Being caught in the rain without an umbrella is bad, but often a bad umbrella can be worse than no umbrella at all. They come in many sizes and colors, but what distinguishes one brand from another and which are the features that are essential for keeping you dry on the move?
What to look for in an umbrella
Collapsible or Non-Collapsible: A collapsible umbrella (sometimes called a travel, compact or telescoping umbrella) has a pole that retracts so that the closed umbrella can fit into a handbag or briefcase. A non-collapsible umbrella has a solid pole and only the canopy can be collapsed. Collapsible umbrellas usually have a small, one-person canopy, while non-collapsible frames often have larger covers.
Size: Size is an important consideration that will depend on where you expect to use the umbrella and how you will carry it. A large canopy is desirable because it offers greater rain-protection but may not be practical on a crowded, city pavement. If it’s important to be able to pack the umbrella, then you may be restricted to a collapsible umbrella with a smaller canopy. The opened canopy of a travel umbrella is typically 35 inches in diameter. Golf umbrellas, which are not collapsible, are usually the largest hand-held umbrellas with a typical opened-diameter between 60 and 70 inches.
Stretchers and Ribs material: Pushing a ‘runner’ up the umbrella’s pole pushes the ribs and stretchers outwards to open the canopy. These parts of the framework are often made of stainless steel but other materials can be used for extra strength or lightness, for example: aluminum; fiberglass, or carbon fiber.
Canopy Fabric: Nearly all modern umbrellas use a polyester fabric for the canopy. It is light, flexible, water-resistant and available in unlimited colors and patterns. Some manufacturers add Teflon to the fabric for added protection. Children’s umbrellas (and see-through umbrellas) have a PVC canopy which is heavier and less durable than polyester.
Wind-proofing: Experience suggests that no umbrella is truly windproof but many brands feature strengthened frames and, or, vented canopies. Vented canopies allow the wind to blow through the top of the umbrella, making it less likely to turn inside-out. Frames can be strengthened either by the use of more rugged materials or by increasing the number of ribs from the conventional eight to, say, ten or twelve.
Automatic Umbrellas: In this context, automatic simply means that the umbrella’s opening (and sometimes also its closing) is spring-assisted. Most collapsible umbrellas are ‘automatic’ and depressing a button in the handle causes the canopy to open.
Price: We dislike the cheapest umbrellas because we believe they are flimsily constructed and not durable. We have highlighted six umbrellas that will last more than one rainstorm at prices that will still not break the bank. We believe it is worth paying a few pounds more to secure an umbrella that can last.
K-Pop Travel Umbrella
A button in the non-slip rubberized handle is used to ‘automatically’ open the K-Pop umbrella. At 37 inches in diameter, the K-Pop has a typical canopy for a collapsible umbrella. It is advertised as ‘windproof’ by virtue of a strong aluminum pole and ribs, which also keep the weight down. It weighs 0.6 lbs and, when folded, is 12 inches in length. The canopy is made from black polyester with a raindrop-pattern design and the umbrella is supplied with a matching storage pouch. This is a good quality collapsible umbrella at a very fair price.
Bodyguard 10-Rib Travel Umbrella
The Bodyguard umbrella is strengthened by a design using ten ribs; a stainless steel pole; and a stainless steel frame with fiberglass stretcher-elements. The black fabric of the canopy is Teflon-coated so that water runs-off, for added rain-protection and quick-drying. It opens easily with the push of the button located in the handle-grip.
This is a large, collapsible umbrella with a canopy that opens to a 40 inches diameter. It folds down to 12 inches in length and is supplied with a matching cover. This is a solid pick, somewhat on the heavy side for a ‘travel’ umbrella at 1 lb, but notable for its weather-resisting features and large canopy.
Bagail Inside-Out Umbrella
The Bagail umbrella is selected for its unusual, weatherproof design. Instead of closing downwards, the canopy folds upwards so that rainwater is trapped within the closed umbrella, rather than on the outside. When closed, the umbrella can then be stood upside-down (i.e. handle upwards) for easy drying.
Windproofing is achieved by a strong design with a stainless steel pole and a canopy-frame that incorporates fiberglass parts. Additionally, the canopy has a double layer of heavy-duty fabric: the inner layer is perforated so that wind can pass through while the top layer provides rain and SPF-50 sun protection.
The umbrella weighs 1.3 lbs and the canopy has an opened diameter of 41 inches. The umbrella measures 31 inches top to bottom (when open and closed) and will need to be carried separately. However, it does have an interesting ‘C’-shaped handle that allows the owner to use a phone or carry shopping while sheltering beneath the umbrella. This is not an expensive umbrella and it will appeal to anyone who will appreciate its unusual design; it is available in a range of different colors and patterns.
Balios Travel Umbrella
This collapsible umbrella is designed in Britain with a traditional-looking wooden handle. It is sturdily constructed with a steel shaft and fiberglass ribs, and a vented double canopy adds to the wind-proofing. A push-button is used for opening and closing. It weighs 0.8 lbs without its storage sleeve and, when folded, it is 13 inches long; the opened canopy has a diameter of 39 inches.
The canopy is heavy-duty polyester and is available in a variety of colors and patterns. Balios offers an unconditional one-year warranty. Reviewers are overwhelmingly positive and this is a high-quality pick at a very reasonable cost.
EEZ-Y Folding Umbrella
The EEZ-Y is a windproof, golf-sized umbrella with a canopy that opens to a 50 inch diameter, providing a large, personal rain shelter. An external, double canopy over the umbrella’s crown is vented for wind-proofing. The canopy opens automatically with the press of a button on the handle and is stretched over a fiberglass and stainless steel frame. A water-resistant coating on the canopy’s polyester fabric helps to shed rainwater and keep the user dry.
This umbrella does fold down so that its closed length is 23 inches but this is definitely not a convenient, throw-in-your-handbag travel-model; at 1.2 lbs though, it is fairly light for its size. It is offered with six different canopy colors: black; navy; red; yellow; grey and marsala. This EEZ-Y model is included for those looking for the extra protection of a well-reviewed, golf umbrella at a sensible price.
Collar and Cuffs ‘Storm Defender’ Umbrella
The ‘Storm Defender’ is a premium, traditional, non-collapsible ‘city umbrella’ designed in Britain and engineered to a high standard. It measures 37 inches from its tip to the bend of its polished-wood handle and the canopy opens to a good-sized, 43 inches diameter.
Wind-proofing is achieved by overlapping two canopies for venting, and a rugged frame. The fiberglass shaft and ribs are designed to accommodate ‘flipping’ if the umbrella encounters strong winds: Instead of being destroyed trying to resist a gale, the umbrella will turn inside-out and, once shelter is found, can be restored to its correct shape without damage to the frame.
The Storm Defender weighs 0.8 lbs and polyester canopies are available in a wide variety of colors. This is an excellent, durable umbrella that must be carried ‘walking-stick style’ (and costs a little more than our other picks) but should provide many years of reliable service.