Best Camping Chair. Ever.


Imagine this… actually if you camp often enough in campgrounds you don’t have to visualize it in your mind’s eye, you have probably seen it many times.

You are in a campground and walk over to the community dumpster to dispose a bag of trash. Your hand cautiously lifts the lid trying to avoid any filth and you peer in for a spot to deposit your bag. And there, there on a small pile of rubble lays a broken camp chair. I have seen this scenario replayed dozens of times over the years.

Why don’t people simply just buy a quality camping chair once and for all time? Perhaps they have fallen for the concept of throwaway goods – does the concept of built-in obsolescence really exist – do companies really make chairs that last for a limited time, knowing you will likely purchase another short-lived chair from them?

Maybe people just don’t know where to look for a quality camp chair. Perhaps they don’t know who to ask. Apparently it is up to me to help out. Today I am willing to help.

What are the Parameters for a Good Gear Review?

I don’t do many gear reviews here on PopUpBackpacker. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have gathered that I generally find gear discussions boring. Yet, contrary to this contrarian view of cyberspace, some of the most popular backpacking and camping blogs review a lot of gear – some review several pieces of gear a week. Really? How can a person conscientiously review a dozen tents or a dozen backpacks in a single year? What constitutes a reasonable amount of time to give an item an adequate amount of time to put it to use, to find its strengths or weaknesses? Are these folks confusing first impressions with a review? I don’t know and it seems neither do the gear geeks who pursue the Internet for the perfect piece of gear.

In the world of backpacking there seems to be an implied and often stated philosophy of minimalism, a focus of preserving the earth for future generations, which is incompatible with conspicuous consumption and materialism that leads to my observation that many backpackers are constantly buying new gear and equipment and sending too much of the old to landfills.

If you think about it, doesn’t it make more sense to buy a quality piece of gear that will last a long time; gear that will actually be cheaper when it is dollar cost averaged over a period of time versus the cheap crap people buy, thus allowing a person to save and invest the difference?

More is Less

There is a stated philosophy in backpacking, stated but rarely practiced – Less is More. Or translated, the less stuff you carry in your pack, the less your pack will weigh, and you will enjoy your time more in the wilderness, due to a lightened load. It is true. But constantly searching for gear, constantly reading about gear, and constantly buying gear is such a waste of time and money. Why not buy quality gear once and for all, then take all that wasted gear-centric time and apply it to something truly constructive such as <gasp> actually backpacking or camping more often?

I have some pieces of gear that are 45 years old like my Kelty backpack and my Svea 123 stove that I still use. The backpack a couple times a year and nowadays the Svea stove is being used on more and more trips again.

So how long should a person use a piece of gear before the say it is really good?

Seems like 20 years would be a good starting point.

Zip Dee Fold-Away Camping Chair

On July 10, 1992 I bought two Zip Dee camping chairs. They have been in use for almost 25 years. This includes more than 2,000 camping days; numerous picnics and outdoor concerts; a couple years as my home office chair when I worked at home for months on end; and the occasional extra chair when too many people were visiting me.


Unlike most camping chairs, the Zip Dee is easy to fold, using springs so they quick lock into closed mode with little effort and no chance of pinching a finger. Once folded they stay folded and are only 2 inches thick.

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Opening the chairs is the same. The springs allow the chair to be quickly opened – just one second – and once opened they stay securely opened.


A Chair is A Chair is A Chair

We sit on a chair, it’s simple. A camping chair should be easy to operate, functional and good looking. The Zip Dee checks each of these boxes – form follows function.

But we are Americans and we have been brainwashed by Madison Avenue. We believe, contrary to common sense, that everything should be technologically advanced; technology for technology’s sake. We want our camping chairs to be technological wonders, not just a chair. We want zero gravity chairs (what on earth is that). We want built in cup holders, folding side tables attached, adjustable backs, foot rests and all sort of multi-functional contraptions, all of which are subject to Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong. These multi-function chairs do a lot of things, but they don’t do anything well.


The Zip Dee Chair does one thing well: it is a comfortable chair. That’s the goal of a chair, isn’t it?

Where Can You Get a Zip Dee Chair?

You have three options and occasionally a fourth.

You can get free Zip Dee chairs. Yes, free! If you purchase an Airstream Travel Trailer it will come with two free Zip Dee chairs. For decades the only place you could get a Zip Dee chair was from an Airstream Dealer. The only downside to the free chairs might be the cost of the trailer. A new Classic Model Airstream costs over $130,000 before any special upgrades.


But don’t despair. Most Airstream Dealers will sell you a Zip Dee chair, so you won’t have to buy a trailer. Until recently these were your only two options.

But today you can buy a chair directly from Zip Dee.  You can choose from a plethora of colors and fabric designs, and even add personalized embroidery. The cost of a basic Zip Dee chair is $99. That may sound like a lot, but in 25 years you will still be using it (if you live that long), meaning it will have cost you less than $4 per year, or $0.01 per day. That’s better than spending $30 every 3 years ($10 per year) for the typical dumpster-bound chair.

The occasional fourth option is eBay.

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