The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

totes Clear Bubble Review

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Price:  $26 List | $22.38 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, stylish
Cons:  Heavy, large, difficult to use
Manufacturer:   totes
By Ross Robinson & Jared Dean  ⋅  Nov 5, 2015
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58
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Rain Protection - 30% 7
  • Ease of Transport - 30% 3
  • Durability - 20% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Style - 5% 9

The Skinny

Although its non-telescoping shaft classifies it as a traditional umbrella, the totes Clear Bubble has a unique appearance that defies the classic umbrella look. Offering a deep dome for a canopy, this model has unique rain protection. The acrylic handle and metal shaft give this model plenty of support and offer a sturdy rigidity that some of its competitors simply lacked. In terms of wind resistance, this product never flipped inside out on us. All these things considered, this piece does have some significant drawbacks, including its size and weight. If you need something lightweight and compact, check out our Editors' Choice winner: the REI Travel Umbrella. However, if you prefer a non-compact model with even better rain protection and durability, and a better price, check out our Best Buy Award winner, the totes Blue Line Auto Wooden.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The totes Clear Bubble Umbrella is a stylish model that will certainly turn heads as the rain falls. Its canopy diameter spans only 34 inches, yet its deep canopy performs better than you might expect with such a small wingspan, especially in horizontal rain. You can also rest assured that it won't spontaneously fail or flip inside out on windy days. However, it lacks the ease of use of some of the other models we tested and takes up lots of space and weight. We also found the PVC canopy to be less durable than its nylon and polyester competitors. Costing only around $20, this model offers affordable style, but not the greatest functionality.

Performance Comparison


Reviewer Bre Ward shows us how easy it is to look good in the rain with the totes Clear Bubble.
Reviewer Bre Ward shows us how easy it is to look good in the rain with the totes Clear Bubble.

Rain Protection


With a 34-inch canopy, the Clear Bubble has one of the smallest canopies of all the products we tested. We had to pay close attention to the length of our stride so our legs wouldn't extend outside the protection of the canopy and become soaked. Despite the small diameter of the canopy, the bubble design forms a hemisphere that is deep enough to fit over the head and shoulders, which our testers thought was sometimes advantageous. If the wind picks up and the rain starts coming in sideways, you have the option of ducking inside the bubble canopy and at least saving your upper body from being soaked. However, our testers found that if you are going to hide inside the bubble, there is a chance that the canopy will become fogged from body heat, forcing you to tip the front end of the canopy upwards, and thus reducing its actual covering area.

We were positively impressed that this model refused to invert. We took it out in stormy conditions, and purposely attempted to flip it inside-out, to no avail. Not once did it flip on us during use, and at this point our testers don't think it's even possible without physically breaking the spokes supporting the canopy.

Our tester hides under the canopy as he's sprayed with a hose. The deep canopy of the clear bubble allows you to duck inside to hide from rain being pushed around by the wind.
Our tester hides under the canopy as he's sprayed with a hose. The deep canopy of the clear bubble allows you to duck inside to hide from rain being pushed around by the wind.

Ease of Transport


This product suffered the most in this category. Of all the products we tested, the Clear Bubble is one of the longest and heaviest. It measures 37 inches, and weighs in at 1 pound, 2.6 ounces. Though our testers found it easy to stash this umbrella in the trunks of their vehicles, and in various places in their homes, it was a little cumbersome to be carrying around all day. If you need a small and compact model that also offers a little style, consider the Blunt XS Metro.

Here you can see the Totes Clear Bubble Umbrella fully collapsed. It measures 37 inches long from tip to handle.
Here you can see the Totes Clear Bubble Umbrella fully collapsed. It measures 37 inches long from tip to handle.

Durability


Despite being tossed around cars and tested in stormy conditions, this product held up well. If you lived in a windy environment, or the Windy City itself, this piece will be able to stand up to very intense gales. We never experienced any problems with the spokes that support the canopy either.

