Whether you set it up on a fire escape, in a private backyard, on a camping trip, or at the park, a simple lawn chair is one of those things that can make all the difference on a warm day. Given that spring is here again (and that outdoor activities remain by far the safest recreation during the pandemic), you might be thinking of investing in a new chair to make your time outdoors that much more comfortable. Because nothing’s worse than shelling out for a chair that’s too heavy or rips on the first try, we asked 17 people who spend a lot of time sitting in chairs outdoors — including soccer moms and dads, campers, and other outdoorsy folk — about the ones they love to park their derrieres in. Read on for their favorites, which include chairs that rock back and forth, cradle you in “zero gravity,” and are designed to collapse down to fit into a tote bag.
Best overall outdoor chair
Three of our experts recommend this ultralight chair that many campers will likely have seen before. The Crazy Creek, which has been made the same way for more than 30 years, is a favorite of Ryan Fliss, the chief marketing officer of camping app The Dyrt, who told us it’s “perfect for those who value go-anywhere seating, but don’t want to commit to storage space.” He and its other fans all praise the Crazy Creek, which folds flat and has handles for carrying it to and fro, for its construction and portability. While Fliss acknowledges that new users may be nervous about the legless element, he promises “you will still be comfortable, because you have a soft bottom and a seat back.” The way it works, according to Asher Kaplan, a frequent camper and graduate student studying urban planning, is simple: “You sit on the bottom part, and your weight supports you as you lean back. It’s like a lawn chair meets a suspension bridge. You really feel yourself supporting yourself in it.”
Julia Rock, a Minnesota-based journalist and former camp counselor, adds that due to its design, the Crazy Creek is actually more than just a chair: “You can use it as a sleeping pad, by unhooking the straps and laying it flat.” It’s also waterproof, she notes, making it “really easy to wipe clean.” Rock is partial to the tie-dye colorway, but there are six other styles to choose from, including this teal one. The brand offers a lifetime warranty for all of its products, but none of our experts say they’ve ever had reason to use theirs (and Fliss has owned his Crazy Creek for nearly a decade).
Best less-expensive outdoor chair
This more traditional-looking four-legged chair comes recommended by two parents, who say it is far more comfortable to sit in than others they’ve set up along the sidelines of their kids’ games, and one camper who loves how portable the chair is for its sturdiness. Barber Rodney Cutler, a dad to two soccer players, told us that other less-expensive lawn chairs he’s tried don’t have enough seat support, which makes them harder to get in and out of. But this chair, while still light, “sits you fully upright, so you never sink.” Cutler also likes its two cupholders and additional zip pocket, which provide plenty of space to keep drinks and other essentials within reach. Alison Conologue, the aunt of two volleyball players, says she also has watched many of their games from this chair, which she’s gifted to people because she likes it so much and has even started taking to the beach. She agrees that its seat “does not sink, making it easier to get out of,” adding that it locks into place when it’s open — and folded up, making it that much easier to carry (with or without the “carry bag” it comes with). And Nailah Blades, a leadership coach and founder of Color Outside, adds that on top of the above benefits, the seat is also “wide enough to never feel like a tight squeeze” and that the range of colors it’s available in (12 at time of writing) allows you to “add a fun pop of color to your campsite.”
Best even-less-expensive outdoor chair
Another three people we spoke with told us that in their opinion, the best lawn chair is often a very basic and affordable option like this. Trei Brundrett, Vox Media’s chief operating officer — and a parent of four kids, one of whom is an “active camper” — says he has “eight chairs in my truck right now” and that he likes the “cheapest chair” the most, because it’s “light, easy to set up, and comes in a bright color, so you can’t lose it.” Maggie Slepian, a Montana-based writer and co-founder of Backpacking Routes, says that she’s specifically a “lifelong fan” of Coleman’s Quad chair because it “lasts year after year, unfolds in one piece, and is just as comfortable as a lot of the name-brand camp chairs from higher-end gear companies.” Slepian adds that, because the chair comes with an “accompanying carry sack,” there’s never a “huge hassle to carry it from car to campsite.” Camper and educational consultant Noa Kattler-Kupetz also calls out the pocket and cupholder for stashing essentials.
