Best Adirondack Chairs

best adirondack chairs
We spent 23 hours researching what an Adirondack chair is, what you should look for when purchasing one, and which are the best ones to buy for spending your summer days relaxing.  The Highwood Hamilton Reclining Adirondack Chair scored at the top for durability, style, and function and was our choice for the Best Overall Adirondack chair.

Table of Contents

 

Best Overall: Highwood Hamilton

The Best Overall Adirondack goes to…the Highwood Hamilton Folding & Reclining Adirondack chair. We loved the Highwood Hamilton far and above the other models that we reviewed and found so much beauty in the sturdy and solid design. With furniture and décor, preferences are individual, but this chair just evoked so much comfort even at first glance. We think you’ll love it as much as we do. It was the only model to feature a reclining option and folding feature. The construction is solid, the comfort that the Highwood Hamilton provided was something that we look forward to again and again in the lazy dog days of summer.

Best Budget: Lifetime

Best Budget Adirondack chair is the Lifetime Faux Wood adirondack chair. We know that sometimes your budget can’t afford the quality and craftsmanship that a Made in America Adirondack will provide, so we looked at a lower price point and came to find that the Lifetime design was solid and came closest to the brilliant Highwood design standards. We like the curved front on the seat, and the sturdy armrests for a place to rest our lakeside beverage. We have tested this model for over two years and it still looks as good as the day we purchased it.

What Features Are Important

Aaaah, the lazy days of summer.  Close your eyes and picture a dock on a lake, or weather worn beachfront porch – and what do you picture in those scenes?  It’s very likely that you’re imagining wooden Adirondack chairs.  What better place to park yourself after a long day of yard work, relax lakeside, or to settle in around a backyard fire than in an Adirondack chair?  To research this iconic piece of furniture, we did some investigation into how the design first came into the mainstream, then we looked at what components made up the design, and then it came down to material and color – with overall durability and value for price being the most important feature.

We took a long look at the top chairs out there, and have put together a comprehensive list of what features to consider and have in mind when purchasing this classic and all-American piece of furniture.  So that when you are ready to relax, your seat will be waiting.

What is an Adirondack Chair?

what is an adirondack chair
What is an Adirondack chair – and where did it come from?  Originally made with eleven flat wood boards, the Adirondack chair features a straight back with a low seat and wide armrests.  Designed in 1903 by Thomas Lee while he was vacationing at his summer home in Westport, New York on the beautiful Lake Champlain, which is near the actual Adirondack mountains.  Lacking comfortable summer seating for the outdoors, the need for these chairs motivated Lee to design, create and test chairs with his family members – all 22 two of them! or so the tale goes…

His original design was called the Westport plank chair, but after his friend Henry Bunnell started making the chairs – at Lee’s suggestion to garner extra income during the winter months – they soon became known by their regional name, the Adirondack chair.  Unbeknownst to Lee, and therefore without his permission, Bunnell filed to patent the design (in 1905) as he saw the demand (and profit) increase exponentially each season as summer residents of Westport clamored for the chairs that he was now building.  His hemlock plank Westport Chairs sold for the next twenty years in his trademark green or deep brown colors, each one individually signed by him.  While there is no proof that Lee ever went after any of the profits from Bunnell’s endeavors, there is no proof that he was ever reciprocated for his contribution to the design either.

Irving Wolpin modified the design with his 1938 patent to the chair we most often see today, which includes the rounded back and countered seat.  And this timeless design is found in a variety of materials and colors, with vibrant shades seen more often beachside, and manmade materials often in place of the original hemlock.  Yet each chair is a variation that closely resembles Lee’s seat from years ago.  Current adaptions are fashioned with the back being composed of multiple boards, unlike the original knot-free single plank seen in Thomas Lee’s original chair.

