I’m an old guy, and one thing you have to master as an old guy is the ability to laugh at your former self. I can remember the young-guy-me secretly snickering at hikers silly enough to carry around a pair of trekking poles. Old-guy-me wouldn’t think of hiking without them. Young-guy-me knew that after a few days on the trail the difference between 45 pounds on your back and 25 pounds on your back was insignificant. Well, that may have been my back’s opinion, but my knees and my feet had other ideas. Young-guy-me knew that looking around just slowed you down – you can’t walk as fast if you aren’t concentrating on the trail. Now I’m a much bigger fan of appreciating what I’m walking through, even if I walk through a little less of it each day.
No one is more surprised than I am, but during my last John Muir Trail hike I hauled around that one item that labels a backpacker a greenhorn quicker than anything (with the possible exception of blue jeans): a camp chair. I loved it!
It wasn’t any old camp chair; it was an REI Flex Lite Chair. Without the handy carrying sack, which I left at home, it comes in at a little less than 26 ounces. It was durable, comfortable, and had only one minor design flaw.
The chair comes in two parts: the fabric and the frame. The frame takes thirty seconds to assemble or disassemble. I never once put the frame together the wrong way, which is proof positive that it is impossible to do so. The fabric attaches to the frame in four spots, where the ends of the tubes slip into well-reinforced pockets. It comes in seven different colors.
I was extremely comfortable sitting in it, either to eat dinner, read, or to enjoy the scenery. I never felt like I was stressing the fabric or frame to the point that it was near failure.
It started out within my backpack, but it quickly migrated to the outside of my pack so that I could get to it quickly and easily during breaks. I especially liked it in the evenings. On previous hikes, after supper was eaten and camp chores complete, the only comfortable place to read was in my tent, on my back. Often that would mean just a few pages before I dozed off. With the chair I could find a scenic spot, set it up, and enjoy an hour or so outside of my tent.
I did have one minor complaint: the plastic ends of the legs are small, and they tend to sink into the ground if you have done a poor job of picking out a place to sit. Actually, the sinking into the ground part isn’t bad, as long as ALL FOUR of the legs sink. The problem arises when one or two sink and the others do not. I’d suggest that REI put wider bottoms on the legs, but that would make it heavier and bigger. I think the better solution is to pick the spot where you sit with more care.
There are other, lighter, options out there, but they are more expensive and do not look quite as comfortable.
If young-guy-me would have seen me on top of Silver Pass, sitting in my orange easy-chair, eating salami and cheese, he no doubt would have just shook his head. That’s okay; old-guy-me is having lots more fun.
Good hiking, Ray