There is nothing better than sitting around a campfire, roasting hot dogs and enjoying the warm summer air. For many of us, this pastime represents an escape from stresses of day to day life. But if you’re heavy-set, the thought of using a camp chair can stir up a little anxiety.
Usually found in low-brow comedy and slapstick YouTube videos, having a chair break underneath you is a trope that nobody wants to experience. On TV, the situation is considered funny because it’s absurd. Most furniture can hold a lot of weight, and it’s unlikely that simply sitting on something would break it. But with camp chairs, the chances are much higher.
Camping chairs are designed to be cheap and lightweight. They’re minimal. Even when new, the average person’s weight is pushing the limits. If you’re looking to have your partner sit in your lap, you can forget about it.
Fortunately, there is a better heavy duty option if you’re a big man (or woman). There are a number of chairs available that designed to handle more weight than the competition. We went hands-on to find out what separates these chairs from the disposable alternatives.
Big Man’s 800 lb King Kong Chair
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, ALPS is a brand you may be familiar with. Famous for their impressive build quality, we decided to try out their chair to see if it lived up to the high standard they’ve set. As soon as we pulled it out of the box, we knew that this was something unique.
The fabric is what catches your eye first. It’s a canvas-like material has heavy-duty stitching throughout, and is much thicker than we’re used to seeing. It only comes in one style – tan, which is a little retro in appearance. It’s as if the designer aiming for a throwback, reflecting on a time when function always took precedence over form. Set up against a backdrop of steel-frame backpacks and canvas tents, it would look right at home. By the same token, it’s simple enough that it doesn’t stand out.
Unlike many other high capacity chairs, King Kong is similar in size to standard options. It’s 38 inches wide, and the seat sits 20 inches above the ground. The backrest, however, is noticeably larger than we’re used to. At 38,” even tall people can lean back and be comfortable. It’s the perfect big and tall camping chair.
At 12.5 pounds, this chair is quite a bit heavier than you’d expect. But considering its weight capacity is over 800 lbs., we’d consider this a fair trade off.
Wondering where this extra weight came from? To put it simply, inexpensive hardware was replaced with better hardware. There are two main upgrades that stand out.
Heavy Duty Steel Frame
From a distance, the supporting frame doesn’t look like anything special. Most chairs are made from thin aluminum tubing, which has the same external dimensions as the Steel ALPS used. And the bars don’t appear to be metal, they look like a type of plastic. This is because what you’re seeing is a coating. Standard structural steel is very strong, but rusts almost overnight.
Instead of using paint that could chip or peel away, the steel is powder coated. This involves taking a layer of heated epoxy and mixing it with polyester dye. When heated, it’s fused together. The end result is a heavy-duty steel frame that can survive the elements.
Not a Single Rivet Used
If you’ve seen a broken camp chair, chances are it’s the rivet that failed. Riveting is a process that takes a small aluminum tube, shoves it through a pre-drilled hole, and bends the ends to bond the supporting poles together. When they’re under pressure, rivets shear. They are one of the weakest points of most camp chairs.
ALPS could have used stronger stainless rivets, but instead they chose the best. Every joint is connected with a bolt. They have high tensile strength, and would require quite a lot of force to damage. However, if you do somehow manage to snap one, you can find replacements at the hardware store for around a dollar. Because they are removable, you’d also be able to replace any component of the chair if needed. It’s not a situation we’d expect to encounter, but really speaks to how dedicated ALPS is to the longevity of their chair. It’s the absolute best camping chair for a heavy person available right now.
On build quality alone, this chair definitely offers more than most options. But they’re not the only high capacity chair available. Why did we choose this one over others? The King Kong Chair has a number of additional features that, although subtle, make it incredibly pleasant to use. These are our favorites:
One of the most noteworthy features is the large storage pouches. They hang off each arm, with the length and width similar to a standard size piece of paper. You can store drinks, books, sunscreen, or anything else you’d like to have on hand. There is a third pouch on the back of the headrest. It’s a lot wider, but not as thick. This makes it ideal for anything small you’d like to keep on hand, such as your hat, or other accessories.
Almost every decent camp chair has at least one cup holder, so we’re happy to see them here as well. There is one in each arm, so when your friends regret buying the base model chair with no cup holders, you can offer them yours! If they decline, the woven cup holder insert also works great for keys, your phone, or anything small you have in your pocket.
If you’ve ever upgraded to high thread count sheets, you know what a difference a good fabric can make. The King Kong chair uses a Khaki style fabric, made from polyester. Most polyester on the market has a thread count of 300. This material has a rating of 600D. The D references the weaving style, which is much finer and tighter than most.
The end result is a fabric that doesn’t feel scratchy and rough like other models. On its own, it wouldn’t be very soft. To correct this, ALPS added padding throughout. They didn’t just pad a couple pressure points here and there, instead choosing to line the fabric portion of the chair. This makes the King Kong Chair much softer than any other model we’ve tried, without impacting the durability.
When the chair is not in use, moving it around is a very simple process. All you have to do is grab the handles and pull upwards. The chair folds down into a compact cylindrical shape, and can be easily inserted into the included carry bag.
Because this chair is a little heftier than some, the carry bag is one of the most durable and versatile options we’ve encountered. The stitching and quality is just as good as the chair itself, and there are a number of ways you can carry it. You can use the single strap on the side, carrying it like a briefcase. If you want to keep your hands free, there are two shoulder straps that allow it to be worn like a backpack.
Although this chair has a lot to offer, we did notice one thing that could bother some users. Most chairs do not have a bar along the front. They leave this space for your legs, which is the most comfortable way to sit. But the King Kong chair has a bar that runs right underneath the front of the seat. This is a great way to solve the circulation issues of some larger chairs, but poses an issue for shorter individuals. If you’re less than 5’6,” you may want to consider getting a little extra padding for the front. If your legs don’t touch the ground, all of their weight will rest on the bar.
Once you’ve padded the area, either with a towel or pillow, you’ll find it much more comfortable. You can find chairs that do not have this bar, but they are nowhere near as structurally sound as the King Kong Chair. In our eyes, this is a decent trade off.
The Alps King Kong Chair is one of the most durable options on the market. At first, it may seem as if the high-end materials they use are almost excessive. After all, how often is this chair going to reach its 800-pound weight capacity?
But once you think about the biggest issues with standard camping chairs, it’s easy to see why ALPS built it this way. Over the years, chairs get worn. Parts break in, and moving components start to wear against each other. This reduces the capacity, leading to part failure. By creating something that goes so far beyond the standard, they’ve made something that will last. In our eyes, this chair is a great buy. Whether you need the extra capacity or you just want something durable, the King Kong Chair is a great option.