Some Really Poor Photos To Make a Point—Or Searching for the Perfect Folding Chair

August 9, 2013


Left: The Everywhere Chair, that I picked up at REI (I think it says $39 on the tag). I got it for sitting low to the ground, and because it was angled in such a way that put no pressure on the back of my legs when I was seated. THIS is the chair I used on Sunday and it was perfect. (You can adjust it so that you can actually sit comfortably on inclined surfaces like hillsides!) I recommend this chair. A plastic lap desk from Target or Michael's at my side as a table and I was all set!

Note: There is construction going on in the kitchen so pay no attention to the background items!

A couple days before Paws on Grand I started to get my supplies gathered together so I could just run out the door. I would need to bring my own chair. They had some chairs available, but I'm short and when my feet dangle from a chair I get grumpy. It was natural then for me to go into the back hall…


Left: A Beach chair, what was I thinking. This has never been a good selection. I don't recline when I'm out. If you do this might be the chair for you. It is compact.

What many people don't realize is that all the years I had dogs (Emma, then Emma and Dottie, then just Dottie) I spent probably a minimum of 25 hours a week out and about training them to track (which does not include walking time of 2 to 4 hours a day, every day, rain or shine or even when I had the flu). Now all those hours out tracking aren't work hours for me because sometimes you're setting a problem and letting it age before you put your dog on the track. Other times I was teaching tracking and had fields full of folks walking about setting problems. And sometimes I was out with friends and we were catching up.


Left: The Comfort Quad is a low-priced and serviceable chair, but one I only use under duress as I have more comfortable shairs. It is great if you don't want arm rests.

What's a girl to do during the down time, in the middle of nowhere? Well, one thing I did was sit in a comfy folding chair and wait for my students to come back (don't get me wrong I laid my share of tracks over the years), or sat in a comfy chair playing harmonica while my pups sang (Malamutes harmonize like wolves, and if you're playing isn't too good they will try to sing over you, it's just delightful), or sat in a comfy chair and drew the objects and items I found lying around which included bear and raccoon scat, turkey feathers, and used condoms. You'd be surprised how many people practice safe-sex in the middle of nowhere. (Sex-spots, as I like to call them, can drive the uninitiated dog crazy, so I like to expose all my dogs and tracking students to these areas. The students can learn early on what their dog's reaction to "human" scent is.Thanks to this approach to training, and the girls' skills, I know more about my neighborhood around the University than I care to.)

Flat_Stool09404Right: An old camp stool I've had in the car for ages. Comfortable enough, but cumbersome to carry.

From an early age I have avoided sitting on the ground. I have an internal homing device that always manages to find the only anthill in the vicinity, if you catch my meaning.


Left: Purchased for $19.99 several years ago this Minnesota University chair is a standard fold out with fabric arm rests, each with plastic net cup holders ideal for pens and such. I purchased it when I saw it, sat in it, and realized it was the perfect height from the ground for me. Since I wouldn't be able to reach for things (like my watercolors or my water to rinse my brush) this chair was left at home.

My aversion to ants and the amount of time I spent in wilderness areas when I had the girls meant I was always on the look out for a lightweight folding chair, that was "just right."

This has led to the collection now residing in the back hall. Dick had to help me pull them out because they were up high, and I'm short with a bad shoulder.

D: Some people have to go out and shop for a folding chair, you just go into the back hall.


Left: A full sized RECLINER folding chair. That's right, this chair when unfurled has a wonderful seat, backrest, and if you tilt back a leg rest will spring out to craddle your feet. Add lovely cupholders on arm rests and you'll have the perfect chair for sitting in the woods and relaxing—something I never ever do. I bought it as a joke because it was on clearance. I set it up at one of my tracking classes after laying all the tracks before my students arrived. It's heavy, and it was good for a joke. Click on the image to see the bag larger—I didn't even bother to take it out.

(I think he was a little grumpy and wanted to make fun of me. He frequently compares me to Opus from Bloom County, who liked to stay up late, watch infomercials, and order lots of salad shooters. For the record I have only ever purchased one item from an infomercial—an ab and back extension machine which was well made and still in use today. That makes me tied with Dick because he purchased, and continues to use every week, the Showtime Rotisserie Cooker—just set it and forget it.)


Left: The "almost but not quite chair" was another I picked up on sale and liked because it was low to the ground. It has a vicious spring snap that I'm quite afraid of. I almost used it at Paws because it's low, and you can easily reach past the armrests, but it tilts back too much. (What?! Do people expect to relax in these chairs?) Also the seat presses up into your legs over time.

As I surveyed all the chairs I thought it would be helpful to have photos of them dangling from their carriers so in the future Dick wouldn't have to muscle them all down off the shelf. (No reason we should both have injured shoulders.)

I thought you might like to see them here. And learn my criteria for selection. Almost all of them cost less than $20 when I found them. A couple were on sale and I was convinced I needed them. (Dick should make fun of that.)

As we pulled them out and I looked them over we started talking about the girls, perhaps because I felt the need to defend my position as a collector of folding camp chairs. We reminisced about how even as a puppy Dottie had a lot of go and heart. When I fell in snowshoes tracking with her when she was just 14 weeks old, she looked back at me with a "want me to pull you? OK" and carried on, though she was sinking well under the piled snow with each step. (Malamutes love to drag things.)

I always knew that if Emma was with me I would survive no matter what (she was a great hunter and gave everything to me, including the gackle she plucked out of the air while walking to a training session on a 2 foot lead). 

R: And they always knew I would take care of them first, give them water.

D: And dogs never think ahead…

He was being sarcastic. Years ago we heard a man on the radio talk about how dogs don't have any memory, don't dream, and don't plan ahead. We are always being snarky about this guy. Dogs do live in the present moment, but they also remember, and they also plan.

