Which stair chairs are best?

For people with limited mobility, getting up and down stairs — in an emergency or otherwise — can present a huge challenge. It may even be impossible. For this reason, stair chairs are invaluable medical equipment. To transport patients safely, the chair needs to be sturdy, have secure harnesses and be comfortable for staff to carry.

If you’re looking for an option that can withstand years of use, the Line2design EMS Stair Chair 70015 is the top choice.

What to know before you buy a stair chair

What is a stair chair?

A stair chair is a piece of equipment used to safely transport patients up or down a flight of stairs. They should only be operated by trained EMS personnel, and it requires three people to carry one safely. Stair chairs are similar to normal chairs in shape and size, but have harnesses to hold the patient in position and rails at the bottom for EMS staff to lift the person safely.

Who can benefit from a stair chair?

Stair chairs are typically used to transport patients from their homes to a hospital or care facility or to evacuate people from a building during an emergency. Those with limited mobility, who cannot ascend or descend stairs safely, can benefit from being carried in a stair chair. It’s important to note that stair chairs can only be used by patients who are alert and can breathe independently. In addition, those with spinal complications or an altered mental state should not be transported in a stair chair.

What’s the difference between a stair chair and a stairlift?

A stair chair is a seat that has harnesses, handles and wheels in order for EMS personnel to carry a patient up or down steps. A stairlift, on the other hand, is an electronically operated device that runs on a rail at the side of a staircase. A stair chair is a mobile piece of equipment that can be carried in an emergency vehicle, while a stairlift must be permanently fixed in one location.

What to look for in a quality stair chair

Stair chair harnesses

All stair chairs have harnesses to secure the patient in position and to prevent them from falling out or shifting their weight when being transported. There are some variations in the types of harnesses used. Commonly, two cross-chest straps or one horizontal chest strap secure the patient’s upper body, while a leg strap keeps the patient’s feet and legs in a stable position.

Stair chair handrails

Each stair chair requires four handrails. The two at the rear of the seat are shorter, while the front rails generally extend further and lock into position. The best chairs have molded hand grips to offer the operator a comfortable and secure grip.

Collapsible stair chairs

As they are large and somewhat cumbersome, it’s essential that stair chairs can be folded for storage. Typically the rear handles will fold flush with the back of the chair and the front telescopic handles can be pushed back within the frame. The seat folds vertically to meet the backrest.

Stair chair wheels

While most stair chairs have two rear wheels and a front bar, some feature four wheels, which makes them easier to maneuver on flat terrain. The wheels should be able to lock to prevent the chair from rolling away unexpectedly.

How much you can expect to spend on a stair chair

Stair chairs typically range from $180-$300. Those at the higher end of the price range are generally sturdier and have a longer lifespan.

Stair chair FAQ

What are the alternatives to a stair chair?

A. There are a few other options for transporting patients with limited mobility. These include stretchers and gurneys. 

Who can operate a stair chair?

A. Manual stair chairs can pose a risk to both the patient and the operators. For this reason, they should only be used by trained EMS personnel.

What are the best stair chairs to buy?

Top stair chair

Line2design EMS Stair Chair 70015

Line2design EMS Stair Chair 70015

What you need to know: This is a sturdy selection that should stand up to years of use.

What you’ll love: The bright yellow frame assists with visibility in low-light conditions. It features two straps that cross over the chest to keep the patient secure and prevent their weight from shifting during transit.

What you should consider: Some patients may find that the framework digs into the skin as they are lifted.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top stair chair for the money

Lightweight Aluminum EMS Stair Chair

Lightweight Aluminum EMS Stair Chair

What you need to know: The perfect choice for those on a budget who only need the chair for a short time.

What you’ll love: It has nonslip grips on all four handles to provide operators with a secure place to hold the chair. It’s easy to fold and is rather compact in its folded form. Plus it has three straps to secure the chest, thighs and lower legs in place.

What you should consider: It’s not as sturdy as, nor does it have the longevity of, some pricier alternatives.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Line2design EMS Stair Chair 70002

Line2design EMS Stair Chair 70002

What you need to know: The ideal chair for those who need to transfer patients over flat and stepped surfaces.

What you’ll love: The solid footrest provides excellent comfort to the patient. EMS personnel will appreciate the four wheels, which makes the chair easier to maneuver over flat terrain. Plus, it has a lock bar that secures the seat in the open position, so it won’t fold up unexpectedly.

What you should consider: At 22 pounds, it is slightly heavier than other options.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Catherine Bushen writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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