Overall Rating: Above Average
The Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR chair is not intended to be used as a sleeping pad, but doing so is what may gain it entry into some lightweight backpackers' kits (used as a chair only, it's too heavy). For the niche group of lightweight backpackers who carry a chair and an inflatable pad, this chair/pad combo is rated Above Average since it provides the softest bed for the weight of any pad available, but a prophylactic patch must be added and the valve sealing is fickle.
by Carol Crooker |
The Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR chair weighs a whopping 21.7 ounces, so why might it be of interest to a lightweight backpacker? Because it contains the most comfortable 11 ounce sleeping pad I know of. The 2-inch thick pad is significantly more comfortable than 1 and 1.5-inch self-inflating pads I've slept on and even more comfortable than a 2.5-inch thick Pacific Outdoor Equipment air pad due to the more pliant (and less durable) surface and 1.5 inch baffles of the Crazy Creek pad. It is 31.5 inches long (for comparison: Bozeman Mountain Works Torso-Lite - 32 in, Gossamer Gear NightLight torso length foam pad - 29 in, MontBell U.L. Comfort System Pad 90 - 35 in) which is comfortably long enough for my 19 inch torso.
The air bladder inside the Crazy Creek chair is a soft polyurethane that conforms to your body. It is comfortable when fully inflated, and becomes even more so with less air. Unlike typical air mattresses, the air chambers run horizontally across the pad and the 2-inch high chambers have 1.5 inch baffles so there aren't holes for a hip or shoulder to fall into. The bladder is designed to be protected by the outer nylon shell, so it is much more pliant than typical air mats.
Of course, the problem is that the Backpacker Lite AIR chair is not very durable. Once a prophylactic patch is added (see note below), it can withstand overnight use without the shell cover. But for how many nights I don't know. If, like me, you carry something like the Therm-a-Rest UL chair kit (my older model weighs 10.3 oz, the same as the Crazy Creek cover) in addition to a torso-length self-inflating pad, the weight is a wash.
|The 31.5 inch long Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR chair bladder makes for very comfortable sleeping with a soft cover, 2-inch thickness and 1.5 inch baffles.|
Note: Both sample chairs I tested developed small leaks where the cage protecting the inflation valve pressed into the air bladder skin. This does not appear to be an issue when the AIR chair is used as it is designed to be used. In chair mode, the inflation valve and cage are where they won't have weight on them. Crazy Creek includes two small round patches and glue with the chair. It was easy to add a patch in the field when chair sample two developed a slow leak. For preventative purposes, I recommend adding a patch on the bladder opposite the valve before using the chair as a sleeping pad. There is another issue of a sporadic slow leak through the inflation valve. After patching, both chairs sometimes have a slow leak even though the patches test good underwater. I believe this is due to dust preventing the valve from sealing perfectly. Luckily, it takes a lot of leaking to make the bladder uncomfortable for sleeping, and it's easy to blow it back up. I even did it one night without leaving my bag - fairly easy to do with a torso length pad. The valve is designed so that air pressure can easily be reduced by pressing the valve half way in. It's possible some part of my body pressed on the valve during the night but I positioned the valve away from my hips and I think lots more air would have been let out of the pad if that had been the case.
Chair mode. How does the Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR chair perform in chair mode? It is 31.5 inches long as compared to 37.5 inches for the Therm-a-Rest UL chair kit. It does not provide the same kind of back support as the Therm-a-Rest chair. I can't sit in my favorite balanced position with the front of the chair off the ground a few inches and the back tilted, completely removing all tension on my back. I can achieve nearly the same stress relief by leaning back in the AIR chair and propping my feet on a tree (something that doesn't work as well in the Therm-a-Rest chair). Crazy Creek makes a longer (40 in) Lite AIR chair but it weighs 27.4 ounces.
The air bladder is simple to remove from the nylon case. Undo the zipper at the top of the chair and remove a gasket holding the valve in place, then slide out the bladder - that's it.
The AIR chair is not insulated, so like other air mattresses, how cold you can take it will vary by user. One of our editors is a hot body and is warm on his uninsulated Pacific Outdoor Equipment air mattress to 20 F. I used the AIR chair down to 41 F and was very comfortable. I felt cool on another air mattress at 47 F. Conditions were different of course, but I think the 1.5 inch baffles are warmer than the zero baffle height on most air pads.
The AIR chair inflation valve seals during inflation and can be locked open for deflation. The air level is easily reduced by pressing the On Air button half way down.
I didn't baby the Crazy Creek chair. In fact, it spent a good bit of time muddy and being stepped on in the bottom of a packraft. The chair itself is plenty durable for backpacking use. It is not useful for providing structure to a frameless pack. The stays when folded are only about 15 inches high and most lightweight packs need about 20 inches. I carried the chair rolled up in the outside pocket of a ULA Amp pack. It was easily accessible for the long breaks I took the first couple of days while gaining elevation in the Weminuche Wilderness and acclimatizing from low level Phoenix.
I did a series of SuperUltraLight (baseweight 5 pounds or less) backpacking trips a few years ago and published my trip reports here. I absolutely loved the challenge of cutting a few pounds off my pack weight and the joy of carrying such light packs. I also was surprised by how comfortable I was with the gear I carried. While hitting that 5 pound baseweight was fun, what really matters to me is total pack weight. I like to keep my starting pack weight (including food and water) for a trip under 20 pounds. After my SUL training, I can carry a lot of luxuries and still keep my pack weight below 20 pounds. On a recent five-day trip in Colorado's Weminuche Wilderness my pack started at under 19 pounds and the Crazy Creek Backpacker AIR chair proudly rode in my pack's side pocket. I don't mind the most minimal cooking setup, but I like a good night's sleep, and I love being able to sit back in a chair in camp and at rest breaks. And that's how a former SUL backpacker can justify carrying an almost 22 ounce chair!
"Crazy Creek Backpacker Lite AIR Chair SPOTLITE REVIEW ," by Carol Crooker. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/crazy_creek_backpacker_lite_air_chair_spotlite_review.html, 2007-07-24 03:00:00-06.