Umbrella on a Thru-Hike–Luxury, Necessity or Just Cray-Cray?

I’m talking myself into this!

On a recent training hike, I pondered the idea of carrying an umbrella.  I’m not an umbrella person (I think they’re kind of dorky), but some people carry a lightweight umbrella as their only rain gear.

I get it.

It would be nice to have a bit of shelter when it’s time to sit down on the wet ground in the rain and have lunch.

I haven’t committed to carrying one for the long haul, but I will try it out on some day hikes because umbrellas definitely have some things going for them.

Here’s what I think about hiking with an umbrella.

shadow-open_1200x

This is the one I got from Six Moon Designs, very silver.

 

Consider this when deciding on any piece of gear…

Remember, one of the deciding factors of any piece of gear on a thru-hike is this:  can it replace something heavier?

Another consideration:  will it do double duty?

But first, the downside…

Before we answer these questions for our silver domes, let’s look at what’s not to like about umbrellas.

  1. Walking around with an umbrella is embarrassing.  It just is.  I feel silly holding one over my head as I bob and weave through crowds, much less through blow downs and rock scrambles.
  2. I hike with trekking poles to protect my joints and help with balance.  Using poles definitely allows me to hike longer, farther, faster and safer.  Carrying an umbrella will crimp my style in that respect.  I’ll still have one hand free for one hiking pole.  That may be worth the trade off if I get to have a dry sandwich for lunch.
  3. A rain jacket and pants do double duty as windbreakers and can really help keep you warm in a pinch.  An umbrella, not so much.  Though one DID keep that guy alive on Mt. Washington during a blizzard for two nights.  I bet he’s 100% FOR umbrellas.  (Dr. B.L. Ball, Three Days on the White Mountains.)
  4. It only keeps your top half dry.

green-tunnell

The Potential Upside of Umbrellas:

  1. Better ventilation.  It will be much cooler than a full rain suit during a hot humid summer rainstorm.  Besides, if you’re climbing a mountain in the summer in a jacket, guess what?  You’re going to be soaked in sweat anyway by the time you reach the top.  So, really…why bother?
  2. They also provide shade.  Not a huge issue on the Appalachian Trail, but umbrella aficionados claim it’s 10-15 degrees cooler under an umbrella in the direct glare of the sun.
  3. They potentially eliminate the need for a pack cover since an umbrella would cover the pack, too.  So, you carry a tad less weight on your back.
  4. It provides privacy for when you have to pee on a trail that doesn’t have many trees to hide behind. This might be my favorite upside, since I’m always getting busted with my pants down.
  5. It keeps the rain off your face and glasses and eliminates the need to wear a hood.

(OMG, I really am talking myself into this!)

Plus, once again, my friend Pattie is way ahead of her time.  I knew she was on to something when she brought a parasol to Bonnaroo.  I was so jealous.  And hot.

pattie

Before I skip off on a rainy hike to play with my umbrella…

Let’s look at the weight breakdown of the various components of keeping dry on the trail. (These are the things I already have in my gear closet.)

  • Umbrella:  8.0 oz.
  • Lightweight rain jacket (Arcteryx):  10.0 oz.
  • Heavy rain jacket (Arcteryx):  13.7 oz.
  • Super light Patagonia Houdini shell:  3.3 oz.
  • Rain skirt:  2.7 oz.
  • Patagonia Houdini pants:  3.4 oz
  • ULA Pack cover:  3 oz.

A Decision has been made!

There are lots of configurations and I’m guessing things will evolve as I move north over the summer and then flip flop back to the south for the fall.

But here’s what I’m starting with:

  • Umbrella:  8 oz
  • Houdini wind shell:  3.3 oz.
  • Houdini pants followed by the rain skirt when it hits high summer:  3.4 oz
  • ULA pack cover:  3 oz

TOTAL WEIGHT for staying dry-ish and warm-ish:  17.7 ounces.

Is that too much?

I don’t know!

This is a case where it’s going to come down to personal preference…like do you want to hold up an umbrella for hours?  Or days?

It might be worth it to have a safe place to pee.

And it could even save your life in a blizzard.

I’m game.  Are you?

At this point, it’s a question of trying it out to see if it works or if it’s just a pain in the buttinski.

If you’re curious, here are some resources for getting your umbrella on:

One more (hands free) thing, Sunshine….

Lady on a Rock shared a post called How to Hike Hands Free with an Umbrella.  Looks easy, cheap and promising.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I have a feeling I’m going to get a chance this weekend.  It’s supposed to rain on Sunday, and I have a training hike–and a date with my umbrella–planned.


What about you?  Have you considered hiking with an umbrella?  Is it a luxury, a necessity or just cray-cray?

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think or how you plan to stay dry-ish out there on the trail.


P.S.  I love to connect.  Find me on Instagram or on Facebook or at my own website, Ruby Throat Journal, where you can pick up my how-to e-book full of delicious Freezer Bag Recipes or shoot me an email.

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Comments 6

  • Avatar
    Cherre Bybee : Mar 8th

    I’m planning on taking an umbrella, I figure it is good for the obvious, rain, privacy and also will divert drafts inside my Zpacks duplex tent when the wind is blowing. I use a very similar set up to free both hands. There is a Velcro that sticks to itself and is very handy when you need to attach something to your pack.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Deane Giordano : Mar 9th

      Yes! Umbrella people unite! I hope to see you out there, Cherre, happy and dry under your dome.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      MRo : Jun 6th

      Would be interested to know how your Houdini and Umbrella system worked with a wind driven rain or if you changed your strategy in those conditions relative to your umbrella usage.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Deane Giordano : Jun 7th

        Hi, MRO…I tend to adjust the angle and height of the umbrella if there’s wind, to block wind-driven rain as much as possible. I’ve noticed that the Houdini stays pretty dry under the umbrella (though in the woods on the AT there hasn’t been a lot of horizontal rain). The breathability has been priceless, though, even when it’s been a little cooler. If I need more warmth, I add my Nano-Puff vest. No problems so far! And I love how the umbrella also provides added protection to my pack. Seriously…people on the trail are tired of hearing how much I LOVE THIS UMBRELLA!

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Lucky : Mar 9th

    I got an umbrella in Damascus and hiked with it until I got off trail at the Mason-Dixon line. I really liked that it gave me some “sanity” when it was raining really hard. I was always able to just tuck it into the chest strap on my pack and it stayed in place fine, you do need to be careful of low branches in the green tunnel.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Deane Giordano : Mar 10th

      Yes, low branches are dangerous. My husband wears a baseball cap and is forever smacking himself in the head on low branches that he doesn’t see coming. (Is it wrong of me to laugh when this happens? I expect he may have the last laugh now!) Thanks for reading, Lucky. Hike happy (and dry). Ruby Throat

      Reply

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