Q:

Does an umbrella have any place on a hiker's gear list?

Several years ago, my husband and I hiked across England on the coast-to-coast route, making good use of some rather inexpensive umbrellas. We are planning a repeat trek, and require strong yet lightweight umbrellas. Any suggestions to help keep our aging bodies dry? Although we are well acquainted with Gore-Tex, it is nice walking under cover! Victoria Toronto, Ontario

Jun 6, 2005
Outside
Outside Magazine

Komperdell Umbrella Staff

A: Umbrellas are a much-overlooked component to outdoor equipment. Indeed, I've known only one guy who carried an umbrella on a hike or climb—this was on mountain-rescue operations, no less—and while everybody laughed at him, I always thought it was very clever. After all, you put on a rainjacket, and you're almost instantly too warm unless the temperature is in the 40s. With an umbrella you stay dry while avoiding having to wear an unwanted extra layer.

One problem is that most umbrellas are crap, including many of the $25 "compact" umbrellas you'll find out there. So what to do? Check out a company called Birdiepal (www.birdiepal.com), which makes a line of German-engineered umbrellas that are a big cut above what you usually can buy. Most of their models are golf-oriented, meaning they're probably too big. But the 47-inch Junior model ($49) should be about right, giving you plenty of coverage without adding too much weight or bulk to your pack.

Another interesting choice is the Komperdell Umbrella Staff ($85; www.komperdell.com). It cleverly combines a walking stick with an umbrella, so you still have a useful tool even when the weather is dry.

Check out the 2005 Gear of the Year winners in Outside's 2005 Buyer's Guide , then get yourself a copy of the issue, on newsstands now!

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