Campsite chairs

To sit, or not to sit...

The AOTU folding chair
You pull up to your campsite at the end of a long day, swing a leg off the bike and unload your tent and get it set up as the light begins to fade...

A cow pasture along the shore of the Annapolis River NS
 Now do you sit down in the wet grass and dirt, or do you climb back onto your motorcycle's seat? If you are fortunate you have a picnic table in your campsite and you take advantage of it to set up your stove, relax and enjoy your evening, but if you are me, you pretty much eat standing up or wandering around because you are too cheap to pay for a campsite, and you found something like a cow pasture, or the backside of a community centre or fire hall...

It was getting to me and I started seeing more posts in a group I belong for recommendations for camp chairs, and I came across one for a chair that ticked all the boxes for me:
  • cheap
  • compact
  • lightweight
  • sturdy
  • well reviewed
  • cheap (oops, back to that again are we?)
I'd done a five day ride a couple of weeks ago, and spent a full day at the racetrack to which I hadn't brought a chair. I got to watch the races sitting on a comfortable cement block, while those around me sat in comfort.
Alright, one is sitting comfortably
Anyhow, I've packed along a folding metal chair a few times, one that went over 8,000 kilometres to Labrador and Newfoundland and back, and while I got plenty of use out of it, it was so much easier sending it up with the purse (car trunk) rather than trying to fit it on my motorcycle.

Back in 2006 I'm packed up for a weekend
Two days worth of camping, and back in 2006 I've got the bike loaded down with far too heavy a load. I'd like to say the panniers were loaded down with the booze and mix, but that would be a lie. I was roughing it and would be leaving the mix behind.

That was a $10 dollar Canadian Tire special that I used for years, but with a steel frame, and it's long length,  it was just too heavy and bulky. When I tipped in on the twisties, it was like an outrigger and I could see the feet in my peripheral vision, dipping down into the inside corner. I stopped taking it on the bike with me.

My friends would take this up in the purse for me, CSBK Mosport
In 2011 I crossed the Trans Labrador highway and hauled along a three legged "Bass Pro" special that while much smaller and a bit lighter, was still too heavy to be dragging around on the bike as pretty much dead weight.

The Bass Pro three legged chair, and Suzi waiting for her dinner

My friends invested in some camp chairs made of mesh and aluminum that made me think that my 245lbs would either have the chair resting on the ground, or the mesh seams ripped apart in no time, plus the price wasn't appealing, and for some reason all the other chairs got used before it did...

Hey, all the chairs in one shot! How cool is that?
VRRA weekend at CTMP

My trip around the Cabot Trail this past July, and then my Lighthouse Route ride in August saw me do a lot of camping, and at the end of the day I really wanted to sit down with some back support, unlike sitting upright in a tent, for example.

You know, the more I look at it, the more interesting the design of the REI - Trail chair becomes, as it could easily be used inside your tent where most of the others would damage the floor and footprint. In fact, I think some people use this as both and sleeping pad. There are other on the market designed to do exactly that. Think of rainy days where you wait out the weather under the tent... Hmmm.

Bed, chair. Chair-bed? Bed-chair?
Nor do I want to pay $200 or more for chair made in China or Taiwan and resold by REI or MEC, so I did some research and found a compromise in the form of an AOTU chair sold on eBay.ca for about $40 CDN. It ticked all the boxes for me, and hopefully it will arrive before my next adventure into the great unknown.


Right away I can see the feet sinking into the ground, so a little searching and I found a great hack for that issue in a post "Don't Let Me Down Big Agnes" By Irv Oslin, 2015

The camp chair feet hack

I'll be sure and review it for you once I get it on the slow boat from China. Perhaps a trip sometime this fall.

Before I leave you, I'll pass along some of the recommendations that stand out and suggest you visit Trailspace.com for some excellent reviews of various camp chairs.


Helinox - Chair One

REI - Trail Chair

Obviously there are many more chair styles out there, but these three tend to top the lists. Once again, check out the trailspace.com reviews for many more camp chair ideas.

Personally I think the Aotu chair is a knockoff of the Helinox Chair One. I hope I made the right choice.


Update 2017-08-29: 

Mail for you Uncle Ron!

I just got the chair in the regular mail run, and for $36 CDN / $27 USD this is what you get:
  • zippered bag with webbing loops for attachment to straps or bungee cords
  • aluminum and plastic legs/back/seat
  • seat and back

It's wee, but not that wee. 
  • weight: 873 grams or 1lb-15oz
  • packed dimensions: 350mm x 140mm x 110mm or 14" x 5.5" x 4.3"
There goes the famous eBay selling tactic of key words such as ULTRALIGHT BACKPACKING etc. I suppose you could backpack with this for day hikes, but don't let that ultralight fool you. 

All this and no instructions

The frame is certainly decent in quality, with a couple of minor scuffs

It will almost assemble itself if you shake it just right
 It sets up easily, although I was confused at first how the seat went on as it ships without instructions, and I found after one trial run, that I could set it up in 1:45 minutes, and the tear down was just 1 minute!
The aluminum looks durable and think enough for the job

The tolerances could be tighter

Only time will tell how long these will last with my fat arse on it.

