Audrey Sutherland, a well known solo sea kayaker, once said something to this effect in relation to gear: "If it doesn't perform two functions, leave it at home..." A great yardstick for back-country travel, to be sure, not just sea kayaking. Some examples jump to mind. I use a little spinnaker sail on kayak treks when the wind picks up from astern, then I lay it on the side of my tent to collect and channel rainwater into my storage bottles when I'm ashore. We're taking HighGear's new wrist computers on a long tour down the BC coast next month and they provide not only the time, but barometer, weather forecast, compass and more. We use an Ortlieb dry bag with shoulder straps that moonlights as a backpack and the black Ortlieb water bag that morphs into a sweet little solar shower with a swap of the cap.
Then there's a whole other level of multifunction, albeit low tech, like the VHF radio antennae I use to stir my morning coffee, the white gas I use to fuel my stove and to start a no nonsense fire in the rain, the Canadian beer that provides important ballast in a high center SOT kayak, and when empty doubles as a measuring cup for prepping freeze dried meals, and of course...the yeoman Frisbee that serves as a plate. For the record, I don't use my fleece jacket as a pillow, but bring along a real one from home instead; I am not anal about this double up concept. Most of the rest of the gear--boat, paddle, camera, stove and kitchen tackle, the fly rods and reels, are pretty much straight forward good at only one thing but the best at what they do type of things.
To the point here, though, is probably the best multi-tasker I own, the Ultimate Chair Kit by Therm-a-Rest. It is a little different in it's multi-functionality in that it is more of an accessory really that you use in conjunction with a sleeping pad. Oh, but what an accessory it is. Without it you have a pad with barebones utility and no intrinsic strap or handle proviso. But add the chair kit to the pad...it slips right on like a condom, protects your pad and its no slip fabric keeps you from sliding off at night. It has built in buckles and straps and a carry handle that makes storing and transporting it a breeze. You do not ever need to take it off but to shake out the sand fleas or to wash. And finally...front and center feature...it has an ingenious combination of strutssnapsstraps that turn it into a regular Lazy Boy right there on the beach!
Most of us are familiar with chairs made from nylon and webbing. Crazy Creek is a popular manufacturer. The difference between it and a chair kit is that the chair kit works in conjunction with your sleeping pad, while the other has little padding and is simply a ground level seat with a back rest. In other words, one unit multi-tasks with superior comfort, while the other does not.
How durable is the design? Let me put it like this. I've hauled one down a thousand miles of wilderness beaches in British Columbia and haven't busted one yet. Sun bleached maybe and a little thin in places from all the wear and tear but it always keeps on ticking. Sure, on every other expedition I put the old cover out to pasture and pick up a fresh one, but then I do that with all expedition gear; meanwhile the pad remains like new. Abrasion and exposure is maximum on a coastal kayak trip and it is the last place you want to experience the inevitable demise of a good piece of equipment.
So it holds up; that's great. How effective is it in the comfort and ease of us department? About the height of a low slung beach chair, your legs angle comfortably to the ground. Unlike a Crazy Creek style seat, you're up half a foot or so; I like that. Back support is excellent and infinitely adjustable... crank it down to perform micro-surgery on a splinter in the knee or kick back nearly like a lounge. In fact, the chair rocks nicely on a V pivot, but unlike a true rocker, you can easily go completely over in this one. Ease of set up is probably it's lowest mark, but really not that big a deal. You do not show up at the garden party and simply shake your chair into existence. You do have to unstrap the unit and toss it on the grass to automatically inflate. But while it's doing that you can do something else. Couple minutes later give it a couple extra puffs and close the valve, take out the four struts, slip them into their sleeves and fold the pad up and snap shut the wings. Voile. That's not bad at all.
What do I use mine for? I use mine, as does my wife Pamela (and our friends who are too cheap to buy their own and borrow ours all the time), for just about every outdoor portable seating venue that comes around...sea kayaking, backpacking, river trips, as well as all night pagan celebrations, outdoor weddings and Shakespeare performances at the local vineyard.