Best Umbrella of 2021
|Price||$46.35 at Amazon||$20 List||$22 List||$21.75 at Amazon||$18 List|
|Pros||Lightweight, durable, easy to use||Strong, excellent rain coverage, stylish||Classy, durable, versatile||Affordable, stylish, ample rain protection||Compact, wind vent, adequate rain protection|
|Cons||Fixed shaft length makes it a bit longer, not as stylish||Large, unwieldy in high winds||On the heavy side, larger for a compact model||Heavy, not as easy to transport||A touch heavier than other compact models, plain style|
|Bottom Line||A lightweight, quality choice with notable rain protection and ease of use||This is a fun, well-made umbrella that provides classic rain protection and nostalgia||Classy style and reliable rain protection with all the perks of a compact, automatic umbrella||Fun style with a more encompassing bubble canopy for greater rain protection||Compact, easy to use, and affordable, this umbrella gets the job done without costing more than it should|
|Rating Categories||Swing Trek Liteflex||totes Auto Open Wooden||Balios Double Canopy||totes Clear Bubble||AmazonBasics Automa...|
|Rain Protection (30%)|
|Ease Of Transport (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Swing Trek Liteflex||totes Auto Open Wooden||Balios Double Canopy||totes Clear Bubble||AmazonBasics Automa...|
|Measured Canopy Diameter||37.5 in||42 in||40 in||33.5 in||38 in|
|Depth of Canopy||9.75 in||10.25 in||9 in||16.75 in||8 in|
|Sleeve Included?||Yes, w/ shoulder sling||No||Yes, with zip||No||Yes|
|Measured Weight, Including Sleeve||10.0 oz (w/case); 8.0 oz (w/o case)||18.5 oz||15.5 oz||16.0 oz||14.0 oz|
|Measured Length (collapsed)||25.25 in||36.5 in||14 in||35.75 in||11.5 in|
|Measured Length (deployed)||25.38 in||36.75 in||25.5 in||35.75 in||21.5 in|
|Handle Design||High-density EVA hardfoam||Wooden crook handle, button operation||Wooden ergonimic grip, inset button operation||Plastic crook handle||Short, Comfort-Grip handle, inset button operation|
|Canopy Material||Teflon-coated polyester, velcro closure||Polyester, velcro closure||300 Thread count water repellent fabric, snap fastener||Thermoplastic polyurethane, snap fastener||Polyester, velcro closure|
|Support Structure||High-density fiberglass||Wood and aluminum||Steel and fiberglass||Unknown metal and carbonfiber||Steel|
Best Overall Umbrella
EuroSCHIRM Swing Trek Liteflex
The EuroSCHIRM Swing Trek Liteflex blew us away — figuratively, of course — earning high marks in all of our metrics with its fluid (albeit manual) operation and generous canopy design. This model minimizes the number of moving parts and joints that could eventually fail or break. When collapsed, it sports a very handy shoulder sling for hands-free carrying, and it can easily be rigged to a backpack shoulder strap, so you can also hike hands-free.
The length of the Swing Trek is too long to hide in a bag/backpack/purse, but it is so lightweight and well balanced that it beat some of the more compact models for its ease of transport and use. The style is also somewhat bold and technical-looking, which may not appeal to everyone. We feel that this umbrella is best used for commuting through the rain, but we also think it's suitable for hiking in inclement weather or traveling, being so light and functional.
Read review: EuroSCHIRM Swing Trek Liteflex
Best Bang for Your Buck
AmazonBasics Automatic Travel
For its high-functioning simplicity and low price, we love the AmazonBasics Automatic Travel. It is discreet and easy to tote around, pack, or stash in a car, and the added wind vents boost its strength in the wind. We are most impressed by this contender's combination of a large canopy and compact travel size, earning it high marks in our ease of transport and use categories.
This umbrella provides above-average rain protection but lacks a bit of style. Its main drawbacks might be the weight for its size and the fact that it has more moving parts to worry about (i.e., long-term durability could be threatened). Nevertheless, it is an incredible buy.
Read review: AmazonBasics Automatic Travel
Best Classic Design
totes Auto Open Wooden
The totes Auto Open Wooden has a quality feel to it. It's on the larger side, but the wooden hooked handle makes transport easier and also enhances grip stability while in use. As outdoor gear specialists, we often have to keep our outdoorsy bias in check when reviewing products that may not be as practical in the woods — such as this model with its "old-school" length and style. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the durability of the design, the generous coverage, and the fluidity of opening and closing the canopy.
