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 BPL.com 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.