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Updated June 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best camping stools

The best camping stools combine light weight, easy portability, and good physical support. They can also be surprisingly comfortable, and while camping and hiking are obvious uses, these stools are also great for fishing, hunting, trips to the beach, and family picnics.

Most good camping stools make a very affordable addition to your gear. Even if you like traveling light or camping with a minimum of home comforts, they offer a number of benefits, like keeping you off of damp, muddy, or cold ground (and whatever might be crawling there). They can raise you over the level of campfire smoke so you don’t end up coughing and choking. The right stool is also better for your posture than lying on the ground, which helps reduce fatigue.

The right guidance and a few recommendations can help you find the perfect stool for your next camping trip.

camping stools
Although camping chairs might look more comfortable, stools are usually lighter and many are also stronger.

How to buy the best camping stool

Before buying a camping stool, it’s important to think about its intended use. There is a lot of focus on compactness and light weight, but those qualities don’t necessarily matter to people who want something for a couple of minutes’ rest when working in the yard, a seat while painting, or a stool for fishing off the dock at the lake.

Most of these stools offer good versatility, but there are limits. If you have multiple uses for a stool, it might be better to buy two different models. Fortunately, even the best ones aren’t expensive.

Portability

When choosing between a camping stool and a camping chair, it often comes down to easy portability. There are situations in which a chair might be a good alternative, such as when you’re driving rather than hiking to a campsite, but many are too bulky and awkward to add to a backpack or carry for any distance.

Key elements in finding the right stool are how much it weighs and how it packs for transport. Some ultralight collapsible models weigh well under a pound and when folded can easily fit inside a backpack. Few exceed a couple of pounds, and most pack into a carry bag or have a built-in carrying strap. Nevertheless, it’s important to look into these details when assessing a particular stool’s suitability for your needs.

One type of camping stool is the exception to the lightweight rule: those that are built into a backpack. This all-in-one solution is worth considering for anyone new to outdoor adventuring or if you’re replacing worn-out gear.

Weight capacity

Even the smallest and most lightweight camping stool offers better support than you might expect. The lowest weight capacity we found was 180 pounds, but 250 pounds is common, and it can be as high as 600 pounds.

Frame material

Steel is a favorite frame material for these stools because it’s strong and durable. It is susceptible to rust, however. To combat this, camping stools usually have a powder-coated finish, which is effectively a tough, plastic skin.

Aluminum is also popular. It’s lighter than steel and doesn’t rust. It will eventually corrode, but the process takes too long to have any impact on functionality. The downsides of aluminum are that it costs more than steel and isn’t as strong. However, the weak points of camping stools are usually hinges and linkages rather than the metal itself, so the relative strength of aluminum is seldom a factor.

Polypropylene (PP) is a light and very durable plastic used for telescopic camping stools. It has good strength, but it can eventually degrade under the sun’s UV rays. It’s also flammable and will melt if exposed to high temperatures, which limits its use near campfires.

Fabric

Most seats are made from a woven polyester called jacquard polyester or Oxford fabric. While Oxford fabric was originally a cotton material, it almost invariably has polyester or nylon added to the natural fibers for increased strength for camping stool use, and it can also be entirely synthetic. An additional coating is often applied to the fabric to improve weather protection.

Fabric thickness is measured in denier (D). Higher numbers mean thicker material, and 600D is common, but up to 1200D is available.

Large jar lids under the stool’s feet will keep the legs from sinking into soft ground.

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What features should I look for in a camping stool?

Seat

Height: The seat height is important, particularly for anyone who is tall. Sitting with your bottom under the level of your knees is okay for short periods, but can become uncomfortable after a while. Many camping stools offer little or no height adjustment, so this dimension needs careful checking.

Telescopic stools typically offer the widest range of adjustment and are compact when collapsed. However, the seat itself is the same size as that on non-telescopic models. They take up little space in a vehicle, but they aren’t always convenient to add to a backpack.

