How do you tell the difference between a crap camp chair and a good one? Do you simply go by price? Do you trust a known brand? Or do you just pick one and hope for the best "caus they’re all pretty much the same".
Well, there are big differences in both the build quality of camp chairs and in their feature specifications, so if you want to be a happy camper, it’s worth doing your research and having a good look around before you buy. Read and compare specifications, features and the different types of camp chairs that are available. Neither price nor brand is any guarantee you’ll get what you pay for.
If you're in-store, shop sales people can often bend your ear, and will be hoping for a purchase whilst you’re there. For this reason it can be easier to research online and make an informed decision from the comfort of your lounge room before you buy. Compare like for like, price against price and feature against feature.
Firstly, you need to decide what kind of camp chair best suits your needs - Directors Chair? Folding Chair? Ultralight? A low slung Beach Chair? Or maybe a fixed arm Flat Fold Chair? The classic folding camp chair is the most popular and common choice, if you just want a chair to sit in!
Once you've sorted what type of camp chair you're after, next is figure out how much you want to pay. Remember, if it seems cheap it probably is, but also note some expensive chairs are deceptively poor quality, as often build quality across a range from the cheapest to most expensive model is the same, with just superfluous features added on to create price point difference. Beware of spot specials and clearances, as you’ll notice the best chairs are rarely on sale.
So, type of chair and price point sorted, next look closely at the specification. At the end of the day if you’re doing any amount of sitting in your chair you’ll need heavy duty construction and hi-end frame spec. A chair that is well engineered with a strong frame and a decent heavy duty fabric will last.
Tuff Arse Trunk is an iconic 'classic' folding camp chair, and a good example of a quality built chair that's engineered to last. It’s a traditional folding design, and features a 22mm hi-tensile steel tube frame, powder coated for rust protection. It's quad leg design means the frame has two additional front vertical legs giving extra strength and increasing load capacity. The frame also features cross brace hubs which stabilise against lateral movement and provide greater torsional rigidity.
The fabric covering a chair is also critical, as a poor quality lightweight fabric will deteriorate quickly with the effects of UV light and moisture, becoming brittle over time and tear. Look for a heavy duty 600 Denier grade Polyester like Trunk uses, and reinforced stitching along the joins, especially on the arms. The most common failure point of most camping chairs is the load points where the fabric hangs from the frame, these sections should be well stitched and reinforced for extra strength.
Chair carry bags are another common point of failure, and often result in chairs being damaged whilst in storage or transit. Thin, cheap nylon drawstring bags will tear, and are difficult to get chairs in and out of. Look for a heavy duty fabric carry bag, preferably with a dual direction zipper, like Trunk has.
Overall weight is also important, as often un-needed features significantly increase the bulk and weight of a chair. Some full size camp chairs can weigh up to 8 or 9 kgs and need an oversized bag. The Tuff Arse Trunk weighs in at a packed weight of 6.4 kgs even with its hi-end construction specification.
A sum of all these factors is the load bearing capacity - good construction and materials will give a chair a high load rating. Most camp chairs are rated at around 130kgs, whereas the Tuff Arse Trunk is rated to a load capacity of 200kgs. Whilst any chair is unlikely to sustain a load of this magnitude the over engineering means the chair's construction will last through many years of rough and sustained use. So this is what makes a good camp chair. If you want your camp chair to last, this is what you should be looking for.