Hiking umbrellas are often one of the most overlooked pieces of gear in the ultralight hiking world, but those who choose to carry a hiking umbrella will tell you it is one of the best pieces of gear in their kit. They weigh between 6 to 8oz, depending on the model, and offer protection from sun, rain, hail, snow and double as a night shade during a full moon. The hiking umbrella is something you should consider carrying if you don’t do so already.
“You know who takes a break in the rain to eat a snack? A hiker with an umbrella”
- Old ultralight hiker saying to those who question them carrying an umbrella
From the deserts of New Mexico to rainy days in the French Alps, I have been using an umbrella for a couple of decades now, and besides my Mont-bell Tachyon Parka it is the only other piece of gear that I consistently use day after day to help protect me form the elements. I believe in them so much that I have come up with the top seven reasons you should use one too.
1. Shade on a sunny day
We all know the risks of exposure to too much sun and the potential for skin cancer. If you are like me you burn easily and having to slather on tons of sunblock while hiking can be a chore, not to mention the extra weight in your pack. By using an umbrella, I can walk in the shade all day long, it helps protect me form harmful UV rays all the while keeping me cool as a I pound out the miles.
2. Dry cover on a wet day
Let’s face it hiking all day in the rain sucks. Besides being soggy, it can chill you to the bone and it makes breaks less than desirable. With an umbrella I can often hike with my rain jacket unzipped, it helps keep me remain drier as I move along, and best of all, it gives me a dry place to relax and snack during breaks.
3. Better condensation management in rain gear
As stated above I often use my umbrella in conjunction with my rain gear, every hiker has experienced that clammy wet feeling when trudging along in their rain gear, and often ask themselves, am I really any drier in this sweat jacket? Well with an umbrella the outside of my jacket stays dry reducing the condensation, it also allows me to vent my jacket as I move along minimizing the sweat and condensation against my skin.
4. It’s the door to my tarp
When using a flat tarp as a shelter I will often open my umbrella and use it at my head as a makeshift door. While this will not keep out the critters, I have often found it to be a great way to create a small wind break at night. It also provides the mental security of nothing looking at my mug while I sleep soundly in the woods.
5. Protection during nighttime bathroom trips
The only thing worse than trudging through the rain for days on end is when you lay awake at 3 am in your shelter as the rain comes down debating if you should get up and pee or try to hold it until the morning. No one wants to fight getting on rain gear to relieve themselves, but with an umbrella this task becomes easy. Simply crawl out of your bag, slip on your shoes, deploy the umbrella and now you have a dry place to go relieve yourself.
6. Moon blocker when cowboy camping
I cannot tell you how many times I have been cowboy camping only to be wake up in the middle of the night by a big fat moon shining it’s light down on me like a spotlight. Instead of trying to get creative using my Buff as a sleep mask, I simply open my umbrella, and lay my head under its canopy for a great light blocker.
7. Dry place to cook
I won’t get into the details here, but in 2016 I might have burned a whole in the side of my pyramid tent when I was cooking inside trying to avoid the rain. While I came out of the situation unscathed, I can’t say the same for my shelter. I realized that I had the perfect place to stay dry while cooking the whole time - my umbrella. Now when it’s time to heat up some water and cook the morning or evening meal (cold soaking is for folks much harder than me), I simply sit under my umbrella nice and dry.
I encourage you to consider getting an umbrella before you set off on your next hike. Our Silver Shadow family of umbrellas includes 3 different models to suit everyones budgets, both financially and weight wise. We have spent the past 3 years perfecting the umbrella's shape to make sure it can stand up to the harshest elements out there. For those folks who like to use two trekking poles, you may want to consider picking up one of our Hands-Free Umbrella Kits that can attach your umbrella to any pack you own.
Words and images by Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa.