In our search for the best umbrella, we purchased the top 12 products for side-by-side testing. With eight years and 29 unique products under our belt, we're confident with our assessment of what constitutes true value for these useful products. From rainy climates to mountainous areas and even those too-sunny days, we've taken careful notes on how each canopy performed and protected us from the elements. We factor in durability, ease of transport, practical use, and style in our scoring and ranking. With this experience and data, we hope you'll be able to better choose an umbrella that matches both your needs and your budget.Need some extra help staying dry? Our men's rain jacket and women's rain jacket reviews are a good place to start. To keep your feet dry, we've also tested rain boots for men and rain boots for women. Whatever gear you need, our comprehensive reviews can help you discover the right products.
|Price||$45 List||$20.00 List|
$14.92 at Amazon
$29.99 at Amazon
Check Price at Backcountry
$44.88 at Amazon
|Pros||Ultralight, easy to use, travel friendly||Lightweight, compact, automatic||Sturdy, automatic open/close, easy to transport||Stylish, compact, fair durability||Lightweight, durable, easy to use|
|Cons||Average rain protection, average durability||Many metal joints, less durable||Heavy, takes some muscle to fully close up||Average rain protection, not the easiest to use||Fixed shaft length makes it a bit longer, not as stylish|
|Bottom Line||A very compact and lightweight design with a more technical, outdoorsy style||Simple and ultralight with all the basics you need for rain protection||A durable and compact umbrella that's sturdy for everyday use yet still small enough to keep with you||A straightforward and stylish product with average weather protection and durability||A lightweight, quality choice with notable rain protection and ease of use|
|Rating Categories||Sea to Summit Ultra...||Lewis N. Clark Umbr...||Repel Windproof Travel||Pendleton Umbrella||EuroSCHIRM Swing Tr...|
|Rain Protection (30%)|
|Ease of Transport (25%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Sea to Summit Ultra...||Lewis N. Clark Umbr...||Repel Windproof Travel||Pendleton Umbrella||EuroSCHIRM Swing Tr...|
|Measured Canopy Diameter||39"||39.25"||36.5"||37.5"||37.5"|
|Depth of Canopy||7.5"||6.5"||7.5"||7.5"||9.75"|
|Sleeve Included?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, w/ shoulder sling|
|Measured Weight (including sleeve)||9.5 oz||10.0 oz||16.0 oz||13.0 oz||10.0 oz (w/case); 8.0 oz (w/o case)|
|Measured Length (collapsed)||10.25"||11"||11.75"||11.9"||25.25"|
|Measured Length (deployed)||23.9"||21.25"||22.25"||21.25"||25.38"|
|Handle Design||Short plastic handle||Short, rubberized, non-slip handle, inset button operation||Ergonomic rubberized grip, inset button operation||Short wooden handle, inset button operation||High-density EVA hardfoam|
|Canopy Material||30D siliconized CORDURA nylon, velcro closure||Polyester, velcro closure||Teflon-coated polyester, velcro closure||Polyester, velcro closure||Teflon-coated polyester, velcro closure|
|Support Structure||Aircraft grade aluminum and brass rivets||Zinc alloy and steel||Resin reinforced fiberglass||Unknown metal||High-density fiberglass|
Best Overall Umbrella
EuroSCHIRM Swing Trek Liteflex
The EuroSCHIRM Swing Trek Liteflex blew us away — figuratively, of course — earning high marks in all of our metrics with its fluid (albeit manual) operation and generous canopy design. This model minimizes the number of moving parts and joints that could eventually fail or break. When collapsed, it sports a very handy shoulder sling for hands-free carrying, and it can easily be rigged to a backpack shoulder strap, so you can also hike hands-free.
The length of the Swing Trek is too long to hide in a bag/backpack/purse, but it is so lightweight and well balanced that it beat some of the more compact models for its ease of transport and use. The style is also somewhat bold and technical-looking, which may not appeal to everyone. We feel that this umbrella is best used for commuting through the rain, but we also think it's suitable for hiking in inclement weather or traveling, being so light and functional.
Read more: EuroSCHIRM Swing Trek Liteflex review
Best Bang for Your Buck
Balios Double Canopy
The chic, compact Balios Double Canopy is a very well-made and durable model with obvious care paid to the finer details. The wooden handle is nice to hold and looks great, giving it a timeless appearance to complement a wide variety of wardrobe styles. The canopy is impressively large for a compact model, which means it's both fashionable and functional.
These benefits do come at a small cost. This model is on the heavier and larger side of the compact models we reviewed. However, although it's not as lightweight, it's still small enough that you can tuck it into most bags or purses. This product is suited to casual use and can travel seamlessly with you to more formal events.
