therm-a-rest, chair, trekker chair, camping, hiking, chair, mattress A long time ago, before I had done enough backcountry travel to develop an ego about Things That Don’t Matter (Steel fork –overweight-much? Camping pillow –are you planning on bringing a portable shower and electric razor as well?), I had a great little camp chair. It was basically two foam squares sewed into a piece of canvas and strapped together with nylon webbing. And it was the best thing I owned.

Anyone who has done much camping in places that aren’t equipped with picnic tables and flush toilets knows that find-a-chair can be an interesting game to play once you’ve reached your campsite. Anyone who’s spent more than half an hour perched on a damp, upturned stump that they’ve found under a giant fern and rolled over to the cooking area of their campsite knows that by “interesting”, I actually mean, “liable to result in lack of feeling in one or both legs and/or nerve damage to the lower half of your body.”

At some point in ancient history, my prized camp chair disintegrated from overuse and I chose not to replace it, because Extra Weight and also, Pride. The thinking must have gone, “If I can’t appreciate a stump-numbed ass, I’m not really appreciating the beauty of wilderness, and shouldn’t bother continuing to exist.” Or something. I can’t really remember what I was thinking, because, apparently, I’m now old and shameless.

Since breaking my back, I’ve had to make some concessions on the camp chair front. There is just no way I’m sitting on the ground (or any hard surface, or anything without a back rest) for more than a few minutes at a time without wanting to stab someone with my swiss army knife. Which is totally not serenity-of-nature. So I caved and bought a lightweight Therm-a-Rest chair. And I am NEVER going anywhere without it again. Literally. Since buying the thing, I’ve taken it on hiking trips, climbing trips, to the beach, the fireworks, barbeques, and sporting events that involve bleachers (ok, I haven’t taken it to any sporting events, but I wish I had). I’ve packed it into my overnight pack, my bike pannier, and an oversized purse. Sometimes, I sling it over my shoulder like a handbag when I go for a walk, in case I decide to stop somewhere for a rest.

The chair is a definite improvement over the foam version I had years ago. It’s actually just a couple pieces of lightweight fabric with some lightweight shape-holding bars on the back (think boning in a corset) and some clips and straps. All told, it weight just 272 grams and rolls up smaller than many umbrellas. All you need is a therm-a-rest to slip into it (which you’ll have with you anyway, if you’re camping), and, voilà! You’ve got a chair.

Besides being comfortable and convenient, my chair has also made me a party trick. At one BBQ, I got up to go to the bathroom, and when I returned, people were taking turns testing it out. I wasn’t allowed to sit down until everyone got a chance to wiggle around in the chair. I promise, there were other interesting activities available. My friends aren’t horribly boring.

So, if you’ve been putting off getting yourself a backpacking chair, wait no longer. The grass is definitely greener (and less sciatica-inducing) on the other side of this fence.