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Review: NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair - Comfortable Hands-Down with Elbow Room


I’ve sat on quite a few rocks, stumps, and logs in my lifetime. I’ve also elected to sit on the ground on more than a few occasions. But really, if there’s an opportunity to rest in a backpacking chair, I’ll happily take that over various natural perches. Because, let’s be honest, unless you are going for an FKT (no time to relax) or are really restrained by pack size, available packing space, or weight limits, you’re gonna bring whatever you want on that canoe, camping, or backpacking trip — and “whatever you want” should definitely include a sturdy camp chair.

I wasn’t setting out to review this chair when I first sat in it post-hike on a rainy, cloudy afternoon in the high peaks of Colorado. Its myriad of uses, overall comfort, and ability to flex from work mode to camp mode became apparent later.

Now, readers beware: the core design element lies in the chair’s reclining system. If you don’t care about that, and are the type of backpacker who cuts off tags and shaves down your toothbrush to save weight — then move right along.

In short: This NEMO Moonlite chair, while heavier and bulkier than other backpacking chairs on market, is still a great product. And here’s why: it offers more breathability than most chairs, exceeds expectations when it comes to comfort, offers plenty of support, and still manages to fit a luxury, “reclining” camp chair feature into a tiny, backpacker-friendly package. Yes, it was chunkier to pack down. But I found myself reaching for this chair so often that when it came time to set up camp, it’s well worth it in my book.

  • Weight 1 lb., 14 oz.
  • Weight limit 300 lbs.
  • Packed size 4" x 14”
  • Materials 100% PCR polyester, Bluesign-approved mesh, forged aluminum hubs, 7001 aluminum frame
  • Adjustable straps allow you to sit up or recline
  • All-mesh seat is more comfortable and breathable
  • High-quality materials
  • Bulky
  • Expensive

NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair Review

The toggles for the reclining function are easy to operate; (photo/Mary Murphy)

Reclining is a wonderful feature. And it’s not frivolous, but a fairly functional capability. When you are seated at camp, there are a whole lot of tasks and activities at hand: packing up a pack, inflating a sleeping pad, cooking over a camp stove, playing cards, and yes, looking up at the stars. Leaning forward and toward the ground, sitting upright, relaxing back, or fully reclining — all reasonable movements.

Camp chairs shouldn’t be so rigid that you are forced to sit in one position. Especially considering that a person’s height and weight can really factor into whether a camp chair is truly comfortable. (Does my 6’5″ friend enjoy that tiny Helinox ground chair? No.)

NEMO Moonlite’s reclining feature not only builds in adjustability for the non-essential requirement of relaxing back, but it also adds lots of extra baseline camp chair comfort depending on who you are, and the task at hand. Typically, you don’t see adjustability for users of different sizes, heights, and shapes when it comes to backpacking chairs. Reclining also offers more or better balance if you are purchased on sloping or uneven terrain.

There are a lot of other applications I discovered too, like using this chair as a comfy belay station. I was able to belay with plenty of range of motion thanks to the lack of arms or sides on the chair, and could recline far back to see a climber higher up the wall.

I’ve also used it as a go-to mobile office chair when working remotely at camp, the park, or the general outdoors. There’s so much elbow room! Seriously, the lack of a traditional woven fabric seat and the subsequent open space near the elbows is truly a beautiful feat of engineering. I can lean back, prop my laptop up in front of me, and type away, fingers flying — completely unobstructed. I’m not sure if anyone at NEMO thought of this application when designing this chair, but kudos.

Testing the reclining limits in the NEMO Moonlite chair; (photo/Chris Peters)

Finally, the chair’s breathability is worth a plug. This chair is not made with super-fine mesh, but a pretty open pattern. Structurally, it’s provided plenty of support for myself and chair testers weighing 120-190 pounds. The mesh is a key part of the design, making it a much better chair for backpacking trips in the hot summer heat, park hangouts at high noon, and especially, beach and lake camping and river trips. I’ve only had it in testing for about 4 months, and have found so many applications for this chair.

Moonlite’s Materials & Durability

VIDEO: NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair Review
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If you are skeptical about the mesh, and maybe the price, let me try to put you at ease and address its durability. This chair has held up after repeated weekly use over the past 4 months, including using it on three backpacking trips, and 10+ road and camping trips in all sorts of weather (hot July to an October weekend at 10,000 feet elevation).

I do have one hole from a rogue campfire ember (sadly), but thankfully, the hole hasn’t compromised the integrity of the seat, and also hasn’t grown larger.

One hole so far from an ember, but otherwise, this chair has held up well; (photo/Mary Murphy)

With polyester or nylon weaves (like in most chair fabrics), holes always have the possibility of getting worse over time, leading to fun (or quite silly-looking) patch jobs. This one hasn’t. That’s a win in my book, as when it comes to gear, I value durability and longevity of gear pretty high above all else.

Actual Con, or Mild Annoyance?

Note the one immovable leg support screwed to the joint piece in the photo above; (photo/Mary Murphy)

There is one con with the Moonlite chair. It does not fold up or pack down into the carry bag very easily. For me, this is not a dealbreaker. But, it’s definitely an annoyance considering how great the chair is to use and have around camp — and given its price tag ($160). If you are someone who frequently finds yourself setting up camp in the wee morning hours or rolling into campsites often late at night, this is worth taking into consideration.

And here’s why it’s harder than others to fold away. There’s one leg pole that doesn’t budge or fold at all (you’ll see it’s the leg with the very small screw in the photo above). All the other poles and joints must fold around this one. Even after 20+ uses, I found it hard to remember or identify which leg this was without yanking on all of them.

The feet caps on this NEMO chair are fantastic for sturdiness in dirt and sand; (photo/Mary Murphy)

A small color-coded dot or strip of tape is a great solution here; as it’s not very intuitive, even as you fold it up. Finally, it’s a tight squeeze to get the chair into the bag. The extra hardware of the toggles and reclining components on the mesh portion isn’t actually an issue; I do think it’s the thicker poles, joints, and feet caps that make this chair annoying to stash away.

Conclusion

The NEMO Moonlite Chair is heavier and bulkier than others on the market, but is a standard bearer for lightweight comfort on the go; (photo/Chris Peters)

All in all, aside from this chair not folding up and packing away as easily as others, it’s performed stellar in testing. It’s not only done the basic job of providing a sturdy place to sit, but has scored well above standard when it comes to comfort, and yes, its reclining capability.

Working remotely outside, camping, spectating at volleyball games, and backpacking — this chair has done it all. I’ve subjected it to all sorts of terrain (and accidentally got it too close to a campfire) and it’s survived. I highly recommend the NEMO Moonlite Reclining Chair.

Yes, it’s slightly chunky and slightly heavier by backpacking standards — but the Moonlite is still a worthwhile contender in both the camping and backpacking categories. If weight doesn’t matter as much to you, but comfort does, this is the chair for you.

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Author: Dustin Sullivan

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Introduction: My name is Dustin Sullivan, I am a Gifted, Adventurous, artistic, tenacious, cherished, dedicated, spirited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.