The main drawback with this umbrella is ease of transport as compared to all the others we've recently tested. The length can be an obstacle when trying to stash away in a car or bag. We generally had to make special adaptations in order to bring it with us. Those things aside, this contender is ideal for casual commutes and made with comfort from the elements in mind.
Read review: totes Auto Open Wooden
Best Compact Design
Balios Double Canopy
The chic, compact Balios Double Canopy is a very well-made and durable model with obvious care paid to the finer details. The wooden handle is nice to hold and looks great, giving it a timeless appearance to complement a wide variety of wardrobe styles. For a compact model, the canopy is impressively large, which means it's both fashionable and functional.
These benefits do come at some cost. This model is on the heavier and larger side of the compact models in this review. But although it's not fast-and-light, it's still small enough that you can tuck it into most bags or purses. This product is suited to casual use and can travel seamlessly with you to more formal events.
Read review: Balios Double Canopy
Best Bubble Design
totes Clear Bubble
The totes Clear Bubble is a fun, niche type of umbrella with excellent rain protection. We often find ourselves wanting to hide into the depth of a canopy but do so at the expense of visibility. The clear plastic resolves that dilemma by allowing you to still see your surroundings even when tucked inside. The depth and shape allow for the most thorough rain protection of the bunch.
In addition to being on the longer and heavier side of the spectrum, the materials used aren't the most confidence-inducing as far as long-term use goes. The hook handle is made of plastic, and the ribs are quite thin. Ease of use also isn't particularly high with this model, as the manual slide can easily pinch the hands. That said, best for casual use to and from your destinations, we appreciate this bubble's fun and useful style.
Read review: totes Clear Bubble
Why You Should Trust Us
This comparative study has been put together by Review Editors Lyra Pierotti and Sara Aranda. Lyra is a resident of the Pacific Northwest and spends half her time working worldwide as a climbing and mountaineering guide. She is an AIARE avalanche instructor and an American Mountain Guides Association Certified Rock Guide that's pursuing Alpine and Ski certifications as well. While not guiding or traveling, she spends her time on an island in the Puget Sound outside of Seattle navigating the rainy townscapes. These dual aspects of Lyra's lifestyle make her someone who is critical and demanding of gear.
Sara holds a writing degree and is also our women's rain boot tester currently based along the Front Range of Colorado. As an avid climber and trail ultrarunner, she has over a decade of experience interacting with technical gear in backcountry environments. Her attention-to-detail personality brings a critical eye to the technical writing that gear reviews demand. In addition, her passion for creative writing is directly linked to her athleticism and travels, elevating social, cultural, and body awareness.
Our search for the best umbrella began with thorough research of the market and the various models available. We narrowed a field of over 50 options down to about a dozen and whisked them off to the rainy wilds of the Pacific Northwest and Colorado mountains. We set out with a clearly defined list of the most important attributes: rain protection, ease of transport and use, durability, and style. To test these aspects, we walked in the rain, tested wind resistance, and examined how easy it is to pack and operate each model. Style is, of course, subjective, but nonetheless a contributor to the overall appeal.
Related: How We Tested Umbrellas
Analysis and Test Results
With so many gas station models out there, why not just grab a random umbrella and call it good? Well, we've been disappointed one too many times by this method. However, we also recognize how difficult it is to pick the right model based on a retail webpage. For this review, we wanted to analyze the best of the best and showcase the ones that are reliable time and time again.
Related: Buying Advice for Umbrellas
Which contenders offer the highest performance for their price? This outdoor category has a surprisingly broad range in price, from single-digit, almost single-use options to those costing triple digits. The models we tested span a wide double-digit price range. Our testers found that while you can spend a lot of money on an umbrella, it's rarely necessary, and it doesn't usually equate to greater performance. In fact, all our recommendations are relatively affordable options, especially the AmazonBasics model, which is good enough for most users at a bargain price. The totes Auto Open Wooden is also an incredible value, especially if you want a more classic design.
No surprise, shelter from the rain is the primary reason to buy one of these products. How well any given model can protect you from the rain depends primarily on the canopy's size and shape. At the most basic level, bigger is better. A larger canopy will cover more area and give you a bigger bubble of protection. This is, of course, relative to your torso size. A child may not need the largest canopy available, but a full-grown adult might want to opt for a few extra inches in diameter. We measured the canopy diameter "as the crow flies" from edge to edge, at the widest points, when fully deployed. The depth of the canopy is also a factor in how well it shields you from the elements.
