Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair Review

Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair Review
  • Adjustability and Customization
  • Overall Comfort Level
  • Versatility
  • Ease of Use
4.1

Summary

A good, well-designed chair, ideally suited for indoor use. Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair is recommended for anyone whose 6’ or shorter looking for a cost-effective, mostly indoor use wheelchair.

Are you 6’ tall or shorter? Do you suffer from a mobility issue that sees you needing a light- to moderate-duty wheelchair? Do you suffer from a short-duration mobility issue that has you looking for a simple, convenient, functional chair to get you over the rough patch?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you’re going to be intrigued by our Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair review.

This chair wasn’t designed for sustained, long-term use. But if your needs are occasional, then it is an excellent model to consider. It’s a good chair but falls short of greatness, and it has its limitations, but not to worry. We’ll cover its good points, its weak points, and everything in between so you’ll have all the information you need at your fingertips before making a final purchasing decision.

If that sounds good to you, let’s take a closer look!

An Overview of the Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair

The first thing you’ll notice about the Karman LT-980 is its purely functional design. Although the chair is offered in three colors (black, burgundy or silver), and the “premium” color options do improve its aesthetic somewhat, this chair isn’t going to win any beauty contests. Then again, it wasn’t meant to.

It’s functional and reasonably well-built, which is what most people are after in a light- to a moderate-duty wheelchair.

Karman is one of the major players in the industry, and the company is known for building solid products. This one is no exception, although it was designed to be lightweight, so it’s not as solidly built as some of the company’s other offerings.

Nonetheless, the quality is exceptional, and the company is known for its world-class post-sales support, so even if there’s a problem with it at some point, getting in touch with the company and getting your problem solved should pose no challenge at all.

Here are the chair’s specs:

An image of Karman LT-980 in burgundy color
  • Seat Width: 18”
  • Seat Depth: 16”
  • Seat to Floor Height: 20”
  • Chair Weight: 24 pounds
  • Max Supported Weight: 250 pounds
  • Unfolded Dimensions (ready for use): 30” x 26” x 39”
  • Folded Dimensions (ready for transport): 30” x 12.5” x 39”

The LT-980’s light weight makes it an ideal traveling wheelchair, and you won’t have any special difficulties fitting it into most any available trunk space. All hatchbacks and SUVs should be fine, and of course, it’s a snap to heft it into the bed of any truck you might own, although here, you’ll want to be sure you find some means of securing it so it won’t slide around and get scuffed during transport.

Features of the Karman LT-980 Ultralight Wheelchair

Adjustability & Comfort

There’s not much to say on this front, because aside from the color (you can order the chair in either black, silver, or burgundy), all of its primary features are set. They are what they are, and the chair offers only limited adjustments, so you’ll want to pay close attention to the specs to make sure you’ll fit comfortably into it.

An image of folded Karman Ultra-Lightweight LT-980 in burgundy color

Regarding adjustability, about the only thing on offer here is the fact that you can adjust the height of the footrests. However, even at maximum extension, if you’re much over six feet tall, you’ll likely struggle to fit comfortably into it.

Also note that if you want the Karman Ultra-Lightweight LT-980 Wheelchair in color other than black, you’ll pay a premium for it.

While not really an “adjustability option,” it’s worth mentioning here that the braking mechanism is very conveniently located for the person sitting in the chair since it’s on the left-hand side and within easy reach. Just pull up on the lever to lock the wheels in place, and you’re all set.

We do wish that the LT-980 had incorporated handbrakes at the back of the chair so that an assistant pushing it could activate them if needed. But adding this feature would have increased the cost of the device, so we understand why they were left off and can’t really take points off for the absence of handbrakes.

Where comfort is concerned, we said at the start that this should be considered a light-to-moderate-duty chair. It’s not outright uncomfortable, but it wouldn’t take much to find a more comfortable model out there.
It’s also a simple matter to fix, as an extra cushion for the seat or seat back is a trivial expense. But even then, if you spend more than 4-5 hours a day in the chair, it’s likely to get increasingly uncomfortable.

On-Board Storage & Extras

There are only three “extras” to talk about in this section. First, the safety belt, which is always a nice addition. Some models don’t offer it standard, but it’s important enough that you’ll probably want one anyway, which means, in those cases, having to buy one from a third-party vendor and install it yourself. Its inclusion here gives you one less detail to worry over.

