The right chair (plus a cooler, towel, and umbrella) can turn any stretch of Jacob Riis into a not-so-private beach club. Or, a little less ambitiously, just keep your wet butt off the sand. To find the comfiest and most durable options to see out the rest of your summer, I consulted beach enthusiasts and outdoor-gear experts, then tested out their recommendations for myself alongside fellow beachgoing Strategist staffers. These picks should cover all kinds of beachgoers — from casual day-trippers to season-long sun-worshippers. As you get comfortable, just don’t forget the sunscreen.
What we’re looking for
A long-lasting, worthwhile beach chair should have a body made of metal — specifically aluminum, which is more salt resistant and takes longer to rust. Likewise, the seat should be constructed from hard-wearing, ideally marine-grade fabric that won’t rip, rag, or stretch after a summer’s worth of salt, sand, and UV rays.
A good beach chair should be relatively lightweight and easy to carry. If you’re navigating your way to the Rockaways by bike or a series of buses and trains, you might desire a more packable beach chair that will slip into a tote or backpack. With a vehicle, you have considerably more options. Of course, if you’re hauling a lot of beach chairs and other supplies, a sturdy beach cart is always worth the investment.
I looked for chairs with coolers, reclining backs and footrests, and even optional canopies — in case your beach umbrella just isn’t cutting it. Because comfort sometimes means minimalism (not everyone wants to lug a chaise longue up and down Long Island), I found a few chairs that’ll simply keep you off the sand in a fairly relaxed seated position. For all these chairs, I looked for a weight capacity of at least 250 pounds.
Best overall beach chair
Materials: Aluminum and wood folding frame | Weight: 5.5 lbs | Comfort: Four reclining positions, towel rack, optional shade canopy
Our favorite beach chair by far is Telescope Casual’s Original Mini-Sun Chaise. Telescope is a fifth-generation family business founded in 1903 in New York City. It’s the oldest, most experienced manufacturer of beach chairs in America, and the company uses a unique telescoping process (hence the name) that extrudes the aluminum and makes for a far stronger chair. So strong that these chairs are known to last a decade. Pulling the handles back and forth adjusts the chair among four positions — one of which is completely flat. There’s a towel rack on the back of the chair, and while the chair doesn’t come with backpack straps, it weighs less than six pounds, so it’s easy to carry around. These chairs are expensive. But like we said, they’ll last a decade. It’s worth noting that Eytan Benzeno, who founded one of the first online beach outlets back in 1999, calls this the Rolls-Royce of seating. “Once you’ve had one, you would spend the money again,” he says. “It’s really for connoisseurs.”
Best (less expensive) beach chair
Materials: Aluminum and steel folding frame | Weight: 7.8 lbs | Comfort: Five reclining positions, storage pouches, backpack straps, optional canopy
If you’re not in the market for a Telescope chair, there’s always Tommy Bahama — a tried and true beach brand that makes one of our favorite less expensive beach umbrellas. Admittedly, there’s a certain aesthetic to these chairs. When Bobby Graziose closed on his house in the Rockaways, his broker left him two as a present. “When we got them, we were like, ‘Oh God, Tommy Bahama,’” he remembers. “Then we started walking around and saw everyone else had them.” That’s because (if you can get over the “vacationing dad at Margaritaville” look) they have really convenient backpack straps and two sizable back pouches — one of which is a very rare insulated cooler that fits about six cans. The frames are aluminum (so they won’t rust), the chair lies completely flat, and a drink and cell-phone pouch hangs off the armrest. Graziose was so taken that when he opened Beach Tripper (his former company that offered beach-chair and umbrella rentals along Rockaway Beach), he bought Tommy Bahama chairs to rent out to his customers.
Best beach chair with multiple accessories
Materials: Aluminum folding frame | Weight: 9.4 lbs (without accessories) | Comfort: Four reclining positions, backpack straps, optional accessories
I originally tested out this Sunflow chair (a Shark Tank success story) under the assumption that it was essentially a slightly cheaper imitation of our favorite Telescope recliner. Indeed, the two chairs are similar in the way they feel to lounge on, and both designs utilize rust-resistant metal and marine-grade fabric. The Telescope chair is more lightweight and elegant looking, but Sunflow sells a much larger range of optional accessories. As well as a sun shade, you can clip a water bottle holder, dry bag, pillow, and even sunglasses case onto the chair, thereby keeping all of your beach-day essentials within easy reach. This makes it a great choice for anyone who truly commits to lazing on the sand all day without getting up. You could definitely finish your book while reclining on this chair.
Best utility-cart chair
Materials: Polyester, aluminum, and plastic folding frame | Weight: 20.9 lbs | Comfort: Four reclining positions, wheels, turns into storage cart
Strategist contributing writer Margaret Eby transformed her beachgoing experience with this combination utility cart and beach chair featuring oversize plastic wheels that can conquer both boardwalks and sand. The chair’s handle, she explains, “is sturdy and easy to maneuver, and once I steer it to my preferred destination, I set up my blanket and unload the cooler, beach tent, towel, and my overstuffed tote.” In order to fully convert the chair, you simply “detach the mesh walls, flip the bottom down to make a footrest (a rare feature for mobile loungers), and adjust the trolley into a chaise.” Unlike with many beach chairs, Eby writes that this one accommodates all bodies: “As a fat person, I’ve found many other beach chairs to be uncomfortable or flimsy, but the Mac Sports chair is roomy and well-built. And while I’m usually only transporting beach supplies for my partner and me, I could see it coming in handy if you had kids or a larger group — per the product description, it can hold up to 100 pounds in cart mode.”
