Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Umbrellas

Thursday April 29, 2021

The original testing team hails from the rainy Pacific Northwest, one of the nation's most reliably wet climates. Over the years, we've extended testing to the mountains of Colorado. Our testers have used these products on rainy commutes into Seattle, hiking through urban parks, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and even on backcountry ski outings in springtime slush storms.

While most of the models in this review are explicitly for rain, a few have quirks to allow for greater versatility, such as for high wind events or for ease of use in the sun. We acknowledge that some people like to use umbrellas in a variety of manners, so we kept this in mind when establishing and engaging with our testing methods.

Local walkabouts are where we gain the most practical hands-on...
Local walkabouts are where we gain the most practical hands-on experiences.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Rain Protection


We standardized our test for rain protection by taking laps around our local neighborhood or park, clear and open to the dripping sky, with each umbrella. This allowed us to assess the realistic rain protection properties of each product in the same conditions. We made notes between each lap, paying attention to where we felt the threshold was in the exposure of our upper body to the elements.

We also took general note of how the wind seemed to catch or affect the balance of each model. Then we conducted a formal Wind Test by holding each out the passenger window of a vehicle and slowly speeding up until the canopy collapsed or otherwise became unmanageable. Next, we repeated the test but with the canopy angled to catch the wind to find out at what wind speed it inverted.

Technical measurements were made as well, such as canopy diameter and depth. We use these measurements instead of "arc length," which is often reported by manufacturers. We find that arc length can be misleading since it says nothing of the angle of the arc. With diameter and depth, you can better envision the shape and size of each canopy, and therefore, its approximate coverage.

Thankfully it's pretty standard for a sleeve to include a strap or...
Thankfully it's pretty standard for a sleeve to include a strap or leash for easy carrying or hanging.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Ease of Transport


We carried and carted all of these products in various ways; in backpacks, handbags, on back seats, in our bare hands, and even in the occasional back pocket. Additionally, we weighed each model and measured the packed length in its sleeve (if it came with one). If you're going to be toting these things around a lot, it's nice to know the dimensions of what you're dealing with. We feel these details also contribute to the overall appeal and ease of use.

We packed up and carted around each umbrella in all kinds of bags...
We packed up and carted around each umbrella in all kinds of bags and otherwise to assess how easy (or not) they are to travel with.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Durability


During general use, we pay attention to how the canopy material feels and looks over time. We also standardized a test of opening and closing the umbrellas 30 times in a row, taking note of any squeaks that arise or a change in the flow of the mechanism. Our wind testing also plays a part in testing durability by seeing how the structures of the umbrellas stand up to these more extreme circumstances.

From handle design to length to weight to materials used -- the list...
From handle design to length to weight to materials used -- the list goes on as to what we consider during testing.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Ease of Use


In expanding the metric of ease of transport, which determines how handy or unwieldy a given model can be, we also consider the actual operating mechanisms. If there are automatic features built into the design, such as buttons that deploy the canopy, we take note of how easy or practical such features are. Particularly during the durability test of opening and closing 30 times in a row, we get a good feel for the mechanics. More often than not, it's actually the manually operated umbrellas that tend to be the most fluid and don't require a ton of muscle to collapse again. Lastly, we note how easy it is to stash a model into its sleeve if it comes with one.

We opened and closed each umbrella over and over again to see how...
We opened and closed each umbrella over and over again to see how easy it is to use. If you get caught in a sudden and violent storm, you want your chosen model to be easy and quick to deploy.
Photo: Sara Aranda

Style


While a subjective metric, we considered the fashion sense of each design, asking others to weigh in on the style of each product. Sometimes the appearance and appeal of an umbrella can completely outweigh its function, so for us, style holds the lowest metric weight.

So many patterns and colors to contemplate!
So many patterns and colors to contemplate!
Photo: Sara Aranda