Area: It’s also important to look at the size of the seat. The theoretical ability to support several hundred pounds doesn’t guarantee either stability or comfort. Online images can be deceptive, and collapsible stools in particular can be very small. It’s important to check the dimensions, and it’s a good idea to have a ruler or tape measure handy for reference. If you’re having trouble picturing the seat, tape a couple sheets of paper together and do a rough drawing.

Style and stability

Camping stools come in several styles. In addition to having an impact on portability, the style also affects the stool’s stability and how easy it is to use.

Scissor-style stools comprise two U-shaped tubes pinned together at the centers, with a fabric seat that stretches between them. They open and close in a scissor motion, which is very easy to use. However, the solid frame means that most aren’t particularly compact. The base of the U rests on the ground, so they are more inclined to rock on uneven surfaces than those stools with separate feet.

Three-legged stools are very compact when folded. They’re easy to use and offer the greatest stability. All three feet always rest on the ground no matter how uneven that ground is.

Four-legged stools tend to have a larger seat than three-legged versions, which can result in better comfort. Most offer good stability too. As is normal with a four-legged chair, some rocking is possible, though the best have mechanisms that compensate for this. Most are relatively easy to fold and unfold.

Telescopic stools have interlocking segments that fold to a very small profile. They can be lifted one section at a time to give great flexibility in terms of seat height. However, this does make them a little fiddly. They have a round, flat base, which is great on hard surfaces but is prone to rocking on uneven ground.

Extras

Drawstring bag: This is often included. It’s convenient for both carrying and storing the camping stool.

Carrying strap: One may or may not be included with the stool.

Pads: The stool’s feet may have enlarged pads to help spread the load. These sometimes have textured soles to prevent slipping.

Colors: Some stools offer a variety of seat colors.

Pockets: Some stools have small mesh side pockets.

Power bank: A few telescopic stools incorporate a power bank in the seat so you can recharge mobile devices via USB.

camping stools
DID YOU KNOW?
Minor fabric tears can be repaired by sewing them using a large needle and fishing line. It’s waterproof and stronger than regular thread.
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How much do camping stools cost?

Inexpensive

Telescopic polypropylene models are among the cheapest camping stools at around $15 each when bought in pairs. It’s important to check the weight rating. Many four-legged stools come at a similar price, as do ultralight collapsible stools.

Mid-range

For around $20 to $25 each, you can find high-quality, three-legged camping stools. Heavy-duty telescopic and scissor-style models are around $30 each.

Expensive

Camping stools built into backpacks are at the top of the price range, between $30 and $60.

A bag for the stool isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does stop the legs from getting tangled in other equipment or straps.

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Tips

  • Clean the stool after each use. It can be inconvenient to clean or dry the stool while you’re camping, so make sure the job is done when you get home. Pay attention to joints and linkages. Trapped dirt or sand will accelerate wear. Turn the carry bag inside out to make sure there’s nothing stuck inside.
  • Lubricate metal joints and linkages. Use a little light machine oil such as 3-in-One Multipurpose Oil. Avoid silicone sprays or products like WD-40. They’re great for loosening nuts and bolts, but they aren’t true lubricants.
  • Store the stool in a cool, dry place when not in use. Moisture promotes mold, mildew, and rust.
  • Be careful around campfires. Don’t put the stool closer than where you can comfortably sit. Excess heat will weaken plastic frames and nylon fibers.
camping stools
Backpackers need to think about how they’ll carry a camping stool with the rest of their gear.

FAQ

Q. What is the difference between a camping stool and a camping chair?

A. Generally speaking, a camping chair has four legs, a back, and often armrests. A camping stool has two, three, or four legs and a seat. However, there are a number of crossovers, so the distinction can get blurred.

Q. Can I leave my stool outside?

A. These stools should be made of water-resistant materials, so leaving one outside while camping isn’t a problem. However, keeping it under cover means you won’t have a wet seat in the morning.

Q. Are the weight capacities accurate for camping stools?

A. They should be for good ones. Choosing a high-quality product gives you assurance as to its strength and durability, and it needn’t cost a lot.

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