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The REI Co-op Flexlite Macro Chair is a lightweight, super-packable camping and event chair that is also surprisingly comfortable. Better yet, this new “Macro” version is built stout enough to handle up to 300 pounds.
* Editor’s Update Note: REI has discontinued the REI Co-op Flexlite Macro Chair and upgraded it into the new REI Co-op Flexlite Camp Boss Chair. It maintains the same basic design, but the new version features a more comfortable seat. Read our full REI Co-op Flexlite Camp Boss Chair Review here for more detail.
Sure, you might think this is overbuilt, but it’s not — if you’re camping or watching a summer baseball game with your kids, there’s a darn good chance one of your small children will sit on your lap. Do the math and boom, the sum might result in quite a bit of total weight.
If you’ve never broken a camp chair, great! We have, and while it’s usually a funny moment, it gets more annoying when you’re at a remote campsite without a chair.
We’re in the golden age of camp chair design — there are a lot of different camping chair styles, ranging from old-school folders to many newer collapsible designs that pack into their own carry bags. There are also many cheap versions available at department stores, and they usually work for while before they break. And they will definitely fail at some point. The question is, do you want to reward cheap products with your business or start investing in gear that will last? Camp chairs should not be disposable items destined for the landfill after just one season.
If you’re going to build a very lightweight packable chair, it needs to be tough — especially if you want one that can handle up to 300 lbs. The regular, non-Macro Flexlite Chair handles a respectable 250 lbs, which is great for many people until they’re camping with kids who are staying up too late at night and want to snuggle on their lap while the adults tell stories around the campfire.
The Flexlite Macro Chair uses stout aluminum poles for the frame (all bungie-corded together like tent poles) that fit into each other and into stout plastic brackets. The chair fabric is a ripstop nylon with a breathable mesh seat panel. Set up is fast and easy: Assemble the poles then stick the four corners of the chair frame into the corresponding four corner pockets of the seat. Use the handy loops to help with your grip when you guide the poles into the pockets.
Once it’s set up, there’s enough tension in the system to let you pick up and move the chair from pretty much any part of the mesh — it’s not going to disassemble until you disassemble it on purpose.
REI Co-op Flexlite Macro Chair Review: Comfort and Design
I’m about 6’3″ and weigh in at around 220 lbs. The REI Co-op Flexlite Macro Chair weighs in at just 2 lbs. 9 oz. and is about 20% larger in all dimensions compared to the original Flexlite Chair. What this means is that I find the Macro Flexlite Chair surprisingly comfortable. My butt fits in the seat just fine and the lean angle of the back lets you either lounge back or sit up if you’re trying to roast a marshmallow or hold a paper plate of the hash browns you just cooked up on your camp stove.
The only downside is the lack of a drink holder — but the whole point of the Macro Flexlite Chair is to nail a comfortable-yet-small-and-packable design, so I can’t fault REI here.
As for the mesh, it’s breathable for hot summer days and if you’re sitting in it with wet swimming trunks, everything will have a chance to dry fast. The mesh is also great for when it rains — you don’t end up with a camp chair full of water. On cool mornings any dew dries quickly.
Of course, the nylon mesh can be burned from stray campfire embers — like most camp chairs that are commonly made from nylon or polyester fibers — so keep that in mind. If a stray spark or coal manages to burn through the mesh and it starts to unravel, take a bit of paracord and strip out a few interior strands of string. Use these strings to tie a couple knots over the hole then use Gear Aid Aquaseal Urethane Repair Adhesive, which is the coolest flexible waterproof glue on the planet. This stuff is magic for repairing all sorts of outdoor gear, and it excels in repairing fabrics. You can run it through a washing machine, too. In any event, if you don’t have a tube of Aquaseal right now, you need to get some pronto. For in-the-field repairs with near immediate results, try the Aquaseal FD and Cure Accelerator version.
So, back to the repair — which will work for most any chair. Spread a bit of Aquaseal over both sides of the hole and leave it overnight — or use the cure accelerator. Boom. Problem solved, which is what we do in the outdoors.
The REI Co-op Flexlite Macro Chair is not good in mud or soft saturated soil. The relatively small feet on the chair will sink into mud. Sure, this happens on most camp chairs, but some camp chairs have larger surface areas for their feet. Either way, if you’ve got soft soil, you’ll probably want to stick a flat rock or a piece of driftwood under the back legs.
It would be nice if REI made a few disks that you could slip into the bottom of the bag and use them when necessary. (Now that I think of it, I might save a couple of pickle jar lids just for this purpose — I think they might fit into the bag with ease.)
REI Co-op Flexlite Macro Chair Review: Verdict
All-in-all, the REI Co-op Flexlite Macro Chair is an excellent, high-quality and comfortable lightweight camp chair. It’s super packable, which is great when you have limited space when you’re out car camping or hitting the beach or river. If you’re tired of the hunched over uncomfortable experience of the cheap camping chair, try the REI Co-op Flexlite Macro Chair. Highly recommended.