Best Travel Wheelchairs That Are Portable and Lightweight

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A good, lightweight travel wheelchair is sturdy and reliable, but compact and easily transportable when it’s collapsed. 

To help narrow the field, in this article we review a selection of the top self-propelled and transport wheelchairs on the market and recommend the best portable wheelchairs. Our favorite is the Karman Ergonomic Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair  for its portability and performance.

Our Picks for Best Travel Wheelchairs:

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Best Travel Wheelchairs Reviewed

Without further ado, here’s all the info you need on these popular portable wheelchairs.

1. Karman Ergonomic Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair — Best Portable Wheelchair

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We’ll start our reviews for travel wheelchairs by setting the bar high with the Karman Ultra-lightweight Wheelchair. Not only is it the lightest we reviewed at just under 20 pounds, but it’s also built with the highest quality materials.

Karman is a well-known and loved home medical supplier, so you can rest assured of their reputation for quality. An S-shaped seating frame avoids discomfort from extended use. It’s made from aircraft-grade and rust-proof aluminum. 

We like that the seat is covered in AEGIS upholstery finished with a patented anti-microbial shield. This additional touch protects against odor, stains, and product deterioration.

A self-propelled manual chair with solid grips and companion brakes, the Karman Ergonomic Ultra also doubles as a transporter. When the footrest and rear wheels are separated, the compact package weighs only 14.5 pounds and is easily handled into vehicles and as airline baggage.

Pros

  • AEGIS upholstery
  • Lightweight at only 19.8 pounds
  • The footrest is removable and features heel loops
  • Comfortable folding backrest
  • Total width 22.75, or 24.75 inches 
  • Folded width 15 x 38 inches
  • Solid rear wheels with fixed axles
  • Wheels are easy to remove
  • 220-pounds carry capacity

Cons

  • The quality build has a price to match
  • Companion brake cannot be locked
  • The lightweight build can make it more prone to tipping

2. Drive Medical Silver Sport 1 Wheelchair — Sturdy Travelling Chair

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With a solid build and feel, the Drive Medical Silver Sport wheelchair still feels light and comes in at 37 pounds completely assembled. We like the black frame and material which looks smart. 

Featuring few moving parts — and the corresponding vulnerabilities — this is a robust model that can handle being folded and stowed in the back of cars frequently. It can take you anywhere even for a long-distance journey. It comes with a compact design which makes it also a great narrow wheelchair for tight spaces

Pros

  • Powder-coated silver vein steel frame 
  • Easy-clean, durable nylon upholstery
  • Full, fixed, and padded arms
  • Carry pocket at back
  • Folding back canes
  • The removable footrest can be swung away
  • Push-to-lock wheels 
  • Weight capacity of 250 pounds
  • Seat: 18 inches wide
  • Full width: 24 inches
  • Closed width: 11 x 43.5 inches

Cons

  • It cannot be lowered to semi-height
  • The footrests don’t elevate

3. Drive Medical Cruiser III Light Weight Wheelchair — Most Adjustable

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For travelers who want to customize their wheelchair for optimal fit and utility, the Cruiser model from Drive Medical is an excellent choice. 

Built with a carbon steel frame and without seat guides, you can add custom back inserts and other accessories. A dual axle and fold-down, removable back adds to its customizability. 

But the extra features come with a cost as it’s also the heaviest of the best travel wheelchairs we looked at. Nevertheless, this is a well-equipped, well-designed chair that won’t break the bank. Overall, the Cruiser comes with our solid recommendation.

Pros

  • Carbon steel frame
  • Easy-clean, durable nylon upholstery
  • Padded armrests 
  • Lightweight composite, mag-style wheels  
  • Adjustable front casters
  • No seat guides, which allows for accessories and custom back inserts 
  • Variable floor-to-seat height is 16 or 18 inches with a dual axle.
  • Push-to-lock wheel locks
  • Tool-free adjustable foot and leg rests 
  • Flip back arms are also removable
  • Collapsed dimensions: 12 x 42 inches
  • Seat width options: 16, 18, or 20 inches
  • Full width 24, 26, or 28 inches
  • Weight capacity of 350 pounds

Cons

  • The rearward axle position gives more stability but maneuvering becomes slightly harder
  • Weighs 41 pounds or 38 pounds without riggings
  • Manufacturing quality disappointed some users

4. Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair — Most versatile

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The very popular Blue Streak Wheelchair has a feature-rich design that includes swing-away leg rests and detachable desk arms that also flip back to fit under tables.

