It has been quite a winter here up in the mountains of western NC!  It also happened to be the 20th wedding anniversary for my wife and me.  Well, actually, the date is in mid summer, so we decided to celebrate early in mid winter with a 7 day cruise out of San Juan, PR.  The boat would stop almost every day at 5 different islands that week, so I started doing research on things to do and beaches to visit on each island.  As I quickly found out, beach chair rentals at these various beaches were not cheap.  Well, when you have a captive audience on the island of anywhere from 3500 to 15000 people from the cruise ships, the concessionairs have the upper hand.  Being “The Chairman” of a website selling the most variety of portable folding chairs on the internet, I knew there was a better way.  I started looking at which chairs  might be suitable to take along on our cruise.  Here are my findings.

My first chair I reviewed was Beachcomber Padded Beach Mat by Picnic Time  
At $40 this looked like a good choice.  First requirement was that it would fit in our luggage and at 22″ square and only 2″ deep, it would lay flat on the top.  The 7 lbs weight was a little heavy, especially if I was to take two and with the 50 lb. bag limit for the airlines (surcharge was $15 per bag and it went up to $49 for an over weight bag!)  So, I would probably have to put these in another suitcase with beach and snorkeling stuff, which was fine.  The Beach Mat / Lounger tri folds together and secures with velcro and has a strap for carrying over your shoulder.  When unfolded, the backrest is adjustable by a buckle strap and worked well at different angles.  The mat portion has a vinyl layer that would keep you dry in wet sand.  It was a little hard trying it out on the concrete floor, but I could just imagine the warm, soft, tropical sand.  That would be just fine. I rate this chair high on comfort and portability, but the weight might be a concern for some people.

The next guinea pig was the WondaWedge Inflatable Back Support

This chair, as the name says, is inflatable.  Of course, that means that it fits in a small plastic bag uninflated and weighs almost nothing.  I knew I would not have a pump with me, so the first concern was how long and hard would it be to blow it up.  I began huffing and puffing, and was surprised that it only took about twenty full breaths to fully inflate the support.  I took it slow so I wouldn’t get dizzy, though with a few rum punches under my belt on the beach, I might not even notice it.  I laid it out on the floor and tried a few different positons.  It worked well and was more cushiony than the Beach Lounger, though I missed the different positions.  The mat part of this chair also is waterproof and was a little more fuzzy, softer.  To uninflate it, as most people know that have the inflatable beds, was not easy to get all the air out so it would go back in the bag.

This chair was high on the list because of it’s small size and light weight.

Finally, the last chair I tested was the The Xpress Camp Chair by GCI Outdoor

This is more of a traditional chair, but with some technological improvements.  Telescoping Technology from GCI allows the bottom section of the legs to slide into the top, effectively making the folded chair half the size of a normal folded chair, only 17″ square by 2″ deep.  At 5 lbs. it is relatively light and comes with a shoulder strap.  It is easy to set up and would allow me to relax on the beach, but not really lounge.  I think this one would be great for an older person maybe that does not want to recline so much, but sit and stare out at the beautiful sea.  On another note, this chair would be great for motorcyclists, since it is small and you are not backpacking it.  GCI makes several different chairs with this telescoping technology.  The mid grade one with arms is The Xpress Lounger by GCI Outdoor and the luxury grade, Pico Compact Telescoping Arm Chair by GCI Outdoor with pockets and fabric case that converts into more storage.

The Winner 

Well, since our luggage was expanding quickly along with the weight, we ended up taking Chair # 2,

It turned out to be a great choice.  I took two, one for my wife and I, but I ended blowing them both up (since I have all the hot air, she says).  We used them three different occasions, and had people who had paid $15 x 2 for their chairs asking us where I got it.  Of course, I had business cards in my beach bag.  Now, I just need to find a very compact umbrella.   
By the way, we had a wonderful time, like a second honeymoon.

Click here to go to our picture album of our entire trip