This review of portable outdoor stools and folding chairs are for sketchers and artists who work outdoors.
It's useful to have a stool around while sketching outdoors. The most obvious reason is that you can sit more comfortably and longer.
These are the stools that I have. Some I've bought just for the purpose of this review.
If you're looking for the review of a particular stool, just scroll down this page.
This is the wooden stool that I bought in Spain to replaced my misplaced metal stool. Thank goodness my metal stool was lost in the last few days of my trip. This wooden stool while beautiful, is not light.
It has a surface sitting area about the size of a 12 by 9 inch watercolour pad. That's big. The height is about 35 cm (14 inches).
I love this chair, the wood, but I don't bring it out for sketching because it's heavy. The hard sitting surface can get uncomfortable after a while.
The Walkstool Comfort tripod stool feels like the most durable stool I have. It's really well constructed. Not too heavy, but not too light as well.
Walkstool Comfort and Walkstool Basic are two types of stool offered by the company. Walkstool Comfort has bigger sitting area, comes in more sizes (45 to 75 cm height) and is made in Sweden. Walkstool Basic has smaller sitting area, comes in two sizes (50 & 60cm height), and is made in China. You can check out the comparison chart on the Walkstool website.
Mine's the 45cm (18 inch) height version, from the feet to the sitting canvas. I'm 1.8m tall and when I sit on the stool, my thighs are almost horizontal. To choose the right size for yourself, I recommend you measure the height of chairs you sit at home. 45cm is the typical height of most chairs in kitchens and restaurants.
That's how it looks in the compact form, with the collapsible legs.
The fabric for the seat has mesh for ventilation and is cool for prolong sitting.
The big sitting area makes it quite comfortable for prolong usage. Sitting area is bigger than other typical tripod stools.
The legs are collapsible and you can pull them out to extend, and they will lock in place, or press the red button lock and push them back in.
The connection for the legs are in the centre, as compared to other tripod stools that have a big disc that goes around all three legs.
One thing I really like about the Walkstool is I can use the velcro to attach it to the shoulder strap of my messenger bag. That way, the tripod is always outside and ready to be deployed.
For artists using it outdoors, whether you should get this stool depends on your drawing style. I like to paint with my watercolour box on the ground. When I'm sitting, one hand is holding the paper and the other is holding the brush. This stool is too tall and inconvenient for me to reach for my watercolour box on the ground even with a long brush.
If you put your drawing paper on your lap, and hold your watercolour box and brush with your hands, I suppose that's all right. Again, it really depends on your drawing style outdoors.
The Walkstool is collapsible to a shorter height by keeping the legs. In actual use, I have to balance myself carefully with my legs with the now Walkstool's one point ground contact. When you're holding a watercolour palette in hand and balancing, accidents can happen.
Finally, the price. It cost at least US$80. The Walkstool Comfort tripod stool is not cheap. But it's extremely well made and durable. There's nothing I can complain about the quality. Whether it's worth it or not will depend the usage.
This is another stool that's quite commonly sold. On Amazon, you see it being sold by Coleman and other sellers. Cost about US$10++.
Not too heavy. When compact, it's almost the size of an A5 sketchbook. It's the most compact of all stools.
The sitting area is 11 by 6.5 inches (28 by 16.5cm) which is quite decent. Height is 11 inches (28 cm).
When you set it up, you lock the two pieces of metal beneath to create tension and prop the chair up.
I'm quite skeptical about the quality. The metal legs are thin but I don't suppose they will bend. The problem I have is with the vertical piece of fabric stripe by the sides that give the chair the tension. When sitting, if you lean to front or back, one side of the stool will go down, and the opposite side fabric stripe is suppose to counter that by holding it's position. In actual use, I can see that vertical stripe breaking, either that or the joints that hold that stripe. I'm saying that from as something who's not too heavy. I know people who have their stools break down. I do not recommend this stool.
These are my favourite type of stools. They are low at 11 inches (28 cm) height so I can easily reach my watercolour box on the ground. They are cheap, around US$10, and quite durable.
The sitting area for these are 9 by 7.5 inch (23cm by 19cm), just slightly wider than an A5 sketchbook. It's quite a small sitting area and might not be comfortable for those with bigger buttocks.
They are really lightweight and small enough for me to keep in my messenger bag. Previously, I was using a larger version of these stool with larger sitting area, but I misplaced that in Spain, which is why I bought the wooden replacement.
The lime green one is the cheapest and the quality is not that good. You can see the fabric stretching and some holes have formed.
It's not recommended to stand or rock on the chair.
Compared to the lime green one, these two are great. I bought the blue and black both on eBay.
The blue one cost me US$13 and is said to be made with Duralumin, age-hardenable aluminium. The black one is US$10 and uses the same metal.
Overall, the black one is better because the seat fabric is cross sewn, horizontal and vertical. The blue is feels durable, the black feels more durable. So the material and the way it's sewn plays a big part in the quality.
The ones I bought on eBay even comes with a carrying bag. Material is not quite good though.
This is how the legs are attached.
I like the black stool. It's probably my favourite stool of all the ones that I have. It's most value for the money.
Should you get a stool with back support?
The back support is going to be too small for it to be useful anyway, especially for these small-sized stools. The one above is the Coleman Woodsman II Chair.
The difference between this Coleman Rambler II stool is the legs are pointy. They may sink into soft ground as compared to those whose point leg ends connect into a horizontal bar.
See those big stones at the bottom? If you want to draw while sitting on those stones, I would use the black stool instead of the Coleman Rambler II stool. I used the lime green one for this sketch in Cambodia.