In the eternal march to find the gear that best fits our travel style and tastes, a table is a simultaneously easy and complicated piece of equipment. Size is one of the biggest limiting factors when deciding on how we will keep our plates, notebooks, stoves, and all other manner of gear from crashing to the dusty ground. A large table is optimal for big families or groups, but is often difficult to stow, while smaller models typically don’t offer enough utility to justify the space in your vehicle. The Goldilocks of travel tables has eluded me until I was given the opportunity to test the Helinox Table One Hard Top L. I have owned Helinox chairs for years and loved the comfort they offered in such a small package. The Table One fulfilled the same needs, offering an impressive surface area for everything from preparing a meal and enjoying a sunset drink, to hammering out photo edits and catching up on email with my 17-inch MacBook.
Owning an F-350 long bed as my primary expedition vehicle hasn’t forced me to be particularly discerning when packing for trips. The truck swallows everything you throw in the bed like a get out of jail free card for poor trip planning. After looking hard at my Subaru crossover as an option for more short-term adventures, I began considering each piece of gear and the weight/size to value ratio. As the trend toward blowing past GVWR has surged throughout the overlanding community, with significant consequences to safety, I wanted to ensure I remained in compliance with my entire expedition load. Given these criteria, priority is naturally given to basic necessities, often excluding luxury items and dual purposing existing gear. I know I’m not the only one who has used a cup for a bowl, down jacket as a pillow, or camp towel as—well, let’s not get into that. It was only one time, and those tacos were never spoken of again. I always thought gear caddies made great tables as well until I had laid out my entire meal and realized my utensils were buried in the box I was currently residing on. I’ve tried a number of different tables to make my camping routine more comfortable, but most of them are left home because of the size and overall inconvenience of setup. So when the Helinox Table One showed up in a box half the size of my camping stove, I was cautiously optimistic.
A duality of size exists with this table that makes it seem like a product from Bizarro World. When fully packed, it only measures 23.5 x 6.5 x 4.5 inches and weighs only 3.5 pounds. On a recent trip, I had intended to mail it ahead with other gear and only bring a small carry-on with me. I ended up forgetting to include the table in the package, but it slipped into my carry-on with no issues. Fully deployed, the Table One Hard Top is larger than thought possible, with a surface area of 30 x 22.5 x 19.5 inches. It easily fits two table settings for a surfside dinner, full camera gear kit during a post-adventure cleaning session, and, of course, a few choice bottles.
Setup on the Table One is a bit intimidating if you’ve never seen a Helinox chair before. A handful of metal rods comes out of the bag with a folded top. The materials are comprised of tent-like poles that notch into place and are tensioned by shock cords. The reality is significantly less complicated, with the poles naturally fitting into sockets in seconds to form the table base, while a set of two-piece poles for the lateral support of the tabletop slip into place easily. At first, I was skeptical of a segmented top, uncertain of how rigid it could be, but once locked into place, my worries were quickly forgotten. This thing is SOLID. I never fully tested the 110-pound-capacity rating, but when my twins, weighing 40 pounds each, decided to use the table as an impromptu seat, it didn’t budge.
While setup was intuitive and quick, Helinox has printed assembly graphics on the underside of the tabletop for those evenings after a long hard day when brain fatigue may be present. The top is covered in durable Cordura nylon that is weather and UV resistant while the base is made of DAC aluminum poles for a product that will last a lifetime if cared for properly. I have always been attracted to subdued color patterns for all my equipment, a penchant most likely magnified by my time in the US Army and the need to stay unobtrusive in the field. I appreciate the same aesthetic in the Helinox line of products. My Table One Hard Top L came with a Multicam pattern, making it attractive not only to overlanders and general campers but to the hunting and fishing community as well. For those looking for something simpler, it also comes in black and gray.
During the few months I spent with this table, it did everything I asked with a steadfast dedication to its simple purpose: to hold all my stuff readily at hand and disappear into my vehicle until I need it again. This little table also made the perfect foot rest on those mornings when a hot cup of coffee was near at hand, and the sunrise unfolded with unhurried ease.