Read more: Balios Double Canopy review
Best Classic Design
totes Auto Open Wooden
The totes Auto Open Wooden has a quality feel to it. It's on the larger side, but the wooden hooked handle makes transport easier and also enhances grip stability while in use. As outdoor gear specialists, we often have to keep our outdoorsy bias in check when reviewing products that may not be as practical in the woods — such as this model with its "old-school" length and style. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the durability of the design, the generous coverage, and the fluidity of opening and closing the canopy.
The main drawback with this umbrella is ease of transport as compared to all the others we've recently tested. The length can be an obstacle when trying to stash away in a car or bag. We generally had to make special adaptations in order to bring it with us. Those things aside, this contender is ideal for casual commutes and made with comfort from the elements in mind.
Read more: totes Auto Open Wooden review
Best Bubble Design
totes Clear Bubble
The totes Clear Bubble is a fun, niche type of umbrella with excellent rain protection. We often find ourselves wanting to hide into the depth of a canopy but do so at the expense of visibility. The clear plastic resolves that dilemma by allowing you to still see your surroundings even when tucked inside. The depth and shape allow for the most thorough rain protection of the bunch.
In addition to being on the longer and heavier side of the spectrum, the materials used aren't the most confidence-inducing as far as long-term use goes. The hook handle is made of plastic, and the ribs are quite thin. Ease of use also isn't particularly high with this model, as the manual slide can easily pinch the hands. That said, best for casual use to and from your destinations, we appreciate this bubble's fun and useful style.
Read more: totes Clear Bubble review
Best Oversized Canopy
G4Free Golf Umbrella
The G4Free Golf Umbrella offers ample rain protection with its wide and relatively deep canopy, whether you want the extra coverage for just yourself or you and another person. The auto-open is smooth and more gradual than the lightning-quick deploy of smaller, compact models (which we appreciate simply because of how large the canopy is). The storage sleeve has a sewn sling attached to help carry or hang the umbrella.
Due to its size, there are, of course, some potential drawbacks, such as the added weight and length. We wouldn't consider this an ideal travel companion and is best used in casual settings and during short commutes.
Read more: G4Free Golf Umbrella review
Why You Should Trust Us
Our search for the best umbrella began with thorough research of the market and the various models available. We narrowed a field of over 50 options down to about a dozen and whisked them off to the rainy wilds of the Pacific Northwest and Colorado mountains. We set out with a clearly defined list of the most important aspects: rain protection, ease of transport and use, durability, and style. To test these attributes, we walked in the rain, tested wind resistance, and examined how easy it is to pack and operate each model. Style is, of course, subjective but nonetheless a contributor to the overall appeal.Our testing of umbrellas is divided across five rating metrics:
- Rain Protection (30% of total score weighting)
- Ease of Transport (25% weighting)
- Durability (20% weighting)
- Ease of Use (15% weighting)
- Style (10% weighting)
This comparative study was put together by Review Editor Sara Aranda. Sara holds a writing degree and is also our women's rain boot tester. Currently based along the Front Range of Colorado, Sara is an avid climber and trail ultrarunner with over a decade of experience interacting with technical gear in backcountry environments. Her attention-to-detail personality brings a critical eye to the technical writing that gear reviews demand. In addition, her passion for creative writing is directly linked to her athleticism and travels, elevating social, cultural, and body awareness.
Analysis and Test Results
With so many gas station models out there, why not just grab a random umbrella and call it good? Well, we've been disappointed one too many times by this method. However, we also recognize how difficult it is to pick the right model based on a retail webpage. For this review, we wanted to analyze the best of the best and showcase the ones that prove reliable time and time again.
Which contenders offer the highest performance for their price? This outdoor category has a surprisingly broad range in cost, from single-digit, almost single-use options to those in the triple digits. The models we tested span a wide double-digit price range. Our testers found that while you can spend a lot of money on an umbrella, it's rarely necessary, and it doesn't usually equate to greater performance. In fact, all our recommendations are relatively affordable options, especially the Balios model, which is more than good enough for most users at an affordable price. The totes Auto Open Wooden is also an incredible value, especially if you want a more classic design.
No surprise, shelter from the rain is the primary reason to buy one of these products. How well any given model can protect you from the rain depends primarily on the canopy's size and shape. At the most basic level, bigger is better. A larger canopy will cover more area and give you a bigger bubble of protection. This is, of course, relative to your torso size. A child may not need the largest canopy available, but a full-grown adult might want to opt for a few extra inches in diameter. We measured the canopy diameter "as the crow flies" from edge to edge, at the widest points, when fully deployed. The depth of the canopy is also a factor in how well it shields you from the elements.
