Before we get into the review, it needs to be pointed out that in this sort of comparison, the only real winner is the consumer. That’s because despite the price disparity – the Strongback Elite has a suggested retail of $79.95, the Kelsyus Original Canopy Chair is $44.95, even our dark horse $6 X-Mart chair was the favorite of a few of our random testers. With that in mind, we’re presenting our two chair comparison, pointing out the good and not so good, and will let potential buyers decide if either is right for them. After a few rounds of musical chairs, we tallied up the comments, and realized there was no clear overall winner. Rather, there were clear preferences for certain features.
First up is the Strongback Elite. This 11.9 pound folding chair has lumbar support as its key feature. There’s also a handy drink holder, and nicely padded arm rests. Steel tubing with an attractive silver powder coat forms a sturdy foundation that can handle up to 300 pounds. Available in navy/black, lime green/grey, forest green/brown, black/silver, or genuine Real Tree™ camo, durable 600D polyester assures that your significant investment will provide years of use.
If you’ve got back problems (or want to avoid them), the lumbar support is fantastic. This chair should easily provide all-day comfort for the majority of users. Not having the drink holder built into the end of the armrest increases that comfort as well, since you get to enjoy the full length padding with either arm. The base itself is not too deep, which is sometimes an issue for shorter folks. Two of our volunteers, who admittedly were perfectly comfortable in the $6 chair we brought along, advised that they couldn’t fathom paying for a chair this expensive. But those with a history of back trouble, or perhaps accustomed to sitting a bit more during the day, felt that the price was more than fair for the comfort it provided. (The 7.7 pound Zen offers the same lumbar support in a $45.95 chair) It was almost universally agreed that the shoulder straps on the carry bag could benefit from a bit more padding, and that it would still only be comfortable to carry that way for a very short trip. Conclusion: if long-term sitting comfort matters most, this may be your top pick.
Next is the Original Canopy Chair from Kelsyus. The Kelsyus packaging claims a weight of 10.5 pounds, while the website puts it at 12 pounds even. Also underpinned by a powder coated frame, there’s a bit less steel in this chair, as some of that weight is the canopy and its folding mechanism. That brings the max weight down to 250 pounds, which should still be plenty. In addition to the drink holder on the right armrest, we found the slotted mesh on the left perfect for a phone or MP3 player. There are also mesh pockets in the overhead canopy, for even more storage. It’s available in green or blue.
Despite the canopy being the main feature that separates this chair from others, many people stated that they would prefer to just wear a hat. Of course, with the sun directly overhead, more of your body is covered by the canopy, which provides a UV protection factor (UPF) of 50+. That gave the canopy its share of fans. Since it can fold away when not needed, we’ll call it a wash. Love it or hate it, everyone agreed that the shoulder straps attached to the canopy were an absolute win. Fold the chair, buckle the upper and lower buckles, and wear it like a backpack. Sure, that’s a lot of bulk, but even some of our more finicky testers admitted that they found it comfortable, and that no reasonable walking distance was too far once it was properly adjusted. (Note the Kelsyus also carries a backpack chair without the canopy, but it sits a bit lower) Conclusion: if you need to carry your chair any distance, and the canopy option is appealing, this is a great alternative to a regular camp chair.
For an outdoor concert, sports meet/game, or any other event that only lasts a couple of hours or less, the Canopy Chair would probably be our first choice. If we had to pick a chair for several days at a camp site, the Elite would be our go-to, as the lumbar support really makes a difference over longer periods. We don’t think you can go wrong with either, but each has an advantage under certain conditions.
We’d like to thank Strongback and Kelsyus for providing the chairs for this comparison, as well as all our friends, family, and neighbors that kindly volunteered to try them out and offer their opinions.