Beach chairs are more than just something to keep us off the sand. They’re an integral part of the beach experience. A great beach chair is comfortable, durable, functional, stylish, light enough to carry from the car to the beach and maybe even has an umbrella to keep the sun from turning us into toast. They hold our drinks, cradle our backs and let us catch our breath before heading back into the surf. Below are 10 of the best beach chairs on the market for 2019.
The Best Beach Chairs
For those who want their beach chair to double as a beach umbrella while also providing all the comfort of a first class recliner, the Sport-Brella is here to answer the call. This is a legitimately comfortable piece of sand furniture that’s going to make you reconsider what you expect from beach chairs going forward. It has a built-in zip pocket up front, another pocket on the side that can accommodate up to 4 standard sized drinks and a built-in bottle opener so you can enjoy those drinks.
The Sport-Brella can accommodate boys and girls up to 250 pounds although it weighs only 13 pounds itself. It also comes with an attractive carry bag so you can sling it and wing it. The recliner offers 3-position comfort: sit up, lay back or lay flat and catch some Zs. There’s also a detachable footrest that lifts your feet and completes the relaxation picture. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of sunscreen on those feet because this beach chair with umbrella won’t be able to shade them.
When it comes to the Terralite Portable Camp Chair the key word is “portable”. All the design emphasis here is on compatibility. As such the chair is ultra-light at only 2 1/2 pounds and breaks down to a trim 6 x 16 x 6 inches. This is one of the few camp chairs in existence that you can even consider porting into the deep woods or up the mountain.
When you finally decide to set it up the Terragrip will handle whatever is underfoot. It has easy on/off feet that prevent the chair from sinking into even the softest sand. This is a big advantage over a lot of other beach chairs that often wind up 6 or 8 inches down before they stop sinking. The frame of the chair is fashioned from 7075 aircraft grade aluminum that will support up to 350 pounds and which has just a bit of flex in it to enhance the comfort. The cloth seat might not seem like it could hold 350 pounds but that’s 600D ripstop nylon and isn’t going to flinch.
Rio Beach goes all old school with the design of their Lace-up Suspension Folding Beach Chair and all new school with the materials, ergonomics, and portability. This is a handsome looking, very comfortable backpack beach chair that cradles you from the moment you sit down. The frame of the Lace-up is moderately flexible to that the rugged but easy-on-the-skin 600D polyester wraps around you in a very comforting way.
The frame is crafted from lightweight aircraft grade aluminum that’s been rust-proofed so that it’s not going to start falling apart due to seashore humidity. The seat back features 4 different reclining positions so you can do everything from watching the kids to catching some shut-eye. There’s also a built-in pillow at the top of the back that really ramps up the comfort. Add to that a built-in drink holder as well as a large storage pouch for magazines, first aid, sandwiches or what have you.
With the 5 Position Lay Flat Rio Beach asks the question “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” You’ll recognize the design. In fact, your grandparents will recognize the design. It’s the tried and true high back reclining beach chairs of old brought into the 21st century with just a few tweaks. Like the weatherproofing on the frame, the marine grade coating on the hardwood arms and the padded straps that make toting it about easy as pie.
This is no-nonsense beach lounge chair culture at its best. It even includes a feature that prevents pinching when the armrests are being folded up. A nice touch. Another nice touch is the built-in towel bar at the top of the backrest. It’s nice and deep and keeps the wet towel away from your head. The 600D nylon is extremely tough and won’t flinch under 250 pounds. As with all such high backs, it sits low to the ground; a mere 8 1/2 inches above the sand with an ideal plant.
The innovative design, tiny carrying profile and affordable price of the KingCamp Low Sling beach chair make it a winner from both a functional and financial perspective. But it’s more than just light and easy to set up. It’s comfortable as all get out as well. With a tough steel frame that can handle up to 300 pounds and robust ‘feet’ that keep those 300 pounds from disappearing into the sand, it’s as practical as it is comfortable.
KingCamp has designed the Low Sling to fold inward toward the center. This allows it to fit into a sleek carrying bag that can be tossed over the shoulder for transport to and from the car. For that matter, you can just as easily sling it over your back and take your bike to the beach. There’s no assembly required, you don’t have to trudge around with a chair stuffed under your arm and because the low sling tips the scale at a trim 6 pounds 10 ounces it’s not going to tire you out, even if the beach is a mile from where you parked.
Coleman’s Utopia is going to remind you a lot of the Low Sling we just reviewed. From just glancing at them, in fact, you might think they’re the same chair. A closer look, however, reveals subtle differences. Both chairs fold in toward the center and open by simply pulling away from the sides. Both fit neatly into their respective carrying sacks and can be slung over the shoulder for easy portability. And each has slightly oversized feet to keep the chair on top of the sand, not hopelessly embedded in it.
So where are the differences? Well, the Utopia includes a large, very handy pouch in the back of the upright portion where you can store magazines, sunscreen a t-shirt and more. This is something we wanted on the Sling and are glad to see here. Just makes everything a lot easier. Also, the powder coated steel frame of the Utopia is a small step down in our opinion from the aircraft grade aluminum frame on the Sling. But the Utopia pushes back from that shortcoming by actually being a bit lighter than the Low Sling.
