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The Best Stadium Seat

Updated


After out team spent 45 hours sitting on six seats for game-length durations, we selected the Picnic Time – Portable Ventura as the best stadium seat. It’s comfortable, includes arm rests, has good back support and is easy to lug around. For those who don’t want to spend more on their seat than a ticket to the game, the RIO Gear – My Pod is a great budget option. If you’re big and tall, you might want one of the newest stadium seats, Brawntide – Wide Stadium Seat, which gives you more elbow room and thick, plush padding.

Our Top Choices

Best Overall


Picnic Time

Portable Ventura

Budget Pick


RIO Gear

My Pod Sports Chair

After out team spent 45 hours sitting on six seats for game-length durations, we selected the Picnic Time – Portable Ventura as the best stadium seat. It’s comfortable, includes arm rests, has good back support and is easy to lug around. For those who don’t want to spend more on their seat than a ticket to the game, the RIO Gear – My Pod is a great budget option. If you’re big and tall, you might want one of the newest stadium seats, Brawntide – Wide Stadium Seat, which gives you more elbow room and thick, plush padding.

Table of contents

(Editor’s note: In October 2019 we tested two new stadium seats on the market to see how they compared with our top pick. We’ve now added the Brawntide – Wide Stadium Seat as one of our top picks. However, as of this writing, it’s back-ordered on both the company’s website and Amazon.)

How we selected finalists to test

We spent a day combing online reviews, comparing models, and considering the use case for these seats. We looked at the bad reviews as well as the good ones in order to evaluate not just what made people happy about the cushion they sat on: but also what made them upset.

In the end, these were the factors that weighed into our choices and decision making:

  • Comfort
  • Whether or not they had armrests
  • Durability
  • Portability (both in weight and design)
  • Price
  • Size: Would the seat work for most body types and weights?

After considering the options and evaluating hundreds of online reviews, we made our selections, narrowing our choices to a final few seats across price and potential user types.

Compare the best stadium seats

Product NamePriceComfort
Picnic Time - Portable Ventura$$$$★★★★
RIO Gear - My Pod$$★★★
Brawntide$$$$★★★★★
Nova Microdermabrasion$$$★★★
Stadium Chair$$$★★★★
Naomi Home - Venice Regular$$$$★★★★
Trademark Innovations$$$
Guidesman$

How we tested

To best replicate how people would really use these bleacher seats, we had to replicate a true game-going environment. So we tailgated for hours before each use, grilling some tasty game-day food on the trusty gas BBQ, consumed frosty-cold beers from our favorite cooler, soaked up some sun, and then tested the chairs…

…or not. Unfortunately, we couldn’t justify doing that, but we dreamed of doing that, and hope you do similar when using these seats. Instead, we only replicated the seating environment, buying a plastic bench we could use for three hours, the average duration of most sporting events, inside our office.

stadium-seat-in_office

We set up the benches and recorded a comfort “score” of 1-10 at the start, and then every subsequent hour thereafter, in order to see how the seats performed from a longevity perspective.

We treated the seats just like we would at a game, taking short breaks to run to the bathroom or stretch our legs, but we made sure to always reserve a three-hour window for sitting in order to best replicate a true game environment.

In order to save our backs, if a bench got an initial score of less than four, we immediately vetoed further testing. (And headed for our massagers instead.) An uncomfortable seat is an uncomfortable seat: it’s not suddenly going to get better, only worse.

In addition, we always tested first thing in the morning, spaced out tests over several days, and tested three times each, in order to reduce the bias back fatigue or simply feeling bad one day might create.

The scores were the following:

stadium-seat_comfort-scores

The Picnic Time – Portable Ventura performed best, with a strong initial comfort score and best maintenance of that score, given great back support and armrests that provide additional comfort throughout.

The Stadium Chair also performed well but had no armrests and slightly more give in the back area that created fatigue over time, putting it in second place.

On the low end of the scale, the Guidesman and Portable Recliner Picnic Seat were each subpar and not worth testing for the full duration. The Portable Recliner felt slightly better than just the bench, but the Guidesman hardly made a difference.

It’s the cheapest model, so that’s somewhat to be expected, but you want to see some kind of difference in comfort when buying a seat, or why even buy one?

carrying-backpack

Next, we looked at the portability of the seats. Weight matters, but if the seat gives you a method of carrying the seats that distribute the weight, it’s not as big of a burden.

