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Beach Tested: 2023 Beach Chair Reviews

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I like to consider myself a certified beach bum. I’m not too particular about my beaching, although I do have preferences. They include non-tropical beaches, East Coast beaches over West Coast beaches so the water is warmer, and a comfy chair so I can get lost in my book.

A few months ago I pulled our beach chairs out of the garage: they were sagging, a little rusty, and, well, I knew it was time to upgrade.

My Old Faithful has been Rio Brand’s backpack beach chair for many years. They no longer make this version which sent me down a research rabbit hole.

I first came across the Ostrich On Your Back Beach Chair through another reviewer. I got a little excited at the thought of lying face down and reading, so I purchased the navy-striped version. Our first few trips to the beach this summer were just day trips where I got to take the Ostrich for a spin.  This chair is most likely the best option if you’re taller or broader than average. On my 5’2 frame, it seems a little unnecessary but all three of us agree that it is comfortable to sit in. Carrying it on your back it is a little larger but not unreasonably. The flat position is both roomy and comfortable and I enjoyed being able to stick my hands through the side to use my phone or read my book. The face cradle was a little big for my face but I eventually found a position that worked.  If tired enough I could see taking a nice long beach nap. The one obvious upgrade that I wish for is that the armrest handles could be upgraded to wood instead of plastic. The plastic on my chair is less than a month old and already has a scratch. The plastic also heats up in the heat whereas the wood doesn’t hold the heat as much. 

On day three of our week-long beach vacation I woke up with a stiff neck and I realized that the Ostrich chair is great for a non-beach-reader but if you like to sink into a book the flat head pad is going to cause neck issues. I eventually rolled a portion of my towel down to create support in the nape of my neck but had to downgrade my original opinion of this chair from A to B-. The next day I swapped the Ostrich for the Tommy Bahama Delux Backpack  Beach Chair. 

The Tommy Bahama Deluxe Backpack Beach Chair has been reviewed thousands of times and always lands at the top of the “best beach chair list” and now I know why. Outside of this chair being manufactured by Shelter Logic, the same company that made Old Faithful, there are a few upgrades that I enjoyed quite a bit.  I like that the sides are wrapped vs. detached so that you’re in less of a hammock and more in a supported chair. The phone/cup holder is really convenient and the wood handles are more comfortable than the plastic of the Ostrich. The headrest/neck pillow is adjustable and fluffy enough to support my neck while reading. Another benefit was the height. This chair was neither too close to the ground nor too high off the ground. I could easily extend my legs out and sit comfortably. If you wanted to stick a few cold drinks in the cooler it does work and the top pocket nicely fits sunscreen and sunglasses, etc. I am going to purchase one more  My overall rating is a solid A. 

So those are the chairs that I ended up purchasing but here are a few others that I were on the list to be considered:

The Rio 4-Position Backpack Lace-Up Suspension Folding Beach Chair: Our upstairs neighbor had this chair so I asked if I could test it out. While it feels very similar to the Tommy Bahama Beach Chair the elastic roped sides were uncomfortable: they dug into the flesh and so it came off the list.

The Telescope Casual 742 Mini-Sun Chaise with Aluminum Frame: These chairs are all over the beach and there are reviewers who swear by them with as much enthusiasm as the Tommy Bahama crew but it was a little too wide for me to utilize both armrests (important when reading a book) and the lack of neck support was an issue. While I love the color and pattern choices (they are the most tasteful I have seen), the material is made of a printed mesh which I also found to be less comfortable than fabric. For what it’s worth, my wife, a non-beach-reader, liked this chair a lot.

The Sunflow Chair: I saw this chair online first and thought it was cool. The price tag is almost double what I’m interested in paying for a chair but as a person who appreciates great design and quality I am sometimes willing to pay a little more. In the case of the Sunflow that ship sailed the second I saw it in person. What I liked was the pretty design, light weight frame,  and the overhead sunshade. The major design flaw here is the lack of arm rests. That may be appealing to some but for me it was a deal breaker. 

The Rio Beach Classic-5 Position Lay-Flat Folding Beach Chair: Old faithful #2 – we have had two of these chairs for over a decade. They were my wife’s favorite and I know she would buy them again. They’re good solid chairs and the price can’t be beat. I do prefer the backpack option because it makes schlepping things to and from easier and that is why I didn’t re-purchase.

Truth be told, next year I will probably order two more Tommy Bahama Delux Beach Chairs and sell the larger Ostrich on my local Yardsale group. What do you think? Do you have a chair that you’ve loved? Please don’t gatekeep!

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Rikki Lee is a writer, teacher, and design enthusiast. She loves warm, practical, and approachable interiors. Her style is eclectic and is influenced by modern design, Asia, New England, and the South. For the past decade, she and her family have been living in and revitalizing a Cape Cod-style house that was built in 1901.