Six Moon Designs Rain Walker SUL Umbrella Review
As I approach my April 7 Pacific Crest Trail start date, I’m still debating whether to bring an umbrella for sun protection. I bought a Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow (8.9 ounces) prior to my planned 2020 hike, and now I’ve gotten a chance to test-drive SMD’s new Rain Walker SUL (Super Ultra-Light) Umbrella.
The Rain Walker is astonishingly light, just 5.5 ounces. However, it does not feature the reflective surface of the Silver Shadow.
Curious, I asked a company rep about the Rain Walker’s sun-protection capabilities and received this reply: “It will still provide plenty of shade in the sun, just not a reflective barrier. … While it is designed primarily for rain, I wouldn’t hesitate to take the Rainwalker on a desert hike, especially since it’s lighter weight.”
It just so happens that it was a particularly rainy winter where I live, so I gave the Rain Walker a serious workout. I also tested both it and the reflective Silver Shadow on several sunny days.
Six Moon Designs Rain Walker SUL Umbrella At-a-Glance
Weight: 5.5 ounces
Closed Length: 25 inches
Shaft Length: 23.5 inches
Open Width: 37 inches
Materials: 10d silnylon canopy / carbon fiber shaft / EVA foam handle
Circumstances of Use
I used the Rain Walker on walks of two-plus hours in conditions ranging from sunny to torrential downpour, for a total of some 12 hours.
Six Moon Designs Rain Walker SUL Umbrella Features
Incredibly light: “The lightest full-size hiking umbrella on the market,” per Six Moon Designs, the Rain Walker SUL is 1.3 ounces lighter than the Silver Shadow Carbon and a full 3.4 ounces lighter than the original Silver Shadow. All three brollies have the same dimensions. The Rain Walker’s carbon fiber shaft and spokes, plus ultralight 10d silnylon, make the difference here.
Sturdy construction: Easily withstood winds up to 20 mph in my testing. SMD says, “while we have tested this umbrella in high winds, hail, and other extreme conditions the ultralight components that make up this product require extra care when using this umbrella in the field.”
Two color options: Indigo blue or olive. The Rain Walker lacks the Silver Shadow’s distinctive reflective silver coating.
Easy to deploy and close: Packs up small and secures with a simple Velcro strap.
Comfortable grip: EVA foam grip is ergonomic and feels similar to a trekking pole handle. You can also use SMD’s attachment system (or jury rig your own) for hands-free use with your backpack.
Weight: I’m astonished at how light the Rain Walker is. Honestly, when walking even in a light breeze or no wind, it’s so light that it felt like it would float away if I let go. Even my non-hiking spouse commented on how much lighter it feels than the (also light) Silver Shadow.
Rain protection: I don’t know if the 15d silnylon material loses waterproofing capacity over time, but no matter what Mother Nature tossed at me this winter, the rain always beaded up prettily with nary a sign of leakage. It was actually pretty great to have during downpours that lasted as long as two hours.
Sun protection: There’s no question that you are going to be more aware of the sun filtering through the canopy of the Rain Walker than with the opaque Silver Shadow. But at least in my testing — admittedly not in super-hot conditions; max temperature of around 65 — I didn’t notice any difference in heat intensity. I won’t be surprised if more heat seeps through beneath a desert sun, but shade is shade.
Ease of carrying: As mentioned, the grip is comfortable and solid. But particularly if you’re using two poles, you’ll have to devise some kind of hands-free mounting system on your pack. I use a simple setup that uses nylon stretch cord and cord-locks attached to a daisy-chain loop or D-ring on the shoulder strap; others prefer a Velcro-based system. The Rain Walker is so light that it attaches easily and rides nicely to my system; it does bobble a bit in a stiff breeze.
Construction: Despite its feather weight, you can really feel the solid construction of the Rain Walker. The carbon-fiber shaft, spreader, and ribs provide good rigidity. As I noted, winds up to 20 mph didn’t threaten to turn it inside-out; SMD says it was tested, dome-first, in 30 mph winds and showed minimal deflection. The shaft is the same as on the Silver Shadow, but the spreader bar and ribs are slightly thinner, according to SMD. The canopy is tough, though I can imagine it might be vulnerable to tearing on a broken branch or sharp desert foliage.
Packability: The Rain Walker deploys and collapses quickly and easily, and it takes no time to quickly roll and secure it with a Velcro strap. I found it tucks very nicely and unobtrusively into side pockets on three different packs (ULA, Granite Gear, Gossamer Gear). That said, it’s too long to fit neatly inside a pack. The TSA allows you to carry on umbrellas, but some airlines don’t, so check first you are traveling by air. Six Moon Designs also sells a hands-free kit.
Less sun protection than with Silver Shadow: Although the Rain Walker still affords some sun protection, the thin 10d canopy undoubtedly transmits more UV than the opaque, reflective Silver Shadow.
Price: $60 is a lot for an umbrella. The Rain Walker costs twice as much as the original Silver Shadow and 50% more than the Silver Shadow Carbon.
Six Moon Designs Rain Walker SUL Umbrella Overall
This is a great little umbrella. If I were hiking a rainy trail like the Appalachian Trail, I’d definitely have this stowed in a side pocket to prevent soaking. At 5.5 ounces, I’m still debating whether it’s worth bringing for desert sun protection, but if I do go with an umbrella, this will be the one; the decreased weight is more than enough to make up for the lack of a reflective canopy, in my calculation.
Comparable Hiking Umbrellas
Weight: 4.7 ounces
Open width: 33 inches
Weight: 8.5 ounces
Open width: 38 inches
Weight: 7 ounces
Open width: 38 inches
Product donated for purpose of review.
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