We did find a drawback in the canopy material. When we received the product, the inside of the canopy was coated in a powdery substance. Wanting to have a clear view from inside the canopy, we used a wet washcloth to remove the powder. As it turned out, the powder is there to keep the PVC canopy to sticking to itself after resting in its closed form. After removing the powder, we had to physically pull apart the canopy before deploying the canopy. It actually clings to itself so strongly that we feared we might break either the stretchers or the canopy itself. The Fulton Birdcage, with its PVC canopy, suffered the same drawback.

Despite looking good  we found a few significant drawbacks to the clear PVC canopy.
Despite looking good, we found a few significant drawbacks to the clear PVC canopy.

Ease of Use


The Clear Bubble has a simple and classic design for opening and closing the canopy. A sliding collar moves up and down the stem to open and close the canopy. The collar locks securely into place when the canopy is fully deployed, which means the collar won't dislodge on its own and cause the user to become exposed to the rain and soaked. Additionally, the cane-shaped acrylic handle is easy to grip and long enough to allow both hands to be used at once, which is of great help when the wind picks up and is trying to steal the umbrella away. Unfortunately, the Clear Bubble doesn't have any soft foam for a comfortable grip and the non-ergonomic acrylic is at times a little slick. However, the cane shaped handle does offer some assistance in being able to securely grip the umbrella in different ways.

The mechanical collar is located almost halfway up the stem  beneath the canopy. To open the umbrella  you simply slide the collar up the stem until it locks in place. To release it you have to press in a metal fin that protrudes from the stem beneath the collar.
The mechanical collar is located almost halfway up the stem, beneath the canopy. To open the umbrella, you simply slide the collar up the stem until it locks in place. To release it you have to press in a metal fin that protrudes from the stem beneath the collar.

Style


The Clear Bubble has a very stylish design that'll stand out in a crowd of simple and stereotypical black canopies. Its bubble shape is complemented by the J-shaped handle. Our testers think that this model is a bit more feminine than masculine, but we don't think that should stop any man from using it. With this stylish model, you'll be turning heads whether you're out for an evening on the town or headed out on a walk in the park.

Who says that you can't be stylish on soggy days?
Who says that you can't be stylish on soggy days?

Best Applications


If you need to stand out from the crowd on rainy days, the Clear Bubble is for you. Due to its size and weight, this umbrella is best stored in your car's trunk or hanging in your foyer.

The totes Bubble is a unique way to stay dry in the rain. Its canopy is deep enough to hide under in a pouring rain if necessary.
The totes Bubble is a unique way to stay dry in the rain. Its canopy is deep enough to hide under in a pouring rain if necessary.

Value


At only around $20, we think that this product offers a good value, especially when style matters. Not only will this umbrella keep you from breaking your bank account, it'll give you repeated protection from the rain through the worst spring showers and summer storms, into the fall and winter seasons.

The Clear Bubble's crooked handle allows you to hold on with both hands. Unfortunately there is no foam or rubber for a soft and comfortable grip. Regardless  on windy days  two hands can make all the difference.
The Clear Bubble's crooked handle allows you to hold on with both hands. Unfortunately there is no foam or rubber for a soft and comfortable grip. Regardless, on windy days, two hands can make all the difference.

Conclusion


After months of testing the totes Clear Bubble, we realized that this product's best asset is its looks. You'll definitely stand out on the sidewalk when walking with this canopy above your head. It also offers decent rain protection and durability. However, it's too large and heavy to continually keep by your side, and not the easiest to use. While not the most practical umbrella on the market, its flashy looks and affordable price tag make this piece a tempting choice.

Enjoying some time taking a walk in the rain by a pond. The Clear Bubble's wind resistance is enough to withstand gusts and breezes coming down canyons off the ponds.
Enjoying some time taking a walk in the rain by a pond. The Clear Bubble's wind resistance is enough to withstand gusts and breezes coming down canyons off the ponds.


Ross Robinson & Jared Dean