Of all the products we tested, the totes Auto Open Wooden and totes Clear Bubble have canopy depth and diameter combinations that offer the best rain protection. The Swing Trek Liteflex also has a combination that works well, although a bit of a smaller footprint than the first two mentioned. The BetterBrella Deluxe has a diameter nearly as wide as the totes Wooden, but its depth is a much shallower 4.5 inches, detracting from its ability to provide a more inclusive shelter.
The rest of the umbrellas in our review are of a fairly standard shape, such as the AmazonBasics or Pendleton. We believe the Balios Double Canopy offers the best balance of shape in this standard sense, with generous depth and diameter while also maintaining its ability to become compact when stowed. The wind vents included in the Amazon and the Balios also contribute to their versatility and overall protection from the elements. The Blunt Metro is an example, however, of a model with a design that conflicts with its function, as the scoops shrink its footprint and therefore its effectiveness.
When strong gusts of wind accompany the rain, you need a product that will not flip inside-out under the force of the wind. As soon as a canopy inverts, you're exposed to the rain until you can right it again. We observed a wide range of performances in our wind tests, which are discussed more thoroughly in the Durability metric below. Some of the models in this review have utility beyond rainy weather protection, such as providing shade. The canopy color is something to consider for this. An umbrella with a darker color will help absorb and avert the light away from your eyes, but it will also retain more heat. The Lewis N. Clark ultralight umbrella is an example of a bright-colored material that was too blinding for us in the sun because of how easily it refracts light.
Ease of Transport
We found ourselves much more likely to carry compact models than the non-compact ones since they can easily be stashed into a bag or tucked under the seat of a car and forgotten until needed. This metric is primarily based on the product's weight and compactness. We also consider features like leashes and sleeves that help ensure that transport is less of a chore.
A couple of compact versions stood out to us for having sufficient rain protection while also being easy to transport. With a packed length of only 10.25 inches and a weight of 10.0 oz, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Trekking shares top scores with the 11-inch, 10.0 oz Lewis N. Clark. Both come with sleeves to pack into a tidy bundle. However, the sleeves can be tight-fitting, particularly the Sea to Summit, and a hassle to stuff into.
Many of the models we recently reviewed come with a storage sleeve. We like this feature because when the rain stops, you can put it back in the sleeve and into a bag without worrying about soaking other things. Some have features that improve transport, such as the Swing Trek Liteflex. It has a shoulder sling that makes it much more pleasant to deal with despite its 25.25-inch length. The middle-of-the-road performers are the ones that are somewhat compact but still bulkier and larger than others. This includes the Blunt Metro, which is 14.9 inches when packed and 12.5 oz.
It's important to consider the trade-offs that occur between the Ease of Transport and Durability metrics. For example, sometimes an incredibly lightweight and compact umbrella can suffer from durability issues. Making something small and light does require compromise. Size and weight may not be as important if you're not going to be traveling a lot and are prioritizing quality or reliability time and time again. Durability includes several factors: the materials used, the quality of construction, and the number of moving parts. When you're investing in more than just a convenience store model, you should be able to expect it to function for years, not just once.
Compact models inevitably have to sacrifice some durability. These models are designed with many more moving parts than non-compact models, and therefore have more potential points of fatigue and failure. Some, such as the Balios and the Repel Windproof Travel are constructed in a very sturdy manner, instilling confidence in the steel or reinforced fiberglass. The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil feels rather delicate and needs some help reaching its final open position sometimes. After opening and closing repeatedly, we were able to hear pops and clicks that didn't particularly instill confidence in its longevity. The Swing Trek Liteflex reigns in this metric due to it not having as many moving parts, the high-density fiberglass, and how smooth the manual operation is, no matter which direction of push/pull.
As described before, we considered each product's performance in our wind test and how it relates to durability. We like to see more fiberglass than steel because it can more readily bounce back, whereas steel may snap when overloaded. The Swing Trek Liteflex snapped sideways at relatively low speeds (though the canopy retained its domed shape) and sounded like it was breaking. Then it bounced right back as if nothing happened. If we're talking about rain protection, this ability to bounce right back is critical for continued shelter from a storm. For a durability assessment, this is just plain awesome.
Two models are very different in their approaches to durability. The Blunt Metro comprises excellent materials, some of the highest quality in this review, but suffers in the wind. Meanwhile, the Lewis N. Clark held up better in our field tests but has metal parts that are more likely to deform or snap in a traumatic fall or collision. The totes Auto Open Wooden was so sturdy in the wind that we couldn't get it to safely invert without inducing fear of sailing away like Mary Poppins.
