This morning at Abaco Lodge in the Bahamas, Yeti (the Austin, Texas-based brand known for making the most durable coolers available), launched its latest product: a bomb-proof folding camp chair called the Hondo. While somewhat unassuming in appearance, every inch of the Hondo is engineered to be superlative — from the folding mechanism to the welds on the butted aluminum tubes (a similar construction is used on downhill mountain bikes), to the fabric used for the back and seat of the chair.
The idea to develop the chair came after Yeti realized that every other camp chair on the market failed to meet any of its employees’ standards. They would break virtually everywhere: the seat, seams, legs, arms. Yeti set out to develop a better product that would far exceed all expectations and torment that a user could put it through. To develop the Hondo, and take it from conception to reality, Yeti brought on Brian Langerak. Langerak was previously at Herman Miller working on the Aeron chair (regarded as one of, if not the, best office chairs in the world) — and it shows in the execution. The process that Yeti uses on the Hondo, which involves stretching the fabric and molding it together with the attachment to the frame of the chair, is only used by one other company — Herman Miller. But in truth, the Hondo shares little in spirit with anything that would come out of the legendary Herman Miller headquarters, except in quality and finish.
In testing at Yeti’s Innovation Center, the Hondo supported more than 3,000 pounds before giving in — more than your average Honda Civic weighs. But beyond pure strength, the Hondo is also built to stand up to harsh sunlight, saltwater, freshwater, you name it. The frame is coated with a special UV-resistant paint commonly used in architecture on the outsides of buildings.
The Hondo, which will be released and retail for $300, represents a new frontier for Yeti, who up to this point has owned the campsite in cold-keeping and gear transport. It represents a shot at taking over all of base camp — a more comprehensive and immersive Yeti experience. It’s conceivable, given Yeti’s track record of launching a cornerstone product and building a family around it, that the Hondo could become a product line within the brand. Think tables, footrests and the like. The ultimate test for a chair, though, regardless of how much thought and design went into it, is whether or not it is comfortable. While we’d love to see Yeti use the same material on the arms as it did in the back and the seat of the chair, it hardly detracts from the overall comfort.
The Hondo isn’t your backcountry, ultralight seat. But for days at the beach, sitting around base camp, car camping and the like, we’d be hard-pressed to find something better. At least until Yeti launches Hondo 2.0.