The 10 Best Backpacking Chairs
Stop Squatting And Start Relaxing
And if you’ve just covered a score of grueling miles, it’s likely that you aren’t going to have the energy to search for something upon which to park yourself.
We totally know that you could hike off into the woods like Bear Grylls and survive for days, weeks even, with only a pocket knife and a compass. Luxury? Isn’t that something for casual day hikers who never learned to minimize their gear properly? Actually, there are some pretty good reasons to pack along one or two creature comfort items for your next distance, thru, or day hike, with the backpacking chair being an excellent top choice.
In the first place, while it’s true that some areas do indeed have natural seats, such as logs, not all areas are so blessed. There’s no guarantee, in other words, that you won’t have to sit on the ground. And if you’ve just covered a score of grueling miles, it’s likely that you aren’t going to have the energy to search for something upon which to park yourself. With a backpacking chair at the ready, you’ll be restfully seated in no time, and you won’t need to worry about the creepy crawlies skittering around on the ground.
There’s also the weather to consider. When people espouse the benefits of traveling without a backpacking chair, they offer solutions that make sense when it’s dry. But wet, muddy, or snowy ground is a reality that most hikers end up facing at some point, and it’s one that makes demands beyond comfort. If you’re already cold, you probably shouldn’t put yourself on wet ground with no insulation. You need to protect your body heat, which will be easier from a dry chair.
Think, too, that you’ll be able to eat in a comfortable position, which can greatly impact your mental state after a rough day on the trail. After you fuel up, you may want to read or play some cards with your hiking companions, activities that are less of a hassle when you’re seated comfortably. True, you can certainly do these things while seated on a stump, but have you ever really tried to sit with no back support for any length of time?
Finally, some truly amazing hikers have health challenges that make having a stable and supportive seat a must. If you have back pain, for instance, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to flop down on a cold, hard rock. Hike your own hike, as they say, and carry what you need to make you comfortable.
Backpacking Chair Design
Because backpacking requires allotting space wisely, chairs made specifically for this activity aren’t like those created for other recreations, including car camping. When you go car camping, your vehicle does most of the work of hauling your gear, meaning a chair can be larger or heavier without causing you too much extra effort. When you’re carrying everything on your back, however, you’ll definitely feel every extra ounce. That’s why backpacking chairs are usually lighter and smaller than typical camping chairs.
After a few uses, you should begin to feel comfortable with how to shift your weight.
Backpacking chairs also use design to capitalize on available room. Many are dual-purpose, a principle that’s crucial when space is at a premium. You’ll see backpacking chairs that function as tables or sleeping pads, which means less to carry. Another popular type cleverly uses the hiking poles that backpackers generally carry. When not in use, most backpacking chairs fold, roll, or compress into an easily packable size, a feat that designers achieve by omitting any pieces that are not absolutely critical to the chair’s functionality.
For this reason, many backpacking chairs take a little getting used to — don’t be surprised if you need to get in and out of one a few times before it feels natural. Often, these chairs don’t have the same type of supports as a typical camping chair, so you can’t press down or lean on them in a typical manner. After a few uses, you should begin to feel comfortable with how to shift your weight.
And, although it’s probably at the bottom of your list of concerns, some backpacking chairs do look pretty amazing. Designers today have an abundance of ultra-functional materials at their disposal, materials that repel water, weigh little, resist tearing, breathe well, and come in tons of colors. You might find yourself looking for any excuse to pop your chair out of your pack, just to show off a little.
A Brief History Of Backpacking The Appalachian Trail
Whether you’re new to hiking or you're an old pro, it’s likely that you’ve heard of the perennially popular Appalachian Trail. Sometimes called the A.T., this trail covers 2,190 miles between Georgia and Maine, hitting a total of 14 states along the way. While it’s estimated that between 2 and 3 million people hike portions of this trail every year, the number of “2,000 milers,” or those who walk the trail in its entirety, is much smaller, between 500 and 1,200 hikers each year.
The journey of self-discovery that is walking the length of the A.T. traces its origins back to 1948, when U.S. Army veteran Earl V. Shaffer reported the first thru-hike.
The journey of self-discovery that is walking the length of the A.T. traces its origins back to 1948, when U.S. Army veteran Earl V. Shaffer reported the first thru-hike. While this is considered an accomplishment even today, remember that Shaffer didn’t have the benefit of guidebooks, GPS, ample volunteers to keep the trail in shape, or trail angels. He certainly couldn’t rely on today’s lightweight backpacking chairs and accessories for comfort. In fact, the trail was only about 10 years old, having been flagged through the hard work of ATC Chair Myron Avery in 1936.
Since Shaffer’s first journey, more than 15,000 people have reported tackling this hike. Although the activity may seem like it’s reserved for elite athletes, the trail is open to anyone with a decent level of fitness and the will to walk, including those over the age of 60, individuals with disabilities, vegetarians and vegans, insulin-dependent diabetics, and solo female hikers. Many read Shaffer’s book, “Walking With Spring,” for inspiration.