A padded and comfortable seat should mean all-day comfort. Plus, you can expect a smooth ride with the solid rubber tires and composite wheels. The seat is cross-braced with easy-to-clean black nylon upholstery. 

With the 20-inch seat option, the wheelchair still passes through door frames that are just wider than 26 inches. This is not only a good portable travel wheelchair but a suitable one for indoor use.

Pros

  • Flip-back arms
  • Swing-away, removable leg rests with calf strap 
  • Padded footrests
  • Breathable, easy-clean, padded nylon seat with a carry pocket 
  • Choice of 16, 18 or 20-inch seats
  • Push-to-lock wheels
  • Closed width: 12.5 inches 
  • Weight capacity of 250 pounds
  • Seat height: 19.5 inches from the ground
  • Maximum width: 24.5 inches
  • Accessories available from the manufacturer include a carry pouch, cup holder, and removable tray

Cons

  • Relatively heavy compared to others we reviewed
  • Footrests are angled slightly upward
  • Weighs 37.6 pounds

5. NOVA Bariatric Transport Chair — High Weight Capacity 

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The NOVA Bariatric wheelchair is another excellent transport chair. We like that it is well suited to everybody and boasts an impressive 400-pound weight capacity. 

Despite its heavy-weight credentials, a unique design keeps the Nova Bariatric Transport Chair light and simple to maneuver. Plus, it’s really easy to fold. For safety, there are secondary wheel locks and removable anti-tippers. 

Rough driveway or need to head off-road quickly? No problem, this lightweight travel wheelchair can handle any terrain with its sturdy 12-inch rear wheels. 

The companion brakes have a built-in lock to keep the chair locked in place. The adjustable 41-inch seatbelt ensures the passenger won’t slip even if there’s any incline. 

A small storage pouch for personal items has also been thought of. This is a great portable chair and, for us, the icing on the cake is the snazzy red frame and sleek black upholstery.

Pro

  • Removable, flip-back padded arms with recess for desk use
  • Removable, adjustable footrests with attached heel loops 
  • Carries up to 400 pounds
  • Seat width: 21.25  inches
  • Overall width: 28.25 inches (11 inches folded)
  • Weighs only 27.75 pounds
  • Locking companion handbrakes
  • Flip-up anti-tippers
  • The high-quality design should last for years

Cons

  • The premium price point may not appeal to all 
  • Footrests can come off easily when handled

6. Elite Care TR05 Transport Travel Wheelchair — Most Compact Storage

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Elite Care provides a good all-round travel solution with its TR05 lightweight transport chair. Worried about space in your boot? You shouldn’t be because this travel wheelchair folds up smaller than any others we reviewed.

The unit folds to approximately one-third of the size a normal wheelchair does and is easily carried in one hand with the accompanying heavy-duty carry bag.

Not just compact, this travel wheelchair is easy to maneuver in tight spaces, can fit tightly under a desk, and has swing-away footrests. 

Pros

  • Padded, flip-up desk arms 
  • Strong cross bracing
  • Recessed desk arms 
  • Height adjustable footrests
  • Seat width: 18 inches
  • Max user weight: 255 pounds
  • Folds to just 11 x 13 x 31 inches
  • Lightweight travel bag included
  • Weighs only 20.5 pounds

Cons

  • Not quick to fold so some practice might be needed at first!
  • Somewhat restrictive weight capacity

7. Drive Medical Lightweight Steel Transport Wheelchair — Best Value

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Drive Medical offers a wide range of models. This particular one represents exceptional value and is popular among cost-conscious shoppers. 

Weighing only 26 pounds, this companion operated chair offers a durable and stable steel frame that won’t let you down. 

It’s also easily maneuverable with sturdy eight-inch wheels at the front and back.

The chair and backrest fold flat for transportation and storage.

