My initial thought when seeing a friend bust out the Helinox table was…A fabric table? What good is it? Can’t cook on it, will worry about stability and durability, will wear and tear much more quickly, and not be able to hold much weight.
But it was intriguing.
When packed up, it takes about as much space as the GSI Micro (a reasonable amount of space and weight, but very tiny for use), and when opened up, is comparable in table area to the GSI Macro (a reasonable amount of table area, but too large and heavy for backpacking).
After getting a chance to see it in action, the first thing I did upon getting an internet connection was to order one on Amazon…while having lunch on the way home…on my cell phone.
Yeah, it’s that good.
The Helinox uses an ingenious design to deceptively ensure stability and a taut surface while maintaining easy packability. Instead of the more obvious square border and cross design that would cause a variety of durability issues, not to mention issues around a flat surface, the Helinox has sewn in 6 width-wise parallel bars roughly evenly spaced apart, then two lengthwise bars, where each bar is like two sections of a tent pole held together with shock cord, hooking onto the “inside” side of the two width-wise bars on either end of the table (to push outward, tension stretching the table), and also hooking onto the cross leg end “outside” to tension lock inwards.
In use, when pressing down on the table, the cross legs try to spread outward (length-wise), and push the length-wise poles apart, but this in turn pushes apart the two width-wise bars which are sewn into the table ends, which stretches the fabric, tensioning the table.
Speaking of the cross legs, the shock cord attached cross section is shaped very much like the backpacking chairs gaining popularity, like the Alite Mantis, REI backpacking chair, or the Helinox camp chair. There is one width-wise bar connecting on either end to plastic hubs which in turn are connected to the cross legs on either side.
This entire tension stretching process, along with 6 width wise bars, makes the table very stable.
Really a marvel of engineering design.
In use, the table is narrower and longer than the larger GSI Macro table.
As surprisingly and unusually stable as the table is, it is, at the end of the day, a fabric table and potentially on unstable ground, so the two cup holders are highly useful in keeping drinks from tipping over.
It’s really designed for eating meals, but it’s proven plenty useful for card games, holding the lantern for some site light, and even boiling up some water with a small simple stove.
The table has mesh and is designed for quick drying after most simple spills. The mesh also makes the unit much lighter.
Ultra-light backpackers will likely balk at the weight and space use of luxury items like a backpacking table or backpacking chair, but for those of us who enjoy a little luxury on the road, a table like this is quite the godsend.
If you’re in the market for a small backpacking table, or what might be considered a super small car camping table, or even a little something something for the beach or a picnic, consider the Helinox table, it won’t let you down.