Are you searching for a folding camp chair you can take anywhere? You may be mulling over the differences between the Trek Ultra Chair vs the Helinox Chair and trying to decide which is better.
To help you make the best choice, we compared these two packable-yet-comfortable chairs side-by-side. We took a close look at what each brings to the campfire. We also checked out where they fall short.
Both chairs offer a dry place to sit where it’s otherwise inconvenient to bring a full-sized camp chair. However, one weighs substantially less.
It is more packable. But that comes at a higher price tag. If you’re weight-conscious with your gear but still want to lean back and relax at the end of a long hike, the extra cost is definitely worth it.
So which chair is more backpacker-friendly?
Quick Look: Comparison Table
|Trek Ultra Chair||Helinox Chair One|
|Best for||Those who are fine with sacrificing extra carry weight for a larger seat & more load capacity.||Those who want the 'original', king-of-the-mountain hiking chair.|
|Chair Weight||2.6 pounds||1.9 pounds (11 ounces lighter)|
|Tubing||7075 Aluminium (heavier)||TH72M|
|Packed Size||319 cubic inches||252 cubic inches (nearly 20% smaller)|
|Load Capacity||350 pounds||320 pounds|
|Comfort||Larger Seat, potentially more comfortable||Smaller Seat, not as deep or tall as the Trek|
|Build Quality||Potential issues with stitching coming undone when corners are stretched||Multiple awards for chair design, consistently lauded for quality|
|Chair Feet||Comes with 2 sets of feet to accommodate soft or rocky ground||Feet & other accessories sold separately|
Whenever you’re adding a new item to your pack, weight is one of the most important factors to consider. Every extra ounce of weight you carry takes you one step closer to a sore back and throbbing knees.
That’s why when it comes to weight alone, the Helinox Chair One is the clear winner. It weighs 1.9 pounds in its included carry case. The Helinox is a full 11 ounces lighter than the Trek Ultra. That one weighs in at 2.6 pounds.
The light weight of the Helinox is largely due to the chair’s tubing. It is the same aluminum-based alloy used in high-end tent poles and trekking poles.
This tough tubing is called TH72M. It is produced by DAC (the parent company of Helinox). A special “green” process is used to anodize the tubing. That gives the poles a durable rust and corrosion-resistant exterior.
The Trek Ultra is made of 7075 aluminum. That is also very strong and durable but is on the heavy side.
Still, when you compare the weight of the Trek Ultra chair to more traditional folding chairs which can weigh as much as 10 pounds or more, it’s much more compatible with on-the-go activities.
This will put this weight difference into perspective. 11 ounces is roughly equal to three freeze-dried backpacking meals.
When you look at it that way, spending the extra 40-ish dollars on the Helinox can be a decent trade-off. That is, if it allows you to save weight for the essentials—while still bringing a chair.
Just as the Helinox Chair One is lighter, it’s also more packable. It takes up less space in your pack. Again, this will matter most to those who hike, backpack, or bike tour when gear-hauling capacity is limited.
We checked out the specifications listed on the product pages of Helinox and Trek Ultra. When folded down for transport, the Helinox Chair One has a total volume of 252 cubic inches. In comparison, the Trek Ultra measures in at 319 cubic inches.
Folded carry dimensions:
- Helinox Chair One: 13.8W x 3.9D x 4.7H = 252 in³
- Trek Ultra Chair: 14.5W x 4D x 5.5H = 319 in³
In other words, when tucked into its included carry case, the Helinox Chair One is roughly 20 percent smaller than the Trek Ultra chair. That’s enough extra space to throw in another freeze-dried meal or a pair of extra socks.
For as lightweight as they are, both camping chairs have impressively high load capacities.
If you need extra support, the Trek Ultra can hold users up to 350 pounds. The Helinox accommodates users up to 320 pounds.
The increase in weight capacity of the Trek Ultra is likely due to the heavier aluminum tubing used. That, again, comes at the cost of a higher weight and larger pack size.
Do you mostly plan on car or pop-up camping, or using your new chair locally at sporting events or music festivals? Then weight and packability likely aren’t much of an issue.
In that case, you can gain a comfort-advantage by choosing the Trek Ultra chair. It has slightly larger seat dimensions.
A full inch and a half wider, one inch deeper, and with a backrest that’s two inches higher than the Helinox Chair One, the Trek Ultra gives you a bit more room to get comfortable. It sits about a half-inch higher off the ground. That will help you if you have long legs so your knees aren’t in your chest.
It’s no accident that Helinox has won multiple awards for their chair designs. That includes the Gold Award at the 2017 Outdoor Industry Awards and the Backpacker’s Magazine 2017 Editor’s Choice Award. If that’s an indicator of quality, it’s safe to say that the Helinox Chair One will deliver on its high price tag.
The Trek Ultra, however, appears to be somewhat of a knock-off of the Helinox. Not saying you should rule it out all together—it’s a great chair for the price. But if you want the real deal, go for the Helinox.
One of the biggest complaints made about the Trek Ultra is that the stitching on the corners of the chair’s fabric tends to come undone. Apparently, the fabric can be tight stretching over the frame at first and if too much pressure is applied, it can rip the seams. That is clearly a quality-related issue.
Both the Helinox and Trek Ultra can be set up and sat in just about anywhere as long as all four feet make contact with the ground.
The Trek Ultra, however, comes with two sets of feet to accommodate different ground types. The included larger set of feet work better on softer ground by spreading out the chair’s weight while the smaller feet will serve you better in rocky terrain.
If you want to extend the versatility of the Helinox Chair One, the company does make several different feet options available for purchase. There’s a ground sheet that goes under the feet, which appears to be helpful when pitching the chair on sand or snow to keep the feet from sinking in. Rocking chair rails are also available for the Helinox, turning this folding camp chair into an ultralight rocker.
Ease of Setup
Both chairs have shock-cord legs that set up practically on their own. Just remove the chair from the carry case then give it a shake to expand and set the legs in place.
Once the leg frame of the chair is in place, you then have to stretch the fabric seating material over the legs—this maneuver can be difficult at first but becomes easier with practice.
According to users, the Helinox is generally easier to set up than the Trek Ultra as the fabric fits better and isn’t overly tight. With the Trek Ultra, the fabric can take some work to stretch over the frame, but after several uses, the fabric stretches out slightly, making the maneuver easier to perform.
After a long day of hiking when your feet are aching, it’ll feel so good to kick back into a comfortable folding camp chair. And when it comes down to it, you really can’t go wrong with either the Trek Ultra or the Helinox One.
The biggest consideration to make when choosing between these two chairs almost entirely comes down to weight and packability. If you’ll be using the chair on a multi-day backpacking trip when pack space is at a premium, the lower weight and smaller carrying size of the Helinox is what you want. The Trek Ultra is a good choice if want to save some money, but in the end, our vote goes to the Helinox Chair One.