Hands-on Gear Review

REI Travel Umbrella Review

Editors' Choice Award
Price:  $36 List
Pros:  Compact, easy to use, large canopy
Cons:  A little long for a compact model
Editors' Rating:   
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Canopy Diameter:  39 inches
Depth of Canopy:  7.5 inches
Weight:  14.1 oz
Manufacturer:   REI

Our Verdict

As of February 2017, REI's Travel Umbrella is Discontinued
The REI Travel Umbrella is a compact champion of rainy days. Indeed, it performed so well during our testing period, it trumped the other models and earned our Editors' Choice Award. This product struck the best compromise between rain protection and portability and scored well across the board. It has a surprisingly large and deep canopy for a compact model while remaining relatively lightweight and small. It isn't the lightest of all the models we tested, but we think that the trade-off for better rain protection is well worth the few extra ounces. Due to its packability, we found space in all sorts of places to store or carry this product. We used it to walk the dog, walk to work, and we even took it for some long hikes in the mountains, just in case it rained while we were hanging out on the summit. We also appreciated its automatic open/close button, especially when getting out of cars/buses/trains. Finally, this umbrella has a vent that allows the wind to escape without flipping the canopy inside out, and to our satisfaction, we never witnessed water entering through the flap.

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.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Rain Umbrellas of 2018

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ross Robinson

Last Updated:
Thursday
November 5, 2015

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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.

Performance Comparison


Raindrops just seem to turn to rainbows when using our Editors' Choice winner.
Raindrops just seem to turn to rainbows when using our Editors' Choice winner.

Rain Protection


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 XS 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.

You can go for a walk in the rain  but you should remember to shorten your stride a bit  or else you risk getting your legs wet as they leave the protective covering.
You can go for a walk in the rain, but you should remember to shorten your stride a bit, or else you risk getting your legs wet as they leave the protective covering.

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.

The ventilation flap allows wind stop go through the canopy without letting rain water enter.  However  we did find that the wind is still able to flip the umbrella inside out.
The ventilation flap allows wind stop go through the canopy without letting rain water enter. However, we did find that the wind is still able to flip the umbrella inside out.

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 XS 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.

The REI Travel Umbrella is light weight and small enough to be a great companion on rainy hike in the woods  especially if you're unsure if it's even going to rain. We're happy we brought it with us.
The REI Travel Umbrella is light weight and small enough to be a great companion on rainy hike in the woods, especially if you're unsure if it's even going to rain. We're happy we brought it with us.

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.

We like carabiners  for they always seem to make life easier.
We like carabiners, for they always seem to make life easier.

Durability


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.

Although it wasn't the most durable umbrella in this review  we were still satisfied with its performance in this metric.
Although it wasn't the most durable umbrella in this review, we were still satisfied with its performance in this metric.

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.

Need a durable compact umbrella that will really perform in windy conditions? Consider the Gustbuster Metro, our Top Pick for Compact Wind Resistance!

This model stood its ground until we sped up to 45 mph  at which point it began to break down.
This model stood its ground until we sped up to 45 mph, at which point it began to break down.

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.

The REI opens by pressing a gray button that is stamped with their logo. The canopy flies open in the blink of an eye.
The REI opens by pressing a gray button that is stamped with their logo. The canopy flies open in the blink of an eye.

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 sleeve looks like it would be a tight fit  but it works out perfectly fine. The opening is wide enough to easily get the umbrella inside  and then pull the draw string to securely keep it all wrapped together.
The sleeve looks like it would be a tight fit, but it works out perfectly fine. The opening is wide enough to easily get the umbrella inside, and then pull the draw string to securely keep it all wrapped together.

Style


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.

The REI fully deployed has a 7.5 inch deep canopy  and a large ventilation flap. The unique pattern makes the umbrella stand out. The shape is that of a classic looking umbrella.
The REI fully deployed has a 7.5 inch deep canopy, and a large ventilation flap. The unique pattern makes the umbrella stand out. The shape is that of a classic looking umbrella.

Best Applications


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.

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

Value


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.

Considering its performance across the board  we find this product to be of great value.
Considering its performance across the board, we find this product to be of great value.

Conclusion


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

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Most recent review: November 5, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
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4 star: 100%  (1)
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