You love the idea of reclining back on a comfortable beach chair while the tropical sun pours over your golden (or soon to be) bod.
If you can take along a cool drink, a great book, your favourite shades and a towel too, you’ll be all set. But you end up waddling across the beach like a penguin, arms loaded with paraphernalia, hoping you don’t drop your lotion in the sand!
Why not get a Backpack Beach Chair!
You can “stuff” all your stuff into the handy pouches and simply throw it over your shoulders. You’re ready to go!
The problem is… which one to choose. There are quite a few brand options and some are terrible quality, break or tear easily and are just plain uncomfortable.
We have carefully reviewed the good the bad and the ugly and have put together a detailed guide on the absolute best folding backpack chairs you can buy today… Enjoy!
Note: We also review the very best hiking and backpacking chairs of 2017 here.
Our Winner, the Tommy Bahama!
Our undeniable winner is the Tommy Bahama. It just can’t be beaten for strength, durability, size, comfort and convenience.
It can hold up to 300 pounds which is crazy strong for a beach chair. It’s also the widest of the chairs with an incredible 24 inches between the armrests.
Tommy Bahama has a cool sense of style when it comes to their products. And their chairs are no different. You can choose from a dozen designs and also mix-and-match as you please.
It can recline all the way down, essentially becoming a beach lounger. The towel rail behind the backrest folds out and acts as an extra support when fully reclined.
There’s a padded headrest which can be adjusted with Velcro and even removed for cleaning. There’s no leg rest though, so you’re legs will remain bent or your feet can be propped up on a little beach sand.
The backpack straps are wide, padded and make the lightweight 7.5 ounce beach chair, super comfortable to carry. There’s an extra padded carry handle if you would rather carry the chair by hand.
But the best feature of all is the 2 great pouches on the back. They are both enclosed by a high quality zipper and the lower pouch is also insulated making it fantastic for keeping drinks and snacks cool on a hot day. Read the full review.
The Rio Brands Premium Lace Up Chair
The Rio Brands Premium Lace Up chair uses a sailor style “lacing” system which adds to the absorption and weight distribution of the body, making it incredibly comfortable to sit on.
There are 2 convenient rear storage sections (similar to the Tommy Bahama), one of which is an insulated cooler pouch. They both close securely with a zipper and are great for keeping refreshments, snacks and even phones and sunglasses inside.
As is usually the case with Rio Brands, the chair is strong and durable. The frame is solid and this particular model can hold up to 240 pounds with ease.
It reclines all the way with 5 total positions. The rear towel rail acts as a support when fully reclined to ensure you don’t flop over backwards while you get ready to lay back and relax. Not a full lounger though, as there isn’t any foot rest.
The seating area isn’t particularly wide (at 20 inches) between the armrests. It might be a tight fit for larger individuals in which case the Rio Big Boy is a better option.
A nice little side pouch on the armrest is useful for keeping drinks and sun lotion out of the sand.
All-in-all it’s a great value for money, lace-up aluminium beach chair with backpack straps. Read the full review.
Rio Big Boy Backpack Chair
Another Rio Brands winner, the Big Boy combines simplicity with comfort and strength. It’s a no fuss version of the beach chairs above.
The rustproof aluminium frame is strong and durable. The headrest is well padded and can adjust to any height you need.
22 Inches between the armrest makes this the second widest chair on the list (the Tommy Bahama is 2 inches wider) and it also holds 300 pounds.
The large backpack pouch is perfect for a big towel and then some. It closes with simple Velcro tabs. (Not as securely as we would’ve liked but effortless to close.)
It’s around half an ounce heavier than the Tommy Bahama but you don’t notice it. The backpack straps are really comfortable (as with all Rio beach chairs) and carrying for long distances is a breeze.
It does not fully recline either. Let’s face it, The Rio Big Boy is simple, practical and does exactly what it’s meant to. It won’t let you down. Read the full review.
High Back Folding Beach Lounger by Ostrich
The unique design of the Ostrich Deluxe includes a special padded window for your face (when lying face down) so you can comfortably read or just relax while getting your tan on. Your arms slip comfortably into the openings allowing them to hang comfortably forward. This position is really comfortable and is often employed on massage beds.
Besides the awesome face down feature, the Ostrich 3N1 is also a full length folding beach lounger. The footrest pivots up to create 59 inches of padded sunbathing heaven.
The extra lumbar support pillow is especially designed to gently extend your spine, relieving pressure on your vertebrae. It really is comfortable. You’ll be dozing off in minutes.
There’s no actual back pouch which is a little unfortunate. You’ll have to carry an extra bag for your gear. Nor is this a true backpack as there’s only one shoulder strap. At 10.2 pounds you don’t really want to carry it for more than a short distance.
