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Reviews > Camp Chairs and Seating > Chairs > Kifaru Field Chair > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

KIFARU FIELD CHAIR
Owner Review by Richard Lyon

July 18, 2012

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Male, 66 years old
; 6' 4" (1.91 m)
, 200 lb (91 kg)

Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA

I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, and regularly in the Rocky Mountains since 1986.  I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13,000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, but still sleep in a floored tent and often include my favorite camp conveniences.  Summer camping is often organized around flyfishing opportunities.

PRODUCT DETAILS

Fifaru Field ChairManufacturer: Kifaru International, Wheat Ridge, Colorado USA
Website: www.kifaru.net 
Kifaru, which means “rhinoceros” in some African language, makes gear targeted at hunters and the military.
Packed size: Listed: 13 in (33 cm); measured: 13.25 x 3.25 in (33.7 x 8.3 cm) 

Weight: Listed: 10 oz (283 g); weighed: 10.5 oz (298 g)

Color: Teal; now available only in five hunter’s colors.
Year acquired: 2005

MSRP: $33 US when I bought it; now $45 or $48 depending upon color choice

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

 My Field Chair seat is a roughly trapezoidal piece of 500 denier Cordura, 37 in (94 cm) long with 14.9 in (38 cm) and 5.5 in (14 cm) ends.  (Note: Kifaru now uses 1000 d Cordura.) The underside of the fabric has a sewn hem on three sides and a one-inch (2.5 cm) cuff on the end away from the legs.  The underside appears to be treated with polyurethane waterproofing.

Two two-piece aluminum legs are bolted to the fabric at the narrow end.  The top piece (0.5 in, 13 mm diameter) has a raised and springed button that can be depressed in order to slide the bottom end to a point where the button clicks into one of three holes, giving a total leg length of 17, 18.5, or 20.5 in (43, 47, 52 cm).  A hard rubber non-slip crutch foot is fitted over the bottom of each leg. Here is a picture from Kifaru’s Standalonewebsite of the Field Chair "standing" alone:

However this chair cannot stand alone in the real world, as it becomes a chair only when one is seated in it.  By angling the poles back slightly from the vertical and sitting back on the seat, the pressure from the user's backside brings both poles and fabric taut, making a “chair.”  Kifaru refers to this as "simple physics." 


The seat end of the trapezoid has fabric tie-offs that allow me to roll the fabric over the poles and then tie up the chair with two shoelace knots for easy storage in my pack or outside using a bottle pocket or compression strap.  Packed size and weight are small enough so that it's easy to carry this chair in a day pack, fishing vest, picnic basket, even a medium-sized computer bag, if I'm so inclined. It fits very nicely into a water bottle pocket on the side panel of several packs I own, with room left over for my fly rod tube.

FIELD CONDITIONS

I received this chair seven years ago as an early birthday present, given by a backpacking pal just in time for a tryout in Glacier Park, Montana.  Since then this ingenious product has been in my pack on scores of backpacking trips in Texas and the Rockies.  I have included it on nearly every one of my summer or fall trips longer than an overnighter that I’ve taken, and as noted I often bring it along on day hikes, fishing trips, and other casual outdoor events such as concerts or picnics. 

I’ve sat in the Field Chair at temperatures from about 20-105 F (-7 to 41 C), in fair and foul weather, though as I’ll explain it works best when and where the ground is dry.

REVIEW

Field chair as chair Settling into the Field Chair takes a small bit of practice, to ensure that the poles extend slightly outward, as shown here, or crisscrossed, as shown in the photos on Kifaru’s website.  (In my experience the former method works better for stability.) Once I mastered that easy task, the Field Chair provides a comfortable and surprisingly stable seat.  For a fidgeter like me, in fact, it's much more stable than one backcountry alternative, a conversion kit for my sleeping pad.  Unless a pole slips from under me, the harder I lean back the more stable the seat becomes – the simple physics at work.  I once fell asleep sitting in the chair one evening watching the sun set over Slough Creek in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and woke up thirty minutes later with no crinks in the neck or stiffness in the back.

The adjustable legs and the ability to slant the legs differently provide two additional advantages.  They make the chair easy to use on uneven ground, and allow me to vary the angle at which I recline.  It’s just as easy to elevate only my shoulders and head, pulling my hat over my face for a nap, as it is to sit up straight.  I've found the chair very useful for reading inside my tent while inside my sleeping bag, with the chair seat (but not the legs) on top of my sleeping pad.

Using the Field Chair instead of a sleeping pad converter saves pack space and weight and avoids the risks of a puncture to or mud or water on my sleeping pad.  (As I often use a down-filled pad, I’m particularly worried about damage – those things are expensive to replace.)

As noted the Field Chair’s small packed size makes it convenient for day hikes and picnics and any other outdoor situation requiring some hiking.  And the simple physics means that one size fits anyone. 

Occasionally when I have leaned forward without thinking one or both of the legs will fall over, but it's a simple thing to reset them.  The only times I have encountered regular slippage while seated was when a Field Chair leg was braced in a muddy spot.  This chair is not ideal for use in the rain for other reasons.  The top side of the seat is not waterproof, and I regret to report that the treatment on the bottom wasn’t very effective even when I first used the Field Chair. If I sit in the chair in rainy, dewy, or otherwise damp conditions the seat gets soggy, as soon thereafter does my tail end. So I don’t always pack the chair in the spring, when showers and wet conditions are a regular occurrence in the Rockies. The Cordura, though very stout (and apparently even stouter in the newer version), provides little insulation, so in an icy or snowy location I must similarly place something underneath or I’m quickly chilled. So winter use is also limited.  I do often pack an Ensolite pad in winter for other reasons, and I have used that under the Field Chair in the winter, usually to sit before a campfire.  But I’m outside my tent much less in winter conditions, so I usually leave the Field Chair at home.

Inspired by Kifaru's claim that the legs can be used as a bipod for sighting a rifle (illustrated on its website), I have tried using the Field Chair as a personal prop for photography, with me in the prone position on my stomach, arms in front, but the simple physics that makes this a chair drives the legs painfully into my chest, and it's difficult to balance on my elbows. 

If Kifaru switched to a stronger and heavier fabric for added durability, my experience says that wasn’t necessary. After seven years' regular use the Field Chair has had no structural issues. The tubes remain straight with no rust or corrosion; I see no fraying, loose threads, shiny spots or other indication of fabric deterioration; no peeling of the polyurethane coating; and the crutch feet remain firmly in place.  I've been able to remove dirt and the occasional squashed insect, on both sides of the fabric, with a dab of mild soapy water.  I haven't had to add any lubrication to the poles, and I have not encountered the sections’ sticking together or the button's getting stuck in place, either in a hole or in the pole leg.

Kifaru rolled upWHAT I LIKE

Light weight and minimal pack space

KISS (keep it simple, stupid!)


Versatility – recline, sit at the campfire, read in the tent


Durability


COULD IT BE BETTER?

Yes, with a waterproof seat.

Using titanium and a superlight fabric could shave some weight. Personally I’ll take the durability at the price of an extra ounce or two.




Read more reviews of Kifaru International gear
Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon

Reviews > Camp Chairs and Seating > Chairs > Kifaru Field Chair > Owner Review by Richard Lyon



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