How We Selected

types of adirondack chairs
We knew we wanted our Adirondack chair to be constructed of wood, OR have a wood look to it.  This means we included those with a composite material that may be better suited to the elements of vacation properties and resort towns where these chairs are commonly found.  We did research on the internet for outdoor furniture information in general, and Adirondacks specifically.  If you are choosing a chair made of wood, you will likely have the following options:

teak wood grain
Teak –  identified as a top choice for its durability, especially for chairs being left outside year-round; teak is expensive, but will not crack, rot, or split and is insect repellant – it’s what most boat decks are made of so we know it can stand the salt air!

oak wood grain
Oak – one of the more popular hardwoods for its durability and beauty, but it does require regular maintenance (refinishing and resealing annually) and should you spill your wine or other beverage on it, you may end up with a stain

pine wood grain
Pine – the affordable choice for outdoor furnishings, and found in many choices since it’s appealing unfinished as well as over time as it weathers and turns grey; because it’s a softer wood, expect to get scratches and dings in your chair and maybe even the unwelcome bug guests

cedar wood grain
Cedar – the natural oils of cedar make it insect and rot resistant, but it does require some maintenance from time to time; an ideal choice for residents of damp and wet climates and those looking for an alternative to pine

Plastic Wood – yes, we know, it’s not wood, but it’s made to look like wood so we are including it in our review for many reasons; the maintenance free choice and likely most budget friendly option, plastic, or a composite is the most available in designs today

How We Tested

We wanted a chair that would last for years, not one season. The material each chair is made of is important for durability, maintenance and overall aesthetic.  We wanted a wood, or wood look to our Adirondack.  This chair is Americana at its finest, so where the chair was made was important as we tried to stay with those Made in America.  We looked at size, weight, features and functions – did it fold for easy storage?  

We decided to only focus on those that folded because comparing chairs was overwhelming enough, and we wanted to be able to store them easily in the off season. Was there a guarantee on this chair, and for how long?  And size does matter because these chairs are made for moving around to make social circles and chatting around fire pits and lakeside, but at the same time, they need to be sturdy and steady when staying put.  How did each chair hold up to weight and dimensions compared to the others?  Finally, with durability comes a higher cost, so where did these chairs fall in the high-end spectrum of dollars spent?  Each chair was reviewed based on the color indicated – other colors will affect the price.

Material

Highwood Hamilton Folding & Reclining Recycled Plastic
Polywood Recycled HDPE Lumber
Trex Outdoor Furniture Cape Cod Trex HDPE Lumber
Lifetime Faux Wood Polystyrene
Merry Garden Foldable Birch Wood
Phat Tommy Folding Recycled Poly Resin

Country of Origin

If you would like to support US manufacturers here is the list of the adirondack chairs manufactured in the US or China.

Highwood Hamilton Folding & Reclining
Polywood
Trex Outdoor Furniture Cape Cod
Lifetime Faux Wood
Merry Garden Foldable
Phat Tommy Folding

Foldable

If you would like to fold your Adirondack chairs for better storage in the off-season, going with a foldable option would be best. However we leave ours out all year, and they do just fine.

Highwood Hamilton Folding & Reclining
Polywood
Trex Outdoor Furniture Cape Cod
Lifetime Faux Wood
Merry Garden Foldable
Phat Tommy Folding

Reclining

At first glance it might seem like having a recliner is a big deal, but it’s really not as most of the chairs have a natural recline to them.

Highwood Hamilton Folding & Reclining
Polywood
Trex Outdoor Furniture Cape Cod
Lifetime Faux Wood
Merry Garden Foldable
Phat Tommy Folding

Warranty

Both the Polywood and the Trex carry the longest warranties. The Merry Garden does not offer a warranty (that we could find), most likely because of the inexpensive price.

Highwood Hamilton Folding & Reclining

12 year limited

Polywood Classic Folding

20 year limited

Trex Outdoor Furniture Cape Cod

20 year limited

Lifetime

2 year limited

Merry Garden Foldable

None

Phat Tommy Folding Adirondack

10 year limited

Dimensions

The Phat Tommy is the widest Adirondack chair, coming in at a full 33 inches; and the Polywood is the narrowest at 29 inches. The Trex is the tallest chair of the batch.