Best beach chaise
Materials: Steel folding frame | Weight: 9.8 lbs | Comfort: Four reclining positions, face cavity, head pillow
For that true vacation feel, you can’t overlook a chaise. Strategist contributor and longtime beach-head Bianca Buchanan told us that this one, which has three reclining positions, “folds up really well, despite the fact that it’s very large,” and has a strap, so you can carry it around. Once unfurled, it has a hole for your head — “like one you’d see on a massage table, so you can lie on your stomach and tan,” Buchanan explains. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than that.
Best cord chair
Materials: Powder-coated aluminum folding frame and PVC cord seat | Weight: 13 lbs | Comfort: Low-profile recliner
Chelsea Rizzo and Allison Levy, co-founders of women’s outdoor-gear brand and New York City–based hiking club Hikerkind, pointed us to these delightful low-rise chairs from Ita — the first ever Black-owned outdoor-furniture brand. The chairs collapse into stackable squares and can be popped into position in less than one minute. They are thoughtfully crafted from powder-coated aluminum, which should hold its own against rust even in salt and sand, and designed to last. “I’ve made the bad decision before of buying the cheaper, heavier thing,” says Rizzo. “What we love to promote is buying intentionally with a purpose, then using it forever.”
Best sand lounger
Materials: Polyester and aluminum | Weight: 6 lbs | Comfort: Padded armrests, drink holder, carry strap
I love the preppy look of this stripey blue-and-red L.L.Bean beach chair designed for the boat-and-tote crowd. The brand sent me one to test, and I’ve found it to be both sturdy and comfortable, with considerably more butt room than other brands and styles have. The stadium-seat-like design is somewhat hybrid: an adjustable reclining backrest with an elongated footrest that stretches you out directly on top of the sand. The armrests are padded, which adds a significant degree of comfort, and one of them features a discrete drink-holder sleeve. While this chair is not small, it’s compact and light enough to carry using the included shoulder strap.
Best vintage-style chair
Materials: Aluminum folding frame | Weight: 4.2 lbs | Comfort: Webbing seat
Simple and old-school, these classic chairs are a favorite of New York City–based photographer and regular daytripper Jennifer Trahan. She keeps two of them in her car “at all times.” The chairs are deceptive: They look appealingly retro and come in many different colors but have an updated construction with slightly stretchy UV-resistant webbing — meaning the seat isn’t uncomfortably stiff. Nor will it sink to the ground. An aluminum frame, meanwhile, makes the chair plenty durable in coastal conditions. These are available in high-back and low-rise styles.
Best cushioned chair
Materials: Aluminum folding frame, fade-resistant fabric | Weight: 5.7 lbs | Comfort: Carry strap, storage pocket
This low-rise fixed-recliner chair features slimline detachable cushions for a little extra comfort — and it’s available in an array of pleasing colors and prints that can be coordinated or contrasted with the brand’s line of vintage-style beach umbrellas. I was sent one of these to test out, and I’m a fan of both the aesthetic and comfort level — with the disclaimer that I’m fairly petite and didn’t feel like there was much room to move around once I was sitting. Larger butts, beware. Undeniably cute, the chair is easy to fold up and carry and even comes with its own canvas dust bag for storage. It feels durable, too, with a powder-coated aluminum frame and waterproof, washable, and tear-resistant cushion covers.
Best packable beach chair
Materials: Aluminum pole frame | Weight: 2.2 lbs | Comfort: Slingback style
Taking the train? Here’s a chair that’ll fit in your beach bag. Brian Rottman and Bryant Jimenez, graduate students in the University of Oregon’s Sports Product Design program, told me that Korean brand Helinox has been at the forefront of ultralight chair tech since the early 2010s. The Chair One comes in two parts: a set of lightweight shock-cord aluminum poles and a seat that slings over the top. Packed down, the chair is a little larger than a Nalgene bottle. Set up, it’s a comfy, low-rise seat that’s perfect for a few hours on the sand.
Best (more affordable) packable chair
Materials: Steel frame | Weight: 4.4 lbs | Comfort: Slingback style
More affordable, though double the weight of Helinox’s Chair One, is this slingback seat beloved by Strategist writer Dominique Pariso. She used it as a beach chair all last summer — “everywhere from Riis to Brighton Beach and on trips to Fire Island.” This chair’s Hydro Flask–size bag clips on to a tote bag and is, therefore, much easier to lug through the sand than the Tommy Bahama recliner Pariso used previously. And the seat is made from ripstop nylon mesh that’ll dry very quickly.
Best quad-style beach chair
Materials: Steel collapsible frame | Weight: 8.4 lbs | Comfort: Cooler, drink holders, storage pouch
Our favorite camping chair is perfect for the beach, as it’s designed with a roomy insulated cooler sleeve that can store a day’s worth of drinks and snacks. While many big-box-store quad chairs are created equal, Coleman’s stands out for being larger in size and padded for comfort while still plenty affordable. In addition to the cooler, it has a handy side pocket — so you won’t have to leave your phone and wallet in the sand. Travel journalists and photographers Berty and Emily Mandagie, the husband-and-wife duo behind the outdoors-focused website The Mandagies, have recommended this chair to us in the past. More than 38,000 five-star Amazon reviews glow with praise. As one happy customer writes, “There’s plenty of room in the seat. I can sit crisscross applesauce in it. It’s sturdy enough for my kids to sit on my lap without feeling like it will tip, dip, or break.”
• Eytan Benzeno, Florida-based realtor and former CEO of beachstore.com
• Bianca Buchanan, weekly New York City beachgoer
• Bobby Graziose, founder of Beach Tripper
• Allison Levy and Chelsea Rizzo, co-founders of Hikerkind
• Berty and Emily Mandagie, founders of The Mandagies
• Dominique Pariso, writer, the Strategist
• Brian Rottman and Bryant Jimenez, graduate students in the University of Oregon’s Sports Product Design program
• Jennifer Trahan, photographer
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