The new REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair is an ultralight 1-pound chair that’s light enough to take backpacking — or pretty much anywhere.
To get us a closer look, REI sent Man Makes Fire a review unit. This is what we learned:
REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair Review
Weighing in at just a single pound, the new REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair is an ultralight wonder. While the most likely uses are for backpacking, camping, hiking and picnicking, its packability means you could store it or take it most anywhere.
It’s overall structure is similar to the heavier REI Co-op Flexlite Chair, but the “Air” version uses lighter materials. Basically, the construction centers around two lightweight-but-strong hubs that you insert strong aluminum shock-corded poles into to create four legs, two back supports and two lap supports.
A half-pocket of ultralight ripstop nylon attaches to the ends of the back and lap supports to create a comfortable seat. The seat is about 11 inches high (a typical camping chair is usually around 14-16 inches). The capacity is 250 pounds.
It all folds up and fits into a lightweight mesh carry bag.
Is the Flexlite Air Chair comfortable?
The REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair is surprisingly comfortable. I’m about 6’3″ and 225 pounds. I prefer the slightly larger Flexlite Macro Chair version, but I’d never pack the heavier versions backpacking. Smaller gear testers have had an even better experience with the Flexlite Air Chair. Basically, if you’re big and tall like me, the Flexlite Air Chair is pretty good. If you’re smaller, you’ll likely enjoy it even more.
That said, it’s important to realize that the Flexlie Air Chair is an ultralight chair. It’s not as stiff as full-size camp chairs, so the first time you use it you might be surprised to feel a bit of flex and movement. Don’t worry about it, and you’ll get used to it and trust it. Unlike inexpensive department-store camp chairs, the REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair is made from high-quality, super strong materials.
The legs and supports are all shock-corded together but fold up.
The aluminum legs and supports fit into sturdy hubs.
Rolled up without the included stuff sack.
REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair vs. Helinox Chair Zero
In case you’re wondering, there is another 1-pound ultralight chair available: The Helinox Chair Zero. It costs a bit more than the Flexlite Air Chair, but it has a similar design and specs. You get a 1-pound weight with shock-corded aluminum poles and a ripstop polyester seat.
The major difference is that the stance of the Helinox Chair Zero is a bit more upright than the REI Flexlite Air stance. For lounging around, kicking back and enjoying the scenery, the Flexlite Air is best. For sitting and eating a meal, the Chair Zero is a bit better.
Either chair will work for most people, but your posture and personality might point you toward one or the other.
Best Backpacking Chair?
Is the REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair the best chair for backpacking? Maybe. If comfort is king, there’s a strong case to be made for it. At just a single pound, the weight hit for taking it is pretty compelling. On the other hand, some people would rather sit on a rock than in a chair . . . if they have to pack the chair.
Still, is the Flexlite Air Chair worth it as a backpacking chair? There are many kinds of backpackers and types of backpacking trips, but for simplification, let’s say there are two: Ultra, ultralight thru-hikers and recreational backpackers.
Most ultralight-focused backpackers will skip most anything that’s not strictly necessary to hiking, shelter, sleeping and eating.
Most recreational backpackers, on the other hand, are in it for a more varied experience. Most weekend and even week-long backpackers we know believe the experience of hanging out at a base camp near a backcountry lake is just as important as the hike in.
Another factor is the terrain and topography of your backpacking trip. Some backpacking camp sites are near deadfalls, old logs, or have rocks that have been moved and fashioned into seats by those who came before you. Sometimes they’re great. Sometimes there is nothing to sit on and nothing available to haul to camp. In these situations, all your buddies will want a chance at your chair.
In any event, the point is this: If you like the form factor of the REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair, it’s definitely light enough to take backpacking.
REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair: The Verdict
The REI Co-op Flexlite Air Chair is an excellent piece of backcountry furniture engineering. It’s surprisingly comfortable for its minimalist weight, and it should be durable enough to last years. If you’re looking for an ultralight, packable chair that you can take anywhere, it’s hard to go wrong with the Flexlite Air Chair. Highly recommended.