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PADI Scuba Instructor
Hunter Bierce is a PADI Scuba Instructor and multidisciplinary outdoor professional.

PRODUCT REVIEW

GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker

GCI Outdoors has built their entire identity around well-executed folding chairs that take things well outside of the box. Their Freestyle Rocker is one of 10 “outdoor rockers” they’ve developed over the years, and we’ve had the chance to take it for a spin–or a rocking, as it were.

Though it’s light on features and padding, the Freestyle Rocker was a dominant contender in our top-of-the-season lineup and worthy of investigation for anyone seeking a unique mid-range model.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4

Reasons to buy

  • The rocker function works well and is an excellent overall feature
  • Folds flat for easy storage and transport
  • Padded armrests
  • The steel frame is durable and holds up under some serious rocking
  • The upright seat feels great on your back

Reasons NOT to buy

  • There is a serious disparity in quality between batches and sellers
  • The padding on the armrests leave much to be desired
  • The cupholder feels more like an afterthought than a feature

Comfort

You can’t put enough emphasis on comfort, particularly when it comes to this style of frontside camping chair where weight tends to be less of an issue. The Freestyle Rocker has a distinctive feel, and I’d put it on the firmer end of the spectrum compared to most other models.

The seat is more akin to a fold-out director’s chair or Coleman’s Classic Aluminum Deck Chair than it is the soccer-game collapsible style that you see more of nowadays. This was one of my favorite features. Instead of constantly fighting to remain upright or succumbing to pill-bug posture, I felt the Freestyle Rocker adequately supported my lower back. Combined with the rocker action that we’ll cover later, this was a great way to kick back without lying down.

I’m the type of person who needs a firm mattress and loves sleeping on the ground, so the staunch approach to this chair was a big hit for me. The broad back and seat allowed me to sit naturally, without feeling confined around the hips and thighs. The only place I took issue with the austerity was in the armrests. The sole padding around the steel frame is a thin tube of foam-padded nylon, free to flop and slide around at its own discretion.

Despite some disappointment with the details, what I appreciated most about the Freestyle Rocker is that it is first and foremost a chair as opposed to a travel cooler or umbrella. The seat itself was wide enough that I could sit without any restriction around the hips and thighs. This was a huge plus for me after spending so much time squeezing into ultralight backpacking chairs. I felt like I could relax and enjoy myself without knocking my knees together.

The posture and padding of the Freestyle Rocker are divisive elements. Though for all of the talk about the severity of its design, I think that the rocker feature makes the chair a bit more comfortable than you’d expect. The Freestyle Rocker is closer in spirit to a wooden rocking chair than it is a hammock; you can take things easy but won’t have to dig yourself out of a nylon pit after a couple of hours.

See the complete list of the best Camping Chairs here!

GCI freestyle rocking chair for camping

GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker: Key Specifications

  • Weight: 12lbs 1.2oz (measured)
  • Capacity: 250lbs
  • Materials: Steel frame, nylon mesh seat and back
  • Spring-loaded rocking technology
  • One cup holder

Where to Buy:

Features

My biggest concern with the Freestyle Rocker is the limited number of features and the lackluster execution of the few add-ons it offers. Except for the “Rocker” mechanism (which I’d have a hard time coming up with any legitimate critiques of), the Freestyle Rocker provides little in the way of amenities. Usually, the density and execution of these play a significant role in how well we rank a chair.

In the same way that the armrests felt like they underdelivered, the cupholder seems like more of an afterthought than something seriously considered on the drawing board. Though GCI Outdoors has taken steps to address this in their other “rocker” models, it seems like this flagship version suffered from some conceptual tunnel vision. The Freestyle Rocker leans too heavily on the all-terrain rocker gimmick without realizing the full potential of what the chair could be.

This brings us to the “rocker” itself. The chair doesn’t work like a traditional, front-porch rocking chair with curved struts. Instead, two spring pistons on the back leg allow the fore and aft motion with limited recoil. The design is preferable for any outdoor environment because you’re in no way beholden to perfectly level and smooth ground in order to enjoy stable and smooth rocking. Over time you might get some dirt buildup around the pistons, but a little silicone lubricant will help clean things up and preserve the range of motion.

