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Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit Review

Camp chair aficionados rejoice - the ten ounce barrier has been convincingly broken by Big Agnes with their six ounce Cyclone SL chair kit.


Overall Rating: Recommended

The Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit is the lightest chair of its kind at just six ounces. It is not as tough as its nearest competitor, the Therm-a-Rest Trekker, but weighs a whopping four ounces less and still provides good back support.

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by Carol Crooker, with input from Will Rietveld |


A few years ago when I spent six months SuperUltralight backpacking, I was comfortable with just five pounds of gear, but I did miss having a chair. When my SUL experiment was over, the first thing I added back into my pack was my twenty-year-old Therm-a-Rest UL chair kit. My back is a little twingy and there are only two ways to completely take the stress off it after a long day of hiking - lie flat on my back or use a chair. Since a chair is much more convenient for cooking and conversing, I often carry one, but ten ounces is a significant chunk of an ultralight budget, so I was delighted to hear Big Agnes had knocked a quarter pound off that mark with their Cyclone SL Chair Kit. The question for me was whether the Cyclone Chair would support me in my favorite back relaxing pose - leaning back with the chair tilted and my legs outstretched. Another chair I tested, the Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR chair, did not come high enough on my back to support that posture.

Testing the Cyclone on the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado, I was delighted to find that I could indeed lean back and lounge. I was using the chair kit with a Big Agnes Clearview pad, and the combination made a very comfortable chair. The thick pad raised my bum a few inches off the ground, which made sitting cross-legged easier on my hip joints, and the back was long enough that I could completely relax and let it support me as I leaned back.

Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit Review - 1
The Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit combined with the Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad makes an extremely comfortable camp chair. Once you try it, it's hard to leave it at home.

The Cyclone chair design is very similar to the Therm-a-Rest chair kit (both my older UL version and the current Trekker version). Weight savings are achieved by making each component lighter than what is used in the Therm-a-Rest chair. Fabric is lightweight Cordura rip-stop nylon instead of a heavier nylon, the stays are aluminum tent stays rather than composite rods, the webbing is 5/8 inch instead of 1 inch with correspondingly smaller buckles, and reinforcement where the two stays meet is less substantial in the Big Agnes chair.

Big Agnes did not stop with lighter materials, but also employed some clever redesign to reduce chair weight. The pad pockets are significantly shorter, but most notably, the stays forming the Cyclone seat bottom are four inches shorter than the back stays (instead of equal length as in the Therm-a-Rest). The Cyclone back stays are about 3/4 inch shorter, and of course the bottom stays are considerably shorter, than those on the Therm-a-Rest, but the total length of the Cyclone is only about an inch less than the 37.5-inch Therm-a-Rest UL chair kit (the Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR chair is 31.5 inches long). The Big Agnes chair kit almost catches the Therm-a-Rest in overall length because the chair back extends five inches beyond the end of the stays. This extra tall cushioning helps make the Cyclone quite comfortable.

One feature saves weight but is inconvenient: the webbing is not long enough for the ends to remain clipped together when the chair is laid out flat. That means the side release buckles on both sides must be unclipped before a pad can be inserted. The buckles are small enough that I sometimes had to try twice to get them unclipped.

Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit Review - 2
This Pacific Outdoor Products pad is out of production, but a pad this size (20 x 48 x 2.5 inches), like the current Ether Compact 6 (13 ounces) fits the Cyclone Chair and also fits the bottom of a pack raft perfectly to provide a little extra cushioning and a drier bottom.

The Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit is designed as a companion for the Clearview Pad, reviewed here, but it will work with any twenty-inch wide inflatable pad. The Cyclone also makes an acceptable chair when combined with twenty-inch wide foam pads and even the less-than-twenty-inch wide Bozeman Mountain Works TorsoLite pad. Without the stiffness of an inflatable pad, the resultant chair is not as comfortable, since the chair collapses around the user's torso and legs, but it still provides good back support.

Will and I both tested the Cyclone on the trail with the sixty-inch long Big Agnes Clearview mummy pad. The pad was too short to double in the chair adapter, but it worked well to fold the top and bottom of the pad under to fit the length of the chair adapter. I struggled at first to get a fully inflated Clearview pad into the chair kit. One end of the pad would pop out of the short pocket while I attempted to insert the other end. Once I started holding down the inserted end with my knee I found I could quickly finish the job of getting the chair put together.

The Cyclone sacrifices durability for weight but the four-ounce weight savings is well worth the sacrifice in my mind. I certainly do not expect the Cyclone to hold up for twenty years, like my Therm-a-Rest chair. However, I do expect good quality control. After just one five-day trip, my test sample has some stitching pulling out where the reinforcing hinge is sewn on. The stitching is not in a wear area, so it appears the problem is one of quality control.

