Select Page
summer worsley

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

PRODUCT REVIEW

Helinox Chair Zero

The Helinox Chair Zero is a much-celebrated backpacking chair that has earned a near-legendary reputation for balancing low weight with reasonable comfort. With all of the hype surrounding the Chair Zero, we here at Divein felt obligated to run it through the gauntlet to see if it lives up to the notoriety.

While undoubtedly a crazy light and well-engineered piece of gear, we’ve had to begrudgingly accept that Helinox’s Chair Zero isn’t the miracle chair we had hoped for.

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

  • Incredibly low weight
  • Durable ripstop seat is perfect for roughing it
  • Foolproof setup
  • More comfortable than most chairs in this class
  • Tons of accessories and add ons available

Reasons NOT to buy

  • The seat is a little tight for large people
  • It's a long way down to the chair if you're tall
  • Quite pricey

Comfort

I found some issues with the Chair Zero, but I’d like to open by saying that it’s overall an excellent piece of equipment. Within the paradoxical world of luxury backpacking items, there isn’t much that can hold a candle to it. At the very least, it’s more comfortable than the cold, wet ground and not much more trouble to carry than a water bottle.

I really wanted the Chair Zero to be everything that it promised–the lightweight and practical alternative to an eggshell seat pad I’ve spent years in search of. I’m a big guy at 6’5, so a lightweight and comfortable camping chair is something special.

best camping chair lightweight

Unfortunately, the quest for the Holy Grail continues, and the very thing that makes the Chair Zero so appealing–its ridiculously low weight–limits its comfort when compared to heavier models.

I felt that the seat was too narrow. I had to sit with my thighs zipped together to feel like I wasn’t spilling over the edges of the chair. Settling into the chair took some time and balance, eventually giving in and leaning back into the disconcerting flex of the aluminum poles. It’s fine once you land and relax, but the real struggle is getting into the chair.

It’s pretty low to the ground, approximately 7in between the seat and feet. There’s a real risk of pitching over backward if you come in too hot on your landing. While doing some preliminary testing in the park, the local fire department happened to be nearby. I had them give all of the chairs on our best-of list a try–two of the five ended up on the ground trying out the Chair Zero. The heaviest among us drove the rear legs down into the soft grass like tent stakes.

All of us who tried it were adult men of varying height, but the overall consensus was the Chair Zero ranked well below other, more sizable backpacking chairs such as the REI Flexlite.

But despite these criticisms, by no means do I think that the Helinox Chair Zero is a total bust. Ultimately you have to acknowledge that nine times out of ten, it’s better than sitting on the ground. And if you’re 6 feet and under you might not notice the crunch.

See the complete list of the best Camping Chairs here!

helinox chair zero comfort

Helinox Chair Zero: Key Specifications

  • Packed Weight: 1lb 2.2 oz (measured)
  • Assembled Weight: 1lb 1.6oz (Measured)
  • Capacity: 265 lbs
  • Materials: Ripstop polyester, Featherlite aluminum alloy poles

Where to Buy:

Features

It follows that if you’re interested in an ultralight backing chair, you’ll want to keep the weight down as much as possible-meaning not much in the way of amenities. Because of this, Helinox keeps all accessories modular so you can get ahold of what you need and nothing more.

Some of my favorite accessories include a detachable cupholder that snaps onto the chair’s frame and insulated seat warmers to keep the wind and cold air from biting through the seat’s fabric.

Beyond this, there are slings and carrying pouches for transporting your chair when you don’t plan on throwing it in your backpack. There are also groundsheets to add some float on soft surfaces where legs start to sink and sets of ball feet to add a little more stability. Finally, Helinox also sells a chair anchor with a stake that you can drive into the ground, designed to keep your chair from blowing away if the wind happens to pick up when you’re not in it.

helinox chair zero features

Weight and Packability

When we’re talking about backpacking chairs, there are only two factors you should be concerned with: how much it weighs and how much space it takes up in your pack. You really can’t do much better than the Chair Zero in this category.

I’m constantly surprised–more so by the volume than the packed weight. I found myself putting the Chair Zero in my day pack on longer day hikes. I would never have believed I’d bring a chair backpacking, much less on a day hike, before getting my hands on this.

With the negligible heft and size, it wasn’t much more trouble to bring the chair along essential hiking gear, even in my 20L pack. It’s also fun to gloat over your hiking buddies while they search for a dry place to sit.

helinox chair zero packability

Setup

This style of four-legged backpacking chair has a fairly consistent build regardless of the manufacturer. A constant theme with the Chair Zero is that it does everything the same, but a little bit better than the competition. Differences are subtle but cumulatively impressive- beyond weight and volume, this is most apparent during the setup process.

Helinox employs the typical pole and elastic shock-cord configuration found in most backpacking chairs, but the central pole is fixed onto the brackets that the legs and structural poles slot into. This small detail means that legs won’t flop around during assembly. It makes it so easy that putting together the chair’s frame can be done with one hand.

From there, the seat slips onto the frame. Initially, it takes a little bit of effort, and you have to force it. I’ve used the chair a fair amount, and the fabric has stretched to the point where I no longer feel like I’m going to snap the aluminum. The final touch (and one that I might appreciate the most) is an arrow on the rear of the seat reading “this side up.”

It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but with other models such as REI’s Flexlite, I’ve put the fabric on in all sorts of creative configurations–none suitable for sitting on.

