WALKSTOOL COMFORT 55
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
December 05, 2008
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5' 11" (1.80 m)
225 lb (102.00 kg)
I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and
snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for
the last 25 years. I'm an all-season, all-terrain, off-trail kind
of guy, but these days (having small kids) most of my trips run on
the shorter side of things, and tend to be in the temperate
rainforest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in
excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Scandinavian Touch AB
|The Walkstool Comfort 55 and Carrying Case|
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.walkstool.com
MSRP: US $89.99
Listed Weight: 28 oz (800 g)
Measured Weight: 28.4 oz (805 g) - Chair Only
1.3 oz (37 g) - Carrying Case
29.6 oz (839 g) - Total Weight
Other details (From Manufacturer):
Height (Legs Extended): 22 in (55 cm)
Height (Legs Retracted): 13 in (33 cm)
Folded Length: 16 in (41 cm)
Seat Size: 15 in (37.5 cm)
Weight Capacity: 495 lbs (225 kg)
The Walkstool Comfort 55 arrived with its soft-sided carrying case and a variety of promotional information. The carrying case is essentially a long slender stuff-sack with a toggle closure at one end, with cords that extend to the other end, allowing me to use the cords to carry the Walkstool either over one shoulder or backpack-style. The carrying case is made out of an unusual lightweight material that is fairly soft to the touch. It reminds me of a heavier-duty version of the fabric that disposable chemical exposure suits are made of.
Opening the case and sliding the Walkstool out proved simple enough, and the case seems very well sized . . . neither too large nor too small. The first thing I noticed about the Walkstool is that it seemed very lightweight yet solid. A nylon strap with a snap closure held the Walkstool in a closed position around the seat end, and the seat itself was neatly folded in between and around the legs.
The aluminum legs felt very solid, and the nylon seat was made of a mesh-type material that seemed very hefty. This material is stitched to a heavier nylon fabric at each of the three corners, with a nylon edge banding used on all the seams. The stitching appears very well done. All in all, the components appeared very well made. After unsnapping the closure strap, I extended one of the legs, and a small red button snapped smartly into place in the locking indentation of the upper leg assembly (pressing this button releases the lower leg, allowing it to be removed for cleaning or retracted for storage or use in a "low" position). I was very impressed with how stable the lower leg felt inside the upper leg when extended. The machining tolerances appear very, very good.
While extending the second leg, I pulled it out much more quickly than the first, and it popped right out of the upper leg assembly. The manufacturer's website confirmed that extending the legs quickly can sometimes result in the leg coming out in this manner. Examining the lower leg revealed that there are actually two red buttons, opposite each other, on the upper end of the lower leg. To re-insert the leg, both had to be pressed simultaneously. Insertion of the leg proved quite simple, and since the inside edge of the leg is flat (while the rest of the leg is round) there was no way to insert the leg incorrectly. The bottom of each leg has a flared rubber end cap that the manufacturer's website states will reduce sinking in on soft surfaces.
|Red Button Releases Leg - Two Must Be Depressed to Reinsert|
After extending the third leg and setting the stool up, I was impressed with its height. It is taller than other three-legged stools I've used in the past, and slightly higher than a normal chair. Also, the seat is larger than other three-legged stools I've used. I also noticed a loop of webbing under the seat near one of the spots where the leg connected. While I have not found any documentation as to this loop's purpose, it appears from photos at their website and in their booklet that it can be used to hold the webbing closure strap out of the way under the seat. I suspect it may also be useful for hanging the Walkstool out of the way when not in use (which I will evaluate during field testing).
Overall, my first impressions were that the Walkstool Comfort 55 appears to be a well-designed and well-made piece of equipment constructed of what appear to be very high-quality materials.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Despite a variety of promotional materials included with the Walkstool, the only instructions appear to be in small booklet that was attached to the product by a small plastic hang-tag fastener. The booklet contained some very basic information in six different languages, and a variety of humorous cartoons showing uses for the Walkstool. There were three pieces of useful information I found in these instructions. First was that the lower legs could be "locked" in place for storage by twisting them to where they are all parallel so that the pressure between the rubber feet hold the lower legs in place (rather than being able to fall out to an extended position). Second was that the closure strap could be looped through something for carrying (like a belt or pack strap). Third was that the lower legs could be removed and washed with soap and water.
At the manufacturer's website I found additional instruction information including a number of very good video clips that illustrated the features, uses, and operation of the Walkstool. Also, I discovered that the Walkstool legs are machined to require no lubrication.
TRYING IT OUT
The moment of truth came when I sat my bottom down on the seat of the Walkstool. Two things immediately struck me. First, there was almost no give or flex to the stool, even when I shifted my weight or twisted. Being a pretty big guy, this impressed me a lot, and was a vast departure from what I've experienced with other three-legged stools in the past. The second thing that struck me was that the seat was the perfect size for me . . . it was big enough that the three legs didn't poke or pinch me to speak of, yet no bigger than I needed to be comfortable.
|Walkstool in High Position (Legs Extended)|
One thing I also noticed while sitting on the Walkstool was that my posture seemed better than when I'm sitting in a regular chair. This may simply be because I was paying closer attention, but may also be due to the height or lack of back support. Regardless, I found the Walkstool to be very comfortable, and look forward to seeing how it performs in the field.
