It was this winter camp which finally convinced us that camping chairs would be a good investment on sea kayaking trips. A bitterly cold evening sat on just on the ground with the cold penetrating upwards was followed by.....
...a frigid morning several degrees below zero. Mike, Douglas and I camp regularly both in the mountains and on sea kayak trips; in all seasons and in all kinds of weather. Whilst backpacking I tend to keep things reasonably light, but with the sapce available in a sea kayak there seems no good reason not to pack a chair to make things a bit more comfortable.
Douglas and Mike purchased Helinox chairs shortly after this trip, and having done some research I came to the same choice; I've now used the chair for two years in a variety of situations from summer and winter wild camping, in bothies, at camp sites, for family picnics and as an extra chair when the house was full of folk.
Helinox are a Korean company specialising in lightweight, innovative outdoor equipment. If you've not heard of them (I hadn't before researching folding chairs....) then you may well be familiar with their best known products, the respected DAC series of tent poles. The European dealer is Nigor BV based in the Netherlands.
The Chair One is designed as a lightweight but strong folding camp chair capable of supporting up to 145Kg. The frame is constructed of DAC TH72M shock corded pole sections which are thicker and more robust than the average tent pole. The frame connects to a pair of moulded attachments and the seat is then attached to the ends of the poles - as shown on the video on the Helinox website. The whole thing folds down and stows in the supplied zipped bag. Total weight is 960 grams and the pack size is surprisingly small.
It has to be said that the Chair One is in no way a budget product, retailing at around £95 in the UK. There are other desings and some close approximations of the Helinox design for less money, but none have the quality of the Chair One. Right from unpacking the chair the quality and design are plain to see, the frame is strong and the design is good - everything fits just as it should and after extended use shows no sign of becoming loose or sagging.
The seat fabric is a robust and quite stiff cordura type material with panels of mesh at the back and lower sides for ventilation; the pockets into which the pole ends fit are very strongly constructed.
After a few months of using the chair I slipped on a wet rock and fell onto it, placing a stress at an angle onto one pole section which it was never designed to take. Surprisingly, the pole didn't break but was slightly bent. At the end of the trip I contacted Nigor to see if I could purchase a replacement section, explaining that it wasn't a fault with the chair but my clumsiness which had damaged the pole. My email was answered within twenty minutes - a pole section would be despatched from Holland that day free of charge and postage. That level of customer service and the quality of the chair mean that I should be enjoying a seat for many years to come!
If there's a drawback with the Chair One (and most folding camp chairs) it's that the legs tend to dig into soft ground, snow, and or pebble beaches. Helinox have thought of this and there are two optional extras - a groundsheet which attaches to all the feet, and "ball feet" made of ABS plastic with silicone bases which push over the legs. We purchased the ball feet and have found that they transform the stability of the chair - they can stay on the legs and the whole thing still fits into the zipped pouch. The feet add about 250g in weight but are well worth considering.
So, it's a chair....... big deal you might think.....
But it really is! Comfort at camp sites is just so much better; one's backside and legs are raised off the ground and into a comfortable sitting position.
The angle of the back seems just right to relax and the Chair One is still comfortable after a couple of hours sitting, whether that's enjoying a sunset......
......or sitting around a fire. The seat height is 34cms without the ball feet, a couple of centimetres higher with the ball feet attached. This height is just right for me, and is a convenient height to be able to sit and stand comfortably.
The Helinox Chair One may not be the cheapest chair on the market, but it is a premium quality, lightweight and comfortable chair which should see many years of use. It packs small enough to easily fit in a sea kayak or rucsack. Mine lives in the car when it's not in my boat and goes on most trips with me - only if I'm lightweight backpacking do I revert to a piece of sit-mat.
There's a lot to be said for getting one's backside off cold, wet or tick-infested ground and chilly camps are now much more bearable!
Conflict of interest statement: I purchased my Chair One at retail price (less a club discount) from a national retailer and have no connection with Helinox or the retailer apart from being a satisfied customer.