Many ultralight backpackers will sneer at taking a six-ounce chair along, but if you are a chair user, you'll applaud Big Agnes for reducing chair weight by a whopping forty percent. For those of you still sneering - beware - once you enjoy the ease of relaxing around a circle of alcohol stoves with your legs out-stretched, leaning back in a cushy chair, it may be hard to leave the chair at home the next trip.


  * Manufacturer:

Big Agnes (

  * Year/Model:

2008 Cyclone SL Chair Kit

  * Sizes Available:

One size only that fits a 20-in (51-cm) wide pad

  * Materials::

Lightweight Cordura rip-stop fabric and aluminum tent pole stays

  * Included:

Mesh stuff sack (0.3 oz, 9 g)

  * Weight:

measured weight (Will) 6.3 oz (179 g), (Carol) 5.3 oz (150 g) manufacturer specification 6 oz (170 g)

  * MSRP:


Read's companion review, the Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad Review, here.


"Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit Review," by Carol Crooker, with input from Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2008-08-26 00:05:00-06.


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Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit Review on 08/26/2008 21:27:11 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit Review

Scott Van Doeselaar
(vandoe) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair on 08/27/2008 09:30:34 MDT Print View

I just got back from a trip where I used this chair with the clearview air pad. Since I was using the clearview I was nervous about puncture so I would typically use the chair on smooth polished granite. The reinforced area on the back stay where they sit on the ground wore through in about 1 hour of use. This is a highly loaded area when you lean back in the chair so I plan to add small pieces of leather sewn on to reinforce this wear area. With this modification I think it will last quite awhile.

The chair is pretty comfortable.

Huzefa Siamwala
Re: Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair on 08/27/2008 22:10:30 MDT Print View

wow. what a brilliant idea! Talk about multiuse - chair, groundsheet, pack frame! I am sure pretty soon we will see some XUL chair made of cuben.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair on 08/29/2008 14:13:31 MDT Print View

I have sent my Cyclone back to BG for warranty repair and that was more than a month ago. Still have not gotten it back. Talking with their repair folks leads me to believe that this is a problem with all of the chairs. Mine wore through after 3 nights. The webbing is just not durable enough to stand up to any contact with the ground where one might shift around in the chair causing the aluminum stays to dig into the ground. BG tells me that they are working on using some other material as a reinforcement patch where the stays contact the ground.

On a comfort note. If you have a tall torso (as I do), the chair is fairly short in providing support to the back. I am still undecided about long term use of the Cyclone. For another 4 oz I get a more durable, taller and comfortable chair with my Thermarest trekker. Maybe its not worth the hassle to use something so inconveniently sized despite its weight.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
New Version of Cyclone SL!! on 09/10/2008 14:58:42 MDT Print View

Just got back my Cyclone SL from BG in for repair. They sent me a new one instead. And they made the improvment that many of us have noted was necessary to make this chair a useful and Durable addition to a lightweight kit.

They put a patch of hypalon where the two supporting aluminum dowels meet. This patch covers the area in contact with the ground and protects it from excessive wear on the thin nylon webbing used for the sleeves encasing the dowels. The solution adds no real weight to the chair and solves the major complaint I had regarding the durability of the chair.


Jerry Cagle
(xclimber) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Big Agnes Cyclone Chair Kit on 01/14/2009 21:56:54 MST Print View

Carol says: "The Cyclone also makes an acceptable chair when combined with twenty-inch wide foam pads and even the less-than-twenty-inch wide Bozeman Mountain Works TorsoLite pad. Without the stiffness of an inflatable pad, the resultant chair is not as comfortable, since the chair collapses around the user's torso and legs, but it still provides good back support."

I think that's a wee bit of an understatement... In my case (I'm 5'10/150 lbs), when using the BMW TorsoLite the aluminum stays really dig in to both my ribs and legs. If you want comfort (that's why you're carrying this, right?) I think you should plan on using a full 20" wide pad.

I tried my TAR Prolite 3 Full Length, and it was markedly more comfortable than the TorsoLite (which I otherwise LOVE, just not for this purpose, sigh...).

I also have a Pacific Outdoor Equipment - Max Thermo 72" x 20" x 2.5" Inflatable Pad, and it is somewhat less comfortable than the TAR PL 3 as it is cut in a mummy style (Narrower at the head and foot) which allows the aluminum stays in the chair to dig in rather uncomfortably, though much less so than with the BMW TL. One possible workaround for the mummy shape pad, however,is that if you fold the mattress so that its center is situated in the center of the chair, folding the two ends inward to also meet at the chair's center, it will not collapse as readily. Surprisingly, it stays in the chair pretty well in this configuration. I expected it to squirt out...

Regarding the use of a 20" wide foam pad, I'm also a bit skeptical. I think it would have to be a pretty firm foam in order to keep the chair from collapsing inward.

Edited by xclimber on 01/14/2009 21:58:53 MST.