The Best Umbrella Review

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All of the products we tested fully deployed. L to R: WindPro Compact Auto, REI Travel, totes Blue Line, totes Clear Bubble, Fulton Birdcage, Blunt XS Metro, Eagle Creek Rain Away
Credit: Jared Dean
Ever wonder which umbrella is the best? To find out, we gathered seven different contenders and rigorously tested them side-by-side to try to answer that question. We spent hours walking through rain and wind storms to see how each product performed. We then ranked them all in categories ranging from rain protection, to ease of use and style. If you need an overhead canopy to keep you dry on those rainy days, we've got all the information you need to pick the model that best suits your needs.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Umbrellas Displaying 1 - 5 of 7 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
totes Blue Line Auto Wooden
totes Blue Line Auto Wooden
Read the Review
REI Travel Umbrella
REI Travel Umbrella
Read the Review
totes Clear Bubble
totes Clear Bubble
Read the Review
WindPro Compact Auto
WindPro Compact Auto
Read the Review
Fulton Birdcage
Fulton Birdcage
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award     
Street Price $20
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$36
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$32
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$47
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Large canopy, Durable, AffordableCompact, lightweight, large canopyInexpensive, large canopy, durableCompact, vent flapDurable, Stylish
Cons Heavy, Not compact, CumbersomeFlips inside out, A little long for a compact modelHeavy, large, not compactFlips inside-out, durabilityLarge, heavy
Best Uses All types of rainstorms, Great to stash in your carTravelingRainstorms, walking the dogTraveling, walking in the rainRainstorms, Walking in the rain
Date Reviewed Jun 14, 2014Jun 14, 2014Jun 14, 2014Jun 14, 2014Jun 14, 2014
Weighted Scores totes Blue Line Auto Wooden REI Travel Umbrella totes Clear Bubble WindPro Compact Auto Fulton Birdcage
Rain Protection - 25%
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Durability - 25%
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Ease Of Use - 20%
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Ease Of Transport - 20%
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Style - 10%
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Product Specs totes Blue Line Auto Wooden REI Travel Umbrella totes Clear Bubble WindPro Compact Auto Fulton Birdcage
Umbrella diameter 42.5 inches 39 inches 34 inches 38 inches 34 inches
Stem height 24 inches 20.25 inches 27 inches 19 inches 32 inches
Length of collapsed umbrella 37 inches 12.5 inches 37 inches 11.5 inches 36.5 inches
Handle design J-shaped Foam knob J-shaped Foam /Plastic Knob J-shaped
Depth of Canopy 11 inches 7.5 inches 17 inches 7 inches 16 inches
Canopy Material 100% Polyester 100% Polyester 100% PVC 100% Polyester 100% PVC
Support structure Wooden handle and stem, metal spokes Iron shaft and steel + FRP ribs Clear acrylic crystal handle, metal shaft and spokes Fiberglass frame and spokes, steel shaft, plastic handle Fiberglass fram and spokes, steel shaft
Weight 1 lb, 3.3 oz 14.25 oz 1 lb, 2.6 12.5 oz 1 lb, 2.3 oz
Unique features Class umbrella design: wooden J-shaped handle Canopy Vent Flap Birdcage canopy Canopy Vent Flap Birdcage canopy
Colors Black, British Tan, Me's Stripe, Steele Blue Abigale Print Multi, Devora Stripe Multi, Carbon, Cuidad Blue Clear Navy, Black Various prints, color blocks

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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totes Clear Bubble
$26
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REI Travel Umbrella
$35
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WindPro Compact Auto
$41
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Fulton Birdcage
$35
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Blunt XS Metro
$49
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Eagle Creek Rain Away Travel
$28
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Selecting the Right Product
Umbrellas are a form of rain protection that have been around for ages, yet their design has remained relatively unchanged as time has marched on: there is a canopy that stretches across a series of spokes and a rigid stem that supports it. However, as technology has advanced, products have only become better in quality and versatility. Today, you now have the option between "traditional," non-compact models and compact models, which are small enough that you could carry one with you at all times and never notice its presence. In both of these categories, there is variation on weight, the size of canopy, and the size when completely collapsed.

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Here are all the contenders in their most compact forms. L to R: totes Blue Line, totes Clear Bubble, Fulton Birdcage, Blunt XS Metro, REI Travel, WindPro Compact Auto, Eagle Creek Rain Away Travel.
Credit: Jared Dean

Initially, umbrellas seem like they only offer a limited amount of protection from the rain. With a canopy overhead, they can only protect you from rain that falls perpendicular to the ground. When the wind kicks up, those with smaller, more shallow canopies were essentially useless. However, as we tested these products, we found that tilting them towards the rain makes a huge difference; some also have such deep canopies that you can duck inside one when the wind picks up. Additionally, the overhead canopy will almost certainly protect your legs from the rain better than a rain jacket, especially if you're wearing a pair of rain boots! Umbrellas also offer a significant amount of ventilation, making them an ideal choice for warm, rainy conditions, where a rain jacket would be far too hot. For more information, be sure to read our buying advice guide.

