The Helinox is nearly identical in design to our Swing Trek LiteFlex Hiking umbrella. It is a very close second, earning our Top Pick for Hiking, with the same fantastic rain protection, incredible light weight, and impressive durability. It does not do as well as a sun shade as the Swing Trek, and it does not have a handy mesh shoulder sling to carry it when closed. Otherwise, it is a highly competitive model in a flashy and fun red canopy with blue aluminum fixed-length shaft.
Helinox Trekking Review
Cons: Slightly longer shaft compared to other lightweight trekking umbrellas
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Helinox was one of our favorite hiking umbrellas in this review, with enough panache to make it fun for urban use as well.
The Helinox is a very close runner-up to the Swing Trek LiteFlex Hiking umbrella, our Editor's Choice Award winner. In our OGL Rain Test, raindrops struck us around mid thigh and elbow, very similar to the Swing Trek in this highly scientific and variable-free field test. (Okay, maybe there were a few variables. Anyway.)
The Helinox benefits from a very well designed canopy, which is relatively deep and broad for its collapsed size and weight, but smaller than the totes Auto Open Wooden umbrella and the Glamore Creative Cars Reverse. Geometrically speaking, the Helinox has a great size and shape to minimize its footprint while maximizing coverage.
This is another product that is great for trekking in the sun, and we found that to be a great bonus that made this model, as well as the Swing Trek, much more versatile and well worth the cost.
Ease of Transport
Similar again to the Swing Trek LiteFlex Hiking, the Helinox owes most of its points in the transport category to its light weight, balanced weight distribution, and extreme durability. We felt we could throw this product just about anywhere without being concerned someone would break it by accidentally sitting on it, or that it would get snapped somehow.
We could toss this in grocery bags, similar to a folding umbrella, without it tipping over and falling back out of the open-topped shopping bag. Longer models that have heavier handles, like the totes Auto Wooden and Glamore Creative Cars Reverse, would just tip over and tear paper grocery bags or fall out, making our already full hands even more chaotic.
While the fixed length of this product's shaft makes it longer than telescoping umbrellas of similar canopy size and depth, it was still small enough to cram into most of our duffel bags and not too long that it was unreasonable to slide into shoulder sling bags or messenger bags with one end sticking out.
For an excellent option in the collapsible, telescoping variety, check out our award winner, the Lewis N Clark Umbrella. For trekkers, the Sea to Summit Cordura Trekking is slightly lighter weight but collapses for stashing inside a backpack rather than strapping it to the outside.
The solid shaft design of the Helinox dramatically improves its durability. By minimizing moving parts and joints, there is just simply less that can break. The canopy opens manually, so there is no button mechanism to break. Additionally, the plastic stretchers and DAC Featherlite aluminum shaft (think tent pole segment) inspire confidence in its durability. We noticed the shaft of the Helinox was metal where the Swing Trek had more of a plasticky feel and appeared to be fiberglass. We did not discover any differences in durability between the two in our tests, trials, and tribulations, but some might like to minimize metal in their umbrellas and therefore might prefer the Swing Trek.
In our OGL Wind Test, the canopy snapped sideways (relative to the shaft) at around 20mph wind speed, buckling around at 15mph and easily inverting at 10mph, nearly identical performance as the Swing Trek LiteFlex Trekking. But again, the plastic stays bounced back unscathed.
Ease of Use
This contender has a very comfortable grip and a very handy cinching strap that makes it easy to lash it to a backpack (with a Velcro loop for a hydration bladder hose), making it a hands-free trekking umbrella. We loved this feature and even took it out backcountry skiing in some of this winter's biggest snow storms in the Cascades.
It is also easy to lash the umbrella to a ski or trekking pole due to the soft, long handle-- which is not much thicker than the shaft. This makes it easy to nest next to a trekking pole, bracing and lashing it as if it is an extension of the trekking pole. Most umbrellas can, of course, also be lashed to a ski pole similarly, but the handle and drawcord tether of this one makes it significantly easier to secure in a number of outdoor uses.
We additionally appreciated how few sharp things protrude from this model: none, really! All the tips of the canopy's ribs are larger rounded plastic bits, so this product is much less likely to poke peoples' eyes out in crowded public rainstorms.
The Helinox is not a subtle umbrella, unless you select the black version. We, however, loved the red canopy with a flashy blue pole to add a little flair. This model is harder to hide inside of a bag, so it is likely to be seen; however, this is definitely geared toward trekkers and outdoor enthusiasts, and less toward formal, urban, or business use, so the flair is perhaps fitting, or at least acceptable. For an umbrella with similar flair, check out the Blunt XS Metro, a fun looking model, while the totes Auto Open Wooden umbrella offers a classic style. And for a standard, no frills style, we recommend the Lewis N Clark Umbrella
This is an excellent choice for the true umbrella enthusiast who hates rain jackets and can't be bothered to hold an umbrella in one hand on a long hike--but spends a lot of time hiking in the rain. This one has a slightly higher price point than the Swing Trek, which we also loved, but with a slightly higher price, buyers will want to be sure they're psyched to pay a bit more for a bright red color or an aluminum shaft. This is also a great gift for the notorious umbrella smasher in your family.
Value is one reason the Helinox was relegated to second place, in favor of the Swing Trek LiteFlex Hiking umbrella: it is about 50% more expensive! Given that it also doesn't have the reflective silver outer canopy or the fancy carrying bag, this knocks the Helinox down a bit in terms of value.
Helinox makes an assortment of high-quality outdoor accessories, from lightweight chairs and tables to cots and this outstanding line of umbrellas. This product is a bit more expensive than similar trekking models, but it might be well worth it for the avid through-hiker or just for someone who is really hard on umbrellas: this has no metal stays to bend or break, no telescoping shaft to bend, and no deploy button mechanism to fail. Even in the biggest gusts of wind, ones strong enough to flatten this umbrella, it bounced right back into perfect form.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: May 28, 2017
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