Second, the storage pouch. It’s located on the back of the seat, which isn’t great, but that’s where most onboard storage is offered when it’s offered at all. As such, we can’t take points away from the LT-980 for putting it there, but as we constantly point out, the person sitting in the chair either has to have help getting to whatever’s in the pouch or get up from the chair to access it.

What’s even more disappointing on this front is the fact that it is possible to include a small storage basket under the seat of this model. Sure, it takes a bit of applied creativity, but it can be done, and having storage under the seat is much more convenient to the person sitting in the chair, which is why we prefer it.

Third are the heel loops that provide additional foot support. It’s a small thing, plus there are much better solutions. Though it has the advantage of being cost-effective, which is good.

An image showing storage pocket of Karman Ultralight Compact Wheelchair

Note that although they’re not available on the base chair, the company does offer anti-tipping struts as an optional add-on. You can either buy them separately later, if you use the chair for a while and decide you need them, or simply add them on at the time of purchase.

About Average on Outdoor Terrains

We keep comparing the Karman Ultralight Compact Wheelchair to Medline’s K4 Basic, and here, we have to give the nod ever so slightly to the LT-980. We’ll be quick to point out that neither of these chairs is great when it comes to handling outdoor terrains, but in our view, the LT-980 is slightly better, even with its tiny 6” front casters.

A side image of Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair in burgundy color

The rear wheels are 22” in diameter, and have more tread on them, making it slightly more capable in that regard (part of the problem too is that the K4 gets in its own way where outdoor terrains are concerned because it’s somewhat heavier).

Having said that though, if you plan on spending significant periods enjoying the great outdoors, neither of these models will be your first choice, but if you only go out occasionally, then the LT-980 will serve you marginally better than the K4.

The one thing this chair isn’t great at handling is slopes. The seat is designed to be similar to that of a straight-backed chair, and if you’re traveling down a hill, you may tend to slide forward and ultimately out of the seat altogether.

Of course, the presence of the built-in safety belt helps in this regard, but it would be even more helpful if the LT-980 incorporated angled seating into the design and included handbrakes at the rear of the chair that could be activated by an assistant.

Both handle indoor surfaces well, although the LT-980 suffers from the same problem that the K4 does when you lower its front wheels – if you have plush, pile carpet, it may struggle some. Otherwise, indoor surfaces are a breeze.

No Learning Curve - Comes Almost Fully Assembled

Another advantage that the LT-980 has over the K4 Basic is that while the K4 has some parts that have to be attached when you get the wheelchair, the LT-980 comes pretty much ready to go out of the box. Just slide the footrests into position, and you’re all set.

Since the chair doesn’t offer more than basic functionality, there’s no learning curve here, so a couple of minutes to snap the footrests into position and you’re ready to ride, with nothing to learn beyond a few moments to get comfortable with the way the chair handles.

Pros & Cons of the Karman Ultralight Compact Wheelchair

This is a good chair, but it falls short of being a great chair. In our view, the biggest strengths of the LT-980 are as follows:

  • Offered by a great company with world-class post-sales support.
  • Nothing to learn in terms of mastering it, and very little assembly required, making it quick and convenient to use.
  • Light enough to make it easy to transport.
  • Comes with some useful extras like a seatbelt and a modestly-sized storage pouch.

On the flip side, it’s more expensive than the K4, which is, on the whole, a more capable chair (although heavier and somewhat less capable on outdoor terrains). And it’s just not as durable or long-lasting as the K4. It’s good quality construction, but if you plan to use the chair on a daily basis for several hours of the day, it won’t hold up as well over the long haul as some other models.

As with the K4, we dearly wish this model included handbrakes on the rear handles, but that would increase the cost, so we grudgingly understand the decision to leave them off.

An image of Karman LT-980 in black color

Final Thoughts on Karman LT-980 Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair Review 

We like the Karman LT-980 Ultralight Wheelchair, but we don’t love it. It’s a solid choice for someone who’s six feet tall or shorter looking for a light to moderate duty, mostly indoor-use wheelchair. If your needs extend much beyond that or if you’re very tall, then there’s almost certainly a better “fit” for you elsewhere in the marketplace.

We’d recommend it to anyone who fits the description above, and for anyone who has a relatively short-term mobility issue but would urge potential buyers to look closely at the feature set to make sure it’ll do everything you need it to do.


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