Chairs. They rival the wheel as far as human inventions go, but is there much difference between a $30 one and a $170 one? Mattie compares the Helinox Chair Zero lightweight camping chair and its Aldi equivalent. Are we splitting (c)hairs here?
For the last couple of months I’ve been borrowing a Helinox Chair Zero from We Are Explorers legend, Jono. I’d been wanting one for a while but had always been hesitant to splurge the big bucks (roughly $170) on an item that feels like an extra luxury.
Since Jono posted the chair down from Byron, it’s become less of a luxury and more of a mainstay of my solo and family outings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chair is heaps more comfortable than sitting on the floor, or perching on a rock, and because it’s ultralight it’s very easy to chuck in a bag or strap to the bike.
When a friend sent me a picture of the Aldi Ultralight Chair (a near mirror image of the Helinox) I was curious to see it for myself and see how that $30 chair stacked up.
I generally avoid buying outdoor gear from Aldi because it feels like a form of ‘fast fashion’ and ‘throw-away culture’. The gear is so cheap that it’s easy to throw it in the trolley without making a considered and conscious choice.
That being said, outdoor gear is often prohibitively expensive and these high costs can stop folk from getting outdoors.
The Helinox Chair Zero and the Aldi equivalent are a great example of this disparity in price. I don’t mind dropping a bit of cash on quality outdoor gear, but paying $170 for a hiking chair just never quite seemed worth it. The Aldi chair is a much more wallet-friendly $30.
That’s a pretty huge difference in price for a very similar chair that serves a very similar purpose. So, on face value, the Aldi chair appears to win this round.
However, it’s worth considering how the price is able to be so low. This article from Saphira Schroers explores the hidden cost of cheap gear pretty thoroughly. Digging a bit deeper, the Helinox chair comes with a 5 year warranty, meaning it will be repaired or replaced if it fails to work in that time.
So while you could buy five new Aldi chairs in the same five years, and still have $20 in your pocket, you should probably consider whether being part of a throwaway culture aligns with your values.
A few weeks ago a friend and I went camping near Canberra. He’d packed a super cheap Aldi sleeping bag while I had an expensive sleeping bag from The North Face. Only one of us was kept warm that night and it wasn’t my friend. Despite the fact his toes still haven’t recovered, the Aldi bag allowed him to get out there in the wild.
When it comes to the Helinox vs Aldi chair comparison, they both function almost exactly the same way. Putting it simply, they both work like chairs.
Both chairs fold up to a similar size, both chairs pack away into a carry bag, and both chairs keep your bum off the ground. Have to call this round a tie.
Size and Weight
On first look, both the Aldi and the Helinox chair appear to be the same size. And once pitched, they’re incredibly similar. The seat of the Aldi chair is a little wider and sits slightly higher off the ground, but neither is packing particularly more bottom real estate.
In terms of pack size, both chairs fold away to a very similar pack size. The Aldi chair has a larger bag to pack away into and this adds to the overall slightly bulkier pack size. I say bulkier, but it’s a very marginal increase in pack size.
It’s in the weight arena that the Helinox chair really shines. At 510g the Helinox Zero chair is nearly half the weight of the Aldi chair. Both chairs are under 1kg, but if you’re counting the grams you’ll be much happier with the Helinox chair’s numbers.
This round is a win for the Helinox Chair Zero.
Despite only testing and comparing the two chairs for a couple of weeks, I wanted to include a durability section as I think this factor will be important in the long run.
While both chairs have been flawless so far, I’d put money on the Aldi chair being the first to show signs of wear and tear. This is not because I’m an expert on sewing and have noticed disparities in stitching style, but because Aldi products don’t have a great track record around these parts.
We Are Explorers resident Aldi gear expert, Saphira, put the Aldi hiking range through its paces over many kilometres and the results aren’t pretty.
This round is currently a draw, but circle back to this article in a year and I’ll have an update for you.
So which is better?
Well the numbers have been crunched and scores tallied, and this bout of chair wars has reached the thrilling conclusion – it’s an amicable tie.
Apologies to those of you looking for a hard and fast answer to which chair is better, but it’s too close to call after just a few weeks of testing.
There’s a quote in one of Saphira’s Aldi articles that really strikes me and relates to this chair debate:
‘Paying $200 for your boots doesn’t guarantee the maker got paid fairly. But paying $30 means for certain that they didn’t.’
I think it’s important that our choices reflect our means, and our values. If you have the means to buy products that are more likely to support sustainability, quality and discourage waste, then I feel it’s important to do so.
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