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Purple or Samsonite: Lumbar Upgrade Your Chair

Gaming chairs have been marketed as the pinnacle of style and comfort for hardcore gamers. However, being in a higher price range than more common, budget-oriented task and office chairs, they tend to be passed over if cost is a factor. While inexpensive office chairs can be functional, and even plush and comfortable in some cases, ergonomics and longevity tend to suffer amongst the myriad of products. There are ways to help revitalize an aging or inadequate chair though. One ergonomic feature found on several notable gaming and task chairs is lumbar support cushions, and they contribute considerably to your comfort using the chair in long sitting sessions. Fortunately, these types of cushions are sold individually as well, and can be strapped on to many types of office chairs to help fill out the collapsed lumbar foam in an aging chair or provide support where none even existed in the first place. We look at two such lumbar cushions today and see which might be worth investing in.

Can we ad hoc the lumbar?

Specifications

Purple® Back CushionSamsonite Gel Lumbar CushionThrow Pillow
Size (HxWxD)9.25″ x 14.5″ x 2.5″13.5″ x 14″ x 4.5″16″ x 16″ x 3″
Weight2.5 lbs2.05 lbs1.6 lbs
Sit Time8+ HoursUnspecifiedN/A
CoverNon-slip polyester fiber (92%) and Spandex (8%)
Back: polyester fiber mesh (100%)
100% Polyester (mesh)100% Cotton
Inside“Purple Grid”75% Polyurethane Foam
25% Polypropylene Glycol Gel
Cushion Fluff?
Washable CoverMachine wash cold, tumble dry low“Just zip off the fabric cover, toss in the wash with your other clothes, and replace when dry.”Yes
Washable InsideHand wash with warm water and gentle detergentSame as for coverN/A
Price$39.00$12.99 (Costco item #1383060)
Alt: $19.99 (Goodyear-branded)
$9.95

We spent several days, with each of these options, sitting in a very worn-out, dead office chair. I’ve personally been using the Samsonite cushion when I bought it on a “why not” whim nearly a year ago. We’ll be contrasting between each of these cushions, as well as reflecting vs a bare chair, gaming chair cushions, and lumbar support for more-expensive professional-grade task chairs.

Throw Pillow – Not Ideal By Far

Technically, a throw pillow from the clearance bin at an outlet store, paired with our oldest worn-out chair

It should come as no surprise that the common found-around-the-house stop-gap option, the basic couch throw pillow, is a pretty poor experience overall. Granted, it does actually provide some mediocre support in a pinch, but goes “flat” quite rapidly and becomes sweat-inducingly warm within half an hour (or faster, depending on your body mass). I use this method when I’m having a stay at a hotel, but I simply can’t recommend this for a more permanent, home situation, especially as something you’d have to purchase rather than just having sitting around.

Purple® Back Cushion

Purple Back Cushion installed on our old office chair

First up on our made-for-purpose items is Purple’s Back Cushion. I actually won this recently, and thus needed to determine if it was better than my current Samsonite lumbar support. I’ve spent about a week solid using this working from home, then switched back and forth with our Samsonite contender to really pick out the differences.

The Purple comes in a minimalist box, but leaves the assembling of the support to the end user. It’s pretty simple of unwrapping the squishy Purple “hyper-elastic polymer” and stuffing it in the zippered backside of the cover. The cover feels very nice to the touch, with the stretch of spandex and smoothness of the tight-woven polyester that makes up its composition. The strap is threaded through a pass-thru sleeve of heavy, seemingly-durable material that is well-sewn into the cover, allowing you to completely remove the strap or adjust where the buckle lands when strapped to a chair. This also comes into play when you sit against it in the chair, as the strap becomes part of the support and you can feel it providing a hard-stop at the top of the cushion, contrasting against the softer feel of the rest of the cushion below.

Samsonite Gel Lumbar Cushion

Samsonite Gel Lumbar Cushion strapped to our beat-up chair

Our contender is my Samsonite Gel Lumbar Cushion (there’s an alternative version without the gel cooling pad). I’ve personally been using this cushion for the past year, so all these photos are in a well-used condition. This, fortunately, also gives insight into how it holds up over time. It is marketed as an automotive lumbar support, but we’ve hijacked it for use in our aging office chair.

