Fresh Gear: Mantis Camp Chair

Staff Writer
Alite takes camp seating to a new (and stabler) level

For millenia, humans sat around campfires on whatever was available in their immediate surrounds—rocks, logs, their own haunches, heck, even the ground itself—and it worked. Still, that hasn't stopped us in more recent times from looking for a more perfect, portable and, yes, manmade solution. After all, we've evolved (right?) and not every campsite has a rock or log or other natural sit spot. In such cases, it's best to haul your own seat along.

Crazy Creek, for one, has built its entire brand around the idea of comfy camp seating, and its Adventure Line of "chairs" are lightweight, tough and packable. But, in the end, they still amount to sitting on the ground, but with padding under your butt and something to lean against. This isn't bad for many people, but for outdoor newbies and people who just plain aren't used to "roughing it," sitting on the ground isn't a pretty proposition.

Enter San Francisco-based Alite, who's taken the packable, lightweight camp chair concept—first with its Monarch, and now with its new-for-2012 big brother, the Mantis—to a new level. What sets these chairs apart is their folding aluminum frame that gets your butt up off the ground and, theoretically, in a more relaxing sitting position. Making life outdoors accessible is part of Alite's modus operandi and why their slogan is "Outside made simple." They've done some outside-the-box thinking, offering a Designer in Residency program that allows non-designers residencies to help them think about their products from a user's perspective.

The Monarch was tiny—just 21 ounces that folded into a practically pocket-sized foot-long package. Trouble was, it only had two legs. Balancing was in the hands (or the legs, at least) of the sitter, and some people weren't comfortable with that. Enter the Mantis. It's nearly twice the size, weight and price of the Monarch, but it's just as cool looking and has four legs for no-brain balancing.

A hip camper chills in the Mantis (credit: Alite Designs)

I tested the Mantis, and found it to be intuitive (the frame is color-coded for easy assembly), strong (supports up to 250 pounds), lightweight (2 pounds), small (17.5" x 5" x 5" packed) and absurdly comfortable. The main drawback to it is price—a hefty $120. Would I bring it backpacking? Probably not. I'd opt for something that takes up less pack space, like the Monarch or Crazy Creek's Hex 2.0. But the Mantis offers unparalelled comfort for its size, which makes it a worthwhile investment for car camping, backyard lounging or throwing in your picnic basket when you head to a concert.