R: like planning water intake based on when they are going to go out because we had a schedule.

I said continuing the conversation. But then, as people who have been together many years often do, we started having two conversations

D: and they would always know and… 

R: Speaking of which I'm taking 3 bottles of water tomorrow which is too little but I'd rather be a little dehydrated than have to pee—there just won't be time.

D: And they would just lift their legs…

After that the conversation just got too confused and you really had to be there (or should be glad that you weren't). But the chairs are still here, labeled now.

Not pictured in this post are my tripod chair which I no longer use, because while it's light weight I find that it isn't that comfortable to sit in for long periods of sketching time. 

The newest member of the folding camp chair family is very compact indeed. I purchased the Coleman camp stool other day from Amazon because another sketcher recommended it. It was $9 and looked perfect for taking to the Minnesota State Fair Sketch Out. (This year I think I'll actually take a chair and sit wherever I want in the shade and sketch more people. I'll still stand in the barns.) The chair is stable, and sturdy. It's a little heavier than I had hoped, but it comes with it's own handy carrying case that will attach easily to the outside of my fanny pack. And it is very compact indeed.

Oh, there is also a small, low folding chair frame minus the canvas down in the basement. I keep thinking I'll reapply the canvas seating. I kept that chair in the car for all occasions. The sun rotted the canvas.

Of course I didn't know that until I set the chair up on a cliff top above the Cascade River near Grand Marais. I was teaching nature journaling. It seemed a good spot to demo from. Until I broke through the canvas, hit the rock cliff with my butt, and started rolling off the cliff—but that's another story…

I'm still here, keeping a look out for the perfect folding camp chair. It's a hobby.

    • Chris
    • August 9, 2013

    Yes, Roz, but if you read the Amazon reviews on the cheapie Coleman stool there are some warnings that are very concerning down in the one and two star range.

  1. Reply

    I enjoyed reading about tracking training, did a bunch of that back in the 1980s… taught classes too… many a Saturday morning laying tracks, then breaking out the donuts and coffee while waiting for them to age. No snow here in the south… can’t image tracking in snow shoes. I’m tall so I want chairs that don’t put me on the ground 🙂

    • Chris
    • August 9, 2013

    There was more than one comment about the odor and the warning label about cancer. I saw a couple. I just think you get what you pay for. $9 is cheap, but I’m going to keep looking and find a sweet spot between the expensive chairs and the cheapie stool with the warning label.

    • Caroline
    • August 9, 2013

    As someone who is also short of stature, I know exactly where you are coming from with comfortable seating! I have a fishing stool, similar in style to your camping stool. Mine has a built-in waterproof and insulated bag, ideal for art supplies, and a shoulder carry strap. As it was designed (presumably) for a man, the seat does not amputate any part of my derriere while in use, and while the average fisherman might find it a bit too low, its a perfect fit for me.
    I gather, from reading elsewhere, that we are very lucky to find something that fits and is comfortable over time, because the average artists stool is not only expensive, but also an instrument of torture! That is assuming you can keep balanced on it for more than 5 minutes!

    • Frank Bettendorf
    • August 10, 2013

    My one and only sketching stool is from an Army/Navy Surplus store. I like it and it serves the purpose for sketching. If you can get past the camo canvas look, there is also a pocket for maps, it’s fine. And very inexpensive.

  2. Reply

    Capt. Elaine, tracking in snow shoes isn’t a lot of fun for me. I rarely do it. It’s problematic in forest areas where little twigs stick up through the snow to trip you.

    They are great for laying wide large trails for beginning dogs to work on.

    On this particular day I was writing about we’d had about 6 feet of snow and I’d convinced myself it was the best way to go. They came off shortly there after and I just dealt with sinking into the snow. Though a Mal will pull you through that too.

    Your height prohibits you from using any of these chairs except that recliner chair. You might actually like that, but I don’t think you’re a recliner type of person either.

    What breed dog did you track with?

  3. Reply

    Happily my particular stool doesn’t have much more than a “new canvas” type of smell that will soon air out. I think the cancer warning is probably related not to the fabric but to the metal preparation techniques (there are several which would involve metals considered toxic, which they have to disclose, but which unless we suck on the metal and gnaw at it—and even then it’s doubtful—we can’t ingest enough).

    I think you should go for the first chair in this post, which was my recommendation. It’s non-smelly and at $40 still an excellent buy. Esp. if you intend to sit on any hillsides!

    Good luck with your search for the perfect chair.

  4. Reply

    Caroline, I know exactly what you mean by “amputate any part of my derriere”! Why are artist’s stools in general so uncomfortable? Why doesn’t someone remedy this???? Why do we have to balance while drawing? All great points.

  5. Reply

    Frank, thank you for bringing up Army/Navy surplus stores. They are an excellent place to search out these types of things.

    I hope Chris sees your note and checks one out.

    I keep my eyes peels for the ultimately light weight stool, but that first chair I show is great for long periods if you’re going to be stationary, and don’t have to carry it too far (as it’s just a bit bulky).

    • Timaree
    • August 14, 2013

    I’m looking at a folding stool I saw at home depot. It is really small, somewhat close to the ground but that doesn’t bother me (I can reach whatever I set on the ground) and it’s heavy plastic so can handle any weather. It’s $12 if I remember right. I’d get it but so far I haven’t met anyone to go draw somewhere so I could use it. I may just have to give up, buy it and go alone somewhere – might actually get more drawing done that way!

  6. Reply

    Timaree, you just have to take that chair out and use it. If you’re going alone leave a note or tell someone where you’re going (if it’s off the beaten path) and go get some drawing done!

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