Hi All!Danneaux's gone soft?
Not that I'm going soft, mind you (never
!), but certain camping accessories now have greater appeal for me than before. For well over 30 years I used my shoulder blades, elbows, and heels to row my way into and out of my end-entry Gore-Tex bivy. It got a little old at times when my path took me through mud and wet grass in the rain or snow on the way to shelter and a sleeping bag. Now I have a side -entry tent and I just roll in and out. I feel like a sybarite. I used to sit on the same little square of blue foam I use to pad my rack beneath my rack-top load. Now, I've decided I need something better to sit on.Softy
!What's out there? Camp-chair types
I've surveyed the camp-chair scene, vetting all entries for bike-touring suitability. There's a lot of good choices out there, but they fall into four general categories:
1) The three-legged stool.
2) The fold-up chair in various guises.
3) The sleeping pad converter.
4) The 90-degree chair-pad with webbing at the sides to hold the back upright. Some fold out to make a sleeping-pad substitute.
There is a Fifth category, the sling-strap chair, best typified by Nada Chair ("not-a-chair"): http://www.nadachair.com/
I have one of their S'port Backer models, which folds into its own backrest and then zips shut. It works as advertised and provides great back support. Unfortunately, it has several drawbacks:
a) It is heavy.
b) It takes awhile to deploy and store.
c) It has no bottom, depending on you to supply your own (OEM, bleacher seating, log, or the ground).
It hasn't worked for me as I'd hoped for cycle-camping, so the search continued.So, what does Danneaux want?
Of course, I wanted something...
1) Small and quick to pack and unpack.
2) Lightweight to carry.
3) Reasonably comfortable.
4) Deployable/stowable without a lot of fuss.
5) Sitting up off the ground.
This last requirement has become more important to me in recent years, as I do more desert touring. The little blue-foam rack-pad leaves me sitting at ground level and is hard to access, sitting as it does beneath the rack-top load. I find myself sitting on things that are hard on my lycra cycling shorts. Logs are sharp, as are goat-head thorns. Rocks aren't too comfortable after sitting on a saddle all day. Pavement can be blistering hot.Wha'd Dan get?
So, I bought two examples, a 1) three-legged chair, and 2) a fold-up chair. The latter is better described as a "tent pole chair".Stool
The stool I got is the REI Trail Stool: http://www.rei.com/product/765283/rei-trail-stool
Unfolded, it is 15in/38cm tall x 13in/33cm x 13in/33cm across the top. Folded, it is 4in/10cm x 22in/56cm. Seating height is 15in/38cm, weighs 14oz/454g on my scale; my neighbor proved it will support 225lbs/102kg with no problem. It is a nice little stool, with flared foot-caps to prevent sinking, and added strength from a webbing wrap around the base that locks the stool closed for transport. It has a shoulder strap for carrying (no case on this year's model), and is the perfect height for most things, including filching stuff out of the panniers when Sherpa is upright on his Click-Stand. Regularly USD$22.50, I got mine for $15 on sale. A steal at that price. It is the same length as my rack-top dry sack, and stows neatly and readily accessible under the same Arno straps I use to secure my rack-top load, making it quickly available for roadside lunch stops and such. I chose green/grey to better blend in when I am stealth camping. Perfectly useful, except...
It has no back to lean against. The seat bears an uncanny resemblance to a bicycle saddle after sitting on the latter for 16+ hours. It is a surprisingly long reach down to the stove's throttle or pot when cooking. I find myself leaning elbows-on-knees in the same position I spend all day when riding. It isn't the break I sought.
Wah.Chair (or most of one!)
Then, there's the fold-up chair. I got an Alite Monarch Butterfly Chair ( http://www.rei.com/product/792007/alite-monarch-butterfly-chair
, mfr's site here: http://www.alitedesigns.com/monarch-chair.html
), consisting of a reinforced nylon and mesh sling suspended from four tent poles secured in a central hub. It is a Click-Stand you
can sit on. The chair has two legs (you supply the other two with your own extremities), and it balances and rocks on the ones supplied. It.is.cool. It is low. it is a real chair. It is also expensive at USD$70 (a $10 increase in the last year).
The Alite Monarch looks very much like the Alite Mantis ( http://www.rei.com/product/830542/alite-mantis-chair
) or the Australian Helinox Chair One ( http://www.helinox.com.au/pages/helinox-chair-one.asp
) also marketed in the US by Big Agnes ( https://www.bigagnes.com/Products/Detail/Accessory/HelinoxChair
), but sits a little lower and lacks those models' four stubby legs. I think the Monarch will do better on soft soil with its two big foot-pads than the quad-leggers' tiny rubber tips, but time will tell.
The olive green is no longer available, so I chose black to better blend in when stealth camping. I liked the orange, but it would have shown up like a distress flag. After all, I chose the green tent and matte black bike to be as inconspicuous as possible in camp.
What the Monarch does have going for it is light weight at 19oz, and it packs really, really small at 4.5in/11.4cm x 13in/33cm. The seat itself is 22in/56cm high x 21.5in/55cm wide x 17in/43cm deep. You sit about 5in/13cm off the ground, so it is stable. The seat pocket is seamless (a balm for bike saddle-weary bottoms), and the back support is good. Examples do vary, however, so it pays to "test-sit" them in a store. Some were loose and almost hammock-like, while others were very taut and firm. One was sewn with a twist that had me spilling out the left side. The only problem I ran into is the back supports tend to move toward center when you're in the chair, and I found they pinched me below and rearward from the armpits when sitting in one particular position. This is a problem if you're slim-hipped and wide-shouldered. Folks built the other way (narrow up top, wide below) who tried them at the store were happy with the models that pinched me. People -- and apparently chairs -- vary.
The Monarch is low enough to tend a stove, and adjusts steplessly to accommodate many positions. Slide/lean forward in the seat pocket, and you weight your legs. Sit in the middle and you have neutral balance even with legs crossed semi-lotus position or sitting with ankle-on-knee. Lean back, and you have a recliner and can achieve the same zenlike state of balance you did as a second-grader in those old wooden school chairs, but without the risk of injury if you fall 'cos you're only a little ways from the ground and can catch yourself with an outstretched hand. There are a few caveats: If you're on a hill, place the chair so it faces downhill. The legs should be pretty level with each other laterally or the frame will twist to the downhill side. I'm guessing a person could break the chair if they did something dumb like "walking" it along the ground to a new location while seated. Otherwise, it does seem to answer my needs and packs small enough to fit in the top-cap of one rear Ortlieb BikePacker Plus rear pannier.Trouble in Paradise...but hope springs anew
Only problem? Last night, I exchanged the one shown in the photo 'cos after using it for a half-hour to read the newspaper, it stretched-out till I was sitting on the alu tubes. I think the mesh side panels on that example were a bit too generous. The replacement, an older green display model, blends into the scenery even better. A few on the showroom floor had defects, including skewed covers that caused them to list and then to finally collapse to one side, so I've got to be a little lukewarm about it at this point. If it holds up, great! A full-on test while extended touring will tell the tale.
I'm toying with the idea of packing a Dollar Store half-size umbrella in a light color, perhaps spray-painted silver. I dream of sitting beside the bike roadside, dining on lunch in self-made shade and a small patch of coolness amidst 124F/51C temperatures. If I epoxied a 10-24 threaded insert to the handle, I could fasten it onto my rear rack using the Rowi camera clamp and tilt it as needed. Bliss! (at least till the wind blows it wrong-side out).So, wha'd you get?
What chair or stool (if any) do you use while bike touring?