When a camp chair costs $160, there are high expectations. Obviously, it has to be way more comfortable than those bag chairs sold in sporting goods stores and the supermarket -- you know, the ones with the sandpaper fabric seat that slumps so low that the front lip cuts into your legs. A high-end chair should also outclass most of the souvenir shop beach chairs that are only somewhat adjustable and quickly rust, bend and rip. But beyond this, a high-end chair should offer a level of comfort that approaches what you find in a standard piece of furniture. It shouldn't force you to fidget or squirm just because it's a "camp chair." And it has to take a pounding from being hauled around and used outdoors.
As soon as our testers unfolded the Kelty Recliner, they couldn't wait to begin their rigorous testing. (OK, we admit, this involved lots of sitting, reading, drinking cocktails and occasionally napping -- basically a product tester's Nirvana.) We deployed the recliner in campgrounds, backyards, the mesh front room of a cabin tent, and even in the living room of a house. Pretty much everyone agreed that this was the most comfortable camp chair they'd ever used, and one tester reluctantly admitted that it was the most comfortable chair in his house. (Perhaps, it's time for a certain someone to visit the furniture store.)
The first thing we noticed about the recliner is that it's built rock solid with a steel frame. The recliner weighs 21 pounds, so it's definitely suited best for car camping or lounging on the deck or patio. While it's hefty, the benefit is you get a chair that feels extremely stable and does not wobble even the slightest bit when you're sitting in it. After weeks of hauling the thing out of cars, dragging it across the ground and piling it on top of other gear, it remains as sound as ever, and has done a good job of resisting potential dents and scratches.
The majority of the seat and back is a durable but soft mesh, while the head area, foot area and perimeter are covered with a 600-denier polyester ripstop material. You would have to work hard to damage these materials, which never became warped, torn or noticeably stretched during our tests. Functionally, the seat materials work great. The mesh is pulled taught and attached to the frame with elastic cords, so it has some elastic give, but at the same time provides excellent support. The mesh conforms to the body, but never feels as if it is sagging. Plus, the mesh allows air to flow, so you don't get uncomfortably sweaty in warm temperatures. Strips of solid fabric cover the cords that attach the mesh to the frame so that bare legs don't have to rest on the rough components.
One of the really cool things about this recliner is that it has an adjustable and removable headrest. All testers gave the headrest high marks because it is shaped well to support the head and neck, and it's made with foam that, like the mesh seat, offers a good balance of cushioning and support. At first, we were concerned that the solid, durable fabric covering the headrest would feel too rough, but most testers said it really wasn't an issue. Our only concern was that the headrest didn't feel comfortable when we sat upright in the chair. In this position, we simply removed it, and the chair felt fine.
Another nice aspect of the chair is that it is easy to adjust, and it has a wide range of motion, allowing you to go from an upright position to one where you are lying back with your feet elevated slightly above your body. Between these two extremes, the seat is infinitely adjustable -- there are no fixed positions. To change the seating angle, you merely lean forward or backward, and the seat rises or drops with a smooth action. When you've found the perfect seat position, you can lock it into place by simply flipping levers located on each plastic armrest. We love that there are no fixed notches, so you really can get the chair juuust right.
On the right side of the chair, there are two handy accessories. The first is a bottle-cap opener than hangs on a short lanyard beneath the armrest. The second is a removable drink holder that has a flat platform plus a well that can accommodate a large glass or cup (and the well has a notch for a coffee mug handle -- good thinkin'). The cup well lies at the rear of the armrest, and it was kind of difficult to reach. Actually, our testers said it felt much more natural to place a glass on the flat platform, which lies toward the front of the armrest. We're not sure why the cup holder attachment was positioned this way, but it wasn't that big a deal.
Just one more notable thing: We liked that the legs of the chair have plastic armoring at the corners, which is just a nice touch to prevent the metal from getting scratched on rough, hard surfaces. Chances are, you'll want to use this recliner not only in campgrounds, but on your patio as well.
The general consensus among testers was this was the most impressive camping recliner -- or camp chair for that matter -- that they'd ever used. One couple who tested it during a car-camping trip said the only problem was that they only had one of these chairs in camp, so there was much negotiating and bribing to determine who would be king (OK, actually queen) of the recliner.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $159.95