The Three Essential Items For Enjoying A Backyard Adventure In Style

When it’s time to turn your home into a national park, you’ll need gear that is built for rugged comfort and durability.

For the longest time, the only "camping" chairs I owned were cheap tailgate seats with plastic folding legs and material so weak there's no way they were realistically designed with durability in mind. While some of those chairs have been left in trash cans along the way—or were covered in so much duct tape that they looked like bad science experiments—they always had me longing for a portable chair that would not only provide long-lasting comfort, but also make other outdoorsmen look at it and think, "This guy has the Rolls Royce of folding chairs."

This came to mind recently as I was taking stock of my camping gear for the sake of turning my backyard into my own campground. We can't get away, so why not at least put my three-bedroom pop-up tent to good use and bust out the fire pit to make S'mores with the family? All I needed was a great chair, and my campground would be complete, so once I found that I knew I had the blueprints for a backyard getaway that feels like the royal treatment.

zero gravity chair
Every king and queen deserves a throne, even when they're thousands of miles from home. | Coastrail Outdoor

What is the most important factor in an outdoor chair? If you think it's portability, then you want a chair that folds easily and is lightweight so you can carry it with other items and not worry about looking like one of those helpless goons in a late-night infomercial. If you think it's comfort, then you need a chair that is wide and offers perks like lumbar support and padding. And if you think it's durability, then you want a chair that is made to support a lot of weight, has legs that are not only strong but rust-resistant, and is made with material that won't fade after a few hours in the sun.

But if you want the best outdoor chair, you should demand all three of those characteristics. That's what we found in the Coastrail Outdoor Oversized Zero Gravity Chair. In declaring this our favorite outdoor chair, I made a simple pass/fail scoring system to determine if it covered the basics and did its job above and beyond my expectations.

For starters, portability: does this chair unfold and fold easily, fit well in a trunk or SUV cargo space without taking up too much room, and can I hold it with one arm while carrying other items? Yes to all. It's not the lightest chair, so my son can't throw it over his shoulder and shout to the world that he's helping, but despite its size, I can still hook my forearm through the legs and carry it at my side while I hoist my pop-up tent over my other shoulder, like Arnold carrying a tree trunk in Commando. And when it's time to drop everything and set up, it's as simple as plopping it down and pulling it open.

Next, comfort: when I sit down in this chair, can I find relaxation? Can my son sit with me to read or stargaze? Can my wife and I sit together and enjoy the fire pit on a cool evening without worrying about the nylon tearing or frame collapsing? Absolutely. The biggest benefit of this chair is how well it holds up under any circumstances, and its width makes it perfect for one person's lazy lounging or a two-person cuddle session.

Finally, durability: will we still be raving about this chair a year from now? Five years? Ten?!?! Between the heavy-duty polyester fabric and the rust-resistant steel tube frame, this thing feels like it was built by army engineers. But even the wood arms and plastic detachable side table seem like they were designed to last. As a final test, I let my niece and nephew come over to climb all over it, and at no point did it seem like it would give in to their destructive force. So yeah, I feel pretty optimistic about unfolding this chair at Yosemite several years from now.

fire pit
Chicken kebabs, anyone? | KINGSO

What do you want from a fire pit? Well, if you're camping in your backyard you want safety first, followed by a nice appearance. After all, nobody wants to share pics of their Zen spot on Instagram when the fire pit is made from cinder blocks and a metal trash can you stole from the set of Robocop 3.

The Kingso 2-in-1 Outdoor Fire Pit builds on the popularity of its smaller, more basic brother by adding eight inches of space and a removable cooking grate. It's a simple addition that turns an already great outdoor feature into a dual threat. Looking to enjoy a little heat on a crisp evening? Throw a few logs in and kick back in your reclining chair. But why get up to grab snacks from the kitchen, when you can roast a few treats on the cooking grate? S'mores, kebabs, ribeyes—whatever your royal heart desires.

mini projector
This will ruin televisions for you. | Anker

Ever since we first tried the Nebula Capsule II Smart Mini Projector, we have been smitten with this device. The concept is pretty simple: bring your favorite shows, movies and streaming platforms anywhere and watch it all on something as simple as a white wall.

Of course, if you're hosting a backyard camping experience and want something slightly better than the side of your house (or if you don't have a suitable surface to use), you'll want an outdoor movie screen. Believe me when I say that the projector and screen will pay for themselves, because once your little ones watch Paw Patrol or The Mandalorian on the large screen, forget it. They'll want outdoor movie night every night.

And it's at that point you will realize the value of a comfortable camping chair.