In a Nutshell:
The Karman VIP 2 is an amazing next-gen transport chair design that sports some powerful therapeutic features. It’s pricey, but if you can afford it, you’ll probably love it. Recommended for a niche product, for certain, but if you weigh 255 pounds or less, can afford it, and want or need a reclining transport chair that will help manage or mitigate your pain, this is for you.
- Numerous design strengths
- Noted therapeutic benefits
- High price tag
- Modest weight limit of 255 pounds
Have you opted to solve your mobility issue by relying on a trusted assistant rather than an electrically powered solution? Do you suffer from chronic pain associated with your mobility issue and find sitting in a conventional transport or wheelchair to be uncomfortable? If you answered yes to either of the questions above, then you’re going to like what you read in this Karman VIP 2 review.
Karman is a big name in the wheelchair world. It is a well-respected brand with decades of experience producing world-class mobility aids, and the Karman Healthcare VIP 2 is no exception. It is a masterful design by any reckoning.
Having said that, this chair isn’t for everyone.
For one thing, not everyone wants or can use a transport chair, as it requires the presence of an assistant to get around in one. For another, it’s possible to find transport chairs for around a hundred dollars.
This high-tech wonder is wildly more expensive than that, and its price may simply put it out of reach of some of the people who might want one.
In the sections that follow, we’ll step you through everything this chair has to offer, and we won’t pull any punches when it comes to talking about this model’s shortcomings.
Is it the right chair for you? The short answer is – it might be. If you’d like to know for sure, let’s jump in and take a closer look.
An Overview of the Karman VIP2 Tilt in Space Reclining Transport Wheelchair
What’s in a name?
Well, in this case, as it turns out, just about everything!
In the heading above, we used the full name of this chair for a reason. It’s the simplest way to highlight everything this model can do.
Right off the bat, you learn two key details about this design:
- It’s a transport chair, rather than a conventional wheelchair you can use your arms to power
- And it reclines.
In fact, it “tilts in space.”
Let’s talk about that last point before moving on here in our Karman VIP 2 review. The “tilt in space” feature offered by this chair is not dissimilar to the “wall-hugging” technology you see in some living room recliners. You may even own one of the models that only requires about 2-3 inches of space between the back of your recliner and the wall in order for the chair to fully recline.
Same principle here.
This chair is designed to pivot on its axis when it reclines, which means you can use that feature without taking up tons of space. That’s pretty cool, and it’s a cutting-edge design for a transport chair.
Before we talk further about what this model can do, let’s reel things back in a bit and talk about the raw numbers that define the model. Here are the basics:
- Overall Product Dimensions: 46-56” (H) x 27” (W) x 44” (L) (Folded width is 16”)
- Seat Dimensions: 16” or 18” Wide x 18” Deep
- Seat to Floor: 19”
- Seatback Height: 19” (with a 16” adjustable headrest)
- Seat Dimensions: 16” or 18” Wide x 18” Deep
- Wheel Size: 14” rear wheels, 7” front casters
- Chair Weight: 43 pounds
- Maximum Supported Weight: 255 pounds
These numbers generally work well together, but there are a couple of gotchas” here. The first and perhaps biggest stumbling block where this chair is concerned is the weight limit.
While there is no industry standard, typically, most of the chairs on the market support around 300 pounds.
A few support disappointingly less, and chairs specifically engineered for big and tall people support more, but 300 is the average. Unfortunately, the Karman VIP2 Tilt in Space reclining transport wheelchair supports less than that, which marks it as a design geared toward people with lighter to medium-sized frames.
That’s not a bad thing, and it’s not the end of the world, but you should definitely take the weight limit seriously. If you weigh more than 255 pounds, the chair is just not going to work for you no matter how much you may love it.
The only other number that raises a bit of an eyebrow where the above figures are concerned is the weight.
The big selling point for most transport chairs is the fact that they’re super lightweight and travel-friendly.
This one is still somewhat travel-friendly at 43 pounds, but there’s no way you can define this chair as lightweight. You can find conventional wheelchairs that weigh slightly less, and you can find transport chairs that weigh about half what this one does.
Of course, those chairs can’t serve as a recliner, and they certainly can’t recline in place. So, it comes down to what you want from your transport chair. We’ll have more to say about that in the next section.
Adjustability and Comfort
This is probably the most important section in our Karman VIP2-TR review, and we believe that what you read here will wind up being the reason why you will decide to buy this model over some other.
The big thing to talk about here is, of course, the recline function. It’s important to remember, though, that this recline function wasn’t designed for convenience; it was designed for its therapeutic value and to help relieve chronic pain.
As such, the maximum recline angle is significantly less here than what you see in a standard reclining wheelchair, with a maximum recline range of just 30 degrees from an upright position. This is combined with the VIP 2 tilt in space feature, which provides an additional 35 degrees of tilt as the chair pivots along its own axis to deliver a powerful one-two punch.