The Strongback Beach Chair is designed to help keep your back properly aligned even while you’re lounging on the sand. It features outstanding lumbar support due to the convex shape of the upright portion. Even after hours hanging out on the playa you’ll still rise from the Strongback feeling great and not having to do 20 minutes of stretching to try and return your back to proper alignment.
The Strongback is another low profile, inward folding beach chair that’s well-built, light and tough. Like the Low Sling and the Utopia before it, it collapses in on itself and slides easily into its handy carry sack. Although it’s going to cost you more than those other inward-folders the lower back support it offers along with the extra wide feet, extra wide seat and an outstanding look make it pretty easy to justify handing over the extra cash.
Cascade Mountain Tech throws their hat into the collapsible beach chair ring and comes up with a winner. While it’s maybe cliché to say that this generation of collapsible beach chairs all looks alike, it’s nonetheless a valid observation. Which means that each chair needs have its own way of separating itself from the field. In the case of the Cascade Mountain Tech Folding Chair, that way is to bring together some of the best features from other chairs.
Those best features include a ventilated seat which reduces weight and allows cooling breezes to wick away sweat from your back. A tough but lightweight powder coated aircraft grade aluminum frame with stainless steel screws that aren’t going to turn to rust due to the high humidity of the beach environment, a handsome carrying sack and nice, wide flat feet that keep the chair from sinking into the sand.
If you’re looking for something that’s a bit off the beaten path but which also has some genuine upside, the NiceC Ultralight Folding Beach Chair might be what the doctor ordered. The big selling point here is indeed the lightweight. Tipping the scale at a mere 2 pounds this is the epitome of the lightweight beach chair that anyone can carry with them without trouble. The downside is that in order to achieve that featherweight profile the manufacturer needed to trim, trim, trim away features.
For instance, complex folding joints are neat but they add weight. So there is little of that here, in spite of the “folding” in the name. What there is instead of are shock cords like you’ll find on a modern camping tent. In addition, arms are nice and help ramp up the comfort. But arms add weight so, no arms. Also, oversized feet keep beach chairs from sinking into the sand. But big feet add weight so, no big feet.
Where the NiceC designers embrace minimalism, the designers of the Rio Beach Sunbed Beach Chair go in the opposite direction. If a beach chair can be said to be opulent, then that’s the perfect word to describe this puppy. There’s lots of padding in the lower back to promote good posture and to keep you comfy, a nice pillow for when you decide to lay back, an adjustable footrest, wide arms with built-in cup holder and a smartphone slot.
Hanging off the side of the arm of this heavy duty beach chair is a large zippered pocket for your sunscreen and other peripherals. The back reclines to any of 5 different positions and locks in firmly at each point. The chair will hold up to 280 pounds and is one of the few chairs out there where you could feel comfortable actually approaching the weight limit. And while it doesn’t break down into a nifty little carrying sack it weighs a pretty reasonable 11 pounds, so it’s not going to be a painful slog getting it from the car to the beach.
Beach Chair Buying Guide
How We Rated and Reviewed The Best Beach Chairs On The Market
Brand - In the outdoor gear arena there are brands like Coleman that have been around since colonial times (or at least it seems like they have) and then there are brands like Strongback that are new to the scene and are aggressively pursuing a more health-conscious generation of beachgoers. Like just about everyone else we’re prone to give the Colemans of the world a serious look just because they’ve been making dependable stuff for so long. But we’re not blind to the new kids on the block. To us what matters most is the chair, not the name on the side.
Build Quality - Build quality might not seem like such a big deal when it comes to beach chairs. But if you’ve ever sat in a really well-made chair and then sat in a really poorly made one you’ll understand why we put such emphasis on the build. The last thing you want at the beach is for the legs on your chair to buckle or the seat material to rip or the cheap material on the armrests to get so hot it burns your skin. A well-built chair - like all the chairs on our list - won’t do any of those things.
Reviews - As always we use customer reviews as a reference point, not a determining factor. It can be helpful to know if everyone has the same complaint about a chair, so we definitely keep an eye on what’s being said. But at the same time, we insist on testing these types of products ourselves and drawing our own conclusions.
Price - Beach chairs aren’t the kind of product that’s going to break anyone’s bank. For the most part, they occupy a financial range between about $25 and $75. While that may have been a lot back in the 70s, it’s not the 70s anymore. And paying 50 bucks or so for a beach chair is no more outrageous than paying 20 bucks for a pizza. So the price isn’t a determining factor for us. We make note of it and make note of outstanding value when we see it, but don’t eliminate or include any chairs based solely on price.
Qualities To Look for In A Beach Chair
Weight - Why does the weight of a beach chair matter? Because it’s not unusual to have to park a half mile or more from the beach, especially on busy Sundays during the summer time. Having to trudge that far or even further carrying a chair that weighs 15 or more pounds is going to put a damper on the whole day. Not to mention the fact that you’ve got to carry it back to the car at the end of the day when you beat from frolicking in the surf. That’s one big reason you don’t see a wooden beach chair on our list. The heaviest chairs on our list weigh in at around 13 or 14 pounds. And for practical purposes, you really don’t want to go much heavier than that. Unless of course, you have your own private beach.
Portability - As you can tell from the above list the newest generation of beach chairs has embraced portability. Many feature the inward folding design that allows them to be set up and broken down in seconds and be tucked away in a neat little tote sack. But even the old school high back, the low-riding chair is now getting into the portability thing by including shoulder straps on the underside of the chair that transforms it into a backpack beach chair. If a chair doesn’t feature some way of making it easy for you to carry it’s living in the 20th century.
Functionality - The portability we just mentioned is very important and many chairs have addressed the issue by embracing the ability to fold and unfold in seconds. However, not all folding chairs are created equal. The beach chairs on this list are all well-engineered, utilize quality materials and put plenty of thought into their mechanics. However, there are lots of other beach chairs out there that look good but start falling apart after just a few uses. The bottom line is that the best beach chair fulfills its basic function simply and dependable over and over again.
Materials - As we mentioned there are too many chairs out there that start falling apart as soon as you unbox them. This is because the joints are poorly designed, the frame is made of cheap aluminum, the stitching in the seat is second rate and so on. Quality materials are as important to a beach lounge chair as they are to the furniture in your living room. So what you want to see are things like aircraft grade aluminum tubing for the frame, stainless steel screws for the connections, 600D ripstop nylon or something equivalent for the seat and wide, sturdy feet that aren’t going to crack under your weight or melt after hours in the hot sand.
Style - Here’s where things veer into the subjective because really, the style you like is the style you like. Fortunately, there are lots of styles to choose from these days so everyone should be able to find something that delivers them to their happy place. If you like to tinker something like the NiceC lightweight beach chair should be right up your alley. It weighs almost nothing and breaks down to fit in a tiny bag. The tradeoff is it needs to be assembled. If you like old school design there are chairs like the Rio Beach Classic 5. If you want your chair to have a high tech edge try one of the inward folding chairs on our list. And if the idea of bringing luxury to the beach interests you try the SUV of reclining beach chairs, the Rio Beach Sunbed.
Comfort - The best beach chair is a lot of things but it’s not much if it’s not comfortable. Most people spend long hours in their beach chair so it’s important that the seat material is not irritating, that the balance is not questionable, that the armrests be properly positioned and made of quality materials and the damn thing doesn’t keep sinking deep into sand because it has spindly little feet. Also, when you lean back in the chair you don’t want to feel reinforcing bars across the back of the chair digging into you. And if the chair has an umbrella you want to be sure it’s easy to adjust and doesn’t get in your way when you’re trying to stand up or sit down.
The above points all cover fundamentals but once you get past them you may want a chair that offers a few extras including:
A beach chair with the umbrella - One reason the Sport-Brella topped our list is that it’s one of the few beach chairs to come with a built-in umbrella. But more than that the umbrella is well-considered, easy to adjust, has protective caps on the ends of the spines and doesn’t add so much weight to the chair that it makes it unwieldy. It’s the kind of feature we’d like to see on other beach chairs and we don’t really understand why more manufacturers don’t offer it.
Storage pocket - A pocket to store extras like reading materials, sunscreen, a shirt to cover up with, sunglasses, water and more is a big plus. Unfortunately, not every beach chair comes with a storage pocket or sleeve. Some folks get so bowled over by the look of a particular chair that they forget to check to see if it has a storage pocket and doesn’t realize it doesn’t until they hit the beach. If having a place to store peripherals is important for you to make sure whatever chair you have your eye on has a pocket or sleeve.
A drink holder - It sort of strains credulity to think that in 2019 all beach chairs don’t have a built-in drink holder. But they don’t. And it’s not just a few that are missing this most basic feature. A lot of otherwise excellent beach chairs just don’t have it. Why? Who knows? All you need to be aware of is that many don’t. So if a drink holder is something you want in your beach chair make sure to check the feature set before buying.
An extra wide seat - Because not all people are built the same you may need to be mindful of the width of the seat. Some chairs look great, are fashioned from the best materials and will last for years but have a narrow seat that just isn’t going to cut it for some of us. If you’re a big boy or girl and need a bit of extra space in your seat make sure to check the width before you purchase. Chairs like the Cascade Mountain Tech Low Profile beach chair are several inches wider than most others. And those few inches can make a huge difference.
Big wide feet - Historically, beach chair designers have never lost a lot of sleep trying to ensure their creations stayed topside in the sand. Fortunately, in recent years a new generation of designers have introduced the extra wide foot pad that ensures that no matter how big the person or how soft the sand, the chair will stay up top where it belongs. That’s called progress. However, not all beach chairs offer these wide feet so don’t assume the chair you have your eye on does. Look carefully, ask questions, read the fine print. It can make a big difference in the quality of your beach experience.