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After more than 35 hours of research, followed by testing of every noteworthy umbrella currently available, we found that the EuroSCHIRM Light Trek is the best for most people. It was among the widest and deepest umbrellas when open, and among the smallest when closed. That means it provides better rain protection without sacrificing portability. Combine that with superb build quality and strong, lightweight materials—like fiberglass and anodized aluminum—and you have one truly excellent umbrella that will survive the elements and the test of time.
How we decided
There’s definitely a tradeoff between protection and portability, but the best umbrella is the one you have with you. Big enough to keep your upper body dry and small enough to tuck away when you go indoors. We wanted something that could easily be slipped into a coat pocket, bag, or purse, but we ignored really tiny umbrellas.
Our recommendation defies the cliché of inverted umbrellas piled into trash cans on city streets. According to lifelong umbrella maker, Gilbert Center, these days fiberglass is the most durable material out there: “It doesn’t break and it doesn’t rust.” Combine that with a shaft made of tempered steel, instead of the more typical aluminum, and you’ve got a good umbrella that isn’t going to break when you need it most. Still, in the case that yours fails, it should have a decent warranty.
How we tested
First, we examined the components of each model closely and performed some quick ease-of-use tests. We compared the materials and the design, and we opened and closed each umbrella 20 times, searching for changes in performance over that sample size.
Then we simulated rain in a two-headed shower. Finally, we secured each umbrella to a strong post and blasted it with a leaf blower, using a Craftsman 215 mph electric at a distance of eight feet. We blasted each umbrella first on a low setting from directly in front and then from below. Then we repeated the same process on high. After that, we walked to within three feet of each test subject and blasted it from all angles.
We also attempted to invert each umbrella by hand to determine how easy it would be to do and if doing so would cause damage to the ribs and joints.
The EuroSCHIRM Light Trek has the deepest canopy (8.75") while maintaining one of the smallest sizes when folded up (11"). It also has a reliable fiberglass build with few moving parts. It quite simply provided the best coverage in a smaller, better-constructed package than any other umbrella we looked at. It cruised through all our tests and has few flaws. Shower testing revealed that the depth of the canopy is really important for protecting against angled rain, and the EuroSCHIRM had the deepest canopy of any of the umbrellas we tested. It’s also Teflon-coated, tightly-woven polyester which beads well and makes it easy to shake out.
Its simple design (fewer parts and locations subject to breaking) and use of burly materials like fiberglass mean it probably won’t break on you. But just in case it does, EuroSCHIRM offers a fairly comprehensive two-year warranty that will cover any and all issues with the frame of the umbrella.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The mesh bag is, obviously, not waterproof, and it also lacks a wrist strap. Warranties are time-consuming and a hassle, but not out of the ordinary. But we don’t think you’re going to need to send it in.
The runner up
The $99 Davek Solo is a solid-albeit-expensive competitor. The frame is constructed with nine ribs compared to the usual six or eight, which makes it a bit stronger than most. It has a deep, wide canopy. The one place where it really stands out is its unconditional lifetime warranty; it even offers some protection against loss. The Davek Solo is the most attractive umbrella that we tested. The handle in particular was nice to hold and looks great, and overall the umbrella fits in well in a dressy situation.
The step down
The Lewis N. Clark is a great backup when you're strapped for cash. It will keep you dry, but probably not for very long. It performs decently well for an under-$20 umbrella. We had low expectations given its low price, but it actually performed surprisingly well, beating or matching the performance of some umbrellas costing twice as much. Our testing results are backed up by the fact that it's Amazon’s best-selling umbrella, with loads of positive reviews. Those who live in an environment that only exposes them to occasional squalls (or those who just don’t do much in the rain and rarely feel the need for an umbrella) might find it worth it to risk being left wet once in a while.
Wrapping it up
Without knowing what you’re looking for, it’s easy to assume all umbrellas are about the same. To do so relegates you to an endless cycle of disposable umbrellas and soggy frustration. The EuroSCHIRM Light Trek distinguished itself as a solid performer in every category we tested, balancing size, compactness and durability. It is the best umbrella out there.
This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation please go to The Wirecutter.com