Different Types
There are two primary designs that we tested: compact and non-compact. In other words, products that are designed for saving space and weight for easier transportation and storage, and those that are not. Determining your needs will help make the decision between the two. There are a few distinct advantages and disadvantages between the two types.

Compact
Compact versions tend to have smaller canopies than non-compact and they typically have telescoping stems. They're also more convenient for travel because of how much smaller and lighter they are when collapsed. However, compact models are usually less durable than their non-compact counterparts. There are a few reasons for this, mainly that there are more moving parts, such as hinges in the spokes, which make up the supports for the canopies. Repeated abuse may weaken the hinges, and in one case, we witnessed a spoke break at the hinge. The higher number of hinges in compact products also increases the likelihood that the canopy will flip inside-out in during high wind. Our Top Pick for Compact went to the REI Travel Umbrella for being lightweight, collapsible, and offering great amount of protection from the rain.

Non-Compact
These products are more durable, but also take up significantly more space. They don't have telescoping stems, so their length is often long enough that you could almost use it as a cane. Because their canopies do not have to compress down, the spokes on non-compact models don't have as many hinges, which makes them more durable. Moreover, non-compact versions can withstand wind gusts far better than their compact siblings. In fact, not once did a non-compact model flip inside-out during our testing! However, if you need a product that can fit conveniently into a backpack or purse, a compact product would definitely be the better choice.

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The WindPro Compact Auto is a collapsible model that offers great protection from the rain.
Credit: Jared Dean

Criteria for Evaluation

Rain Protection
This is the primary reason for buying an umbrella. How well any given model is able to protect you from the rain lies primarily in the size and shape of the canopy. In most situations, larger is better. A large canopy will cover the most area, while giving you a little more freedom of movement. It will also allow you to concentrate less on shortening your stride to avoid getting your legs wet. This is, of course, relative to your general size. A child may not need the largest canopy available, but a full grown adult may need one. The totes Blue Line Auto Wooden, our Editors' Choice winner, has the largest canopy of all the products we tested, and it offered the best rain protection. If you need a small and compact version, the REI Travel model we tested is a great option, and still has a large enough canopy to really make it stand out amongst the others in its class.

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The REI is so good at protecting you from the rain that there's no reason to stay inside on a rainy day.
Credit: Jared Dean

But let's say there is a lot of wind coming in with the rain, what do you do about the lower half of your body? Well, the truth is that there is very little you can do, other than slip on some tall rain boots or a pair of rain pants. One thing we found in our testing is that simply tilting the canopy towards the oncoming rain is your best defense. Also, deep canopies may allow you to hide some of your head and shoulders inside. The totes Clear Bubble and the Fulton Birdcage both have very deep canopies that will allow the user to duck into them.

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The Fulton Birdcage has a deep canopy that allows the user to duck inside somewhat as the wind starts to pick up, giving the user a little more protection.
Credit: Jared Dean

We also found in our testing that the canopy can offer some shade from the sun. If you're on a long hike, a lightweight and compact designs can be a huge benefit on a hot and sunny day, especially once you break tree line and shade is sparse. A small canopy can suffice for a single person, though a larger one would offer more shade. The color of the canopy is also something to consider if you're going to be using it for shade. A black canopy will retain heat from the sun and almost entirely null the effects of the shade provided.

Durability & Wind Resistance
There's no use buying a poorly constructed product that will flip inside-out on you with the minutest of gusts and then breaking entirely. If you live in a region with high wind speeds, you should consider using a sturdy, non-compact model that won't turn inside out like the Blue Line, Birdcage and Clear Bubble.

If you need a compact version because you find yourself traveling quite a bit, you will have to sacrifice on wind resistance. Products that compress into unbelievably small sizes have more moving parts, which means it's easier for them to flip inside-out in high winds. We experienced this with every single compact model we tested, and unfortunately, due to these non-durable moving parts, some of the products actually broke during our testing process. For example, the Eagle Creek Rain Away Travel failed on us, but mostly because we repeatedly abused it by purposefully flipping it inside-out, which is not something that the typical consumer would put their own belongings through.

