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Curiosity 4 – What about umbrellas?

I have been watching a number of items on VLOGs about Thru-hiking.  I see a number of folks using umbrellas.  They seem to use them rather than ponchos or rain jackets (and rain pants).

  • Wouldn’t umbrellas weigh more than other rain gear?
  • Are there places/environments where the umbrellas make more sense than other gear?
  • What are your thoughts on umbrellas?


9 Replies

Very useful in intense sunlight as well.  Sometimes good, sometimes not...

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Saw a guy in the Cascades with a silver GoLite-branded umbrella open and mounted to his pack as a sun shield. I never saw them for sale anywhere, though it seems like an idea with potential for the hiker/backpacker.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Lightweight umbrellas make sense in desert type terrain as a portable sun shade when it is not windy sometimes attached to the pack shoulder harness.  Wind is the main limiting factor.  They also can work here as a quick improvised static shade when taking a break.  Wind is still a factor but there is more leeway.  In such areas you might consider carrying a wind shell rather than a rain jacket.

Because they are quick to deploy and shed rain away from you, they work well elsewhere in showery weather saving the bother of putting on rain gear and also as additional protection in heavy rain so long as there is not much wind.   Unlike rain wear, umbrellas  "breath" well so make it easier to avoid over heating.  With the umbrella you may not need to zip up your jacket of use the hood which can make things more pleasant which may make it worth its weight for some.

However, they work less well on trails with low hanging or tight brush and because they are problematic in wind they are not a substitute for rainwear when hiking in cold wet places.  An umbrella won't protect you from mosquitoes either.

So a specialized tool that can come in handy in the right conditions but probably not generally a substitute for a rain jacket when backpacking. 

Personally I have not carried one backpacking (principally 3 season in the Sierras)  although I used one walking the dog and in general life and would consider backpacking with one in other areas.

I would consider one, if I was going to be hiking in extreme heat, out in the open, to block directed sun light.  But not in a forest like @OldGuyot mentioned.

REI Member Since 1979

I do sometimes hike with a small umbrella that is useful to shelter from occasional downpours in  the desert where it usually stops raining after a relatively short time and gets hot again so its a nusiance to change in and out of a rainsuit.  One time I  had to bivouack under the umbrella during a spring snowstorm, but I wasn't especially comfortable or dry.  

My favorite piece of rain gear is an extremely well-engineered rain hat.  The particular model I have is no longer available, but the Kokatat Seawester or OR Seattle Cape Hat look similar.  The essential featues are a mesh liner so that the hat is suspended over my head like a little rain fly, a wide brim that is longer in back, and a strap that keeps it firmly in place.  This hat is a marvel for any occasion when I'm out in the rain for extended periods.   The hat even kept me relatively happy on a trip where it did not stop raining for 4 days straight. 

I'll  bet that hat is useful in bright sunlight as well....

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

never leave home without a hat, sunglasses come in handy also.

REI Member Since 1979

I have sometimes carried a "trekking umbrella" with me on backpacking trips and am not yet convinced that I need it or that it is not worth the weight. I am still in the "have not decided" stage.  I have found it more helpful in camp when it is raining than when on the trail. I usually use trekking poles while backpacking and hiking, which makes using an umbrella next to impossible. I have appreciated it when taking a break in the rain because I can snack, check a map, uncover my head and unzip my jacket out of the rain for a few minutes.

aka "Boonerelli"

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I think it's a "trekking umbrella" because people use unbrellas instead of rain coats in tropical climates where the rain is so warm there is no evaporative cooling effect from getting wet.