one pound goal, but it feels feather light. The frame is shock-corded together so that it is effectively one piece, so putting it together and folding it back up is a breeze.
The molded “knuckles” that hold it all together are a bit bulky but made of some kind of tough plastic that handles the weight and flexing well. I haven’t tested the given 265 pound load limit (I would need to sit in it with nearly 100 pounds in my lap—my wife weighs a bit more than that…) but I believe that it should be able to handle it no problem.
The folded-up package is small enough to fit into a water bottle pocket on the outside of a pack or wouldn’t take up much room in the main compartment.
Before I was notified of my mistake, I was thinking I would return my Zero because I just couldn't get comfortable in it for very long. But now that I've got it turned around the right way I'm really looking forward to having it along on my next backpacking trip. But I'd still suggest potentials buyers to go to a shop and "try before you buy".
Having made fun of such chairs carried by other backpackers,…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $119.95
Having made fun of such chairs carried by other backpackers, I had to eat my words this summer when I caved in and bought the Helinox Chair Zero.
- Legs can sink into soft ground
I consider myself an ultralight backpacker, a veteran of many decades. My current pack weight for a week on the trail usually comes in at about 20-23 pounds (depending on bear canister or no), including food, so to consider adding a whole POUND of weight to my load required a monumental trade-off. For me, this chair is well worth the extra pound of weight.
Some of the earlier folding chairs come in at about 2 pounds, and that is completely out of the question, but when Helinox came out with this one at half that weight, it got my interest.
I've had the chair for about 6 months, and I've carried it on one 9-day trip and a number of shorter ones, and I have many good impressions. I occasionally get some lower back pain when bending over to set up camp, so it's good to have a place to sit and relax completely when done. Can't do that sitting on a rock or on a bear canister. No back support. This chair gives me that option. It is low enough to cook with the stove sitting on the ground, and also low enough to use sitting just outside the tent while organizing the inside, inflating air pad, laying out sleeping bag, etc.
It folds up small enough to easily fit inside my pack, or to tie to the outside if I need the additional inside space for a bear canister. Setup and break down is fast and simple.
Because of the low height, some of us older folks might find it a little harder to get up from it, compared to getting up off a bear canister, for comparison. However, that is of little consequence when you learn that you can just push up with your hands on the front supports when standing.
The only other problem, common to all of these chairs with four individual legs, is that it tends to sink into the soft sand on beach or desert terrain. And because of the individual legs, you definitely do not want to sit on it inside your tent, if the tent has a floor.
Bottom line, I can no longer make fun of others who carry chairs. And, this is the best of them all.