Ease of Use
Ease of use only factors in for 15% of each product's overall score, which means we think it's fairly important but not a make-or-break metric. For this, we consider how manual versus automatic operating mechanisms compare, how things sound, feel, and whether or not designs are intuitive as opposed to complicated and confusing.
We spent a lot of time with each product, exploring what made it harder or easier to use, and eventually found ourselves drifting toward certain ones for various reasons. Ultimately, umbrellas just aren't easy to use to begin with, as they require one hand, sometimes two, and once you add a coffee cup to the mix for your afternoon stroll, convenience isn't always a given.
The ability to be used hands-free in conjunction with a trekking backpack makes the Swing Liteflex score high in this metric, not to mention its smooth, minimalistic shaft. But if you're not wearing a backpack with a velcro hydration hose tab to easily latch the shaft, then you may be out of luck, so perhaps having something easy to stash in a bag is a better choice. Other models with full or partial manual operation also scored really well in this metric, like the totes Auto Open Wooden and the Blunt Metro. For both of these, they have a button to auto-deploy the canopy, but the button doesn't also collapse the canopy, thus requiring you to manually pull down to close everything up. The designs are smooth, however, and the mechanics aren't fighting you like most of the automatic compact models do.
The Repel, AmazonBasics, and Lewis N. Clark are examples of compact designs that both auto-open and auto collapse. However, since more parts require tension to perform, closing them up is often a struggle. Sometimes, if you don't accomplish pushing everything together with all your might, the umbrella will just deploy itself again. The Lewis N. Clark, on the other hand, is so lightweight that the motion of pushing everything closed is actually easy to do despite these tension-requiring features. The auto-collapse notably allows you to close the canopy before lowering it at the press of a button, which is an excellent option when you find yourself in a crowded area, and you don't have enough space to lower a fixed length canopy.
The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil, which is entirely manually operated, doesn't require as much muscle to close due to its lighter weight. The Pendleton auto-deploys but does not auto-collapse, and we feel that the ease of use is impacted by us pinching ourselves nearly every time when shortening the shaft down to the handle. We're sure there is a technique to avoid this, but via the most intuitive way of handling it, which is simply using your hand to pull down, you have to guard your skin.
We also took note of the comfort and security of each product's handle. A well-designed handle nests in your hand comfortably for long-term carrying and gives you a secure grip for those unexpected wind gusts. The best models cater to the ergonomic shape of a hand, with a length that also matches most hands. The curved, cane-like handles on the traditional models are also highly comfortable and secure, even in strong winds. And even when wet, the soft grip of the Swing Trek Liteflex is comfortably cushioned with excellent friction. We love the smooth, wooden handle of the Balios as well. Most of the compact designs have a much shorter and rubberized handle, which maintained grip even when wearing gloves.
This category is highly subjective, so we only give it a 5% weight in the overall scores. For some of our testers, an umbrella is a unique opportunity to add some color to the gray and rainy months. There are essentially two approaches to style with the canopies we tested: companies either make them look fun/funky/cool/wacky, or they make them discrete and unassuming. We assessed each model based on our interpretation of the manufacturer's approach to style. If it has an old-school look, does it represent its niche well? If it's more fun and cute, will people looking for this type love it? If it is small and light, is it generally discrete, or is it an eye-grabber?
If you want a model you can hide from view to simplify your look, the simple AmazonBasics and Balios are sleek and compact. Both are well-made items, with their perk being how tidy and professional they can be. If you're a business professional or appreciate a traditional throwback, you might enjoy the totes Wooden. If the crook handle and long shaft are too committing for you, the Balios stands out again for its similar, collapsible style that can be tucked into a bag or briefcase. The Swing Trek Liteflex is somewhat in the middle of the fashion spectrum — not too stylish but also not too drab. It has some technical aspects and a much bolder canopy color, but it's also straightforward.
You might appreciate the flowery look of the Blunt Metro if you want to make a statement or have fun with your accessories, or may even consider the charming blue sky-scape that is hidden beneath the Repel. The bright color options of the Lewis N. Clark are quite bold, maybe too bold. Of course, we can't forget the super fun totes Clear Bubble with its more nostalgic shape and clear sheen. Some design options even come with polka-dots. The Pendleton, while lovely, is a little more tricky for ethical reasons. To our knowledge, Pendleton is a brand that has historically appropriated indigenous designs.
It is increasingly difficult to sift through the umbrella market to find something just right that is made well and is of a reasonable price. We hope this review and our field testing have helped you narrow the choices down. In the end, our favorites encompass the epitome of the five metrics discussed without question: effective rain protection, ease of transport, durability, ease of use, and style.
— Sara Aranda & Lyra Pierotti