Review: Helinox Chair One & Chair Zero

I have been using a Helinox Chair One on activations for a while. This was the lightest chair Helinox made at the time of purchase but subsequently they brought out the Chair Zero which is close to half the weight of the Chair One.

Helinox did a 30% reduction offer on Black Friday this year which persuaded me to buy one.

First impressions on arrival is the pack size was significantly smaller than the Chair One. Although both are about 350mm long, the Chair One is about 120mm in diameter while the Chair Zero is about 100mm. This may not seem much less but it represents about a 30% reduction in volume.

An extra you can get for both chairs is a ground sheet, shown below fitted to the Chair Zero.

This is made from strong mesh. The loop in the middle can be used to link it to the lower tube but I’ve never found this necessary.

But the strap can be used to secure everything when packing up. I fold the frame, wrap the chair fabric around the tubes then roll the ground sheet around everything and secure with the strap. It then slides easily into the bag.

On the summits I activate the ground sheet is essential, otherwise the legs just sink into the soft ground. For this reason the weight comparisons below include the ground sheets, which fit in the bag with the chair.

Chair One - 1068g

Chair Zero - 659g

Without the ground sheet I measured the Zero at 516g, which is within a few grams of the claimed weight.

The conclusion from this is the Zero is not half the weight of the Chair One if you are using a ground sheet but there is a useful weight saving of about 400g (or 14 oz).

The two chairs side by side, Zero on the left.

The back of both chairs is at about the same height but the front edge is lower on the Zero. The other thing which springs out from this image are the legs on the Zero are significantly shorter. However, this doesn’t mean the chair is closer to the ground. Here is why.

The tubes supporting the fabric of the chair are significantly longer in the Zero. This is why you sit at about the same height in both chairs. Not exactly the same height, my measurements suggest you will be about 25mm lower in the Zero but without an assistant to help me I could only measure the unstressed fabric. The measurements need to be done again with someone sitting in the chairs. :slight_smile:

A consequence of the shorter legs in the Zero is that the “footprint” of the Chair is smaller.

Does this make a difference in stability?

My experience of the first activation using the Zero last week is the chair is usable and I could move about in it, to reach the radio or pick something up from the ground without feeling I was about to fall over.

One thing to be aware of is the empty chair will blow over very easily. The Chair One does this and the lighter Zero very readily falls over and on a windy summit you might want to tie it to something like your pack if you want to avoid having to run after it!

In cold weather a foam sit mat is very useful. The thin fabric of the Zero does not provide much insulation.

For those “wider in the beam” there is also a Chair Zero L.

Neither of these chairs can be called cheap and they are hardly an essential extra but for me they do add a degree of comfort to an activation. :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the review. I have been using the Zero with ground sheet since June and it has a permanent place in my pack unless something better comes along! While not cheap, it seems almost purpose built for my activations.

Vy 73 de Jonathan “JB”

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I recently bought the Helinox Chair Zero to avoid sitting on the ground or low rocks and the inevitable leg cramp and butt ache that follow. I carried it on three SOTA activations although I haven’t actually used it [except at home watching the telly] as there were stone walls or waist-high rock ledges to serve as ‘operating desks’ and I prefer to stand if possible in cold weather.

Like you say, its weight and size are hardly noticeable in the rucksack. I’ve practised assembling and disassembling it a few times at home and it’s very quick. It is comfortable and doesn’t tip when I lean over.

I’ve fashioned a homemade ‘thigh-knee board’ with Velcro straps on which to sit the rig and logbook. There’s bound to be a SOTA activation soon where there’s nothing at the summit so the chair and thigh-knee board will come into service.

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Nice report, John!

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Hi John,

Thanks for the review; I’m sure it’ll help a bunch of folks.

I have a Chair Zero with a ground sheet, and I love the combo. It’s in my pack on all activations now. Much better than sitting on the ground! I too add a foam pad for insulation.

But I bought the chair and ground sheet separately, and didn’t think to wrap the chair in the ground sheet for packing. Thanks for that tip!

73,
Andy, N4LAG

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Nice review John. I’m hoping you’ve missed one of those pesky m’s out of the measurement quoted! :wink:

I went for the ground chair to reduce the problem of sinkage and am very happy with it (though getting out of it is not graceful!)

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I’ve bookmarked it for when the inner elastic bands keeping my Decathlon MH500 together will give up.

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Thank you! I’ve just corrected it. :slight_smile:

The Ground Chair is a good alternative.

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I’ve been the happy owner of a Helinox Ground Chair for many years now. Having had a double herniated disc in my younger days, I find sitting on the ground for long periods very difficult. Younger activators with stronger backs may well wonder what all the fuss is about. However, if the rest of your gear is light enough, a chair can easily be carried with no undue weight penalty. As my rucksack weighs under 500g, the combined weight of my chair and rucksack is about 1kg; still less than most average rucksacks. My golden rule is: never buy a rucksack over 500g. There’s a great selection of light daypacks here:

       73 de OE6FEG
               Matt
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I have been using the ground chair for the past 6 months and am very happy with it. It’s light, is less inclined to sink into soft ground, and small enough to fit inside a low shelter or tarp tent.

The ground chair is very low and it is a bit of a gymnastic feat to get in and out of it in a graceful manner.

There are those who would question the use of a seat or a shelter for SOTA. Whilst I don’t find it necessary for every activation, it makes the difference between enjoyment and suffering when sitting for over an hour. I use mine at every opportunity.