Other Models

The Chair Zero is, in fact, not the lightest seat that Helinox manufacturers. That title belongs to the Speed Stool, weighing 1lb flat and streamlined down to just a fold-out setup. Though the weight difference is slight, if you’re looking for the lightest possible option that will still keep you off the ground, it’s the way to go. Their Ground Chair weighs just over 1lb 6oz, and it’s a great way to stay within the ultralightweight class but retain a little more stability and comfort than the Chair Zero.

Also of note are the variations of the Chair One, which is an excellent alternative to their ultralight models if you don’t need the lightest possible option. The Chair One XL, the Swivel Chair, and the Incline Festival Chair are all worth taking a look at for those who want a little more flavor or excitement in their chair. The Chair Two is a high-backed option that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor furniture, with a minimalist and streamlined design- they’re certainly the most elegant camp chair that I’ve ever seen.

From other brands in the ultralight category, we’ve had the chance to take a closer look at the REI Flexlite and Marchway’s Ultralight Chair- both are comparable to the Chair Zero in build packability- but with a little more weight. We found that they balanced the weight tradeoff with value and increased comfort. We’ve also found that the Big Agnes Skyline UL is highly competitive against our favorite backpacking options.

See the complete list of the best Camping Chairs here!

Summary

I found plenty of things that I didn’t like about the Helinox Chair Zero, but I think that most of that can be attributed to my expectations coming into it. As is always the case with ultralight gear, you accept some concessions to save on weight, and the most glaring issues of the Chair Zero are directly related to how impressively small and light it is.

The only way to shave off more weight is to go for something that could only be tenuously classified as a chair–and you won’t find many other backpacking chairs that have the durability and resilience that Helinox focuses on either. For all of its problems, you’ll have a hard time finding anything that comes close to the Chair Zero within the backpacking world.

What We Like

  • Incredibly low weight
  • Durable ripstop seat is perfect for roughing it
  • Foolproof setup
  • More comfortable than most chairs in this class
  • Tons of accessories and add ons available

What We Don’t Like

  • The seat is a little tight for large people
  • It's a long way down to the chair if you're tall
  • Quite pricey

Where to Buy:

Where to Buy:

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about Helinox Chair Zero

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    Are Helinox chairs worth it?

    Helinox has a reputation for making high-quality ultralight chairs for a wide variety of outdoor activities, but these come at a price. For anyone who is searching for the lightest and most packable backpacking chairs out there, Helinox is hard to beat. For more of our favorite lightweight backpacking options and others across the industry, look at our top camp chairs article. For details to help you figure out precisely what you need in your next chair, head on over to our buyer’s guide.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    What are the best lightweight camp chairs?

    The best lightweight camp chairs are ones that you can take with you anywhere- we’ve tested a wide range of models, and these are our favorites from across the industry.

    Best lightweight camp chairs:

    For more of our favorite camp chairs, head on over to our best-of list for the top picks in all categories. To see what goes into our leading competitors, and for more information on how to choose your next champ chair- our buyer’s guide has all the resources you could want and more.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    How do you pack a Helinox chair?

    Packing up your Helinox chair is a fairly straightforward endeavor, especially for their lighter backpacking models and camp chairs like the Chair Zero and Chair One, both by Helinox. After you pull the seat off, it’s just a matter of separating the poles from their joints and folding everything up, and laying the mass of poles flat along with the fixed central support. Then roll the poles up in the seat and slide the disassembled chair into the carrying bag.

    While Helinox makes several great lightweight chairs, they’re far from the only purveyor of high-quality, easy to assemble chairs on the market. For our takes on the best-of-the-best, head over to our top camp chairs page to see how Helinox stacks up against the competition. And for more on what to look for in your next chair, take a look at our buyer’s guide.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    How much do Helinox chairs weigh?

    Some Helinox chairs are among the lightest full-sized seats currently on the market. Whether you’re after an ultralight stool or something a little more fleshed-out, Helinox has you covered.

    Lightest Helinox chairs:

    • Helinox Ground Chair- 1lb 7oz
    • Helinox Chair Zero- 1lb 2oz
    • Helinox Chair One Mini- 1lb 2oz
    • Helinox Speed Stool- 1lb

    While Helinox makes a wide range of ultralight camp furniture, they’re far from the only ones out there. For more of our favorites across all categories of camp chairs, take a look at our best of the season page. And to help narrow down your search and figure out what you want out of your next piece of gear, our buyer’s guide offers a comprehensive overview of what to look for.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    Which Helinox chair is best for backpacking?

    The best Helinox chairs for backpacking are their lightest and most compact models. People searching for the lightest possible option should look to their Speed Stool, weighing in at only 1lb. Those who want a little more support would be well-served by their famed Chair Zero at 1lb 2oz.

    Helinox isn’t the one company out there making great backpacking chairs. To see how they stack up against the competition, look at our top picks from across the industry. For more on camp chairs and what goes into making a great one, our buyer’s guide has all the information you need to make an informed decision about your next backpacking chair.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    How do I choose a camp chair?

    The best way to choose a camp chair is to ask yourself how you plan on using it. From there, you can decide whether you want something big and comfortable or lightweight and portable. If you want to learn more about how camp chairs and what to look for in your next one, take a look at our buyer’s guide for all the information you could want on how to choose your next model. To see our favorites from across the industry, head over to our top camp chairs page for an overview of what’s currently out there.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *