On a recent trip to America, I had the good fortune to walk into REI when there was a sale on. As you can imagine, my bank account wasn’t happy with what happened next. One of the gems I managed to pick up on offer was the REI Flexlite Air Chair, a rival to the Helinox Zero. We’ll get to which one we like best in a bit, but first let’s take a look at what we’re dealing with.
Overview / Specs
The ultralight camping chair game is hotting up these days, with industry pioneers Helinox now facing some stiff competition. Helinox released their ‘Chair One’ model only recently, and the Flexlite Air looks to be a direct rival. The Flexlite Air is the smallest, lightest, newest addition to the REI camping chair range. Other options such as the Flexlite ‘Low’ offer low weight, but usually for a trade-off such as being lower to the ground. Not so with the Air, which is a fully-fledged beer-chugging camp chair.
Size and Weight
The chair measures 19 x 22 x 22 inches when assembled. Folded, the Flexlite Air is approximately 5 x 16 inches. One major plus I found re: size is that the stuff sack for the chair has a good amount of give. You’ll definitely never struggle to put this thing back in its house. Assembled, the chair sits 11 inches off the ground.
It weighs an absolutely crazy 450 grams – seriously, I picked this thing up I was like “uhh…What?” – and has a weight capacity of 113kg. That’s about 17 stone or 250lbs in old money.
Design and Material
The design of the REI Flexlite Air is much like that of the Helinox Chair One and the Zero. The aluminium legs clip together to form the frame, to which you add the ripstop nylon seat cover. One slight difference is the positioning of the ‘crossbeam’ on the legs, with the Air opting to have this on a different side to the Helinox. Presumably REI had their reasons, but it makes it confusing as hell if you’re used to the way the Helinox assembles! One slight advantage to the Helinox is that its frame practically assembles itself, with the legs all wanting to find their slots. With the Air, it seems they don’t clip together quite so effortlessly- but that’s a very minor gripe.
REI Flexlite Air Review
So, we took the REI Flexlite Air out into a sunny field recently and had ourselves a little sit down on it. Here’s the lowdown
The Air is a bit low to the ground, and can be a little hard to get out of, but it’s a perfectly comfy sit. It can feel a bit unstable at times, but once you’re in the groove, you ain’t getting out of that chair any time soon. Is it as comfortable as the Helinox Chair One? No, but the ‘One’ weighs twice as much. However, I’d say it’s at least as comfortable as the Chair Zero.
Although I approach every camping chair warily, convinced it will break the moment I look at it, the Flexlite Air is surprisingly sturdy – especially given how light it is. I weigh around 14 stone, and it took my weight with no fuss. I’m convinced that it can easily take the 17 stone it claims to, and probably then some.
So, what have we got? Well, the REI Flexlite Air is a full 50 grams lighter than its nearest competition, the Helinox Chair Zero. It also seems as if REI are going for a slightly lower price point – I definitely acquired mine for less than the cheapest Chair Zero I could find.
Although it feels slightly wobblier than the Chair Zero (maybe the ‘crossbeam’ position on the legs?) at times, it seems to be just a teething problem when you get into the chair. Once it’s under weight and in a good position, the REI Flexlite Air feels at least as comfortable and sturdy as the Chair Zero. All in all, I heartily recommend the REI Flexlite Air. It’s definitely coming with me on my next camping adventure!
Well folks, that’s all for now. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog if you like this sort of thing and want to hear more. Until next time!