Hands-on Gear Review

Fulton Birdcage Review

By: Ross Robinson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 5, 2015
Price:  $55 List  |  $54.94 at Amazon
Pros:  Stylish
Cons:  Large, heavy, difficult to use
Manufacturer:   Fulton
52
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Rain Protection - 30% 7
  • Ease of Transport - 30% 3
  • Durability - 20% 4
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Style - 5% 9
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Our Verdict

The Fulton Birdcage provides decent rain protection even in the heaviest of rains. The Birdcage also stands up against gusts of wind without flipping inside out. This more feminine piece is also one of the most stylish of the models in our review, breaking away from the classic design and offering a unique "birdcage" canopy that looks so good, it's the umbrella of choice for the Queen of England. However, it happens to be one of the heaviest and longest products we tested, which may be a deal breaker for some. Moreover, its low scores in durability and ease of use left us wanting more. If you're looking for something more compact and yet stylish, check out the Blunt XS Metro.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Fulton Birdcage has a canopy diameter of 34 inches. This alone doesn't offer a great amount of rain protection, yet its deep canopy does allow its user to duck inside when the wind blows the rain horizontally. This model's strongest suit is its style, clearly standing out on rainy days from the other ubiquitous octagonal umbrellas. Unfortunately, it didn't impress us in our other metrics, such as ease of transport, durability, and ease of use. In the end, we discovered that this model has got the looks, but comes up short in nearly every other category.

Performance Comparison


Reviewer Jenna Ammerman protects her dome inside the dome of this model.
Reviewer Jenna Ammerman protects her dome inside the dome of this model.

Rain Protection


At 34 inches, this is one of the smallest canopies on any of the products we tested. Our testers found that the canopy, which is comprised of PVC plastic, works well in any type of rain, from a light sprinkle to a heavy rain. We were also glad that this product, like the other non-compact models, did not invert once in all our tests. Additionally, the deep birdcage design of the canopy allows the user to duck inside the canopy if the rain starts being pushed around by the wind. Much like the totes Clear Bubble, however, if you stay hidden inside the canopy for too long, you run the risk of fogging up the inside of the canopy and reducing your visibility. If you opt for this style, it's ideal to choose a clear version so that you can still see where you're headed with your head up in the canopy. Unfortunately, the small size of the canopy means that you have to shorten your stride significantly to keep your legs dry. If you need an umbrella with a large canopy and the best protection from the rain, check out the totes Blue Line Auto Wooden.

Still dry  Jared tests out the this model on a rainy afternoon.
Still dry, Jared tests out the this model on a rainy afternoon.

Ease of Transport


Weighing in at 1 pound and 3 ounces, this is the second heaviest product we tested. And at 36.5 inches, it's one of the longest ones we tested as well. This umbrella won't fit in your purse, or your backpack. However, our testers found that it can easily fit in your car, closet, or even just leaned up in the corner of a hallway.

Fully collapsed and with its canopy tied up  the Birdcage measures 37 inches from the very tip of the stem to the bottom of the crooked handle.
Fully collapsed and with its canopy tied up, the Birdcage measures 37 inches from the very tip of the stem to the bottom of the crooked handle.

Durability


We initially expected the Birdcage to score quite well in this category, having a steel shaft, few moving parts, and fiberglass integrated into its frame for greater flexibility. Unfortunately, the PVC canopy proved to be a problem. Like the totes Clear Bubble, the inside of the canopy arrived at our doorstep covered in a powdery substance that limited visibility. After we washed it off with a wet washcloth and collapsed the canopy, the material stuck firmly to itself. We had to physically pull the canopy away from itself to deploy it, which was time-consuming and annoying. And once, in an effort to quickly open it, the canopy stuck together so strongly that a stretcher snapped as we tried to open it. It remained functional, though, and when it rained the next day, we reached for the Birdcage again. This time, the broken stretcher poked through the canopy upon deployment, much to our chagrin. We were not impressed, to say the least.

In this photo  you can easily see the broken stretcher hanging down  unattached to the rib.
In this photo, you can easily see the broken stretcher hanging down, unattached to the rib.