Highwood Hamilton Folding & Reclining 29” wide x 34” high x 36” deep
Polywood 29” wide x 35 ¾” high x 35 ¾” deep
Trex Outdoor Furniture Cape Cod 31 ¼” wide x 38 ½” high x 33 ¾” deep
Lifetime Faux Wood 31.14” wide x 36.9” high x 38.6 deep
Merry Garden Foldable 31.7” wide x 27.7” high x 34.7” deep
Phat Tommy Folding 33” wide x 32” high x 40” deep

Weight

The Phat Tommy lives up to its name, weighing in at a whopping 48 lbs. The Merry Garden is the lightest, and we don’t recommend going with the lightest chair you can find because it can blow around during heavy winds. The 35 to 40 lb mark is the sweet spot. We have tested the Lifetime chair for over 2 years and have not had a single issue with it moving during a storm or heavy winds.

Highwood Hamilton Folding & Reclining

33 lbs

Polywood Classic Folding

37 lbs

Trex Outdoor Furniture Cape Cod

40 lbs

Lifetime

37.4 lbs

Merry Garden Foldable

19 lbs

Phat Tommy Folding Adirondack

48 lbs

Reviews

Highwood Hamilton Folding & Reclining Adirondack Chair

Highwood Hamilton Folding Reclining Adirondack Chair

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We choose the Highwood Hamilton Folding and Reclining Adirondack as our best overall choice for an Adirondack chair.  This durable and beautifully designed chair is 100% made in the USA of a proprietary recycled plastic, which is eco-friendly and made from Highwood’s exclusive material blend.  This material is fade resistant and assembled with 304 grade stainless steel hardware – and that means not only can you leave it outside year-round, but you won’t have to maintain it as often as you might with cheaper hardware.   It looked the closest to real wood compared to any of the composite or manmade materials that we looked at in the other chairs that we reviewed. The design of the chair’s back includes a slight curve, allowing for a more natural and comfortable feel – which is appreciated when you engage in the reclining feature!  The Highwood Hamilton was the only model reviewed that included a reclining feature. 

Available in 12 color options, Highwood offers this chair in Adult and King sized.  This larger model will give you approximately 4 inches in a wider seat, and 6 inches more for your back.  The King sized will also weigh in at 40lbs, which is about 7lbs more than the standard Adult sized option which 33lbs. Highmark advertises that these will not rot, crack or splinter and are a four-season furniture.  The front curve of the seat provides incredible comfort for behind your knees, and the wide arm rests give you comfort as well as a solid place to set your cool summer beverage.  And if all those reasons weren’t enough, Highwood is a company that includes (but not limited to) accountability, teamwork, safety, sustainability, and “Treat Others as We Want to be Treated” in their vision and mission statement.   We loved the Highwood Hamilton far and above the other models that we reviewed and found so much beauty in the sturdy and solid design.  With furniture and décor, preferences are individual, but this chair just evoked so much comfort even at first glance.  We think you’ll love it as much as we do.

Polywood Classic Folding Adirondack Chair

Polywood Classic Folding Adirondack Chair

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Also made in the USA, Polywood was one of the names we kept seeing on review sites, so we wanted to learn more.  A great chair, we love the made in America part, and it was a sturdy and comfortable model.  Polywood gives you an incredible array of color choices – 15 in all.  The material was solid in color and construction, but had a look to it that was a little too plastic/composite – ish to be our winner.  It is a folding model, so that provides you greater storage options for when not in use, something you’ll want to do especially if in the sun, since the colors can fade.  Because they don’t recline, they weren’t able to compete with the Highwood in that area, but they were a comfortable seat.

Trex Outdoor Furniture Cape Cod Adirondack Chair

Trex Outdoor Furniture Cape Cod Adirondack Chair

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Trex has made a name for themselves in the decking industry and this product carries over with that same material used for their outdoor furniture line.  Made in the USA, this chair from Trex comes in 11 color choices for the Cape Cod Adirondack model.  Solidly built, it’s a beautiful piece of furniture that will compliment your home, cottage, or dock.  We loved the name and reliability of Trex, but would have preferred a design that had the wooden curved overlap of the Highwood Hamilton behind the knees as well as the option for folding and reclining.  An excellent choice, but if you’re looking for those two options in storage and comfort, you’d be better off going with another model.  One thing to know about Trex that we think is great, they plant a tree for every piece of furniture ordered!