The maximum weight capacity is a quite a bit lower than the Tommy Bahama and the manufacturer claims that it can hold up to 275 pounds. We actually found it to be closer to 175 pounds. Anything more and you start to wonder if the chair will buckle under you. This beach lounger is definitely more for a person with a smaller frame. Given the construction, the strength of the other chairs just isn’t quite there.
That being said, the absolute luxury of stretching out at the beach on a full length lounger cannot be overstated. This chair absolutely rocks! Read the full review.
Folding Beach Chair Backpack Buying Guide
|Tommy Bahama||Rio Ultimate Lace-Up||Rio Big Boy||Ostrich 3N1 Deluxe|
|Our Overall Rating|
|Item Weight (lbs)||7.5||9||8.1||10.2|
|Weight Capacity (lbs)||300||240||300||175|
|Seating Width (inches)||24||20||22||22|
|Easy to Carry||✓||✓||✓||✕|
How Do These Chairs Compare in Build Quality and Durability?
Off all the chairs we reviewed, the Tommy Bahama is hands-down the best quality backpack chair on the market. Don’t be fooled by the quirky “beach” designs, this chair is a beast when it comes to design and construction. The frame, the material and even the zippers on the pouches are fantastic.
The two Rio Brands chairs are great too. After being used for years, users will still sing their praises with very little visible wear and tear. There have been some cases where the material is showing some separation but this doesn’t really affect the overall integrity.
The Ostrich 3N1 on the other hand has a bit of a poor reputation when it comes to quality and durability. There are cases where the frame is buckling under weight and the screws are also not very high quality. There reason it made it onto the list of best backpack beach chairs is because of its other awesome features. Unfortunately durability isn’t one of them.
How Much Weight Can Each Chair Hold?
Once again, the Tommy Bahama takes the lead with a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds! The Big Boy also carries 300 pounds but the Tommy B kinda feels just a little more stable.
The Rio Lace-Up holds 240 pounds very comfortably. Anything more and you should rather go for the Big Boy.
The Ostrich claims to hold 275 but will most certainly only hold up to 175 quite safely.
Let’s Compare Comfort
The Ostrich has an incredibly unique design which (if you’re under 175 pounds) is simply a pleasure to relax on. Because you can roll over and have the sun on your back, it qualifies as a full length beach lounger. The ability to lie face down while reading a book is more than just a short-lived gimmick. It’s like having a massage bed on the beach. There are thick pillows in just the right places. It even has a foot-rest which lifts up and supports your legs vertically while all the other chairs require you to leave your feet planted in the beach sand.
The other 3 chairs are pretty much on par with each other and have great comfortable padding and ergonomics. You simply can’t go wrong with any of them.
Do You Like to Go “All The Way”?
The Tommy Bahama, The Rio Lace and the Ostrich all recline all the way down. They each have an additional bar along the top of the backrest which folds out for support when the back is laid flat. This acts as a convenient towel rail when the seat is up.
Only the Big Boy doesn’t go all the way down. It does recline, but only about 45 degrees.
One of the more difficult things to do when designing a folding chair that reclines, is to make the “fold” between the seat and the backrest abate while the seat is down. (Otherwise you’ll be lying down with the cross-bar pushing right into your back.)
These 4 beach chairs have all accomplished this perfectly.
Which Has The Best Storage?
The Tommy Bahama and the Rio Deluxe Lace-Up have 2 almost identical pouches on the back. They are both zippered and one of them is an insulated “cooler” pouch. The space is really quite fair, given that it is attached to the back of a chair.
The Rio Big Boy has one large pouch on the back. It can easily hold twice as much stuff as the other pouches but it doesn’t close very well. Think of it as a big compartment with a closing flap. The flap has 3 small Velcro tabs which help it stay closed but Velcro and sand are not the best of friends. That being said, the pouch will work great if you need to throw in some none-valuables like a towel or some snacks.
The Ostrich has no pouches.
Which One is Easier to Carry Across the Beach?
Both Rio chairs and the Tommy Bahama have two padded backpack straps. The make the chairs very easy to carry, even over long distances. (Eg. from the car down to the beach.) The fact that you can stow some goodies in the pouches even means you don’t even have to carry anything in your hands. This is the real magic of a backpack chair in action.
The Tommy Bahama also has an extra carry handle! At only 7.5 ounces most people could easily carry two over a short distance.
The Ostrich is much harder to carry far. It only has one shoulder strap, even even though it’s padded, doesn’t have nearly the same comfort. It seems a little hard to get over your shoulder due to the length of the strap. It also happens to be the heavier of the 4.
How to Close the Tommy Bahama
Rio Deluxe Lace-Up Video
Rio Extra Wide (Big Boy) Review
Ostrich 3N1 Review Video
We hope you found the comparison review useful. A great deal of effort went into making sure all the information was accurate and that the review was both fair and conclusive. If you have any more questions about the chairs above, or would simply like to add something, please leave a comment below!