We're all packed up and ready to go north on a camping trip. One week of solid rest and relaxation in one of our amazing Ontario provincial parks.
For as long as I can remember, camping has been part of my summer vacation. It is a family tradition that I hope to pass on to my sons.
Besides tents or trailers, the one iconic symbol of the camping experience is the folding lawn chair
Cheap, portable, basic construction yet eminently comfortable. So much so that I do not mind (and rather look forward to) using one of these for all my seating needs for 1-3 weeks each year.
And yet, they are getting harder and harder to find.
Why? The folding umbrella chair.
No one uses the traditional lawn chair anymore. I am certain that my wife and I are the only couple in Cambridge to own lawn chairs. Show up at any neighborhood party, and we are the only ones to bring the folding chair. I scour the stores looking for them, and they are not to be found.
What I cannot figure out is why. I do not hold on to the lawn chair out of fond nostalgia. I hold onto it, because its more comfortable to sit in, damn it!
The aluminum frame gives good sturdy support, allowing proper seating without undue slouching or other poor seating practices. Whether using the straps or a solid piece (like ours) the seating and back fabrics are strong and yet relax enough to provide the firm but yielding support that we require. The arms are made of solid wood or plastic, providing a firm resting point for your arm while reading or drinking a beverage.
The umbrella chair in a bag? Bahhh. Look at the structure of the damn things. The whole thing sags. You sit in one and your butt is automatically lower than your knees. The front edge of the seat cuts off the circulation to your legs and threatens deep vein thrombosis. The back provides no support whatsoever. The only support is at the upper part, with no lower support at all, which contorts your back in such a way that you resemble a hunch back. The arms are slung so low and at such a curve that your arm would need to be rubber to properly rest in one. The provided drink holders tilt at such an angle that any drink you put in must be less than 50% full to avoid spillage.
I've tried the cheap and the expensive varieties, and I cannot sit in these things without my back, legs and neck screaming in agony. I'll take a $5 fabric folding lawn chair (the worst kind) over a $100 umbrella chair any day of the week.
I don't get it. I look at people while they're sitting in these things. Shoulders curled forward, knees damn near their foreheads, and they exclaim "This is so comfortable!" Obviously I am not a normal human, as I do not find that seating position remotely comfortable. I stare at them the same way I stare at a creature I see for the first time in the zoo. The only advantage the umbrella chair has over the lawn chair is that it folds up into a bag, making carrying it slightly easier. But at such a cost to seating comfort!
So I will continue to use my traditional lawn chair. We invested in a good pair about 8 years back ($25 ea!) and have enjoyed them ever since. We will take them camping, to parties and to our sons sporting events. But yet I know, someday they will tear or otherwise fall apart. And I will rue that day, as a suitable replacement will not be found.
And that may be the day I no longer go camping with my family; because without a comfortable place to sit, it gets kinda hard to relax.