High Gear: Helinox Chair One and Table One review
June 21, 2017
At the beginning of spring 2016, I got a hold of a great set of camp furniture: the Helinox Chair One and Table One. I was looking for a simple setup that would allow me to work on the computer at camp while I was living out of my truck and finishing the routes for my latest guidebook. I saw this as really the only way of working in comfort, or at least maintaining some level of productivity — I just can't concentrate when I'm working in the passenger seat. (In fact, many of my gear reviews for the Summit Daily have been written on this setup at campsites in the backcountry.)
Helinox Chair One
Starting with the Chair One ($99.95-$124), this is a sturdy little item. The manufacturer says it will hold a 350-pound load. I believe it, but I won't be testing out this claim — I really like this chair and want to keep using it as long as I can.
The key to its success is simplicity. Three parts make up the package: the legs, the seat and the bag. The legs are connected via bungee cord, so they pull into place on their own. The plastic units that hold the legs are very strong. On the seat are four sewn pockets for the legs. The aluminum tubes that make up the legs are strong and don't flex easily, so getting the second and fourth legs in the pockets can take some strength. But my 8-year-old can do it, so it's not that big of an issue.
Once the chair is assembled, that's it. Since there's no pocket for the storage bag, stash it in your pack so it doesn't blow away.
Weighing in at 1.9 pounds packed, the Chair One is light enough to bring along for comfort on backpacking trips. I used to backpack with a Thermarest that included a chair kit. Lately, I have been using the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX. This pad is much lighter, thicker and more comfortable. That said, using a chair kit with this pad can be a little frustrating and I always worry about it popping since the pad is basically a balloon.
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The Chair One's compact size and lightweight construction combine to make carrying both a pad and the chair feasible. After a long day on the trail it's very nice to sit and rest with back support. Every night is a chance to recover for the next day, and this chair makes doing that easy and comfortable.
Helinox Table One
The mobile backcountry office is complete with the Table One ($119.95). The table is sturdy enough to hold my heavy, bulky dinosaur of a laptop, along with the charger, and it still has room for a mouse (a mouse is key for editing photos). The table is very stable with a low center of gravity — it takes a very strong wind to knock it over when loaded — and when paired with the Chair One, the height is perfect for an evening of work.
Weighing in at 1.3 pounds, backpackers can take the Table One on the trail, but I never did. It just seemed like overkill to bring a table, but I could see a place for it when you have a larger group, or when you are raft-packing. This unit is most at home camping at trailheads, campgrounds and dispersed sites out of a vehicle.
The table is a little more complicated to set up, with five pieces in the package: the legs, the top, the two top struts and a storage bag. The legs are held in place with the same high-strength plastic as the Chair One. The newest model has a storage spot for the bag.
Beyond being an office, the table also makes for a great kitchen. There's plenty of room to spread out a cutting board and the night's ingredients. Avoid cooking directly on the table, though, as this might melt the nylon of the tabletop. That nylon makes for easy clean up with just soap and water.
Another word about the nylon: Avoid sitting on the table. Campers might think this isn't an issue, but my kids seem to be irresistibly drawn to the idea of turning it into a chair. The aluminum tubing on the table is much thinner than the chair and has a lighter load tolerance.
I love this mobile office setup and would have had a tough time getting my most recent project done without it. And now that my project is done, I still use both the chair and table every time I go camping, even if it's just for the family. The Helinox gear has stood up to the abuse I've dealt it over the last 17 months, and it's ready for more adventures.
Fritz Sperry is a skier, author, photographer and artist who has skied extensively in the Colorado backcountry. He's the author of: "Makingturns in the Tenmile-Mosquito Range," and "Makingturns in Colorado's Front Range, Vol. 1," both available from his company, Giterdun Publishing.