Like many of you I have spent a lot of time looking for a good camp chair. It has to be comfortable, light and easy to pack. Stable and able to withstand all the riggers of camp life. Ideally it will be cheap.
I started out not bothering to take a chair and used to sit in my hammock but that was too far from the fire and could not be easily moved. Then I tried the cheap chairs you get in petrol stations and supermarkets. They are light enough and comfortable but break quickly and don't pack easily. I tired a lightweight camp chair that was a bit low slung and fragile. You had to get out of it in a very specific way. Not ideal. Then I got a fishing chair. It was solid and comfortable, if a bit low to the ground. It is heavy and a pain to pack, actually you can't pack it you just have to wedge it somewhere in the canoe but it has lasted the longest and generally earned its keep. It is, however, now well worn with few trips left in it. The stitching and material are starting to part company.
So here I was again looking for a camp chair. As it happened I got an email that had information about a new Thermarest chair, the Trēo. The specs looked impressive. Packs small. easy to erect, stable, not too heavy but hard wearing. Please let it be true.
If all this was true then it would be close to perfect. Is it cheap? Not really. Currently they are going on Amazon for just under £77, http://www.amazon.co.uk/THERMAREST-T...DRD25MKCQDVHCT but are usually closer to £85. This takes it to the same sort of price point as the Helinox which I have not tried but has design similarities until you get to the legs and it packing into itself. Anyway, if it does what it says and lasts I would be happy to pay this price. But it needs to deliver.
And so it was delivered Not just delivered but taken out, sat on, used on trips, ready for me to give an informed opinion on. First off it looks great when packed. A solid lump that can be thrown about a bit and stuffed in a pack easily. Either in the main pack or a side pocket.
It can be hard to gauge the size so here it is with a crusader mug, my standard size unit And a 1 litre bottle in the mug in case you need a further guide.
If we take the rubber band off from around the legs we can swing one leg open to see inside. The rubber band is attached to one of the legs so it does not get lost. The "hand strap" is attached to a plastic disk that is just slid into place. There is nowhere to store this disk and strap when the chair is erected. It is just asking to be lost. Actually it may be a disposable part of the packing but too useful to chuck away so I came up with a solution for this. More later.
Inside we see some rolled up material and some poles.
Open the legs out and put them the right way up.
Unroll the material to find four poles. Two with two sections and silver ends and two with three sections and black ends. The pole sets are shock corded together as is the norm.
A quick shake to spring them into shape.
Then the silver ends of the shorter poles go in the two holes that are on the same leg. The longer black poles go into the single holes on each of the remaining legs.
I know what you are thinking, "John is so going to lose that disk with the hand strap".
Sticky backed velcro to the rescue
Alternatively you could loop the hand strap over one of the poles at this point but the velcro solution gives you somewhere to stick the disk as soon as you take it out.
You unroll, fold out the material and find a seat shaped sling with "pockets" in the corners. You put the ends of the poles in the pockets and voila, you have a chair.
It takes a lot of words and pictures to describe this but in reality less than a minute to do.
Now lets put a 6 foot 3 inches tall, slightly under 15 stone, MagiKelly in the chair.
Mmmmm, comfy Sam wonders if there is a version for dogs
When I first got this chair I set it up at home a few times and got into it really gently. I was worried I would bend the bars or the material would rip. Logically I knew it had been tested extensively by the manufacturer before they even went on sale but still it felt too light to really take abuse.
However, once you get out camping and are moving round the campfire, getting up to do this and that, moving the chair, sitting down, getting up again you start to treat it like just a chair. The kid gloves come off and you start to just rely on it. Given time you may even find yourself swinging back on it a bit
Indeed you will come to think of it as being so robust that every time you lift it you will be shocked at how light it is. In a very short time I have come to think of it as being as solid as the fishing chair it is replacing. So I am always surprised when I lift it and find it is a fraction of that weight. Indeed this lightness is a reel boon as it makes it so much easier to shift position when the smoke changes direction and you are getting kippered by the camp fire. Moving is further helped as the Treo chair has a seat height about twice that of the fishing chair. So getting up is easier and not quite the "turtle on its back" impersonation I could be accused of, when exiting the fishing chair.
I should have mentioned another benefit of the design of the chair. The plastic legs have a wide foot compared to the rubber tipped ends of most camp chairs (Helinox included). As a result the legs do not easily sink into the ground. I have tried them on a beach and it was fine. My fishing chair would have gone in at least an inch in the same conditions. The three legged design also means you do not get any wobble but of course if you lean forward and out to the side far enough you can tip but you do need to go stupidly far.
As you can tell I am really taken with the new Thermarest Trēo Chair. Is it the perfect chair? Maybe. It is portable and packable enough. Indeed so packable I will be taking it even on day trips. I may even take it when walking. It is comfortable and high enough. Is it cheap enough? Probably. The deciding factor will be if it lasts well. I am confident it will. Confident enough indeed that I am looking to get a second one.
Of course I'll keep you updated with how it stands up as time progresses.