I put off carrying an umbrella for years because I pack as little as possible. My thought has always been that if it was raining, I should just stay inside. But that all changed when I moved to Quito, Ecuador last year and unexpected downpours became part of my daily life. Having an umbrella became mandatory. After I purchased one, I couldn't believe I ever traveled without an umbrella. And now that I'm back in Quito, I'm reminded once again of how valuable that item is in my bag. It's one of the 9 Random Items I Recommend Every Traveler Carry.
What makes a good travel umbrella?
Currently I'm using a $2 Chinese imported umbrella that I paid $3 for from a capitalistic street vendor during a rainstorm. Respect. But as I write this post in a coffee shop that I ducked into during a rainstorm, I'm still soaking wet from the waist down due to the walk from the park where the unexpected rainstorm began. So I became curious how I could be dryer right now. What revolutionary advancements in umbrella technology exist that I don't know about? Here's what I'm looking for in an umbrella:
- Compact & Light – It's got to go everywhere with me and fit well into the bottle holder compartment on the outside of my book bag.
- Strong & Durable – Just like me. The last thing I want is an umbrella blowing apart in the middle of a storm while I've got my laptop with me in my book bag.
- Not Too Flashy – After all, I'm traveling, and the last thing I want to do is bring attention to myself as some rich American because I bought a gold plated umbrella.
- Doubles As A Ninja Weapon – Okay, this isn't a requirement, but it would be cool. I'll see what's out there.
What else could you want from an umbrella? I just want to stay dry. If it can help me do that, it'll already be miles ahead of my current umbrella. Below I will recap my research and highlight notable umbrellas I found that would best serve travelers.
Top Travel Umbrellas For Travelers, Backpackers, and Nomads
Let's start with the X1 Pod Compact Umbrella by Knirps. Why start here? Because this umbrella is so compact that it folds into the size of a sunglasses case. It comes in black, a few bright colors, and a couple outlandish designs. Even if you pack ultra-light, you can find room for this umbrella.
Next on my list is the Clear Folding Umbrella by SMATI. It's compact, lightweight, wind resistant, and you can see out the other side! I can imagine a few times that this see through ability would come in handy while traveling in an unknown place. Just don't forget that people can see in too!
Looking for a less extravagant but reliable and budget friendly travel umbrella? Check out the Compact Travel Umbrella w/ Windproof Double Canopy by EEZ-Y. Auto open/close, compact design, and a lifetime guarantee. This umbrella won't turn heads but it'll keep you dry.
Okay now let's get a little fancier and look at some travel umbrellas with functional design, like the Inverted Umbrella by Ylovetoys. You can close this umbrella in the opposite direction to keep the water trapped inside itself instead of on the floor of your car. It doesn't fold up as compact as other travel umbrellas mentioned in this post, but if you travel by car a lot, the inverse design might come in handy.
This next umbrella I like because it's BIG! While the other compact umbrellas on this list only open up to about 40″ in diameter, the WindPro Jumbo Umbrella by ShedRain opens up to a massive 54″ while still folding into a compact size and retaining the auto open/close feature. The cushion grip is a nice touch too.
This next one I included because it's cool and cheap. And in case you've ever had a hard time holding onto your umbrella in the wind, the The Windy City Original by Brolly comes with a squishy finger hole grip. If nothing else, it's fun to hold and will get the job done for your travel umbrella needs.
See, the thing about travelers, especially backpackers, is that we often have a book bag on our back. And most umbrellas don't do too great a job of keeping us and our bag dry. Well the Smart Umbrella by Senz takes on a different shape than your average umbrella. It's horizontally exaggerated and designed to keep you and whatever's on your back dry. It also folds up compact and comes in a variety of vibrant colors.
But wait, we're not done yet with functionally designed umbrellas. I couldn't leave the Bubble Umbrellas by ANSAN off the list. These umbrellas are like walking around under your own rainproof dome. They don't fold up as compact as the other models on this list, but they'll keep you dry. Offered in Cartoon Goggle or Camouflage.
I've shown you a lot of great umbrellas but we're not done yet. If you're looking for something classy, functional, and super duper compact, you've got to see the Davek Mini – their most compact umbrella on the market. It measures less than 7″ when closed and fits into any compartment or even comfortably in your back pocket.
Here's another JUMBO SIZED 54″ umbrella that's big enough for two but still folds down tight and compact. The Blunt XL Umbrella has a sweet design and you'll look good carrying it. But unfortunately it also comes with a higher price tag than the WindPro Jumbo I mentioned earlier. However, if you're not too concerned with price and you're looking for something stylish, functional, and super big, you may want to consider the Blunt XL.