The Picnic Time and Naomi Home seats came with a helpful backpack strap that made lugging them around a breeze, even if you look somewhat ridiculous when doing so. These seats were two of the heavier models we used, so the backpack functionality was a nice-to-have that makes carrying them around feasible for any age or strength level.

carrying-strap

The Guidesman, RIO Gear – My Pod  and Portable Recliner Picnic Seat all came with small straps that connected on two points of the seats, offering something you could either grip with your hand or swing around your shoulder when carrying.

All on the lighter side, these loops do the job but will take up a hand or two if you’re thinking about carrying anything else into the game or lugging some things into a tailgate area from a far-away parking spot.

carrying-bar

The Stadium Chair seat, while comfortable, was also by far the heaviest seat, and also required you hold onto it by a bar. It’s not unmovable by any means but could become a bit of a pain if lugging it from far away or trying to juggle a toddler. In terms of overall portability, it was the worst of the units we tested.

To compare all of the above attributes side by side, we also included the following chart that shows the weight of each unit and how you’ll probably carry it.

stadium-seat_data

Best overall: Picnic Time – Portable Ventura

picnic-time-winner2

For season ticket holders or frequent users, the Picnic Time – Portable Ventura is the best stadium seat. It’s comfortable for the longest duration of time, is easy to move around given the backpack functionality and comes in many different colors, so you can match the design to your favorite team.

The features the Picnic Time come equipped with definitely come with a price, as it’s one of most expensive units we tested. For most games where you won’t have a back, you’ll be paying more for the chair than the game. But if you’re going to use it over several years, you will definitely get value for the price.

One thing to consider about the Picnic Time is its adjustable arms. For a few people in our office, it was a bit snug: the 220-pound reviewer was pretty firm in the chair, and a couple extra hot dogs might make you want to take down the armrests. However, the seat can be adjusted so the armrests are lowered, which adds a few more inches of width.

Top Pick: Picnic Time - Portable Ventura

Superior comfort and portability make the Picnic Time the best seat option for serious game-goers. The armrests can be raised or lowered, plus it comes in a wide range of colors that you can coordinate with your home teams.

It makes more sense though to use the armrests, and if you’re unsure if you’ll fit,  sit in a chair and measure the width of your legs from end to end when in a comfortable position. If your leg-to-leg width measures greater than 17 inches wide, the Picnic Time will be too narrow.

We tested the Picnic Time again for this update, and although our tester is slim, he found it constricting. Also, the first Picnic Time we ordered was defective: The mechanism for adjusting the seat’s position broke after four tries. We returned it, and the second one performed better.

Budget pick: RIO Gear – My Pod

rio-seat

If you don’t want to spend $45-$60 for a stadium seat, the RIO Gear – My Pod Sports Chair is our budget pick.  It has worse back support, no armrests and slightly less padding, but overall is a serviceable option for someone who wants a backrest for the occasional game or event. It scored significantly better than the other seats in a similar price range.

Budget Pick: RIO Gear - My Pod

Solid scores all around make the RIO Gear - My Pod a great choice for those fair-weather fans who don't spend upward of $45. Though it doesn't have back support, it does include an under-seat fastening strap plus two heating packs.

It also includes a helpful under-seat strap, pictured below, that makes it the most reliable seat for not falling back on unsteady bleachers.

strapping-seat-down

The RIO was also the only unit which had a “strap-in” feature like this, which is an extra plus for anybody who’s especially wild when cheering on their favorite team.

In addition, the RIO comes with two heating packs and includes pockets on the front of the chair for storage, an extra benefit for those who find themselves in colder temperatures. And at only 3.5 pounds, the seat is light and the attached strap makes it easy to carry from your car to the game.

Best when in stock: Brawntide

For this 2019 update, we tested one of the newest stadium seats on the market, the Brawntide – Wide Stadium Seat. In fact, we prefer it to the Picnic Time, because it’s a full 5-inches wider without armrests, and its cushioning is much more plush and comfortable. However, because the Brawntide is so popular, it’s frequently out-of-stock on Amazon.

If you’re big, tall or big and tall, this is the stadium seat for you. It’s 2-inches taller than other stadium seats, so if you’re over six-feet-tall, the back of the chair will reach the top of your shoulders, which gives you plenty of support in your lower back. The armrests are longer, extending to the wrists, so you don’t need to sit with your arms pinned back, as you would with most stadium seats.

