How We Tested Umbrellas

By:
Lyra Pierotti
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday
April 13, 2018
Our umbrella team loves to travel and is based in the rainy Pacific Northwest. This provides ample opportunity to put a variety of umbrellas to the test—from travel specific to trekking to general use or stylish. We used these umbrellas all across the Pacific Northwest in diverse environments: on rainy commutes into Seattle, hiking through urban parks, high in the mountains, and even on backcountry ski outings in the region's classic springtime slush storms (or "snain"). Then we took them out east of the mountains to the rain shadow, where we got a feel for how versatile the products were, and if they could serve as a sunshade, too. We used these products when jumping in and out of our cars during thunderstorms, and when rushing to work.

We also standardized our test for Rain Protection by taking laps around a muddy farm property, clear and open to the dripping sky, with each umbrella. This allowed us to assess the realistic rain protection properties of each umbrella in the same conditions. We donned our freshest Durable Water Resistant clothing and marked where raindrops struck, then compared those results to all products in the review.

Horizontal garden hose attacks proved too much for our contenders to handle. They fared much better in natural rain settings.
Horizontal garden hose attacks proved too much for our contenders to handle. They fared much better in natural rain settings.

We used these products around the notoriously windy mountain passes to get a feel for how well they handle in the wind. Then we conducted a formal Wind Test by holding each out the passenger window of a vehicle, and slowly speeding up until the canopy collapsed or otherwise became unmanageable. Then we repeated the test with the canopy angled to catch the wind, to find out at what wind speed each umbrella would invert.

We transported all ten of these products in a variety of ways, from backpacks and briefcases to handbags, messenger bags, and duffel bags, to back seats, bare hands, and even back pockets. As for fashion, we asked our team of male and female testers to weigh in on the style of each product. After months of testing, we scored each product across the following metrics: Rain Protection, Ease of Use, Durability, Ease of Transport, and Style.

And last but not least, we measured the canopy diameter and depth, as well as the weight, so that we could cut through any marketing hype and ensure that each product is compared to equal standards of measurement--this got rid of arc length for the canopy size measurement, which is the length of the curve. Since this tells you nothing about the shape, and ultimately the coverage, of an umbrella, we preferred the simple measurements of diameter and depth of canopy.

Reviewers Ross Robinson and Jacob Busiahn take the products for a spin. Each model was tested up to 40 mph  while some were pushed all the way to 55 mph!
Reviewers Ross Robinson and Jacob Busiahn take the products for a spin. Each model was tested up to 40 mph, while some were pushed all the way to 55 mph!