Staff Picks - Best All Terrain Off Road Manual Wheelchairs 2023 - Which one is right for you?
To help you navigate the world of off-road chairs, our staff has put together a simple guide to steer you in the right direction according to your needs and budget. Here are their Top Picks of 2023:
Being confined to using a wheeled device like a wheelchair usually means you look for the most flat, even, easily traversable terrain that will get you from point A to B. It becomes apparent rather quickly however, you miss out on a lot of what life has to offer outside and off the paved roads and safe havens of flat terrain. Sometimes where the road and pavement ends is where the journey begins.
Being confined to a manual wheelchair myself now for almost 20 years, I look back and like Forest Gump, I’ve worn a lot of shoes. Or in this case chairs. I call them shoes only because a wheelchair for me is like a pair of shoes for the AB (able bodied) community if you really think about it. The shoes you will wear - or in this case, the chair you will need - will depend on what you are doing.
Playing sports on a court as an AB, you will need basketball, tennis or any other kind of special shoe for that particular sport. Playing sports on a court in a wheelchair is no different, you will need a lightweight sport chair with a lot of camber specific for that particular sport. Going hunting or trekking through the woods, you will need hiking or hunting boots. Well, in this case, you will need an off road type of chair to get you there.
There are many types of off-road, or all terrain wheelchairs a user can look for. Today we will be talking specifically about some top picks for all terrain manual chairs. Some, the user will propel exactly like they would in an everyday manual. Some - like the Grit Freedom chair - the user will propel by pushing handles forward to move the chair forward. They all serve a general purpose, to get you off the beaten path and to start enjoying life outside and off pavement again.
If all chairs in general serve the same purpose then why are there different ones and why does the cost differ so much between them, you may be asking. It’s simple - like cars, generally they are made to get you from point A to point B. However there is a huge difference between getting there in a 1967 Shelby GT500 and a Toyota Prius.
Things to look for when considering purchasing an off-road wheelchair or all -terrain wheelchair is to first be honest with yourself. What are your limitations? Can you propel a manual chair easily over some considerable distances? Do you have good finger/ hand dexterity? Both of these will become apparently easy to understand the minute you hit grass or off road terrain. While these chairs are made to traverse off-road obstacles and terrain they still require a great deal of upper extremity strength and endurance to propel. Some of them even have push handles on the back making it easier for people assisting in pushing you through, up, or down obstacles realizing there will be limits of what the end user will be able to do independently. Pride aside, people assisting me have had to use these handles more than once. A great option if the user has limited strength or endurance is the Grit Freedom Chair. It propels by pushing 2 handles, one on each side of your chair forward to move forward. It adds leverage of a pendulum arm so the user can propel the chair easier than a standard manual.
Another thing to consider is what kind of terrain that you will be on most of the time. Like I talked about before: different shoes for different situations. Will your off-road chair be going over gravel, grass, hills, snow or even sand? For snow and sand you will need to look at different chairs or tires than you would for just all terrain. Flotation will be key in either of these terrains (snow/ sand) as you will want the tires and chair to float over the surface rather than dig in. For anyone who has ever seen a beach wheelchair the reason they work so well is the tires are so wide the footprint allows them to just float over the terrain rather than dig in. Same with snow. You want to stay on top of the surface rather than dig in. So you see, deciding where your chair will see most of it’s life will really decide which type of chair and tires you should be looking at.
An excellent, all-around, 'over the sand' chair is the Debug Beach Wheelchair. It's universal, sand friendly, pushable and on the less expensive side. If you want to motor yourself through the surf and the sand the Hippocampe All-Terrain Beach Wheelchair or the Lasher BT-Beach Wheelchair are the all terrain specials. Priced mid-range, and higher-end respectively, they offer exceptional opportunity to access and traverse the lakeside or oceanside for any day of adventure.
Newer on the scene for an off road chair at an unbelievable price is the Spartan Wheel Chariot . Coming in at $1200 which includes shipping - you get a rugged, custom chair with a lifetime guarantee. For me personally I’ve owned the Lasher ATB Ultimate chair for 15 years. The ATB stands for All Terrain Beast - and it is! As far as durability and simplicity for a manual off road wheelchair you cannot do any better. This thing is an absolute tank. But like I’ve mentioned before - optioned out it will be the most expensive. It really comes down to what you will be doing with your chair, where you will be taking it primarily and what your budget is. The most important thing is to take your time and find what's right for you. Just like shoes, every person in a chair should have a pair of hiking boots. So - whether you're taking your dog for a walk, attending a graduation party on someone's lawn, or forging a daring trek into the middle of nowhere to find the perfect trout stream - Good luck on all of your adventures.