Backpacking doesn’t always have to be minimal weight over long miles. Sometimes you just want to kick back and soak in the fading sun after a long day with the comfort of the night falling around you. Designed with that in mind, the Mayfly from Alite is made to be a minimalistic, packable camp that’s light enough to be used on the trail, yet robust and flexible enough to be used at base camp. With it’s 3 legged, collapsible design, it’s uses are diverse. But, is the comfort it provides really worth the extra weight? This is my review.
The Mayfly is a 3 legged suspension chair with a rugged 7000 aluminum frame underneath. The frame sections meet up at two round hubs at the back of the chair, coming together to form the rear legs and a pivot point. These pivots provide grip and support for the chair, but also allow for some rocking. On the front, a wide aluminum bar spans from the left to the right and creates a third point of contact with the ground, providing stability. The seat itself is suspended between 4 points on the frame and is constructed from durable 210D ripstop nylon with breathable mesh panels added for extra airflow. The chair breaks down into individual pole segments much like tents poles, and a shock cord is provided to prevent the segments from being separated from one another. It packs down into an included storage sack to just 11.5″ x 4.3″ x 4.3″ (a nice tube shape) and weighs just 1.6 lbs. It’s available now in a variety of colors and retails for $99.99.
What I liked
When comparing chairs, the first thing you want to consider is comfort. What’s the point of a chair if you’re just as well sitting on a rock or moldy stump? It’s a good thing then that the Mayfly is exceptionally comfortable. Utilizing suspended nylon which hangs between all four points on the frame, it creates a supported yet gentle butt hammock of sorts which provides a nice contour for the spine and tailbone. Simply put, this means no pressure points. At no point did my body ever contact the frame nor the ground, and the shape of the chair presents a very natural arch that is inviting and most of all relaxing. The frame sits in a way that results in a slightly reclined, laid back position. Kicking back in the Mayfly, especially with a nice log or rock under my feet outstretched feet, is a delight. In fact, it’s one of the most comfortable camp chairs I’ve ever tested.
The chair is also very stable. Having the wide bar in the front (optional if you want to leave it at home for less weight) allows the chair to sit wide and low, which is perfect for resting on uneven ground. The two knobs on the back provide ample grip, but also allow the chair to shift just a bit side to side, which means it can respond to your weight distribution when needed without tipping. Resting in the chair I always felt secure and could drop my guard as I wasn’t living in constant fear of falling to my death if I nodded off. A definite plus.
As far as weight goes, 1.6 lbs isn’t an insignificant figure any way that you spin it. But, at just 1.6 lbs it is one of the lightest camp chairs out there.While many backpackers and especially the ultra-lighters will cast a glare of stark disapproval, that all melts away when you reach camp and slide into its sleek curves. This is especially true for testers who have back or hip issues, as being off the hard ground is priceless and provides much more comfort at camp than is lost on a hike, especially a shorter one. Pound for pound it provides the best comfort to weight ratio that our testers could find. Whether or not the weight is acceptable will of course depend on the intended usage.
The mayfly also packs down small with minimal effort. Simply pull the poles out of the pockets, pull them apart and roll them up in fabric of the chair to be stashed inside the included stuff sack. This requires all of about 30 seconds It takes up minimal space when stored. It’s plenty small enough to be strapped onto the back or bottom of a backpack without getting hung up on trees and bushes, and disappears in the trunk of a car.
Build quality is also quite notable, with the burly aluminum frame and rugged 210D ripstop nylon hoisting up the 250 lbs. The legs never bow under my 175 lb mass, and the fabrics and threads are showing no signs of strain or stretching. Backed with a lifetime guarantee, I have rested comfortable with no concerns that the Mayfly will fail me anytime soon.
Assembly is straightforward enough that a manual isn’t really required. My first pitch was as simple as eyeballing it and throwing it together. My first attempt too about one minute, and it’s been even faster since.
What I didn’t like
Putting the chair together is fairly simple, but does present two minor challenges. First, the front bar likes to pop off of the frame during assembly, so you’ll have to keep an eye on that, making sure to hold it in place while sliding the poles into their proper pockets. Second, the fabric doesn’t provide any thumb or finger loops to assist in forcing the poles into their pockets. While they don’t require that much strength, a careless user could find themselves shoving their finger inside the pocket alongside an aluminum pole, which wasn’t too fun in my experience. The frame requires some flexing to slide into place, but once it’s together it stays together and assembly takes no experience at all.
Although this will come down primarily to sheer determination, I find the chair not quite light enough for those long hauls over tough terrain. I’ll happily carry the chair on shorter hikes; 3 or 4 miles isn’t an issue. But, those longer treks of 6 or more miles will really feel the added weight. However, some testers don’t mind the weight at all and prefer the at camp comfort over trail weight.
The Mayfly from Alite redefines what is possible when it comes to comfort at camp. The ability to kick back and recline in a chair on the top of a mountain is strangely comforting experience that will surely spur the occasional jealous eye. The suspension style seating provides gentle cradling comfort without pressure points or harsh corners, ideal for those with back or hip issues, and the ventilating mesh produces a nice breezy sitting surface. It’s packable enough to strap onto or even inside many backpacks, and for most shorter trips the weight is quite acceptable when comfort is the primary concern. It’s durable, easy enough to set up, and simply cannot be competed with when it comes to weight or comfort. If you’re looking for a chair that’s usable on the trail and at base camp, this is suspect number one.
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For more information on Alite and their excellent line of gear, check out https://alitedesigns.com/
I wanted to send a special thanks out to Alite for their support and for providing this excellent piece of equipment to review. We couldn’t do this without their help. Thank you so much! Our full disclosure can be found on the about me/contact page.