Best for Big and Tall: Brawntide - Wide Stadium Seat

Exceeding the width of other stadium chairs by more than 5 inches and padded with a triple layer of foam, the Brawntide offers plush comfort if you're big and tall.

The Brawntide has three layers of foam, so it’s ultra-comfortable; it’s like sitting in an easy chair. It has four pockets: a large zippered rear pocket for storing snacks or a sweatshirt or sweater, a side left pocket for a cell phone and two removable right pockets for water bottles or beverage cans. Like Picnic Time, the Brawntide has straps for attaching the seat to bleachers.

The Brawntide is about $10 more expensive than Picnic Time, but the extra width and thick padding are worth the cost. The company also sells standard-width seats and the standard and wide-size in two-packs. When they’re back in stock, we recommend checking them out.

Other finalists we tested

Nova Microdermabrasion – Stadium Chair

Another recent release that we tested for this 2019 update is the Nova Microdermabrasion – Stadium Chair. Although you might think this is a skin-care company, Nova Microdermabrasion manufactures office chairs, beauty-salon chairs and equipment and a variety of home goods. It’s similar in size to the Picnic Time but not nearly as stylish.

Armrests and seat are well-padded, but the chair itself is too short and narrow, and since the armrests are not adjustable, you’re really need to squeeze yourself in. This stadium seat has a single, sewn-in pocket for a beverage can, and that’s about it for any extras. This is a bit of a bargain-basement stadium seat, but if you’re budget-conscious and slim-hipped, it could be an option.

Stadium Chair

metal-chairs2

The Stadium Chair has the brand name to match its intent and is a quality chair with good comfort scores, especially at the beginning of the sitting period.

However, it was just below the Picnic Time in overall comfort, equal in price, and also is a bit harder to lug around, making it a second-best choice. It’s also the only model tested with a weight limit: if larger than 350 pounds, it’s recommended you go with another unit as the spring base may not be able to support you properly.

Trademark Innovations – Recliner Picnic Seat

broken-chair

The Trademark Innovations – Recliner Picnic Seat didn’t survive the first minute of testing, scoring near the bottom in overall comfort. Even worse was that the zipper confused our second tester, who opened the seat and then tried to close it and broke the material on the first try. Overall, that put it pretty low on our totem pole.

Naomi Home – Venice

red-chair

The Naomi Home – Venice has a similar build and price as the Picnic Time chair but isn’t quite as comfortable. It also has fewer color customization options, making it more difficult to match the chair to your favorite team.

On the positive side, the Naomi was the only chair we tested that had armrests in a large-sized option, so if you’ve got a wider frame, it’s probably the best option for the cost.

Guidesman – Seat Cushion

flat-green-seat

The Guidesman – Seat Cushion was the cheapest model we tested but barely performs better than the bench itself. The cushion didn’t feel at all more comfortable than our plastic bench, although it did seem like a slight upgrade over the above bleacher we also sat on.

It may make your backside feel a bit better at the end of the three hours, but it’s not a purchase we can recommend unless you plan to use the seat one time only.

The bottom line

The point of a stadium seat is to provide superior comfort over the duration of a ballgame: not leave you in pain at the end. If that’s the goal, then you’ll do your back and butt a favor investing for the long term. Overall, the Picnic Time – Portable Ventura is the best choice for a stadium junkie. It’s comfortable, easy to lug around, and it’s going to give you solid, reliable back support over a three-hour duration.

If you’re not willing to pay $40+ just to feel comfortable, the RIO Gear – My Pod Sports Chair is a next-best option. You can buy a cushion for $10, but it won’t do much besides providing mental relief.

A slightly more expensive stadium seat, the Brawntide – Wide Stadium Seat, is even more comfortable than the Picnic Time, thanks to its triple layer of foam and 22.5-inch width. The Brawntide, however, is very popular and often out of stock on both the company website and Amazon. But if you see it, grab it while you can.

Top Pick: Picnic Time - Portable Ventura

Several color options, great portability and top-notch comfort scores make the Picnic Time our top pick. It's not the cheapest option out there, but for season ticket holders who attend multiple games per year, it's well worth the investment.

Bryan Vu, Editor

Bryan is our cooking and kitchen expert, with more than 15 years of experience of cooking and testing kitchen products. When outside of the kitchen, he enjoys woodworking, photography, videography and figuring out how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. He thoroughly enjoys discovering the best, whether it’s ingredients or equipment, and finding products that can stand the rigors of daily use.

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