Select Page
summer worsley

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

PRODUCT REVIEW

REI Flexlite Camping Chair

Backpacking chairs are a contentious concept in a culture concerned with keeping your packed weight as low as possible. We’ve tested plenty of lightweight backpacking chairs in our quest to find the best of the best and have consistently walked away disappointed in the comfort level of top-end models- except for the Flexlite.

Though largely outshined in terms of weight, REI’s Flexlite chair is still a strong contender in the running for top lightweight backpacking options because of its staunch practicality and comparative comfort level.

Our Overall Review

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

4.3

Reasons to buy

  • Taller than a lot of the competition, so it's easier to get in and out of
  • Wider seat than most other lightweight backpacking chairs
  • A little more accessible to set up than some of the alternatives
  • Our favorite crossover option for backpacking and everyday use
  • REI puts some effort into sustainability sourcing their materials

Reasons NOT to buy

  • On the heavy end for something that you'd want to take backpacking
  • No pockets, cupholders, etc.

Comfort

Perhaps the most resounding commendation I can give REI’s Flexlite is it’s the only chair that I’ve tested in the lightweight category that I’d bring to a BBQ. Most backpacking-oriented options have narrow and low-slung seats that make them 1.) hard to get into and 2.) not much fun to sit in for long periods. I found the Flexlite more akin to a pod-style house chair and had a considerably easier time sitting down and standing up than comparable models.

I’d describe the attitude as relaxed–the Flexlite favors a canted back, casual approach that allows for a little backward lean. The high and wide back is unique within its category; I noticed that the top poles didn’t dig into my shoulder blades as they did with the Chair Zero or Marchway’s Ultralight Chair. The same can be said for the seat.

The Flexlite is all-around bigger than most of its contemporaries. This was never more apparent than when I sat down, and my thighs weren’t touching. Being able to maintain a natural seated position regardless of having wider hips was a huge boon and goes to further my position that the Flexlite punches way above its weight class in the comfort category.

Unfortunately, this increase in comfort comes at the expense of a not insignificant number of ounces.

See the complete list of the best Camping Chairs here!

rei flexlite comfort

REI Flexlite Camping Chair: Key Specifications

  • Packed weight: 1lb 13.6oz (measured)
  • Assembled weight: 1lb 12.8oz (measured)
  • Capacity: 250lbs
  • Materials: Aluminum frame, ripstop polyester
  • DWR fabric finish to prevents soaking and stains
  • Bluesign approved materials help meet sustainability goals
  • Also available in a larger size with a taller back

Where to Buy:

Weight and Packability

If you could cut the weight of the Flexlite in half, it would be hands-down the best backpacking chair on the market. As it stands, at a few ounces shy of the 2lb mark, it’s nearly twice as heavy as current leading models.

The virtue of bringing a chair along on any kind of extended backpacking trip is already very much in question, so those considering the Flexlite will want to “weigh” their decision carefully. I’d rule it out for thru-hiking or any kind of expeditionary travel on the merit of weight alone. But for slackpacking or trips with limited elevation gain, it’s still well within the realm of an appropriate luxury item.

However, the packed dimensions of the Flexlite are much less of an issue. Compared to lightweight, low-volume models like the Chair Zero, there is only a slight difference in size. But the total additional packed volume is well worth the exchange when you consider the extra space and comfort you gain upon setup.

If you’ve already committed to making room in your pack for a chair, there’s no reason that you can’t justify opting for the Flexlite.

rei flexlite packability

Setup

There’s nothing incredibly unique about the setup of the Flexlite. It’s the standard process for your four-legged tent pole style chair. Everything comes out of the bag like an elastic-corded marionette, and the poles slot together very intuitively with a little provocation on your part.

I think the most difficult part about deploying it is figuring out which way the seat goes on. There have been a few instances (particularly in low-light scenarios) where I’ve managed to get the fabric stretched out every single way but the correct one.

The Flexlite differs from other backpacking chairs that I’ve tested in that the central pole runs from the front to back rather than across the seat, though this discrepancy doesn’t do much to change the setup process. Instead, it allows for the chair’s more relaxed style and high back- it’s a nice little detail that adds a lot to performance aspects that I valued over the course of testing.

rei flexlite setup

Price

The Flexlite outshines the competition in comfort, but it also does so at an appreciable value. The baseline model can be found in-store or online for around 60 dollars. Nearly half the price of premium ultralight models such as the Chair Zero and the Skyline UL from Big Agnes, the Flexlite is a great option for anyone who has an easier time rationalizing weight over price.

There’s almost a direct exchange- half the price for double the heft. In the case of ultralight gear, there are diminishing returns between the amount of money you dump into a product and how much better it actually is than alternatives. Optimizing is expensive, and that’s something you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re already considering something that is primarily considered a luxury item.

