We highly recommend the REI Travel for anyone who needs a versatile rain shelter that's compact enough that you'll always have when you need it. However, if you don't need a compact umbrella and want to save some cash, check out the totes Blue Line Auto Wooden, our Best Buy Award winner. Or, if you live in a windy city and need a compact model that can really take a beating, you might like the GustBuster Metro, which walked away with our Top Pick for Compact Wind Resistance.
REI Travel Umbrella Review
Cons: A little long for a compact model
Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Travel Umbrella is a great compact model that can travel with you in your purse, backpack, luggage, or just in your car. Its 39-inch canopy diameter offers great rain protection, yet this product still only weighs 14 ounces. We liked how easy it was to use, as well as its comfortable foam handle. Durable enough to handle storm after storm, this umbrella took home our Editors' Choice Award. For only $35, we think this item is a great value and a reliable companion to have with you at home, at work, and on your travels.
When we tested this contender in the down pouring rain, we were initially impressed by the large canopy's ability to cover us so well. At 39 inches, it tied for the second largest canopy of all the products we tested, falling only 3.5 inches short of the Blue Line. Water rolls right off the canopy, and much to our relief, no water found its way through the vent on the top. The canopy, though very large in diameter, isn't as deep as the Fulton Birdcage, totes Clear Bubble, or the Blue Line.
However, our testers thought that the trade-off in the depth of the canopy to be worth the benefits of having it be compact. And in relation to the other compact models, the REI Travel tied for second in canopy depth. The overall diameter was large enough that when our testers shortened their stride, their legs stayed drier than they did when using products with smaller canopies, like the Blunt Metro. The extra space to move around beneath the canopy was also convenient, letting us turn whichever way without feeling like a mime stuck inside an invisible box.
All that said, the REI Travel did lose points in this category for being susceptible to inverting in very windy conditions. Its vented canopy allows it to handle stronger gusts of wind than most of its compact competitors, but it still isn't impervious to whipping winds. However, we did like that it features an auto-correct function. If this product inverts on you, you don't have to fight with it to right itself. You can just press the button on the handle, which will collapse the canopy, at which point you can compact the umbrella and press the button again to reopen it. We found that this saved us precious seconds of exposure.
Ease of Transport
Although not as light as the EuroSchirm Light Trek, this product still won't weigh you down. It weighs in at 14.1 ounces on our scale and measures 12.5 inches, which equates to the middle of the pack.
Our testers took this product on hikes, threw it in backpacks and purses, and traveled with it in various locations. Though the Blunt Metro and EuroSchirm are lighter, they don't have the amount of rain cover due to their smaller canopies, so we think the REI model is worth the extra weight and size.
Additionally, the sleeve also comes with a small carabiner which is attached to a nylon strap on the outside of the canopy. The carabiner isn't designated for climbing; however we found that it was enough to support the weight of the umbrella as we clipped it to our backpacks, or hung it up in the closet.
The REI Travel's telescoping shaft is one of the most durable we tested. The stem is made of iron and the stretchers that support the canopy are made of steel with fiberglass pultrusion. We found that these materials combine for a durable frame that won't break down easily, even if it gets inverted occasionally. The stuff sack that accompanies this product, however, isn't quite as durable. We used this product a lot, and over time, the stitching around the opening of the stuff sack slowly started to come undone.
With proper care, we estimate that this product will be able to stand up to years of storms. With three hinges on each of its eight stretchers, though, there are sources of potential breakage, as well as rust. To increase your confidence, though, REI backs this product with its one-year satisfaction guarantee, as well as a limited lifetime warranty.
Finally, in our extreme wind test, this model and its vented canopy held strong up to 40 mph. Wanting to see how much more it could handle, we sped up. At 45 mph, we witnessed two of the eight stretchers under the canopy bend out of shape. However, the canopy still held up and did not collapse. Also to its credit, it still functions as a shelter, although its rain protection was partially compromised. It passed our 40 mph standard, which we think is very satisfactory.
Ease of Use
The REI Travel is simple to use. A small button on the handle extends the stem, and then opens the canopy. To close it, you push the button again which collapses the canopy, and then you have to press down the top of the umbrella to collapse the stem.
If you need to deploy the canopy prior to exiting the car, you can merely point it through the space between your open door and the vehicle and press the button. We found this to be a great advantage over awkwardly trying to get out of your car with a manually operated product. Also, in our dry-time test, this model was completely dry in under 20 minutes when left in its open position.
Additionally, this product comes with a nylon stuff sack with a drawstring at the opening. This allows the user to cinch down the case to prevent dust or crud from collecting inside, and keeps your wet umbrella from dripping on the contents of your bag. The drawstring design also makes getting the canopy into the wide opening of the sack a breeze. Lastly, no other product we tested has as comfortable of a grip as the REI Travel. The whole knob is made of soft foam that is easy on the hand, especially in windy conditions. One side of the handle is shaved slightly flat so as to better fit a person's fingers and grip.
The REI Travel has a classic-style octagonal canopy. If you go for the solid, darker colors, this sleek umbrella will look professional without drawing attention.
However, it does also have some eye-catching pattern options that can really make this product pop. We especially liked the Red Flannel pattern to add some hip to soggy days.
If you need an everyday umbrella that you won't mind carrying along while working or playing, the REI Travel is our favorite option. It offers the most rain protection of the compact models we tested and will likely last longer than many of its competitors. Though not the lightest of the compact models, we still found it to be very portable. It's also super easy to use with its automatic features. From light drizzle to heavy rains, we think our Editors' Choice winner is a great all-around choice.
At $35, this product is one of the least expensive compact models. Considering that it won our Editors' Choice Award, we find this to be a great value! It's easy to transport, it's durable, has a very comfortable grip, and offers great protection from the rain. But, if you don't need a compact model, check out our Best Buy Award winner, the totes Blue Line for more savings.
The REI Travel stands out as the best in our field of competitors and therefore earned our Editors' Choice award. With a large canopy that offers great protection from the rain, a comfortable and ergonomic grip for easy use, and durable construction, it is the best companion to bring along on rainy days. And since it's so easy to transport, there's no reason to leave it behind - tuck it into your bag even if the chance of precipitation is low! This product does it all on work days, weekends, and vacations, keeping you dry so you can keep moving.
— Ross Robinson