The Samsonite has a thick woven polyester mesh cover, which stands up well to friction of clothing and hasn’t snagged on belt loops or the like. I don’t wear bedazzled clothing, so I can’t vouch for durability vs sequins, beads, or other such items though. The adjustable strap is sewn into the cover along the side seams, right where the zipper starts and terminates. You may notice some fraying at that juncture in our picture of the back. After my year of heavy use, the stitching thread gave out on one side when trying to buckle the strap during some of my test swapping. I broke the other side hyper-extending the zipper while trying to pull the foam interior out for the photo session. I’d certainly suggest being gentle with these as they hit their one-year mark and beyond. A bit of sewing should fix it right up though, as the mesh itself looks to be intact still, and it was just the thread that failed. I would highly recommend Samsonite provide better reinforced stitching on these locations though.

The inside is a high-density memory foam with a plastic adhered to the entire surface (likely just a moisture and odor barrier to keep the memory foam clean). A grid layer of glycol cooling gel fills the inner contour. While the cooling gel starts very cool and remains cooler than the foam wings to the sides considerably longer, it does eventually warm up within the first thirty minutes of use, but that initial blast of cold when you first sit down is rather refreshing. Against the regular faux leather chair, I would normally get some back perspiration in extended sessions. However, this support cushion eliminated that for me. Something between the glycol and the breathable mesh did it. The Purple also achieved this feat as well, likely due to it’s open “grid” design, but at the tail end of extended sessions, it seemed to have warmed up to the point I was just on the cusp of sweating.

How’s the Lumbar Support?

Our sit-in skeleton above is only 5ft tall and not quite anatomically to scale, but should illustrate well enough how the support works. You can right-click and open any of the pictures for closer inspection as well.

The Purple Grid design and polymer does a good job at providing localized support for the lumbar. It’s shorter height compared to the Samsonite gives you the ability to pinpoint the exact lumbar location that needs the support, be it the lower or upper lumbar. The significantly taller Samsonite gives you a pre-defined curve of support across the entire lumbar region, and has wings on the sides to center your pack on the cushion as well. These wings may be uncomfortable depending on how wide your back is, but they compact readily enough to likely be of no concern. My back rests very well between them and you can feel them a bit against your sides as they extend the foam support out and around your back very comfortably.

The height of the Samsonite also places your pelvis at an appropriate location in the chair, as it extends low into the seat. The shorter height of the Purple allows your pelvis to back up against the back of the chair, potentially exaggerating the back curvature too much, or at missing out on some of that extra support region that the Samsonite provides. If you didn’t have both to compare against, you likely wouldn’t miss it though. The Samsonite just helps enforce sitting posture.

Conclusion

The throw pillow, while intended as a tongue-in-cheek jest in this line-up, is a common go-to support I’ve done in the past myself. While helpful in a pinch, save yourself (or at least your back!) and just upgrade to an actual lumbar cushion. Which of these two tested should you use? It’s a tough enough call for me that either would likely be recommendable. For myself though, not being too overweight and also of fairly tall stature, the Samsonite edges out the Purple for my body. It’s fuller lumbar support range and thicker and firmer memory foam body follows my contour better. The initially-cool glycol gel is a nice bonus as well, even if it is short-lived.

The Purple, I feel, is more targeted to a shorter or more-petite build, where it would cover most of their lumbar region, rather than having to pick upper or lower spots for me. It wasn’t thick enough to provide full curvature support for me either, but the strap actually helped make up a bit for that, as I could strap it tight and get some support from that, as it is a solid strap.

Durability-wise, the Purple would likely outlast the Samsonite. The strap would likely never break, and the clasp is very durable. As shown in my pictures, the Samsonite strap is in two parts and sewn into the cover, providing an obvious point of failure. Mine failed after a year of use. However, the support is tall enough that it can just sit in the chair without really even needing the strap, which is something the Purple wouldn’t be able to do. The failure was the thread, so it can be readily repaired with a sewing machine, but I’d really like to see Samsonite reinforce the stitching to begin with.

The Samsonite can be had at Costco for $12.99 (and sometimes on sale for $9.99 like when I bought mine) or online for branded or similar models around $19.99. This puts it as a clear value winner against Purple’s $39.00 price point. So if cost is at all a factor, the Samsonite will provide a great experience, just note you may have to buy a second one some time down the road.

What About Gaming Chair Cushions?

MAD Seating Rika Task Chair

I’ve sat in several gaming chairs as well, from the cheap knock-off brands up to more expensive, well-known brands and the lumbar cushions provided seem to be afterthoughts. The feel like a uniform foam block in a rectangular pillow. While it’s certainly better than nothing (or a throw pillow!), I’d quite readily toss the lumbar pillow from the gaming chairs I’ve used thus far and grab either of these two cushions instead. I’d really like a gaming chair to surprise me on of these days, but a proper ergonomic task chair has provided better comfort for me in the shoulders, lumbar, and seat. These cushions can at least bring that task chair level of comfort to any chair I strap it on to.

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