Who ya gonna call? Gustbuster! (Sorry I couldn't resist.) Last on our list is the GustBuster Metro, available in over 20 colors and designs. This massive looking umbrella has an award winning double-canopy design. And its carrying sheath doubles as a backpack or shoulder sling. They call it the “world's smartest umbrella” but I don't know if it's that smart. (I bet it can't get you half price on Airbnbs like we can.) But at least it'll keep you dry and hold up against strong wind.
That concludes our list and should start you in the right direction on your search for the best travel umbrella. But before you go, I've got something else for you to check out. You may not always be traveling and so having the most compact and portable umbrella isn't always a priority. Perhaps instead you're interested in some AWESOME umbrellas! Check out my list below. I came across these umbrellas during my research and I felt like I'd be doing you a disservice not to at least show them to you.
Awesome Umbrellas That Are NOT For Traveling, But Are Super Cool Anyway
Introducing the Nubrella, a hands-free umbrella that you strap to your back!. In fact, it even comes with an optional backpack upgrade. So as long as you don't mind looking like an asshole and carrying around a 3lb umbrella, you now have the option of hands free rain protection. (But if you're looking for a hands free umbrella that's a little less bulky and expensive, you can also check out this umbrella hat and this umbrella sling.)
Do you know what the one feature missing from all these umbrellas profiled so far? Internet access. Well thanks to the Pileius Internet Umbrella your antiquated offline umbrella problems are no more. Pileus has a large screen on the top surface, a built-in camera, a motion sensor, GPS, and a digital compass. Its two main functions are photo sharing and 3D map navigation. Sorry to disappoint you though, but it's just a prototype and may not be available for sale anytime soon (or ever). You can read more about the project at Pileus.net and see a video of one of the prototypes in action.
Here's another umbrella that you can't actually buy, but it's a cool concept. Whether or not it works to keep you dry is up for discussion. The Eco Brolly Umbrella by Shiu Yuk Yuen is an environmentally friendly umbrella designed to encourage you to take part in recycling. This umbrella can re-use and adapt objects like newspapers and plastic bags into an umbrella. Just unscrew the top lid, poke it onto the middle of a reuseable object, screw the lid back on and open it like an umbrella. What's the point? I don't actually know. It seems to take up the same amount of space as a regular umbrella. But it's an interesting concept.
Let me ask you something… is the force with you? If you choose the dark side of the force, then you definitely need the Star Wars Darth Vader Static Lightsaber Umbrella. Be ready for any storm, as you wield your lightsaber umbrella against the elements. The handle is based upon the famous lightsaber carried by Darth Vader, and the shaft lights up with an iridescent red.
Tired of leaning your umbrella against a wall like an Average Joe? It's the 21st Century, right? There's got to be a better way. Check out the Self Standing Umbrella by Hironao Tsuboi. A beautiful and elegant one-of-a-kind design, but where can you buy it? Not a clue. The link on Yank Design's website leads nowhere and I couldn't find it for sale anywhere else. Can you buy it? No. Is the design inspiring? Definitely.
Here's a bad ass umbrella that you probably shouldn't travel with… at least not on a plane. According to the designer, the Umbrella for the Civil but Discontent Man “combines a symbol of gentlemanly refinement—the full-sized, dark umbrella—with an element of more manly sword-bearing times. The umbrellas offer brief psychological respite from the dictates of social amiability; aggressive fantasies are allowed and encouraged on the daily commute to the office.” Read more about the concept here.
Continuing the trend of weaponized umbrellas (although not technically classified as a weapon because the handle doesn't remove from the umbrella), here's The Umbuster Umbrella by Sruli Recht. No-one's going to mess with you walking down the street on a rainy day when you're sporting The Umbuster. Careful traveling with this one though, just in case, as laws differ around the world regarding what's classified as a weapon.
Here's a quirky one. The Goggles Umbrella has a giant jumbo dome shape that you can see out of like a submarine. It's big enough for two, but let's be honest… If you sport one of these umbrellas, you're probably single.
Why should you be the only one to stay dry? Let's not forget our furry friends. The Pet Umbrella With Leash will keep your dog dry on short walks and bathroom breaks. Although according to the reviews, it might scare the crap out of your dog the first few times you try to use it.
Last on this list is a concept umbrella that hit Kickstarter in Oct 2014 called the Air Umbrella. It theoretically uses the power of jet airflow to protect you from the rain, forming an umbrella without a visible cover. Maybe a little unnecessary, but sounds cool right? It was supposed to become available to the first round of supporters as early as Dec 2015, but guess what… the designers of this umbrella took the money and ran! I included this one on the list as a reminder to do your due diligence before contributing to any Kickstarter. Nothing's guaranteed in the prototype world, but make sure there's a real name behind the product you're investing in and that it's not some faceless company in China.
Let's talk umbrellas…
What umbrella did I miss that you love to travel with? And what are some other cool umbrellas or umbrella concepts out there? Let's talk umbrellas in the comments section below. Drop me a link to some awesome umbrellas and let's see some new ways to stay dry.