It does stow away easily

Assembly in under two minutes
 The legs will sink a tad in hard mowed lawns, and reviews of this type of chair indicate that in softer soil, I'll need to be prepared as the feet will sink in.

It racks around a bit, as the tolerances between the legs and the plastic hub are generous, but I suspect that it is also the nature of the chair and it's design. I'm just not used to it.

At six feet and about 245lbs I find I tend to slouch when I sit in the chair, as the seat base isn't quite deep enough for my comfort, but I also think that with time, the chair seat will stretch down and I'll be more comfortable as it does so. The height above ground is more than adequate and I had no troubles getting in and out of the chair, and found it very easy to lift up and set down again to reposition it.  

Note that I should have chosen to assemble the chair with the carrying bag slipped onto the poles to provide a wee storage bag and to prevent the carrying bag from flying away in the wind. Easily done with the generous loops provided on the ends of the bag.

The bottom.

Want a second look?

I could stuff a hat, scarf, and mittens in there!
The carry bag is spacious enough that you simply disassemble it, fold the legs up, fold the seat back in half then roll it around the legs and stuff into the bag without much of a struggle. I can see myself stuffing extra bits of camp gear into this bag if I wanted or needed to. The material looks to be a waterproof nylon material, with single sewn seams and reinforced stitching for the webbing attachment points.

The first thing I looked at were the attachment points where the rods enter the seat back, and they were constructed of a heavy PVC type of material fastened to double thickness material similar to cordura.

Here is a review by Mark of Biker Bits Australia of the Helinox chair and table:

Update 2017-09-02: 

I packed it along for a trip to Parc Gasp├ęsie QC this past weekend, and brought it out to use at our wood lot campsite on Saturday night while Brian perched on top of the lop pictured below.

The Aotu chair deployed.
 I was asked on Facebook if it was comfortable, and my answer is now "Yes". It was nice getting up to fetch something knowing that I had a nice comfortable seat to return to, especially after a long day riding around the peninsula. The grass was thick and the ground firm, and the chair didn't dig in at all.
Dr. Brian is prescribes a general anesthetic after ten hours of riding.

The wood lot
I had plenty of room for it in the side case (long story) and it went up easily and back into it's case in the morning with only a slight struggle in the 2 degree celsius weather. (the fabric and case were cold, as were my hands)

I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a light, packable chair.

One thing I quite liked was being able to get in and out of the chair just with leg power, as you find your balance easily and can sit or rise without spilling a drop of the good stuff. :P


It definitely a knock off of the Helinox chair that retails for $150 CDN including shipping, so for one quarter of the price, you too can have this well made copy. Only time and use will tell if I got my moneys worth on this deal, but for now, I no longer have to park my butt in the wet grass and that makes me happy.

I'll be sure to provide an update once I put this to some serious use.


  • Price - 1/4 the price of similar camp chairs
  • Performance - easy to set up and tear down
  • Materials - supports my old man lard @ss
  • Size - assembled it works for me, and I'm a 6 footer, packed it will be easy to strap onto the motorcycle
  • Carry bag designed with webbing loops for attachment to packs and bikes
  • Comfort - nothing digs in and the seat conforms to your butt, aside from the "slouch" issue I mention above.


  • Weight - I'd be happier if it was lighter, but then I would I would lose the trade off strength for weight
  • Racks, rotates, moves when I am seated in it and I adjust my postion. Not alot, and I think it is the price you pay for the design. A minor annoyance
  • Feet sink into the ground. Anyone who does their research knows this about this style of chair (See the Hack for a fix)

Update 2018-07-22:

This is now my second season with the chair and it's starting to show some signs of wear. As it was raining off and on this past weekend at Round 4 of the CSBK at Atlantic Motorsports Park, it saw a considerable amount of use as I didn't relish the thought of sitting in the wet grass. The seams on the bottom attachment points for the lower seat are starting to let go in a few spots. There are three layers here, the seat, a hard plastic reinforcement, then the bottom layer you see here. It's got some life left in it yet, and a quick fix might be to use some fabric adhesive or even some two part epoxy on them to prevent further fraying. I'm getting my money's worth. The aluminum frame is in great shape, and the plastic hub which I thought would be the first to go is still rock solid. 

Still worth it in my book. I'll let you know what happens at the end of the season.


    1. We've used the trail chair equivalent on canoe trips. Margot likes it, but I don't. Sure you can lean back and give your back some relief, but it doesn't give a full rest like having your legs hang down and bend at the knee. Plus, I wore holes on the bottom of the sides of the backrest from sitting on rocks.

    2. How did it work in a tent, and can it double as a sleeping pad?

    3. I have some notu tables - they are amazing!

    4. I found an advert on Ali Express, is this the type you mean?

      I'm not sure I'd want to light my SVEA on top of that.

      How small does it pack and weigh? I really wish they would review some of this gear from a campers standpoint, but I suspect it's all about the volume. :)


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