After enjoying the Walkstool in the high position, I retracted the legs and tried it in the low position, which allowed me to assume a squatting/kneeling position while reducing strain on my knees. As I have bad knees, I can see where this could be a real bonus for me. I found it quite comfortable, and it definitely reduced the strain on my knees substantially, though it took me a moment to gain my balance, as the weight I placed on the seat was supported by the single point where the three legs converged beneath me.
After trying it around the house I retracted the legs and was very pleased to find that the seat naturally returned to the middle when folding it back up, and neatly wrapped around the legs as I snapped shut the retaining strap. I returned it to its carrying case, and am looking forward to testing it in the field.
|Walkstool in Low Position (Legs Retracted)|
The Walkstool Comfort 55 appears to be a exceptionally well-made and well-designed product made of what seem to be very high-quality components. I find it to be very comfortable and easy to use, and look forward to evaluating it in the field.
I would like to thank Scandinavian Touch AB and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test the Walkstool Comfort 55. My field report will be appended to this report in approximately two months. Please check back then for additional information.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have used the Walkstool under a wide variety of conditions over the test period, on 4 backpacking nights and over 10 day hikes.
Trips have been along the coast, in the Olympic Mountains, and in the Cascade Mountains, all in Washington State. Elevations have ranged from sea level to over 5,000 ft (1,500 m). Temperatures have ranged from highs near 90 F (32 C) to lows around 40 F (4 C). Weather has been mostly sunny, though several trips have been overcast, and light showers have been experienced.
Terrain has included walking flat sandy beaches, off-trail scrambling in the Olympics, and I have used the Walkstool on a broad variety surfaces including rock, sand, mud, duff, and pavement.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Overall, I have to say that I am very pleased with the Walkstool. While normally I wouldn't consider carrying a stool with me, I have to admit that it's really nice to have a seat to plop down on when taking a breather.
To better organize my thoughts on the Walkstool so far, I have arranged my thoughts under four categories: comfort, ease of use, durability, and convenience.
|Trailside break on dayhike at Mt. Rainier|
While I don't find a three-legged stool to be any match for my recliner at home, I must admit I find it to be a step up from the standard issue rock or log I find at most places I hike. The seat size on the Walkstool is very comfortable for me, and does not pinch or bind in any way. When using it in the low configuration (which I have done when doing things like cooking, to save my knees) it is equally comfortable, though it took me a couple of tries to be able to use it that way without feeling like I was going to topple over. In the low configuration, it definitely takes a tremendous amount of load off my knees.
Another way I've used the Walkstool is as a footstool while resting. On longer or more strenuous hikes, I like to lie down during breaks and elevate my feet. The Walkstool allowed me to do this anywhere, and I could use it in low configuration with the Walkstool under my calves, or in high configuration with it supporting my heels. I found this to be very convenient.
My final thought on comfort is the height. While I would probably prefer a taller model, I think the Comfort 55 provides a good balance between height and weight, and is taller than most stools I've used, which I enjoy.
EASE OF USE:
I have to say the overall the Walkstool is very easy to use. Pull out the legs, twist them apart to open the seat, and set it down. Even my 5-year-old can do it. My initial experiences with the legs coming out have ceased to be a problem since I've learned to pull them out slowly. The buttons that lock the legs do so very securely.
There are a few downsides to the Walkstool in this area as well, though. First, the buttons you have to press to retract the legs are fairly small, and I found them difficult to operate while wearing lightweight gloves around camp. I do, however, have big fingers. Also, when mounting it to the outside of a pack (my preferred means of carrying it), it is important to keep the legs pointing up. While twisting the legs to parallel should keep them retracted, it will sometimes untwist in transport, and the legs can extend unexpectedly. Attaching it to my pack with the legs pointed up solves the problem.
I also would say the Walkstool performs admirably on a broad range of surfaces. While it's most stable on firm surfaces such as dirt, pavement, or rock, it doesn't sink far into soft surfaces, even sand. The three-legged design also allows it to be used on a broad variety of terrain, and I have yet to find a spot where I'd want to stop where I couldn't set it up reasonably level.
|Brushing away sand showed legs didn't settle deep|
I have to say so far I am very impressed with the Walkstool's durability. After two months of very frequent use (I've used it around the house, at work, and while doing many things other than hiking) it shows no signs of wear, just minor soiling. Despite having used it in the sand on multiple days on our coast, the legs still extend and retract smartly, with no signs of wear. The only maintenance I've performed has been pulling the legs out, wiping off sand and mud, and putting them back in.
Also, I can comfortably sit on the Walkstool with both my children on my lap, and it still feels rock-solid. Even lifting my feet while wearing my daypack and having both kids on my lap (making the total load about 350 lb, 160 kg) the Walkstool gives no indication of being overloaded. It flexes slightly when I twist, but no appreciably more than when it's just me on it.
