The Strongback Elite is unique in the folding camp chair category because it actually provides great lumbar back support, resulting in an incredibly comfortable chair. The cost of this engineering comes with a more expensive price, extra weight, and an awkward shape when folded up.
Ease of Use The Strongback Elite is very easy to set up once it’s out of its bag. When the chair is folded up, it takes on a slight banana shape but is fitted into a straight bag. The Elite is also easy to fold up and a locking buckle helps keep it together while wrestling it back into the bag. Although the carry bag has two straps intended to be used as a backpack when needed, it’s awkward to carry unless the banana bow of the folded chair is inserted just the right way into the bag relative to the straps.
Comfort This is where the Elite takes the cake. The two-piece chair set (seat and backrest) are mounted on a uniquely shaped frame to provide lumbar back support like no other camp chair, much less many other kinds of casual chairs (yard furniture, etc.) or even office/desk chairs. The Strongback team has completely eliminated the “sling” effect that causes slumping commonly found in folding camp chairs as well as vanquished the upright rigidness of director style chairs. The hard armrests are even padded to make every aspect of this chair comfortable. This is a wide and deep chair and while slight and broad testers alike found it comfortable, shorter testers were not as impressed. If support and comfort are your priorities for a camp chair, this is your chair.
Craftsmanship The Elite is made of heavy duty 600 denier polyester fabric designed to be abrasive resistant and it has proven to be so in our testing. This durable fabric is wrapped on a silver powder coated steel frame built to hold up to 300 pounds and all of the double reinforced stitching, used throughout the build of the chair, is holding up beautifully. Even the carry bag is made of the 600 denier fabric for added carry durability.
Features Aside from the lumbar support which is certainly an outstanding feature, the Elite keeps it pretty simple. The padded hard armrests are great for comfort but can’t be adjusted for shorter torsos. Also, although there is only one soft cup holder (that is slightly larger than the average cup holder) and it will accommodate a standard beer or soda can in a cozy or even some larger diameter water bottles. The carrying case has two straps so it can be carried like a backpack keeping your hands free and avoiding “shoulder slip-off” while carrying large loads from the car to camp, if it happens to be more than just a dozen steps (though, this is where getting the chair stowed a certain way in the bag is important). Speaking of the bag, like many other carry bags, the Elite bag could be 5-10% bigger to make it easier to stow.
Versatility The simplicity of the Elites makes it fairly versatile. The durable 600 denier fabric allows this chair to be used in casual environments as well as in more abrasive situations where elements like sand, grit, dirt, tools sticking out of pockets, dogs jumping up, and the like are more probable. Also, because the chair is already so comfortable in design, extra padding isn’t needed which could absorb water if left out in the rain. You’ll know this chair is wet by looking at it before sitting in it, while with other chairs it might not be so easy to tell until you’ve sat down. Where the Elite could improve its versatility is to make larger feet to better handle softer ground, like sand at the beach.
Cameron Martindell is the Gear Institute's Gear Test Director, responsible for coordinating our gear testing team, recruiting new experts, and maintaining the Gear Institute's editorial standards for product testing.