Of all the products we tested, the G4Free, totes Auto Open Wooden, and totes Clear Bubble have canopy depth and diameter combinations that offer the best rain protection. Notably, the G4Free is particularly large, allowing for two people to share the canopy. The Swing Trek Liteflex also has a combination that works well, although a bit of a smaller footprint than the others just mentioned. The BetterBrella Deluxe has a diameter nearly as wide as the totes Wooden, but its depth is a much shallower 4.5 inches, detracting from its ability to provide a more inclusive shelter.
The rest of the umbrellas in our review are of a fairly standard shape, such as the Weatherman Collapsible or Pendleton. We believe the Balios Double Canopy offers the best balance of shape in this standard sense, with generous depth and diameter while also maintaining its ability to become compact when stowed. The wind vents included in a handful of the models also contribute to their versatility and overall protection from the elements. The Blunt Metro is an example, however, of a model with a design that conflicts with its function, as the scoop-shapes shrink its footprint and therefore its effectiveness.
When strong gusts of wind accompany the rain, you need a product that will not flip inside out under the force of the wind. As soon as a canopy inverts, you're exposed to the rain until you can right it again. We observed a wide range of performances in our wind tests, which are discussed more thoroughly in the Durability metric below. Alternatively, some of the models in this review have utility beyond rainy weather protection, such as providing shade. The canopy color is something to consider for this. An umbrella with a darker color will help absorb and avert the light away from your eyes, but it will also retain more heat. The ultralight Lewis N. Clark umbrella is an example of a bright-colored material that was too blinding for us in the sun because of how easily it refracts light.
Ease of Transport
We found ourselves much more likely to carry compact models than the non-compact ones since they can easily be stashed into a bag or tucked under the seat of a car and forgotten until needed. This metric is primarily based on the product's weight and compactness. We also consider features like leashes and sleeves that help ensure that transport is less of a chore.
A couple of compact versions stood out to us for having sufficient rain protection while also being easy to transport. With a packed length of only 10.25 inches and a weight of 10.0 oz, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Trekking shares top scores with the 11-inch, 10.0 oz Lewis N. Clark. Both come with sleeves to pack into a tidy bundle. However, the sleeves can be tight-fitting, particularly the Sea to Summit, and a hassle to stuff into.
Many of the models we recently reviewed come with a storage sleeve. We like this feature because when the rain stops, you can put it back in the sleeve and into a bag without worrying about soaking other things. Some have features that improve transport, such as the Swing Trek Liteflex and G4Free. They both have a shoulder sling that makes it much more pleasant to deal with despite their longer lengths, especially the G4Free with its 39.75-inch packed length. The middle-of-the-road to lower performers are the ones that are somewhat compact but still bulkier and larger than others. This includes the Blunt Metro, which is 14.9 inches when packed and weighs 12.5 ounces, and even more so the Weatherman Collapsible, which is 19.5 inches when packed and a surprising 1.44 pounds!
It's important to consider the trade-offs that occur between the Ease of Transport and Durability metrics. For example, sometimes an incredibly lightweight and compact umbrella can suffer from durability issues. Making something small and light does require compromise. Size and weight may not be as important if you're not going to be traveling a lot and are prioritizing quality or reliability time and time again. Durability includes several factors: the materials used, the quality of construction, and the number of moving parts. When you're investing in more than just a convenience store model, you should be able to expect it to function for years, not just once.
Compact models inevitably have to sacrifice some durability. These models are designed with many more moving parts than non-compact models, and therefore have more potential points of fatigue and failure. Some, such as the Balios, Weatherman, and the Repel Windproof Travel are sturdily constructed, instilling confidence in the steel or reinforced fiberglass. The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil feels rather delicate and needs some help reaching its final open position sometimes. After opening and closing repeatedly, we were able to hear pops and clicks that didn't particularly instill confidence in its longevity. The Swing Trek Liteflex reigns in this metric due to it not having as many moving parts, the high-density fiberglass, and how smooth the manual operation is, no matter which direction of push/pull.
As described before, we considered each product's performance in our wind test and how it relates to durability. We like to see more fiberglass than steel because it can more readily bounce back, whereas steel may snap when overloaded. The Swing Trek Liteflex went sideways at relatively low speeds (though the canopy retained its domed shape) and even sounded like it was breaking. But, it bounced right back as if nothing happened. If we're talking about rain protection, this ability to bounce right back is critical for continued shelter from a storm. For a durability assessment, this is just plain awesome.
Many models appeared very different in their approaches to durability for us. The Blunt Metro is comprised of excellent materials, some of the highest quality in this review, but suffers in the wind. Meanwhile, the Lewis N. Clark held up better in our field tests but has metal parts that are highly likely to deform or snap in a traumatic fall or collision, which we observed during a high wind test, compromising the longevity of its function. The totes Auto Open Wooden was so sturdy in the wind, however, that we couldn't get it to safely invert without inducing fear of sailing away like Mary Poppins.