Best upright rocking outdoor chair
Four of the people we spoke to recommended different lawn chairs that rock. According to Real Simple executive editor Rory Evans, the mother of softball-playing children (who told us she has a tattoo of a rocking chair on her ankle), rocking lawn chairs can “make endless kids’ sports games more comfortable, and are much easier on the lower back.” Writer and outdoorsman James Lynch is also a fan of rocking lawn chairs, telling us that once you’ve “rocked, every other chair seems pedestrian.” His favorite rocking lawn chair is this model from GCI, a brand that came up a lot in chatting with our experts. “It folds up like a normal heavy duty pop-up chair, but it’s so much more,” Lynch says. “The metal construction is great, the fabric is durable, and it has nice hard plastic armrests and a beer can holster.” But his favorite feature is the chair’s patented rocking mechanism, which he says works like this: “The system works by using strong metal pistons on the back legs that compress as you push back, and then decompress to ‘rock’ you forward. It does take a bit of a push to get the chair going, but once it goes it’s supremely comfortable.” Should you want to sit still, Lynch adds that the mechanism can be adjusted so that the chair doesn’t rock.
Best sling-style rocking outdoor chair
For a rocking chair with a little more give, Fliss recommends this less-expensive GCI model, which has a more flexible sling seat. He describes it as “a rocking chair you can take anywhere.” At just under 12 pounds, it’s lighter than the RoadTrip rocker and, according to Fliss, “can be deployed in a few seconds.”
Best low-to-the-ground rocking outdoor chair
Clint Carlson, the creative director of multi-platform camping resource 50 Campfires, is also a fan of GCI’s spring-loaded rocking chairs. His favorite style is the Firepit Rocker, which “sits lower to the ground than most chairs,” a height he finds “to be more relaxing.” Carlson, who says he “didn’t want anything else” after sitting in this chair, adds that it “folds flat, and is easy to tote around.”
Best low-to-the-ground non-rocking outdoor chair
This low-down chair doesn’t rock, but according to photography director Meg Reinhardt, who has used stationary low camp chairs for nearly a decade, it has everything you need in an outdoor chair. “It’s light, super sturdy, and the mesh back means it’s breathable when the sun is blasting you,” Reinhardt says, adding that its lower stature makes the chair “more compact than most traditional lawn chairs, so it takes up less space.”
Most luxurious outdoor chair
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line, luxurious chair to relax in outdoors, Carlson says this GCI chair is the “ultimate in backyard comfort.” While zero-gravity chairs that hold your entire body off the ground are “nothing new,” he says that GCI’s is the only one that allows you to lock the backrest in place while your feet are still raised. “It’s excellent for conversation around a fire, does a good job of relieving pressure points, and is great to nap in, too,” he says. Though he cautions this would be better for someone who doesn’t intend to move it around a lot, because the 19-pound chair is “not as portable as other chairs.”
Most luxurious (more portable) outdoor chair
If, unlike Carlson, you’re looking for a luxurious, recline-friendly outdoor chair that you can move around, Slepian says she’s been using this “fantastic” 6.5-pound camp chair “for the past season,” and would recommend it to anyone looking for the most comfort (and who has a little extra to spend). Once you have it rigged correctly, which according to Slepian can “take some brainwork,” it’s “incredibly comfortable, with a combination of swinging, rocking, and reclining that seems like a mind-blowing feat of engineering for a portable chair.”
Best outdoor chair that fully reclines
Strategist contributor Bianca Buchanan told us that this chair “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 also has a hole for your head, “like one you’d see on a massage table, so you can lay on your stomach and tan,” Buchanan explains.
Best outdoor chair that can fit in a tote bag
This ultralight two-pound chair comes recommended for its ability to pack down to about the size of a fanny pack. It’s a favorite of outdoor journalist Ryan Wichelns, who told us last spring that he carries it with him while backpacking and car camping, or just into the backyard. (When we checked in with him this week, he told us it’s only become more of an essential for him in the time since.) According to Wichelns, it’s the “ideal balance of comfort and durability — I’ve seen other lighter chairs break down, but I’ve had this same chair going strong for five years now.” It’s a favorite of Amazon customers, too, whose praise landed the chair on our list of the best lawn chairs you can buy on Amazon, according to reviewers. Wichelns says setup is simple: The “shock cord sets the poles in place automatically,” leaving the user to simply stretch the fabric seat over the body.