today is Sep 27, 2022

Image for article titled How to Buy an Umbrella That Doesn’t Suck

Photo: Juice Flair (Shutterstock)

The vast majority of umbrellas are panic-purchased from drug stores or randos on the street during a sudden rainstorm. Therefore, the vast majority of umbrellas are purchased after conducting exactly zero research. And that is how we end up with a collection of ragged, cheap umbrellas that collapse into a useless contraption of bent metal and torn fabric at the first sign of a brisk wind.

What I’m saying is, you’re buying your umbrellas all wrong. No one’s saying you shouldn’t buy a cheap emergency umbrella when it’s needed, but if you think all umbrellas are cheap and borderline useless, you’re doing it wrong. Considering the umbrella is more than three thousand years old , it’s reasonable to say that we as a species have figured out how to make a damn good one—you just need to know what to look for.

How to choose a good umbrella?

Here are some basic elements to consider before purchasing your next umbrella before you need it:

Size

Umbrellas work by creating a canopy above you that, you know, blocks the rain and sloughs it off to the sides. The longer your umbrella, the better it will be at this—we all know what it’s like to use a tiny umbrella and that results in wet feet and pants because it didn’t give us enough dry space. The ideal width is about 40-50 inches from tip to tip—this will keep you dry without transforming you into the God of All Umbrellas, knocking lesser beings out of the way as you charge down the street. You could even upgrade to a golf umbrella , which is generally larger than mortal umbrellas, but these are really only useful if you’re toting luggage around (or, you know, golf clubs) as they’re designed to give you a larger dry area around you. However, walking down the street with a golf umbrella will quickly turn society against you.

Video Player is loading.

Current Time  0:00

Duration  2:34

Remaining Time  - 2:34

Weight

This is more of an individual thing, but holding a heavy umbrella for long periods of time can get annoying, and if you’re going to be lugging a bag or other objects at the same time, a heavy umbrella is going to be a challenge. Look for something that weights two pounds or less for optimal comfort. If you like to combine a workout with your rainy day jaunts, by all means look for a Soviet-era umbrella made from pig iron.

Venting

Look for an umbrella with a dual-layer canopy that has venting slits. If you’ve ever stepped out into a storm and watched in horrified fascination as your umbrella immediately inverts in the wind, you were probably rocking a cheap, single-layer, non-vented version. Those vents allow the wind to pass through the canopy, reducing the chances of going inside-out, while the double layer will still keep the rain off.

Stick vs. collapsible

An umbrella that doesn’t fold up or collapse is known as a stick umbrella, and they’re your best choice. A stick umbrella is going to be the sturdiest kind because there are fewer possible points of failure—any joint or hinge on the handle is a potential weak spot that might bend in a stiff wind. On the other hand, a collapsible umbrella offers convenience and easy storage in a bag or backpack, so you might choose to trade strength for portability.

Canopy material

First, check that your canopy’s material is taut and tight when the umbrella’s opened. Loose, wrinkly material won’t last long in the wind, and won’t let the rainwater slide off efficiently. The fabric or material used in the canopy matters, too—the best umbrella material is a fabric called pongee, which can be pricey but offers a soft, waterproof material that doesn’t shrink. Nylon or polyester are also fine choices, though nylon can shrink in humid conditions. And while you might think plastic, the material of the future, is ideal, it actually tends to break down pretty quickly, leading to tears and warping.

Shaft and ribs

The structure of your umbrella is best made from fiberglass, and the fewer joints or connections, the better. If the shaft is just one continuous piece and the ribs only fold up minimally, your umbrella will be heavier and less collapsible—but a lot stronger. Plastic umbrellas will not last long, and metal ones, counter-intuitively, are prone to bending, making fiberglass your best choice. Another thing to consider is the number of ribs: Your standard umbrella will have eight ribs, which is sufficient to give the canopy some strength and structure, but an umbrella with 16 ribs will be even stronger. However, more than that gets problematic: A 24-rib umbrella might withstand a hurricane, but it’s going to be heavy as hell.

How to choose a compact umbrella

Of course, it’s all well and good to have the sort of big, sturdy umbrella preferred by billionaires in your home’s umbrella stand, but when you’re traveling or when you have a day when it might rain and you don’t want to carry an enormous contraption all day for no reason, you’re going to want a more portable umbrella. While its collapsible nature and small canopy mean that a portable umbrella will never be as good as its larger cousins, there are a few ways to pick the best one:

Ribs

Look for an extra rib—a model with a ninth rib like the Samsonite Winguard doesn’t add much to the weight of a compact umbrella but does give its strength a goose.

Canopy

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a 40-inch canopy in a portable, but look for 36- or 37-inch models, which is about as big as you can get. This does sacrifice some portability, as the umbrella will likely be about 12 inches long as a result.

Balance and weight

Compact stick umbrellas often feel off-balance because all the weight’s at the top. It’s difficult to judge this without physically inspecting the umbrella, but it’s something to look for in reviews.

Your choice of umbrella isn’t important...until suddenly it’s crucial. Instead of buying your next umbrella while you’re standing dripping in the aisle of the nearest CVS, take a few moments to shop around and choose an umbrella that will serve you for all the rainy days to come.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Get our best hacks, tips and tricks delivered straight to your inbox every day.