When I took an umbrella on last year’s walk along the Peddars Way it caused huge amusement. However, I had the last laugh when we suffered some light but persistent rain late afternoon on the second day. I found it was much more comfortable to hold an umbrella than to put on overtrousers and pull on the hood of my jacket. Fortunately, it wasn’t windy.

The model I took was an M&S Ultralight collapsible, which weighs a modest 229g and folds down to 24cms. The spokes are flexible plastic and the end caps can flip off, so it’s much less likely to suffer a catastrophic failure in high winds. My only criticism is that the canopy material is not waterproof, so after sustained rain it tends to wet out. It doesn’t affect its effectiveness, but it’s a shame it’s not made of truly waterproof material.

Wally with a brolly?

Having sort of tested the theory of carrying an umbrella, I decided to have a look at a couple of other makes: a Senz Mini and a Golite Chrome Dome. I was lucky with the Senz Mini as I found it in a sale for £29.99, rather than the usual £39.95. It’s a slightly odd-looking beast as it’s asymmetrical with the handle positioned near the front. The theory is that it withstands winds much better. If you are interested, there’s some videos on the Senz site showing how it works. In the pictures below, it is the grey umbrella. It does look and feel a bit strange but it certainly works. It weighs 286g (not the 260g advertised), and it’s pretty robust.

The Senz Mini and Golite Chrome Dome umbrellas

I was tempted to use it for the TGO Challenge. However, recently there was an article on by Francis Tapon, extolling the virtues of brolly backpacking made me think again. He uses a Golite Chrome Dome.

A quick whizz around the retailers revealed that Ultralight OutdoorGear had one in stock, so I though I’d give it a go. This is slightly different beast as it is not collapsible (unlike the Senz and M&S brollies). It is 63cms long, but is the lightest at 224g. The shaft and spars are high density fibreglass and Golite claim the shaft is virtually unbreakable. The canopy is waterproof polyester and metalicised to reflect the sun.

Despite the fact that it is more difficult to pack than the collapsible umbrellas, I’m quite drawn to the Chrome Dome. The handle grip is more comfortable and it just feels right. It’s also waterproof, so the rain won’t soak into the canopy. It’s also quite a bit lighter than the Senz. It’s not a totally straightforward choice as packability favours the M&S or the Senz. Strength favours the Senz or the Golite. Weight favours the Golite and M&S.

I know that Scotland is rather different from East Anglia and high winds would preclude using an umbrella some of the time, but for the right conditions, it’s difficult to beat a brolly for comfort. For the luxury of not having the rain beat down mercilessly on the hood of a waterproof and the possibility of avoiding the dreaded overtrousers, I reckon it’s got to be worth the modest weight penalty.

18 thoughts on “Umbrellas”

  1. Soon you’ll be donning a pin striped velez and tom bowler! Blogpackinglight with a touch of class ole chap! Ha.

    All jokes aside it’s quite logical – nothing breathes as well as… Open space!

    Go to Asia especially in monsoon and it’s what they all use! That chap ‘Nicholas Crane’ that presented the TV program ‘Coast’ always walking with one attached to his pack!

    Rohan do a poncho and I always wondered about those? It’d be intersting to hear the reviews on how effective they are on waterproofing and breathability.

  2. brollies work quite well as long as the wind isnt vicious. can be used as a wind or rain break on stops as well 🙂

  3. Don’t let folk knock Brollys Robin! I’ve used the Golite Dome on two backpacks on the HRP in the Pyrenees. Excellent piece of gear, when it rains worth its weight in gold. Hood down, jacket zip open breathability is vastly improved. Provides useful shelter if you stop for a break, great for taking photos (camera stays dry). Downsides are that you cant use two trekking poles and a brolly! This doesn’t bother me personally, and so often in Scotland particularly when it rains its windy. I still take mine, I’ve done so many long walks in, and backpacks in Scotland in the rain to me its essential. Of course you do get some strange looks.
    ” All weather is good weather under a Golite Dome” Ray Jardine (I think!)

  4. Hi Robin,
    I have used the GoLite brolley for a couple of years now but not the chrome one, i got the green one. I think the green one is visually better. But thats my choice.
    I just put it through the gear loops when stowed. I also recommend proofing it just like you would a tent because you do get some spray through the material in certain conditions. It can blow inside out but it recovers without damage.
    I wouldn’t go on a trip without it, it makes a big difference to your state of wetness.
    You can also use in as a windshield in the tent porch when cooking etc.

  5. The Rohan brolly I bought is excellent, ligth, solid and comes with a carrier to lug over your shoulder. Only used in town but I walk past MediaCity where the buildings have created a powerful wind funnel (near impossible to walk at times of gales…) and it was rock solid.

  6. Pleased you’ve posted this subject Robin. Only recently I’ve been looking into these umbrellas. Now, I don’t mind things as they stand in wet weather with regards to kit and hiking.

    But what with me filming I’ve been toying with the idea of an umbrella as it would help shelter my video gear in wet conditions. Also, thought it make a nice wee shelter for bivvying too. Peg and prop it nearby and so on.

    Nice one….so you and the comments above have sold me! 🙂

  7. Robin,thanks for an informative post. I would like to use an umbrella, but I think I get more benefit overall using my trekking poles. A bit of a non starter for me unless I can grow a third arm 🙂

  8. I first used a brolly in the Picos de Europa about 25yrs ago, excellent in the rain and in the sun. I have a golite dome and have used it in Europe and the uk. The British used them in India all the time, monsoons and for the sun. Don’t knock them until you’ve used one, that’s my advice

  9. Yes great idea especially as i am over 40. His there any way that the brolly can be attached to the rucksack in the open position..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.