Pros 

  • Steel frame
  • Slim wheelchair for small spaces only 21.5 inches wide
  • Padded armrests and swing-away footrests
  • Easy-clean, nylon upholstery
  • Seat width: 19 inches 
  • 250-pound weight capacity
  • Includes a seatbelt
  • Folds to just 10.75 inches wide

Cons

  • A transport chair without a self-propel option
  • The fixed armrests are only 16 inches wide
  • No handbrakes for companion

How to Choose the Best Lightweight Travel Wheelchair

best portable wheelchair

Our travel wheelchair review looked at all the features and characteristics of the best products on the market. We only shortlisted portable wheelchairs with the essentials you need when traveling:

  • Easy-clean nylon material
  • Padded armrests
  • Swing-away footrests
  • Sturdy, low-maintenance composite, mag-style wheels (except the Karman chair)
  • Puncture-proof, solid rubber tires that do not require inflation
  • Push-to-lock wheel locks
  • Tool-free adjustments

Other features are often a trade-off between weight, quality, and cost. Ultimately, knowing what you need in a travel wheelchair is a matter of determining your priorities:

Weight

Consider how heavy the chair is. All that lifting into the back of a car (or you can purchase a wheelchair carrier instead) and pushing around all day can take its toll. 

All the models we looked at are designed with weight in mind, but the Drive Medical Cruiser III Light Weight Wheelchair  is not that light at nearly twice the weight. But its stability, a decent set of features, and the more than reasonable cost might be worth the extra weight.

Transport chairs tend to be much lighter without the extras a self-propelled chair requires, so the Elite Care TR05 Transport Travel Wheelchair  weighs just over 20 pounds.

Self-Propel or Transport?

If a caregiver has to assist and push the chair, a lightweight transport wheelchair is suitable. Some users may have a self-propelling chair at home but choose to give up some mobility to buy a transport chair. 

These are more lightweight and safer to operate when traveling. Good transport chairs, like the NOVA Bariatric Transport Chair , come with lockable hand brakes and seatbelts that make it safer for the caregiver to push the chair up and down slopes.

Carrying Capacity

Since this requirement is determined by the user, the choice of chairs may be limited. We included two oversize chairs with the fully-featured Drive Medical Cruiser III Light Weight Wheelchair  and the NOVA Bariatric Transport Chair . Make sure you select or order the right seat width for comfort. Choices generally range from 16 to 20 inches.

Comfort

Sitting extended periods in a wheelchair can become uncomfortable, so the padding and breathable fabric in the Drive Medical Blue Streak Wheelchair  will be appreciated in the long run. The comfy padded footrests don’t hurt, either.

Consider the seat’s depth, width, and height off the ground. Ask yourself if you prefer longer, padded armrests or shorter arms that easily slot under a desk. You could also go for a wheelchair cushion to add more comfort.

Convenience

Folding any wheelchair should be easy. But when it comes to easy transport and storage in a travel wheelchair, you might need a little extra convenience. 

Being able to remove wheels and fold the back, such as with the Karman Ergonomic Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair , is a real boon. 

The most compact folded chair we reviewed was the Elite Care TR05 Transport Travel Wheelchair . It packs into a convenient carry bag, is lightweight, and boasts such small dimensions you’ll forget it’s in your car.

Easy Transfers

Getting in and out of the chair should be easy. With that in mind, fold-away footrests and flip-back arms can be important for many people. 

Most of the models we included in this travel wheelchair review are designed with this requirement in mind. But we also included a couple of models like the Drive Medical Silver Sport Wheelchair  and the Drive Medical Lightweight Steel Transport wheelchair  for users who prefer a strong, full-size fixed armrest.

Adjustability

Some situations mean wheelchairs need to be adjusted for a good fit. For people who are not a standard size or have medical problems, being able to adjust footrests, the shape of the backrest, or the seat’s depth is important.

The height of the seat may also need adjustment, which requires a dual axle design. In this category, the Drive Medical Cruiser III Light Weight Wheelchair  is clearly the most adjustable option we reviewed.

Some Travel Wheelchair Precautions

Travel wheelchairs are lightweight by design. This can make them likelier to tip over and as a user or companion, you should familiarize yourself well with the handling characteristics and limitations of the particular chair you buy. 

And, of course, take time to read the manufacturers recommendations carefully.

Conclusion

Traveling with a wheelchair should be as easy as possible while offering users maximum mobility

We reviewed the best portable wheelchairs available and can recommend the Karman Ergonomic Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair  for its balance of features and portability. 

If you prefer a dedicated transport chair though, you can’t go wrong with the NOVA Bariatric Transport Chair 

As the most adjustable chair, the Drive Medical Cruiser III Light Weight Wheelchair  comes is a close runner-up to our top choices.

All the wheelchairs we selected for this review received positive feedback by users and are sure to make any trip a positive experience.

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