Since 1996, Connecticut based GCI Outdoors has been reinventing the wheel in terms of portable seating for your outdoor adventures. Through its innovative design approach and listening to customer feedback, GCI has built up a line of premium, easy to use, and easy to transport camp chairs and stools destined to suit your needs anywhere you go out there. When most people think of camp chairs, they envision the common $10 bargain chairs you can pick up at Wal-Mart or your local grocer that may last you a season. GCI doesn’t have a single chair like that in its line-up, and I don’t think they ever will. In talking with the company’s co-president, Jeff Polke, it’s clear that he recognizes that the larger market share is in those lesser chairs, but would rather focus on innovative designs, premium materials, and serving their growing customer base that GCI has been listening to – and designing for – for twenty years.
In 2016, GCI launched a line of portable, easy to use, rocking chairs that are designed to work on most types of terrain without compromising their ability to rock in any way. This is accomplished through the aid of pistons that are built into the back legs of the chair (“Spring-Action Rocking Technology”) which allow you to rock while the actual base remains flat on the ground. The first time I saw the FirePit Rocker, Freestyle Rocker, and Beach Rocker I was dumbfounded, but knew that I had to try one out. They had to be bulky and cumbersome to transport right? I was sure they were heavy – so there was no way these chairs were going to be something someone would want to lug around, right?
Wrong and Wrong.
Last month, I headed over to GCI’s headquarters, spent some time talking with the folks and got a chance to see what made the company tick. After an hour of visiting and getting a peak behind the scenes, I left with a sample of their FirePit Rocker and drove directly to my local mountain to test it out. When I got there, I threw the Rocker over my shoulder, and walked the three miles in to where I set up a little stream-side camp for myself and my friends. I did this with a full pack (35lb) in the snow (3”-6”) and off-trail. I won’t go as far as to say I bushwhacked my way to camp, but it wasn’t a clear path.
Not once did I feel like the chair was too heavy or cumbersome. Even when I climbed up over a ridge to cross over the mapped trail, the chair wasn’t an issue. For lack of better words, I ported this chair as inconveniently as possible and didn’t feel hindered in any way. I’m a big, strong, stubborn guy, but I can turn into a whiney toddler with the snap of my fingers if something isn’t fitting me right – especially out in the woods.
In terms of specs, the FirePit Rocker sits 15” off of the ground, has a capacity of 250lbs (I am 275lbs) and weighs almost 12lbs. Compared to most of the camp chairs on the market – and even in GCI’s line up – the FirePit rocker is pretty big, but it folds completely flat and has a carry handle on the side for easy transport. Additionally, it has a mesh back which allows you to sink a little deeper into the chair to feel the full effects of leisure.
The function of the chair takes a little getting used to on uneven ground. On grass and snow it was comfortable from the get go, but on uneven terrain, I found I needed to tip the chair back a bit on a rock or tree root so as to not feel like I was sitting forward. Either way, due to its oversized nature and flexible fabric, I was very comfortable. Then, the rocking began and I nearly fell asleep. Try that in one of those $10 nightmares. Additionally, me being 25lbs over the recommended weight rating didn’t cause any issues whatsoever. I’m not telling you to void the warranty by following my example; I’m merely stating that this bugger is built to last.
Overall, I’m pleased with the GCI FirePit Rocker. It’s easy to carry, as well as easy to store. It’s super comfortable – rigid where it needs to be for structure, but soft and supple for comfort. In terms of price, the FirPit Rocker comes in at $60 when ordered from GIC Outdoor directly. But, if you do a little hunting, you can find it for a low as $50. That may seem a little high for a camp chair that is visually less portable than some of the other ones out there, but I assure you, you could hike this baby out on the Long Trail or even the AT with ease. Just strap it to your pack and pretend you’re wearing an external frame like back in the good old days.
In a market dominated by cheap camp chairs you can buy almost anywhere, it’s nice to see a company like GCI Outdoor making headway with premium products. They’re not the only one’s out there doing what they do – but they do it exceedingly well. They’re always thinking ahead to the next big thing – whether it’s ease of use, ease of transport, or even adding in a function or feature not commonly found in today’s selection of camp chairs. It’s very easy to get a hold of a manufacturer overseas who can either copy or create camp furniture on the cheap, then sell it for cheap. But that’s not what GCI is about.
Their three rockers are just a very small sampling of what GCI has available in its catalog. Head over to the company’s website to see if they have something that suits your needs. Chances are, you’ll find plenty to like.