Lifetime Faux Wood Adirondack Chair

Lifetime Faux Wood Adirondack Chair

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Coming in at nearly half of the price of the others, we were excited to see what this chair would be like.  It is decent and a good buy, but not the most durable of the models, nor did it have the fold up option or reclining features found in our top pick.  The color was lighter than the other chairs that we looked at, so it didn’t have the rich and deep wood color we had come to prefer in our other choices, but it was done to look like a faux wood, so we knew what we were getting.  It had the rollover of wood panels (behind the knee) that we really liked in our top choice and it was comfortable to sit in, and light enough to move around.  Stainless steel screws hold the chair together and the UV protected material will survive sunshine and the not so pleasant weather elements solidly.  We preferred models that were made in America, but understand that while the lower cost was a bonus, it is a result of manufacturing in China.  The Lifetime model also had a limited 2-year warranty, which was on the low end of the spectrum.  Stately design, decent product, good price – this is a fantastic choice if you are looking for a budget chair with more design elements and style than you’ll find at your big box retailer out front and aren’t concerned with the American made factor or storage features found in the folding design.

Merry Garden Foldable Adirondack Chair

Merry Garden Foldable Adirondack Chair

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Coming in at a budget friendly price this is the chair if you are looking for something to last a couple of seasons (or again, less).  Unfinished fir wood is identified as weather-resistant, but not going to provide you with the ease of cleaning and maintenance that the other models that we reviewed will give you.  Cleaning, splinters, cracking and rot may be part of a maintenance plan that you weren’t looking for.  We also couldn’t find any warranty information, so if something goes wrong, you may be out of luck. The Merry Garden model does have the option to fold up for storage when not in use, and it includes the wood panels that roll over the seat front for a classic design.  They do require a lot more assembly than the other models, so be prepared for putting in the time.   Additionally, the construction may not last more than a few seasons and depending on usage, you may be replacing them sooner than you would like.  However, they are lighter to haul than the other models – nearly half the weight! As with all things, you get what you pay for, and while we like these for a quick fix, they might not be worth it in the long run.

Phat Tommy Recycled Poly Resin Folding Deluxe Adirondack Chair

Phat Tommy Recycled Poly Resin Folding Deluxe Adirondack Chair

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Coming in at a whopping 48lbs, the brand name drew us in, and so we gave this Made in the USA chair some time for a review.  The brown color is nice, and the folding option gives you great storage.  The recycled poly resin material gives it a plastic-y look, but it’s not a bad looking chair.  The chair back is slightly contoured and you have the option to order in one of nine color choices.  While we can’t find anything specific to complain about this chair, it was simplistic in design and didn’t have the hearty feel of our top choice.  However, that doesn’t reflect on its construction which was solid and well made.

Conclusion

Summer is about kicking back, relaxing, and enjoying the moment.  Heck, we want that for ANY season, not just summer!  So, when you seek out patio or outdoor furniture, invest in solid pieces that are going to give you time to relax, not replace and maintain.  We think that when it comes to these purchases, you get what you pay for and a solidly designed chair will be worth the investment for today and many, many years to come.  We think that a chair as iconic as the Adirondack should be made in America, so consider that as you make your decision to relax in our great country and as you enjoy the company of friends and family alike.  If our top choice Highwood Hamilton isn’t in your budget, look to our budget friendly options for a few great choices.  Either way, enjoy your time together!

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Author: Danielle G.

Danielle is an Editor for ReadPlease and in charge of product testing...she started out in the IT industry, but then her love of wellness & whole nutrition led her to the Institute of Integrative Nutrition...when she's not reading up on that, she is listening to music, gardening, or trying to meet John Mayer.

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