Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair
By Raymond Estrella
December 26, 2008
Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Cascade Designs Inc.
Web site: www.thermarest.com
Product: Trekker chair
Year manufactured: 2008
MSRP: $ 29.95 US
Size: 20 in width (51 cm) 25 in width (64 cm) also available
Packaged weight listed: 10.5 oz (298 g)
Actual weight: 10.7 oz (303 g)
Dimensions listed: 20 x 42 in (51 x 107 cm) These may differ slightly depending on what pad is shoved into it.
Packed size measured (rolled up): 2.5 x 18.8 in (6 x 47 cm)
The Cascade Designs (Therm-a-Rest) Trekker Chair (hereafter called the Trekker or chair) is described by the company as, "Our lightest, most compact convertible chair sleeve sets up fast and is adjustable for maximum comfort". They call it a chair sleeve as it needs a sleeping pad to turn into a chair.
The Trekker is made of three materials. The bottom (which becomes the back) is made of black nylon. The orange pockets on the front or face feel like they are made of taffeta. At the top is some very strong heavy nylon mesh.
The black nylon back has four pockets sewn into the sides, two above and two below the mid-point. Composite stays are sewn into these pockets.
The orange material is sewn onto the ends to make scalloped pockets that will hold the sleeping pad.
At the top the mesh material has open corners. The inflation valve of the pad sticks through one side or the other. (Both sides in the case of my Exped Downmat should I try to use it as it has a valve at each side.)
Here is how I set mine up.
I lay the Trekker flat on a rock or in my tent to keep it as clean as possible. I put my sleeping pad (a ProLite 4 in use, but a GuideLite in these pictures to assist in viewing as the ProLite is the same shade of orange as the top of the chair) into the top pocket with the valve poking through the left hole. I always insert the pad so that the bottom of the pad is against the bottom of the Trekker. I then figure where the pad will fit in the bottom pocket and fold the pad under (away from me, not over towards me) and then stuff the folded pad into the pocket. If I did not estimate well and the pad is not all the way into the end of the pocket I roll the pad a bit to make it fit exactly into the pocket. Now I let a little air into the pad. I only fill it between 35% and 50% full. By folding the pad under I put the bottom (ground side) of my pad both against the surface I will be sitting on and against my big butt.
Once the pad is inserted I can attach the center keeper strap that holds the pad in, keeping it from sliding out when moving the chair or squirming around. (Hmm, I guess those leaves were poison oak. Teach me to read a book about going in the woods…)
A strap on either side allows the chair to be pulled forward to create, well, the chair. By pulling it tighter or letting it out the Trekker will have me sitting up straight or reclining as I wish. The composite rods keep the whole works from mushing out as I sit in it.
The chair rolls up into a very small package as can be seen here. It is roughly the same size a small set of tent poles.
I used the Trekker chair on the following backpacking trips
A two-day trip with Jenn taking the South Fork Trail to a camp site at Lodgepole in the San Bernardino National Forest. This 11-mile round trip hike had 3400 ft (1036 m) of gain and loss. It got up to 83 F and only down to 59 F (28 to 15 C).
A tough two-day 11 mi (18 km) trip to the top of Mt San Jacinto by way of the Marion Mountain Trail. I spent the night in Little Round Valley. This rough hike gains over 4400 ft (1341 m) in 5.5 miles (9 km) in temps that topped 80 F (27 C).
The next weekend I took Jenn to the same place, but made a three-day trip out of it, stopping the first day at Little Round Valley where we made a base camp. Temps ranged from 54 to 81 F (12 to 27 C).
I took Emma and Ray to Itasca State Park , the birthplace of the Mississippi River where we got a permit for one of three sites at Myrtle Lake. (Backpacking sites are issued just like camp sites in a campground, a new one for me.) This four mile (6 km) round trip hike was on easy terrain as it is almost all grass, at the worst dirt. Temps were from 64 to 80 F (18 to 27 C) at an elevation of 1500 ft (460 m).
The kids and I went with Uncle Dave and their cousin Kendall to Round Valley in San Jacinto State Park (California) for an over-night trip with lots of boulder climbing. The temperatures ranged from a low of 55 F to a high of 80 F (13 to 27 C). This was at an elevation of 9200 ft (2800 m).
And last we went on a three-day backpacking trip to Maplewood State Park in Minnesota. We stayed at the Beers Lake Backpacker site the first day and at the Grass Backpacker site the second. The weather was great for two days then rained the last. The temperatures were from 79 down to 61 F (44 to 34 C). The elevation was 1340 ft (408 m) above sea level.
I also used it on a two day camping trip with Jenn.
I have never used a chair while backpacking. I have seen them used by other folks and thought how comfy they look, but could never justify the weight or space they take up with the style of backpacking I do.
Then a couple of things happened (and the planets aligned…) to make me reconsider. First I tested a huge pack, the Osprey Argon 110. I could carry all the gear for my wife and I together and still have room.
Second I took my 9-year old twins Emma and Raymond on a summer full of backpacking trips. As I wanted to make these first trips as positive as possible I carried everything but their sleeping bags and pillows for two and three day trips. As these were short distance I figured I may as well load the Argon to the gills, and since my wife Jenn had a Trekker chair, and I just bought a Therm-a-Rest ProLite 4 pad I may as well see what the big deal is with chairs.
They are nice! That is the deal. The first time I used it was on a camping trip, not a backpacking trip. (Baby steps…) I loved being able to move it into any nice bit of shade I wanted, not being forced to sit where a boulder or log make a usable chair as in the past. Cool. Now time for a hike.
The next trip I took it on a solo climb. It was a very hard day up to my camp site and I loved being able to sit in the Trekker. I found that if I find a rock to set it on so my legs can hang it is just as nice as a LazyBoy. Well it felt that way to me at 9800 feet (2990 m) elevation any way…
The Trekker went with me on every backpacking trip this summer in two states. I ended up carrying it in the Argon mentioned earlier and later in an Osprey Aether 85, a pack a little better suited to my loads , while still carrying extra gear for others.
I take my tent poles and wrap them inside the Trekker chair. Then I slide all of it inside my pack right next to my back, to one side of my hydration bladder. I figure if the material of the Trekker can survive sitting on granite it can protect the contents of my pack from the aluminum poles segments. So far I have been proven right. After using this on six backpacking trips and one camping trip I have seen no wear on the seat portion of the Trekker.
I have only used the Trekker chair with my ProLite 4 pad. But I have one of the company's older GuideLite pads in Minnesota that I plan to use it with next summer as the kids and I take a week long camping road trip along Minnesota's North Shore area. This is because even though I could take a folding chair, the Trekker on a picnic table seat is just as comfortable (maybe more so) and saves space in the back of my sport utility vehicle.
The kids think it is the coolest thing ever. Each time they saw it vacant they would jump on saying that they were taking over the King's throne. It became a game on the three trips they went on to take the chair from me. Raymond is in it in the picture above.
I like to find a boulder or stump to set the Trekker chair on so as to let my feet hang down like a conventional chair. Here is a picture of it in San Jacinto State Park.
It really makes it nice to have a comfortable seat to enjoy a good book after a hike into camp. And the looks of jealousy and envy from passers-bys are nice too…
While I do not see myself taking the Trekker on my long distance hikes I will keep taking it on the hikes with the children and Jenn that I do not mind the extra weight or space it takes in my pack.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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