73, Kevin, MW0KXN

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I sympathize. I had a prolapsed (or herniated) disc about 30 years ago (stupidly lifting something very heavy on my own), probably my most painful experience and which lasted for months afterwards, and even now I have to do daily exercises to avoid lower back pain.

Give them time! Human spines evolved to let us stand, run, walk, lie down but not sit on chairs for hours on end [where all the upper body weight creates big forces on the lower discs]. We make kids at school and office workers sit [slouch] all day on cheap, ill-designed chairs. It’s no wonder that so many people suffer low-back pain after decades of that abuse.

I’ve completely changed my mind about carrying a portable chair - no longer considered an unnecessary luxury - rather something to extend my on-air operating time.

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I use the Helinox chair and Field Office. I also use a Big Agnes stool that is super light and packs up to the size of a bigger water bottle.

Decathlon may have similar products in EU

I remember in Bolzano there is a big store.

I did not activate Kronplatz due to bad propagation the day I was there

John ve3ips

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I read a few reviews last month before making my choice. It was a close call between the Big Agnes Skyline UL (~699g) and the Helinox Chair Zero (~500g), both similar price but the Helinox won on weight.

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Great review! I’ve been a fan of these chairs since they came out around 2015ish. I love how small they pack down (compared to standard camp chairs). To keep mine from blowing away when I’m not in it I simply flip the chair upside down. If it’s really windy I place a waterbottle on it for added peace of mind.

One thing to note is that they are not the most stable when used in sandy loose soil. The legs of the chair tend to sink in and throw it off balance. This can sort of be remedied by using a ground tarp underneath the legs.

73!

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Sorry for going OT.

When carrying any weight, e.g. SOTA kit, I find my large backpack much more comfortable than my day sack even though it is much heavier. That’s because it has a hip belt.

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I’m not sure you’re that far off topic Richard. The decision as to whether or not to carry a chair for activating necessarily involves consideration of the weight penalty. We don’t joke about the ‘lucky anvil’ for nothing.
I think we would be failing in our duty as mentors if we did not encourage newcomers to think, and think again, about their kit weight. Of course, gear lists are a personal matter, and I would not suggest my choices are definitive, but to give people some idea of what I carry, here is my summer gear list (weights in grams):

KX2 & Sigg box 943
4m Mast 269
Pegs 67
OCFD & Feeder 255
Straps 164
Schurr Wabbler Key 250
Bluetooth keyboard 176
Flight deck 233
Foam sit pad 100
HT 397
Antenna for HT 79
JVC headphones 364
Smartphone 223
Helinox ground chair 655
3F UL rucksack 450

Patagonia Micropuff hoody 264
Paramo windproof 106
Paramo Enduro fleece 414
Spare T-shirt 120

Energy bar 37
Apple juice 528

Grand Total 6.094kg

That is my luxury summer activating gear. I carry an MTR3b and no HT when I am doing a long double activation with over 1300m ascent. Depending on how long the day is, I might also take a sandwhich, or a flask of tea in cooler weather.
Some may well say that things like the Schurr key, noise cancelling headphones and a Bluetooth keyboard are unnecessary luxuries. Others, would be shocked at the omission of a first aid kit. In any case, a load of 6kg goes very comfortably in my lightweight daypack, which has thick padded shoulder straps to offset a more minimal hipbelt. In fact, choosing a heavier pack alone could add more than 1kg of unnecessary weight to my gear.
Many activators work hard to reduce their pack weight. It seems odd to me, that after going to so much trouble they would forget to put their rucksack on the scales. It also seems clear enough to me, that a lightweight chair can easily be incorporated into a SOTA activators gear list provided sufficient care has been taken to choose lightweight options in every other respect.
Perhaps we should start a gear list thread, it may be useful for newcomers to get an idea of both what is considered normal by most activators, and what is possible if you are really determined to lighten your load.
73 de OE6FEG
Matt

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First use today of my Helinox Chair Zero on a grassy summit rather than a rocky one. Very comfortable at first. But twice a leg sank into the soft grass and I rolled over with the chair. Would have been hilarious to behold. Fortunately no one but my dog saw me. No harm done. I’ve just ordered the official Helinox groundsheet.

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I’ve had the Chair Zero for a while. Incredibly light and a great chair for what it is. However, I stopped taking it on activations as I found that it’s not the most stable unless perfectly flat, at least for me. There are few summits in CO where I’ve activated that happen to be ideal for setting up and remaining in the chair :wink:

I’ve recently switched to the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 PowerLounger chair. It definitely is heavier but I feel it will be much more versatile and functional in various conditions. I don’t want to hijack this thread and take away from discussions of the Chair Zero, which is still a great chair, so I’ll leave it there.

Maybe I’ll provide a review of the Crazy Creek when I’ve had a number of activations in the book with it.

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The groundsheet is essential on grassy summits I’ve found.

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Mike, I’m a portable chair newbie so I’m still learning (mine was a Xmas pressie and so far used only at two summits plus two trials in front of the living room tv). You didn’t mention whether or not the stability problem was with or without the groundsheet.

It’s not my thread but I welcome comparisons with similar products as there is no perfect solution (radio, antenna, backpack, portable chair, etc) that suits everyone with our differing needs. As I posted above, it was a close call for me between the Helinox and another brand.

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