In our extreme wind test, the Fulton made it only to 30 mph before collapsing. In its defense, it did already have a broken stretcher before this test was performed. Overall, we were pretty disappointed by the Fulton's performance in this metric.

The canopy is a transparent bubble that provides a unique view of the outside world. The stretchers that support the canopy are made of fiberglass.
The canopy is a transparent bubble that provides a unique view of the outside world. The stretchers that support the canopy are made of fiberglass.

Ease of Use


As mentioned above, this contender was very difficult to use once we removed the powder from the canopy. Having to pry the canopy apart from itself wasted precious seconds when caught in the rain. This also made it quite difficult to open when getting out of the car. Furthermore, we generally preferred auto opening products to manual ones like the Birdcage.

We also weren't huge fans of the acrylic handle, which our testers found a little uncomfortable to handle in high winds. The PVC canopy, similar to that of the totes Clear Bubble, took the longest to dry, taking nearly three hours to go from soaking wet to completely dry.

Here you can see the crooked handle design. It's not the most ergonomic  but it has enough room for two hands  which is very advantageous in windy rain storms.
Here you can see the crooked handle design. It's not the most ergonomic, but it has enough room for two hands, which is very advantageous in windy rain storms.

Style


Our testers - specifically the women that weighed in - loved the style of this piece. Its design has the urban fashion connoisseur in mind, and fits in well in downtown and city environments. If you're looking for a stylish umbrella that'll add a little "pop" to your outfit, our testers would suggest this one. Additionally, this piece also happens to be sported by her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, which may give you a tingling sense of regal status as you walk down a busy city street in any major urban setting.

Here you can really see the depth of the birdcage design. It's great to be able to hide inside the depths of the canopy. The birdcage design is offers a unique and stylish look that other classic umbrellas fail to measure up to.
Here you can really see the depth of the birdcage design. It's great to be able to hide inside the depths of the canopy. The birdcage design is offers a unique and stylish look that other classic umbrellas fail to measure up to.

Best Applications


This umbrella is best used in urban settings when you want to stand out from the rest of the crowd. We wouldn't suggest it for traveling or public transport commutes due to its weight and cumbersome size. However, if you're just stepping outside to spend the day on the town and want to look good doing it, this might be a fine option for you. It's also a good choice if you're sitting outside at a concert or sporting event and need some rain protection, especially since it's clear and won't block the view of those behind you quite as badly as a solid model.

The mechanical collar doesn't slide all the way up  but rather is the bottom of another shaft that slides over the main shaft. There are no mechanical locks that keep it in place  but rather certain directed forces keep it in place.
The mechanical collar doesn't slide all the way up, but rather is the bottom of another shaft that slides over the main shaft. There are no mechanical locks that keep it in place, but rather certain directed forces keep it in place.

Value


This product will cost you about $35. Our testers think that the price is a little on the expensive side when considering its performance in our metrics. Unless you really want an umbrella that Queen Elizabeth II also uses, we think the totes Clear Bubble is a higher performing and less expensive alternative that offers similar quality of rain protection.

Conclusion


The Fulton Birdcage is a product that offers great style and decent rain protection. During rainy walks along city streets, this model will serve you quite well, turning heads as you go. However, if you are looking for a practical model that performs well across the board, you'll want to search elsewhere. Its lack of durability, portability, and difficulty in use caused it to score the worst overall in our review. And at $35, we think it's a little over-priced. If you are hooked on the bubble design of this model, check out the less expensive, and better performing, totes Clear Bubble.

Jared stands in the rain without fear of getting soaked because he knows the Birdcage will protect him! The 34 inch canopy isn't the largest we tested  but the depth of the canopy  16 inches  offers enough space to hide inside. This is especially useful when the wind picks up and the rain starts coming in sideways.
Jared stands in the rain without fear of getting soaked because he knows the Birdcage will protect him! The 34 inch canopy isn't the largest we tested, but the depth of the canopy, 16 inches, offers enough space to hide inside. This is especially useful when the wind picks up and the rain starts coming in sideways.

Other Versions


Fulton manufacturers a wide variety of umbrellas, both traditional and compact. However, there aren't any other versions of the Birdcage, although it does comes in a variety of colors and prints.

Ross Robinson

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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