Packing Hacks is a 31-part series devoted to helping you become an expert packer! Each installment offers advice on how to get organized, pack smarter, save on bag fees, and eliminate packing stress. New to Packing Hacks? Start at the beginning.
Yesterday, we talked about protecting your valuables. Today, we’ve got advice on the best umbrella to take with you on your travels.
√ The features you should always look for in a travel umbrella
√ The best travel umbrellas for windy destinations
√ Great options for ultra-light packers
Most of the time, we put umbrellas to the test on the go. But after tossing one too many umbrellas into public trash cans after dramatic technical failures (popped hinges! ripped fabric! Sound familiar?), we decided it was high time for a more methodical approach to finding a great travel umbrella. We’ve narrowed down the field to 10 umbrellas, ones that withstood being opened and closed (all the way up, all the way down) 100 times and then taken on rain-soaked urban road tests. We looked at the ease of opening and closing, durability, packability, handle comfort, and other key details. Check out the “Best Matches by Travel Type” section at the end of this story for links to all the umbrellas mentioned.
Is it small? Is it light? Travelers need to be able to stash an umbrella in a suitcase or day bag without adding too much weight or bulk. The lightest, smallest well-performing umbrellas we tested were Totes’ TRX Manual Mini Trekker (7 inches, 7 ounces; $30–$35), the Davek Traveler (9 inches, 13 ounces; $89), Knirps’ Flat Duomatic (10.5 inches, 9 ounces; $28–$45), Lewis N. Clark’s Automatic Travel Umbrella (10.5 inches, 10 ounces; $16), and ShedRain’s WindPro Flatwear Vented Umbrella (11 inches, 11 ounces; $23–$41).
Durability and Toughness
Most umbrellas will give you decent coverage in a light rain, but only a few are designed to withstand big storms and strong winds. These umbrellas distinguish themselves with details like venting systems of overlapping fabric layers, additional springs at joints, and stronger materials. The trade-off for travelers is that stronger materials mean more weight, and better coverage often means a longer umbrella.
Umbrellas that impressed us with their durability and toughness include Euroschirm’s Light Trek Automatic Flashlite ($55). Euroschirm is known for making uber-rugged umbrellas for trekking, and it manages to offer a strong, compact umbrella (with a built-in flashlight) that’s still relatively light (13.5 inches, 13.5 ounces).
Blunt’s XS_Metro ($49) was a tester favorite, and it felt strong without being too rigid (a red flag, especially when you’re dealing with wind) in the road test. While it’s a bit longer (14.5 inches), it can still be stowed in a bag, and at 11.5 ounces, it’s still among the lightest umbrellas we tested.
GustBuster’s Metro ($34) concentrates a lot of the toughness you expect in larger umbrellas into a 16-inch, 1.1-pound package. Its innovative design includes egg-shaped vents and elastic anchors to keep it functioning in high winds.
Ease of Use
Find a great umbrella and you may have it for years. That adds up to hundreds of openings, closings, and untold hours spent holding it aloft. For that reason, a great umbrella should be smooth to open, easy to close, and comfortable to hold.
Blunt’s XS_Metro has the smoothest opening and closing of any umbrella we’ve ever tried. Most of our favorite umbrellas have both automatic open and close, but even with its automatic open/manual close combination, the XS_Metro handily beat the competition with a truly comfortable and easy experience.
The umbrella with the most comfortable handle by far was the REI Travel Umbrella ($36). The soft, foam-covered grip has a pleasing shape to suit many different hand sizes, and there’s even a gentle depression on the underside of the handle to accommodate the base of the thumb in a typical umbrella-carrying position. The only downside to all this comfort is that because the foam is soft, the handle is susceptible to small dents.
All of these umbrellas stand out from the hundreds of options out there because they proved durable and up to the task of accompanying travelers on their journeys. But a few had additional cool features that impressed us.
Euroschirm’s Light Trek Automatic Flashlite comes, as the name suggests, with a flashlight built into the bottom of the handle. It can be left attached and provides just the right angle of light to illuminate a path on a rainy night. Or, it can be removed and used as a small, handheld flashlight.
Blunt’s XS_Metro has, as the name suggests, blunted tips. The design not only helps distribute the tension in the umbrella, but it also prevents users from accidentally spearing passersby in crowded urban environments.
With details such as a leather strap and a clip built right into the umbrella handle (rather than into the cover), the Davek Traveler is well designed for the style-conscious traveler looking for an extremely durable umbrella. Its high price ($89, the most expensive of the bunch) is offset by Davek’s Loss Protection Card, which offers owners 50 percent off a new umbrella if they lose theirs.
Best Matches by Travel Type
The best umbrella for you should, in large part, be determined by the circumstances and environments in which you’ll most often use it. Here are our suggested picks by travel type:
Sturdy Umbrella on a Budget: Lewis N. Clark’s Automatic Travel Umbrella (from $16 on Amazon)
Strong Winds or Heavy Rain: GustBuster’s Metro ($35 on Amazon), Blunt’s XS_Metro on Amazon), ShedRain WindPro Flatwear Vented Umbrella ($41 on ShedRain.com or from $20 on Amazon), Hammacher Schlemmer’s Wind Defying Packable Umbrella (from $30 on Hammacher.com)