Gear | September 11, 2020 11:25 am

Review: The Helinox Ground Chair Is a Cult Favorite, and We Sat in It to See Why

The impossibly light, impossibly small camp chair is worthy of your weekends

Helinox Ground Chair camp gear
The Helinox Ground Chair weighs less than two pounds but holds up to 265 pounds.
Helinox

There’s this scene in A Knight’s Tale, that anachronistic medieval jousting movie starring Heath Ledger, where he walks to the arena in a shiny new set of armor that’s both ultra-light and abnormally small. All the old-timers laugh at him. Then they quickly shut their maws when he hops up on his horse without needing help from three squires. Huh, there might be something to this.

Yes, that’s a weird way to start this, but that’s the experience I had testing out the Helinox Ground Chair. You know the brand for its impossibly light, ultra-packable camp chairs and other outdoor equipment, which we’ve championed in the past, but the Ground Chair has its own following. After being sold out for a stretch, enough people clamored for its return that it was brought back in June … and then quickly sold out again. Well, now it’s back again (but from what I hear not going to last long). 

What’s the big deal? While it’s still lighter than just about every other camp chair on the market, by pounds, it’s not quite as light and doesn’t pack down quite as small as Helinox’s featherweight Chair Zero (1lb. 7oz. to 1lb. 2oz.), but it does have its own tricks. Instead of relying on spindly legs, it sits low to the ground (thus, the name) on a sturdy square base that holds up to 265 pounds. Reclining in it on socially distant park happy hours this summer, it felt like the space-age version of those bulky, square, folding beach chairs, except of course it’s available now.

More accurately, the Ground Chair is the spiritual antithesis of the Yeti Hondo Base Camp Chair, the outdoor throne that made waves years ago for being $300 and advertised as virtually indestructible. The Hondo is something you’d need to build a rack on your overlander in order to carry along with the rest of your gear, the Ground Chair can be tossed in anywhere even at the last minute. The overbuilt Hondo weighs 16.5 pounds and can hold up to 500, while the Ground Chair smartly relies on sophisticated DAC aluminum alloy poles to hold more than half that weight at under two pounds. The Hondo is a Ford F-150, the Ground Chair is a Tesla. You get it.

All that said, while Helinox seems to be dabbling in some sort of 21st century alchemy, the technology does have its limits. If you’re on the border of 265 pounds, I wouldn’t test the weight ceiling in this chair in that same way I would on a $20 throwaway from Costco. If that’s you, I’d suggest the original Chair One which holds up to 320 pounds. At the very least, that one won’t sell out.

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