Friday, July 8, 2022

Review: Darchen Portable Chair


The Darchen portable sketch chair

My preferred way to sketch on location is on my feet. Sitting makes me even more “vertically challenged” than I already am, and since most of my sketches take no more than 30 or 40 minutes, it’s not a hardship to stand. In outdoor workshops, however, or in rare cases when I want do want to be seated, I have been using my teeny-tiny Daiso folding stool. As lightweight and small as any stool could be, it fits easily in a tote bag or backpack. I have schlepped it easily in my carry-on bag to symposiums and on other travels.

It has its limits, however: about half an hour. Longer than that, the low-to-the-ground seat is not comfortable, even with legs as short as mine. With a plein air class coming up, which would meet in parks for three hours each week, I knew I needed a better solution. I had been looking around for a while, and at the last sketch outing, Sue had mentioned a sketch chair she liked: the Darchen portable chair.

At less than $40, it’s a reasonable price (OK, it’s more than the $2 I paid for the Daiso, but it’s a solid upgrade). It weighs 2 pounds.

Stored in its case, this is how large the chair is next to a 9" x 12" drawing pad.

When I first pulled the frame out of its zippered storage case, it looked like a broken umbrella – a bunch of hinged legs and supports flailing and flopping around. With no assembly instructions whatsoever, I was already skeptical, but the bungee-corded legs popped into place fairly intuitively. In fact, the design is mildly ingenious.

Chair frame or broken umbrella?

Assembled chair frame

That part was easy; the seat placement was another matter. The four seat supports are inserted into small pockets in the corners of the seat/back unit. Like a fitted sheet, the fourth corner is the most difficult. In fact, it was impossible without a third or fourth hand to help. At home, I did have another pair of hands to help, but I knew I had to learn to assemble it alone. After several aggravating tries, I was ready to return it. Sue, however, came to my rescue with tips she had learned in assembling hers.

Each of 4 corners of the seat/back has a small pocket. A support peg is placed into each pocket.

Here's the chair with 3 of 4 supports in place. This is the easy part. Like a fitted sheet, the 4th support is the most difficult to insert.

After the first three supports are (easily) placed, the last will go in, with some effort, when the seat is pulled diagonally. Once I learned this tip, it was a snap to assemble with only two hands! 

Pull the seat diagonally in the direction of the arrow to place the 4th support.

Assembled and ready for comfortable sketching.

Disassembly is even faster, and the whole “broken umbrella” folds back into its case for schlepping.

Folded and ready for schlepping again.

Way more comfortable than the Daiso stool, the seatback gives support without going into a full Barcalounger recline (like some camp chairs I’ve seen). In class last week, I sat upright to measure and block in my drawing, but then I could lean back and relax for more than two hours of graphite rendering. Getting up from this chair is like any chair – not like getting up from a squat!

(Thanks, Sue, for both the recommendation and the tips. I learned about the Daiso stool from Sue, too, which makes her my official sketch chair consultant.)

Light enough to pick up with one finger! (If you were to look through my childhood photo albums, you'd know that I was born a ham.)


  1. Love my Helinox beach chair! The legs don’t sink into uneven ground. I think I learned about these from Jane Blundell…got one on clearance.

  2. Sounds complicated but if I got one, you and Sue could consult! I checked REI and the ones like this that they stock are twice as much money. I like my folding stool but I wouldn't want to sit on it for 2 hours +.

  3. Looks complicated but comfy. I need to sit more upright when I sketch.

    1. For shorter sketches, I would, too. But it's nice to sit back when I'm doing a lot of graphite shading.


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