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Umbrellas

Tuesday, 18 November 2008 | Tags: , ,

The umbrella was originally created in ancient times as a sun shade. In the 19th century, people began to use them for rainy weather too. We'd love to find an umbrella that never gets lost, but until then, here are some tips on what to look for.

The Basics

  • Umbrellas can be made from many different materials:

    • Teflon-coated nylon is considered the most waterproof umbrella material.

    • Plastic canopies are more commonly found in kids’ umbrellas, though recently have become fashionable for the adult crowd.

    • Treated cotton can actually retain water and become heavy, and also take longer to dry.

  • For a light umbrella, choose an aluminum or fibreglass frame.

  • Stick umbrellas are inherently stronger and less prone to breakage than folding umbrellas.

  • Look for a “machine” tip at the end of the umbrella, which can be pulled on and off the ribs. These tips last longer than ones that are sewn directly onto the ribs.

  • Auto-openers are a great feature for getting under cover quick, but they do add to the cost and weight of the umbrella, and they frequently break down.

  • Look for coated ribs, which resist rust best.

  • In windy locales, look for two-ply umbrellas, which have one part mesh layer that allows wind gusts to pass through.

  • Look for a spring coil at the top of the shaft. This means the umbrella will be able to snap back if inverted by wind

Be Aware

  • Plastic handles are more likely to crack and break than wood, silicone or rubber handles. 

TEST CRITERIA

We wanted to find out if there’s a difference between stick umbrellas and folding umbrellas, so we tried out these:

  • Folding umbrella, $5, manual, from an airport vending machine.
  • Golf Wind umbrella, $20, can supposedly invert and revert back to its normal shape.
  • Automatic folding umbrella, $30, small, can fit easily into your purse
  • Stick umbrella, $31, supposed to be rust proof and wind proof.
  • 2-ply Wind Proof Stick umbrella, $40, part mesh, to allow the wind to pass through instead of turning it inside out.

Our tests and results include:

Wind Test

We took our umbrellas to a special effects studio and asked them to crank up their wind machine. Starting at 25 miles per hour, we walked each umbrella into and away from the wind.

  • Two umbrellas didn’t even make it past the very first round, even though both advertised wind resistance. The other ones did okay.

  • The mesh panel on the 2-ply Wind Proof Stick umbrella really seemed to do the trick.

OUR TOP PICK

Purely for its convenience we like the $30 automatic folding umbrella best. It did a good job in the wind test, and easily pops into a purse, ready for an unexpected rain shower.

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