The therapeutic value is enormous, and this, more than anything else, is why the company is asking such a hefty price for the chair. Still, if you suffer from chronic pain, and are in the market for a chair that can not only get you where you want to go but help you relieve that pain, then this model is worth every penny.
In addition to that, although the seat height is not adjustable in any way, the height of the armrests can be set between 8” to 11”, allowing you to customize your seating experience. The padded, desk-length arms can also be removed entirely if you prefer. In a similar vein, the headrest is height adjustable, allowing you even more seating customization options.
Where the leg rests are concerned, while they don’t swing away, they do elevate, which is what you’d expect to see on a reclining chair of any type. Finally, our favorite adjustable feature on this chair is the seatback. You can adjust the tension in the seatback to increase comfort among chronic pain sufferers.
Comfort-wise, the chair isn’t bad, and in fact, is probably more comfortable than you might think.
Part of this is because of the tilt in place and recline function, which doesn’t quite act like the Zero-G seating you find in some massage chairs but comes reasonably close.
The other part is due to the fact that Karman outfitted this chair with a combination of mesh-like fabric stretched over modest amounts of block foam padding.
The mesh here bears some similarity to the mesh you find in many office chairs, and the block foam padding is exactly as you’d expect. Putting the two together gives you a reasonably comfortable, delightfully breathable seating experience.
Remember, though, transport chairs aren’t designed for all-day lounging. Even if it’s relatively comfortable, it’s still not something you’d want to spend all day in.
Extras and Options
This will be a fairly short section of our Karman VIP 2 tilt in space review because the company doesn’t offer much on this front.
The chair comes with two high-value “extras” built-in: anti-tippers and a pelvic safety belt. Anti-tippers are standard equipment on any reclining wheelchair, and in our view, should be standard equipment on every wheelchair sold, period.
Both are excellent additions, but those are the only two you get. At the very least, you’ll probably want to add some type of storage to the chair so you can take supplies with you. If you do plan on using this chair for extended periods of sitting, you’ll almost certainly want to invest in some additional padding.
Portability & Ease of Use
The Karman VIP 2 fares reasonably well here, but not as well as you might imagine, and not as well as most other transport chairs do.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s easy to find a transport chair for a couple of hundred dollars that weighs just over twenty pounds, allowing you to toss it into even the trunk of a smaller vehicle and hit the road.
The Karman VIP 2 wheelchair is significantly bigger and heavier than those, but there’s a good reason for it. Those chairs can’t serve as a recliner and aren’t designed to help relieve pain, so again, it comes down to what you want and need in a chair.
All that to say that yes, this chair is still reasonably portable and travel friendly. The fact that it’s a transport chair means you’ll have an assistant close at hand, which should make storing it in the truck and unpacking it later a simple proposition. If all you’re looking for is a lightweight transport chair, this one isn’t the one you want. It’s designed to be much more than just that.
In terms of ease of use, it’s pretty straightforward, though it will take you at least a few minutes’ experimentation to figure out how to use the recline function. You’ll also need some help from your trusty assistant to get the seatback tension set just right.
All of that makes this model a bit “fiddly,” but it’s not overly complicated. It just requires some fine-tuning to get it set up the way you want it.
Pros & Cons of Karman Healthcare VIP2-TR
We like almost everything about this model, and we think you will too. We’ve already covered all of its design strengths elsewhere in our VIP 2 review, so we won’t repeat them here.
What is worth repeating, though, is that this model has two significant drawbacks that could prove to be dealbreakers. First is the high price tag. This isn’t your average transport chair, and because of that, you’re not going to pay average transport chair prices. There’s a hefty premium involved with owning a chair like this.
Second is this model’s modest weight limit. Even if you absolutely love it and you’re anxious to make use of its therapeutic benefits, the 255-pound weight limit may simply make it a nonstarter for you.
That’s unfortunate, and we dearly wish the company would introduce a model identical to this one but with a ruggedized frame that could support more user weight.
Karman VIP 2 Review Conclusion
As mentioned in the previous section here in our Karman VIP 2 review, the model is a niche product. Its high price, combined with the fact that it is a reclining transport chair with carefully engineered therapeutic features, means that it simply won’t be for everyone.
Still, if you have the money and suffer from chronic pain, so long as you don’t exceed the modest weight limit, it’s a fantastic choice, and you’ll absolutely love it. Given all of the above, though, we can only provisionally recommend this one.
References & Resources:
- Karman, Official Brand Website.
- State of the Science Workshop on Wheelchair Transportation Safety, Taylor & Francis Online.
- Stop the Roll – Checklist For Wheelchairs in Transport, Cinfin.com.
- Wheelchairs Used as Motor Vehicle Seats: Seat Loading in Frontal Impact Sled Testing, ScienceDirect.
- Safety Compromises, Part 3: Wheelchair and Passenger Securement, Experts.