“Women and cats do as they please; men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea”
(Robert Heinlein)

dog_on_chair

Ultralight purists might well baulk at the idea of even bothering with a camp chair  – seeing it as unnecessary extra weight.  Why not, they might ask, simply sit in the hammock if you want to sit back and relax for a while?

This was, for a time, my own view as well but I discovered a few problems with this approach.  Firstly my hammock is a seductive seat – once I get in the temptation to lie back and snooze becomes almost irresistible and the camp chores I’m meant to be doing get neglected.   The other problem I found is that I often wanted to sit somewhere other than where my hammock was strung up – for example, by the fire when cooking or, if camping with friends, over at their camp area.

Simply sitting on the ground also has problems: in the jungle, insects will take exception to your backside on top of their home and leaning against a tree for back support is generally not a good idea as ants and the like will take offence at your presence and either crawl all over you or bite you, or both.

hyperlite_camp_chairThis led to a search for an ultralight camp chair and I have experimented quite a bit with different designs of chair – from sack chairs, to hammock chairs and finally to the hyperlight version that you can see in the video.  It cost almost nothing to make and took me about an hour to sew everything together – it’s light (170 grams), very compact, easy to move around and gives that back support that I find I crave at the end of a hard day’s trekking.

Ultralight camping, inevitably, involves some degree of compromise – if nothing else you will lose durability with most ultralight items relative to more sturdy (and heavier) alternatives.   ultralight_campchairHowever, I don’t believe ultralight camping should require you to compromise too much on comfort: if I don’t take in a camp chair (to save weight) but end up with an aching back and a poor nights sleep, then it’s been a false economy.   I feel the same way about shelter systems – they should allow you to get a good nights sleep as, if you are trekking hard, then you need to let your body recover so that you are ready for the next day.  If you spend a bad night and wake up tired and irritable the next day then you are more likely to make poor decisions (and the jungle is always quick to punish poor decisions!) and certainly won’t enjoy the day as much.

The small square tarp that I use as a seat/groundsheet has another use as well: in the jungle it is easy to lose small items on the jungle floor and the groundsheet is useful in providing an area where things can be placed and not forgotten about.

 
Which chair of the ones shown is best?  It depends on what you are doing – if you are setting up a semi permanent camp site (or one that you will return to often) then it might be worth setting op the tripod sack-chair system as you can leave the poles there for you to use the next time you visit.  If you are travelling in a group then the hyperlite (ground sheet style) system has the benefit of no set up time and allows you to easily move it around.  bamboo_beer_holderIf you’re camping not far from your car…well then you’re spoilt for choice as weight/bulk is not an issue and you can simply use the standard aluminium framed chairs.

But is the hyperlight camp chair set up I designed as comfortable as the standard aluminium frame camp chairs? In a word ‘no’… but it’s good enough.  This to me is the key with ultralight camping: it’s a bit like the 80:20 rule  in that you can get 80% of the comfort with an item that is only 20% of the weight.  In the case of the hyperlight camp chair (which weighs just 170 grams) I can get, say, 80% of the comfort that I’d get from an standard aluminium framed chair (which weighs about 3kg).

So ‘yes’ ultralight camping does involve some compromise but an item like the hyperlight camp chair (which is just 5% of the weight of a standard camp chair) allows me to enjoy sitting around the camp fire at night without significantly increasing my load-out weight.

…and that’s a good compromise.