Other Models

By my reckoning, REI’s Flexlite lands squarely in the middle of the pack for backpacking chairs. If you’re looking for alternatives, your biggest decision point is figuring out how much of a chair you actually need.

If you’re cringing at the weight and the idea of spending 100+ dollars, I’d highly encourage you to turn your sights towards the “sit-pad” category. Not only do these cost significantly less, but they make even the lightest full-sized backpacking chair seem like a pile of rocks in the pack. Products like the REI Flash Sit Pad or Therm-a-Rest’s Z Seat can get a barrier between you and the ground- and at the end of the day, that’s all you really need.

For more fleshed-out and fully realized chairs, our main point of comparison is the Chair Zero from Helinox. Big Agnes’ Skyline UL Chair is very similar, in the 1lb weight class with similar packability and a hefty price tag. On the budget end, Marchway’s Ultralight Folding Chair espouses the essential qualities we seek in our backpacking options for only 30 dollars, with a big step down in quality.

If none of these options sound good to you, an ultralight stool might be more in line with what you’re searching for. More often than not, they hit the sweet spot between affordability, justifiable weight, and reasonable affordability.

There are also a few versions of the Flexlite itself. Those interested in an even lighter alternative for backpacking should turn their attention to the Flexlite Air. The Camp Boss model is the same concept, just bigger and sturdier, more suitable as a frontside camp chair than anything you’d want to bring backpacking. The same can be said for the Flexlite Dreamer, which is similar to the Camp Boss with the addition of pockets, a higher back, and a removable pillow for stargazing or a fireside snooze.

Summary

Out of all of the backpacking models that I’ve had the chance to try, the Flexlite is the only one I could consciously say holds up to my comfort expectations. On top of that, its price is only bested by cheaper options where durability starts to be a concern. It collapses small enough to store away reasonably well in a pack, and the only significant drawback compared to true ultralight models is the weight.

I’m of the mind that if weight is your only major concern with a backpacking chair, you would be better served by something less expensive and more straightforward (in other words, a sit pad). For the kinds of trips that I would bring a chair on, the uptick in weight is an easy write-off when you consider the comfort and the casual attitude of the Flexlite, and for this reason, I can say for sure that it’s among my favorites of the backpacking chairs that I’ve tried out.

See the complete list of the best Camping Chairs here!

What We Like

  • Taller than a lot of the competition, so it's easier to get in and out of
  • Wider seat than most other lightweight backpacking chairs
  • A little more accessible to set up than some of the alternatives
  • Our favorite crossover option for backpacking and everyday use
  • REI puts some effort into sustainability sourcing their materials

What We Don’t Like

  • On the heavy end for something that you'd want to take backpacking
  • No pockets, cupholders, etc.

Where to Buy:

Where to Buy:

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about REI Flexlite Camping Chair

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    How to put together an REI Flexlite chair?

    Assembling your REI Flexlite chair is just like putting together any other “tent-pole” style backpacking chair. After you get it out of its carrying case, the frame should snap together without much effort, thanks to the elastic cord that binds the individual segments.

    After you have the frame assembled, simply situate the fabric seat so that the longer “back” portion is facing vertically, and begin slotting the ends of the poles into the reinforced notches sewn into the seat. You should be able to get the seat on with a little bit of effort, and then your Flexlite is ready to go.

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

    There are a few key characteristics to look for in a backpacking chair- weight and packability being the most important. We’ve tested many different options based on these standards while also taking into account factors such as comfort and price, assembling this shortlist of our favorite backpacking options.

    Best Backpacking Chairs:

    For more on our methods of selection and categorization, our buyer’s guide is rife with all the details you need about camp chairs. If you need some help figuring out what chair is suitable for you, look at our best-of list for side-by-side comparisons of the top options currently available.

     

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    How much should a backpacking chair weigh?

    Only you can decide how much weight you want to allocate to luxury backpacking items like a camp chair. That being said, not all chairs are appropriate for backcountry travel, and not all backpacking chairs are of the same quality. A good rule of thumb is to limit the weight of a big accessory like this to around 2lbs at the most, and don’t expect to have much room for other nonessential items.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    Should I take a chair backpacking?

    Deciding on whether you should bring a chair on your next backpacking trip is mainly dependent on what kind of trip you plan on taking. For slackpacking or lowland forest travel, it makes sense to leave a little bit of room for comfort items like hammocks, harmonicas, and even chairs- but for elevation-oriented trips and mountaineering, you are probably best off leaving such luxury items at home.

    If you’re interested in the best barriers between you and the ground, our best-of chairs article covers all the top picks from this season across every variety of chair out there. For more on our criteria and how to decide what type of chair is best for you, check out our buyer’s guide

  • 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 might 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 *