I’d say that the feeling of the Freestyle Rocker is awfully close to your classic “front porch” rocking chair. The pistons max out right around the point that you’d tell a kid to calm down, and the forward motion is limited by a rubber foot to keep you from getting bucked out. All-told, the Freestyle Rocker is impressive right where you’d expect it to be. I’m of the opinion that the well-tooled rocker action makes up for the otherwise slim feature list.

freestyle rocking chair camping GCI

Ease of Transport/Storage

As mentioned, the Freestyle Rocker’s shape is closer to a director’s chair than a folding camp chair. Instead of a svelte storable unit that you can slide into a carrying sleeve, you’re left with a twisted pancake of steel springs and nylon. There’s a nice little handle on the side that makes carrying the chair pretty manageable over short distances, but I’d prefer not to walk more than a couple of minutes at a time while lugging it around with me.

Storage is a little bit more complicated. While the flat, flounderish design of the collapsed chair makes it a pinch for long-term stowaways, by that same merit, it doesn’t stack very well in a packed car unless it’s at the bottom of your gear pile. It’s less than ideal to have to explode the contents of your entire vehicle upon arrival at the campsite just because you want to sit down. With some extra space or clever packing, it’s possible to avoid this issue; but worth considering if you’re intending on doing a lot of car camping.

how to fold rocking chair camping portable foldable

Setup and Usability

Another thing that can be said for the Freestyle Rocker is that it’s straightforward to set up and collapse for all of its moving parts. When folded, you only need to spread the armrests like a director’s chair and push the seat down until it locks into place. Putting it away takes a little more finesse. Though the handle labeled “Lift to Fold” takes much of the guesswork out of it. The trick is lifting the seat up separate from the armrests to get the frame to collapse.

Beyond the setup, the Freestyle Rocker doesn’t require any additional prep before you’re ready to rock. Finding a reasonably flat place to deploy your chair spot is the only barrier between you and tranquility. However, it’s worth touching on the fact that a little bit of maintenance goes a long way towards the chair’s long-term functionality.

Price

Coming in at just over $60, the Freestyle Rocker falls in step right between the budget models that we’ve reviewed and high-end luxury camp chairs. Speaking from a value standpoint, I think that this follows pretty closely with what you’re getting out of it. Despite the rather ascetic feature situation, the Freestyle Rocker is a solidly built chair with a carrying capacity that backs up the integrity of its construction. I think that the “rocker” action may feel gimmicky in origin, but myself and everyone I’ve forced to try it out has eventually conceded that the feature is, indeed, pretty sweet.

Is it worth the price? That depends on what you value. If you want the plushest, comfortable option out there, I would check out the Nemo Stargazer or other high-end options instead. If you want a feature-rich picnic parader, set your sights on models from Coleman and the like. But, if you want to rock, then, by all means, GCI will take you there and back again on this Freestyle Rocker.

Other Models

All told, GCI Outdoor manufactures ten different rocking chairs. The Firepit Rocker looks the closest to the Freestyle Rocker but much more compact and lower to the ground. While the Roadtrip Rocker has a lot of the same function; but folds up like a traditional camp chair, so it’s a little easier to store and carry around with you. Beyond this, GCI makes outdoor rockers with all kinds of features, from their Kickback Rocker, allowing for a little more relaxed backward lean while you’re lounging to models like the Sunshade Rocker that features a collapsible awning (Similar to the Maxshade) to keep the sun off of you.

You can tell that GCI has branched out conceptually and listened to customer feedback regarding their flagship Freestyle model. If it seems too vanilla for you, these updated versions come with pockets, padding, and reimagined seats. Their other models take everything we love about the Freestyle Rocker and throw in some tweaks and additional features certainly worth investigating.

Beyond their rocker models, GCI Outdoor makes more chairs than I could ever hope to cover within the scope of this article. Between stadium seats to stools and beyond, they have a truly staggering selection. Outside of GCI, you can look at our camp chair overview page as well as our favorites from across the industry to see how the Freestyle Rocker stacks up and for more in-depth looks at our top contenders.

freestyle rocking chair cupholder folding camping

Summary

Though less than impressed with some of the finer details of the GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker, we nonetheless believe that it’s among our favorite chairs currently on the market. The rocker function has much more merit than a simple novelty writeoff.

Despite a gimmicky feel, it’s dependable and comfortable enough to have earned a permanent place on the westward-facing portion of my porch. I’ll admit that in this case, seeing is believing, and it’s a detail that you grow to appreciate the longer you spend in the chair.

If you’re considering the Freestyle Rocker as your next camp chair commitment, find a model to try out and prepare to have your world rocked.

See the complete list of the best Camping Chairs here!

What We Like

  • The rocker function works well and is an excellent overall feature
  • Folds flat for easy storage and transport
  • Padded armrests
  • The steel frame is durable and holds up under some serious rocking
  • The upright seat feels great on your back

What We Don’t Like

  • There is a serious disparity in quality between batches and sellers
  • The padding on the armrests leave much to be desired
  • The cupholder feels more like an afterthought than a feature

Where to Buy:

Where to Buy:

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about GCI Outdoor Freestyle Rocker

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    How to fold up my GCI Rocking Chair?

    Getting your GCI chair set up is a cinch, but folding it back up again can seem a little cryptic with all of the bars and moving parts, but thankfully it’s much easier than it looks after a bit of practice.

    How to fold up my GCI Rocking Chair

    • Locate the strap labeled “Lift Handle to Fold” on the right side of the seat
    • Lift the handle and seat upwards, independent of the armrests
    • Continue lifting until the entire chair is collapsed flat

    For more on our favorite GCI Rocker, take a look at our comprehensive review here. For more resources to help you pick the perfect camp chair for you, check out our buyer’s guide, and our top camp chairs for our favorites of this season.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    How to oil Freestyle Rocker Chair?

    If your Freestyle Rocker or other GCI Rocking chair starts to squeak, it might be time to invest in a bit of WD-40 and silicone lubricant to get things working smoothly again. Initially, you’ll want to spray WD-40 near where the shock meets the foot of the chair or around the shock itself if it looks particularly grimy or dirty. Apply some spray-on silicone lubricant to the shock, and your rocking action should be much smoother and quieter.

    For a closer look at the Freestyle Rocker, take a look at our in-depth review. If you’re interested in what makes the best camp chair, our buyer’s guide details all of the makings of a perfect chair, and for our favorites, take a look at our top contenders of the season.

     

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    Where to buy GCI Outdoor Chairs?

    One of the best parts about GCI Outdoor’s products and the Freestyle Rocker, in particular, is their wide availability. Retailers such as REI, Walmart, Amazon, and plenty of local hardware stores keep them in supply, and you can order them online as well.

    Where to order GCI Outdoor Rockers Online

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    Which GCI Outdoor Rocker is best?

    With nearly a dozen different rocking chairs to choose from, deciding which of GCI Outdoor’s all-terrain rocking chairs is right for you is no easy task. Thankfully, even with their most basic Freestyle Rocker is one of our favorite chairs currently on the market. If you want to kick it up a notch and see what else they have to offer, here’s a shortlist of their other exciting models.

    Best GCI Outdoor Rockers

    • Pod Rocker
    • Sunshade Rocker
    • Freestyle Rocker
    • Roadtrip Rocker
    • Comfort Pro Rocker

    If you like the sounds of a GCI Outdoor Rocker and want to find out what we love about them, look at our buyer’s guide for all the details you could want on camp chairs. For an in-depth look at the Freestyle Rocker, you can read our review here or check out our favorites of the season to see how it stacks up against the competition.

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    What is the most comfortable camping chair?

    Comfort is king when it comes to camp chairs, and we’ve put some serious man-hours into finding out which is the best for every occasion.

    Most comfortable camp chairs:

    For more details on what to look for in your next camp chair, head over to our buyer’s guide. And to see how these listed stack up against the rest of the competition, take a look at our favorites of the season for a comprehensive overview.

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