One note on durability: On my last trip, while doing some off-trail scrambling, my Walkstool dislodged from my pack in a fall and was not retrievable. I will be replacing it with the same model for use during the long-term test period, but will have limited ability to assess its durability as it will not be the same Walkstool for further testing.
This is where I have to give the Walkstool just a so-so review, which is in large part due to my being something of a gram weenie. If I'm dayhiking, I love taking the Walkstool, as my daypack is usually light, and I can carry the Walkstool over the top of it using the carrying-case cords like pack straps (though it requires some effort to keep from tangling them up in the pack). It's great to have a place to sit where I don't have to get my backside soaked when it's raining.
On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of carrying one more thing on my pack while I'm backpacking, but when I stop for the night, I'm sure happy to have it. It really boils down to how much weight I'm willing to carry for comfort, and though I really like the comfort, I really don't like the weight (though it is very light for a stool, and incredibly strong). I'm still not sure which will win this battle (comfort vs. lightening my load), but I'm certain my opinion will solidify over the coming two months.
The Walkstool is a very high-quality, easy to use, and strong solution for seating both for day hiking and backpacking. In the eternal battle of pack weight vs. creature comforts while backpacking, I still sit the fence, but find it to be a great addition to my dayhiking gear. It performs admirably on a variety of surfaces, and is very comfortable.
I would like to thank Walkstool and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test this product. My long-term report will be appended to this report in approximately two months. Please check back at that time for additional information.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have used the Walkstool for a total of four nights backpacking and at least 6 day hikes during long-term testing. Conditions have continued to vary, and have included rain, clouds, and sunshine with temperature as high as 75 F (24 C) and as low as 32 F (0 C). Surfaces have varied also, including sand, soil, duff, rock, gravel, and grass. I have also used the Walkstool extensively indoors during the period, to give it as much use as possible.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I replaced the Walkstool at my expense following the loss of the one I was originally testing. It has seen at least twice the use the first one did, and does not show any signs of wear or damage. My opinion of the Walkstool remains largely unchanged. It is extremely well made, very comfortable, and convenient to use.
Some new observations have been made during long-term testing. First, I've had the chance to use the Walkstool in the rain. After doing so, I suddenly appreciated the seat portion being constructed of a mesh material. I've owned camp stools and chairs (mostly used for car camping) that literally formed little pools of water on the seat in the rain. This isn't a problem with the Walkstool. Rain flows right through the mesh.
Also relating to use in the rain is the fact that the only materials used that appear to absorb any amount of moisture when it's raining are the heavy nylon edge binding around the seat, and the reinforcement areas where the legs attach to the seat. This fabric doesn't appear to absorb much water, however, and dries rather quickly. The mesh material the bulk of the seat is made of appears to absorb virtually no water. It's nice to know that if I strap it to my pack or leave it sitting around camp on a rainy evening that it won't be substantially heavier from saturation the next day.
Since it's been in my pack while hiking (after losing one having it strapped to my pack, I wasn't taking any chances) I don't know how well the carrying case works in the rain. It was always in my pack when it was raining.
While I have finally learned how to slouch in the Walkstool, I still find it more difficult to slouch on the Walkstool than to sit with good posture. I actually used it as a replacement for my office chair for two weeks during the test period, and found that my posture was much better.
The only additional negative observation I've made during long-term testing has to do with closing the seat back up and securing it with the wrap-around strap. With the original Walkstool I was testing, the fabric naturally folded down in between the legs on its own as I collapsed the stool for storage. The replacement one I purchased doesn't always do that, but rather sometimes needs some help to get the seat to fall neatly between the legs. Also, once I've wrapped the strap around the legs and go to snap it, the snap falls right between two legs if the legs are all parallel, requiring I support the snap from the back to close it. I've found I can work around this problem, however, by leaving the legs slightly twisted (allowing the snap to rest against one of them) and straighten the legs so that they're parallel (which holds the feet together so the lower legs are less likely to slide out) after it's snapped. Neither issue is a big deal, just a very, very minor annoyance at times.
Overall, the Walkstool is an exceptionally durable, well-engineered, well-manufactured portable place to sit. It is comfortable, reasonably lightweight (for its strength), and uses materials that prevent pooling of water on the seat or absorption of lots of water in the rain. It's also easier to sit with good posture than to slouch, which is a big plus for me. While slightly heavier than some other stools, it also seems far more robust than any other stool I've ever used.
I will likely use the Walkstool in a variety of ways in the future. I now own two of this model, and while one is for my wife to use while day hiking, the other will be getting daily use as my new office chair for a while. I like the improved posture I use when sitting in it, and find it super-comfortable. Regarding using it for backpacking, it probably will only go when I know there will be few other options (rocks, logs, etc.) for comfortable seating only because of the weight, but I suspect it will find it's way into my pack every once in a while when I feel up to adding some luxury weight. I will likely use it rather frequently for day hiking, when weight is less of a concern for me.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
I would again like to thank Scandinavian Touch AB and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test the Walkstool Comfort 55. This concludes my report.
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