I’ve had my Helinox camp chair for many years now. And it’s been flawless. It lives in my four-wheel drive full-time and comes with me on every trip. It wasn’t cheap to purchase, but in terms of value, I know I’ll have it for life. Making it good value for money.
It’s light, strong, packs up incredibly small, and is actually rather comfortable even for a lanky lad such as myself. Being that it is close to a decade old though, have the imitators stepped up their game in this time?
Well, to answer this question I picked up two cheap versions of this hiking-style chair from my local Aldi supermarket, for $24 each. Now, that is cheap. What I need to work out, however, is while the purchase price was cheap, will these Aldi camp chairs represent good value for money in the long term?
What I hate about this style of chair
The second you stand up and turn your back, it’s guaranteed the wind will catch the chair and blow it directly into a fire. It’s scientifically proven. Every. Single. Time. You have been warned. I tend to put a bit of firewood on mine if walking away, or even just turn it upside down, which also seems to help.
Also, on sand, expect the legs to dig in. You can work around this with some bits of wood to spread the load, or just accept the fact your bum will come close to touching the ground. I choose the latter. The benefits are worth it for me. My FJ Cruiser has a pitiful payload capacity and cargo space. If I can save weight and space at any cost, I’ll do so.
What I love about this style of chair
There are so many good things to talk about here. Firstly, these chairs are super-light which is perfect for those carrying a few extra kilograms in their four-wheel drives. Secondly, they pack up to next to nothing, meaning you can store them in tight places and make full use of your vehicle’s available cargo space.
I find these chairs to be quick and easy to assemble once you know what you are doing. As a side note, the fabric on the Aldi chair was a bit tight to stretch over the poles when new, but this has sorted itself out after a few uses.
Lastly, you’ll be the talk of the campsite as everyone that hasn’t seen this style of chair before will have a million questions and want a turn sitting in one of them.
While I’ve had no issues with my Aldi camp chairs, I did some research before spending the same amount as the average late-night kebab. The feedback I did see on various camping groups, was to be careful placing your weight into the chair quickly. Also, ensure you have set it up perfectly before sitting in one.
Some people were saying that one of the poles of the chair could tear through the fabric, and into your back or legs if you don’t seat it correctly.
Again. I can’t confirm this as I’ve had no issues. I weigh in at 80kg and always make sure the poles are well seated before use. So far, no issues to report. Other than you can tell it’s a cheaper unit. It just doesn’t feel as well made as the Helinox, and it also feels heavier. This is important for hikers, as every gram of weight counts.
The Helinox is light in weight yet offers premium quality – I have to give my respect to the innovators in this field. You’re paying for the materials as well as the research and development.
I like the buy-once-cry-once philosophy and prefer to select camping products I can keep for life, I hate seeing cheap camping gear fail and be thrown in the bin. This is a more sustainable option, and I’m glad I have it. I’m actually eying off the Helinox camp table as well. A few mates have them and rate them highly.
It must also be noted that I paid for my Helinox chair as well as the two Aldi chairs with my own money. I just feel these are cool bits of camping gear, and wanted to compare the two side-by-side.
If you are using the chair regularly, or are on the heavier side – pony up the extra coin for the Helinox. If you need a chair for kids, or lighter individuals, and are only going to use them a few times a year, the Aldi version will do you well. I’m yet to kill or damage one and have spent a total of 15 nights camping with mine this year alone.
I won’t be replacing my Helinox anytime soon, nor do I ever hope to do so. But will I still bring these Aldi chairs along on adventures? Yep. I’m keen to keep testing and see if they are an absolute bargain, which I feel they are. If I do manage to break one, I’m interested to know where this failure point is also.
I’m definitely glad I spent the extra on the Helinox, but I’m also happy that I have the option of the Aldi camp chair. I find the Helinox chair to be bigger, and more comfortable though. For that reason alone, I’m calling it the winner in this battle.
Update 21/08/2023 – I broke it
Well, it seems the limits of the Aldi camp chair have been reached. Just two camping trips after this article was published, I noticed one of the legs has a big bend in it. In the bin it goes.
I’ve just picked up two Front Runner Expander Chairs to live in my Camper trailer. These are another style of compact camp chair, that I’ve seen loads of people using, and wanted to compare for myself. So far, they are definitely bigger and heavier than the Helinox, but initial impressions are they are more comfortable and don’t tend to dig into sand as easily. I’ll be comparing the Helinox and Front Runner chairs over the Christmas holidays, so stay tuned for an update.