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
Komperdell Umbrella Staff
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!