Ease of Use
Ease of use only factors in for 15% of each product's overall score — a fairly important attribute, but not a make-or-break metric. For this, we consider how manual versus automatic operating mechanisms compare, how things sound, feel, and whether or not designs are intuitive as opposed to complicated and confusing.
We spent a lot of time with each product, exploring what made it harder or easier to use, and eventually found ourselves drifting toward certain ones for various reasons. Ultimately, umbrellas just aren't very user-friendly to begin with, as they require one hand, sometimes two, and once you add a coffee cup to the mix for your afternoon stroll, convenience isn't always a given.
The ability to be hands-free in conjunction with a trekking backpack makes the Swing Liteflex score high in this metric, not to mention its smooth, minimalistic shaft. But if you're not wearing a backpack with a velcro hydration hose tab to easily latch the shaft, then you may be out of luck, so perhaps having something easily handled with one hand is a better choice. Models with full or partial manual operation scored really well in this metric, like the totes Auto Open Wooden and the Blunt Metro. For both of these, they have a button to auto-deploy the canopy, but the button doesn't also collapse the canopy, thus requiring you to manually pull down to close everything up. The designs are smooth, however, and the mechanics aren't fighting you like most of the fully automatic compact models do.
The Repel and Lewis N. Clark are examples of compact designs that both auto-open and auto collapse. However, since more parts require tension to perform, closing them up is often a struggle. Sometimes, if you don't accomplish pushing everything together with all your might, the umbrella will just deploy itself again. The Lewis N. Clark, on the other hand, is so lightweight that the motion of pushing everything closed is actually easy to do despite these tension-requiring features. The auto-collapse notably allows you to close the canopy before lowering it at the press of a button, which is an excellent option when you find yourself in a crowded area and you don't have as much space to conveniently lower (or open) a fixed-length canopy, like the enormous G4Free Golf Umbrella.
The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil, which is entirely manually operated, doesn't require as much muscle to close due to its lighter weight. The Pendleton auto-deploys but does not auto-collapse, and we feel that the ease of use is impacted by us pinching ourselves nearly every time when shortening the shaft down to the handle. We're sure there is a technique to avoid this, but you have to guard your skin when using them most intuitively. Also, using hefty umbrellas makes it more difficult to hold them for long periods of time, such as the heavier, auto-open G4Free and Weatherman models.
We also took note of the comfort and security of each product's handle. A well-designed handle nests in your hand comfortably for long-term carrying and gives you a secure grip for those unexpected wind gusts. The best models cater to the ergonomic shape of a hand, with a length that also matches most hands. The curved, cane-like handles on the traditional models are also highly comfortable and secure, even in strong winds. And even when wet, the soft grip of the Swing Trek Liteflex is comfortably cushioned with excellent friction. We love the smooth, wooden handle of the Balios as well. Most of the compact designs have a much shorter and rubberized handle, which maintained grip even when wearing gloves.
This category is highly subjective, so we only give it a 5% weight in the overall scores. For some of our testers, an umbrella is a unique opportunity to add some color to the gray and rainy months. There are essentially two approaches to style with the canopies we tested: companies either make them look fun/funky/cool/wacky, or they make them discrete and unassuming. We assessed each model based on our interpretation of the manufacturer's approach to style. If it has an old-school look, does it represent its niche well? If it's more fun and cute, will people wanting this type love it?
If you want a model to simplify your look and match anything, the Balios is sleek and compact. It is well-made and tidy with the added perk of how professional it can appear. If you're someone who appreciates a traditional throwback, you might enjoy the totes Wooden. If the crook handle and long shaft are too committing for you, the Repel Windproof Travel stands out for its array of styles to choose from as well as its collapsibility. The Swing Trek Liteflex is somewhat in the middle of the fashion spectrum — not too stylish but also not too drab. It has some technical aspects and a much bolder canopy color, but it's also straightforward.
You might appreciate the flowery look of the Blunt Metro if you want to make a statement or have fun with your accessories, or may even consider the bright color options of the Lewis N. Clark, which are quite bold; perhaps too bold. The Weatherman has a few different colors to choose from, from dark to bright, with a reflective outline for visibility at night (and it even has a mini stash pocket in the canopy). Of course, we can't forget the super fun totes Clear Bubble with its more nostalgic shape and clear sheen. Some design options even come with polka dots. The Pendleton, while lovely, is a little more tricky for ethical reasons. To our knowledge, Pendleton is a brand that has historically appropriated indigenous designs.
It is increasingly difficult to sift through the umbrella market to find something just right that is made well and is of a reasonable price. We hope this review and our field testing have helped you narrow the choices down. In the end, our favorites encompass the epitome of the five metrics discussed without question: effective rain protection, ease of transport, durability, ease of use, and style.
— Sara Aranda
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