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Whoa! Sometimes the wind is enough to flip the umbrella inside out, which can leave you exposed to the rain, leaving you soaked.
Credit: Jared Dean

Ease of Use
The easier the product is to use, the more quickly you can deploy it in a sudden rain storm. If there is a sudden storm, it's best if you don't have to fiddle with too many straps, sleeves, or zippers (although, every product we tested has at least a Velcro strap to secure the canopy to the stem). Some models, such as the Blue Line, merely have a button to press on the handle and the canopy will spring into action and deploy, while others, like the Clear Bubble and Rain Away, you have to physically slide a mechanism up the shaft until the canopy expands and the collar locks into place.

We also considered the comfort of each product's handle. Is it soft and right for your hand size, or is it too small, rigid or just not ergonomically sound? Our testers found that the handle of the Rain Away was too small and had too much of an oval shape to be used comfortably, while the REI Travel has a soft ergonomic grip that makes using it a breeze. Remember, you don't want to be squeezing a hard tiny plastic knob in high winds when you're fighting every gust; it'll become very uncomfortable very quickly.

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The silver button located on the totes Blue Line stem allows the user to open the canopy with extreme ease. To close, simply slide a large plastic collar back down the shaft, and wrap the Velcro strap around the canopy.
Credit: Jared Dean

Ease of Transportation
If you frequently travel or commute on public transportation, you're going to want to consider things such as weight and compactness. You'll need a compact model if you want something that can fit in a suitcase, a backpack, or even a purse. As we tested out the products in this review, a few compact versions stood out to us as really having quality rain protection while being easy to transport. Our Top Pick award winner, the REI Travel, and the WindPro Compact Auto both offer great rain protection while being able to collapse to a very small and convenient travel size. If you're not going to be traveling a lot then compactness may not be as important. A longer, heavier product like the Blue Line can easily hang on a coat rack in your home or apartment, or fit inside your car, ready to be used when those rain storms suddenly roll in.

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The Eagle Creek Rain Away is the smallest and lightest product we tested. The apple is added for size comparison. The Rain Away is also about the same weight as a large apple.
Credit: Jared Dean

Style
Some view umbrellas as a unique accessory that can complement their wardrobe. If you need to keep up a business-like appearance, a sleek and classic looking piece, such as the Blue Line or the WindPro, may be a great choice for you. Both these models have octagonal canopies, and are very reminiscent of 1920's era rain gear. However, if you're looking for that fashionable "pop," a model like the Clear Bubble or Birdcage can really grab some attention. Another model that we think can really turn heads is the Blunt XS Metro, which has a unique scalloped-edge canopy and doesn't have any end-points poking out, thus reducing the chance of random eye-injuries!

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We took some of the compacts for long hikes in the woods. Here Jared is testing out the Blunt XS Metro, which has a very unique look due to the canopy's scalloped edges.
Credit: Jared Dean

Editors' Choice Award: totes Blue Line

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The totes Blue Line has the largest canopy off all the products we tested, and offers the best rain protection and durability, which is why we've given it our Editors' Choice award.
Credit: Jared Dean

The Totes Blue Line Auto Wooden received our Editors' Choice award due to its overall performance. Of all the products we tested, it offered the best rain protection and was the most durable. Not once, in all of our testing did the Blue Line flip inside out because of the wind, or for any other reason, and we never witnessed a single part break. Time and time again, if there was a torrential rain outside, our testers would naturally gravitate towards the Blue Line. Though it's a bit heavy and cumbersome, we thought the performance in every other metric was enough for us to grant it our Editors' Choice award.

Best Buy Award: Totes Clear Bubble

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The Totes Clear Bubble offers great rain protection, and never falters in the wind, which is why we've given it our Best Buy award.
Credit: Jared Dean

The totes Clear Bubble receives our Best Buy award for two reasons: how well it performed in our tests and its unbelievable price! We loved how well this piece protected us from the rain and how durable it turned out to be. Not once did it flip inside out in the rain, nor did any part of it break. Not only is it durable, it's very stylish. Our female testers loved the bubble canopy design for its cute appearance and because they could duck inside during windy rainstorms. And at $26, this stylish, feminine model is well worth your money.

Top Pick Award for Compact: REI Travel

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The REI Travel is lightweight and compact and performed so well in various metrics that we've given it our Top Pick award for Best Compact Model.
Credit: Jared Dean

We've given our Top Pick award to the REI Travel. This product packs down so small that it conveniently fits in a purse, in a backpack, or in your brief case. It has the largest canopy of any compact model we tested, which earned it extra points in our rain protection metric. Additionally, the ergonomic foam handle made using the REI Travel comfortable even in high wind and the one-press button that fires open the canopy makes it easy to use if you only have one hand free. Though all the compact models we tested flip inside-out in high winds, the sizable canopy on the REI Travel delivers quality protection from precipitation.

Jared Dean
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