Silver Shadow Mini - The Mobile Personal Shade Tree by Michael Vergalla

Silver Shadow Mini - The Mobile Personal Shade Tree by Michael Vergalla

Crossing the Columbia River, headed into the hot, sweltering flat lands from 8,000ft


When flying XC (cross country) as a paraglider pilot your final landing destination is not always known, but at the end of the flight you will land somewhere, and that's a gravity-based guarantee, but your sky party was only the first half of your adventure. The second part of the adventure begins once you have landed. Flying can take you to high altitudes where the temperature is below freezing, meanwhile on the ground it can be 30-45 Celsius with a blazing sun. This means that pilots are in winter snow gear in the middle of summer, upon landing the sweat fest begins!  In the past few years, I found myself picking my landing zone and landing spot based on a solid shade tree. Allowing you to hide in the shade, strip down, and pack gear. This luxury of a shade tree is not always an option. Beyond staying comfortable and hydrated you must deal with some early challenges.

  • How will you find your way home?
  • Did you plan your exit before you landed?
    Do you have cell service to look at maps, or are you relying on previously downloaded data? 
  • Are you in the same country where you took off?
  • Have the cows, horses, sheep, or other strange animals/humans curious about your presence?
  • If you're in the USA does the farmer/landowner have a gun?

There is an old saying that good pilots are made on long walks. (Ironically the pilot who told me this advice was the one camping in a six moons design tent, and was my first intro to SMD). As it turns out the day after I first heard that statement. I walked for more than 4 hours with no sign of relief. 

Top: how the ground adventure started, seeing an oasis of sun relief in the distance 4 hours later. Middle: Road walking. Bottom: how I felt when I got to the shade. 

The sun is beating down, your skin wants to hide in a cave, and there are no obstacles or trees around to cast shade, the sun is at high noon. Even small bushes aren't helpful, you are in desperate need of a shade tree. 

As a six moons ambassador in 2022, I was introduced to the Silver Shadow Mini for the first time. I used to say umbrellas were against my religion, mostly because I’m a plant and I love the rain. The idea of a sunbrella was novel to me and I had never experimented with this before. I was open to adding it to my kit and seeing how it could improve my experience while flying.

Its first outing was a paragliding competition in Chelan, Washington where pilots can end up in fields that have dimensions of many miles, with very long roads, no cars, no trees, and hot sweltering, melting sun! I made a small decision incorrectly in my flight that led to me landing right in the melting pot, in the middle of the day. Upon landing, I shed my winter gear, and before packing I took out the Silver Shadow Mini and popped it open. Immediately my world changed. I had sprouted a portable shade tree. WHAT A NOVEL CONCEPT!! Hiding in my own umbrella of cool air (still melting, but no sun exposure was incredible. I rehydrated, packed my gear, and started walking. Almost laughing to myself at how comfortable I was in a totally uncomfortable environment. For the rest of the competition, I looked forward to my ground adventure and was always happy to hoof it a bit to another road or a better place to be found by the retrieve. It only took one flight to become an instant fan, to the severe jealousy of fellow pilots.


Life changing to have the coolest spot in the hottest place! 

It was a no-brainer to always carry the Silver Shadow Mini on every flight. It packs into a tiny form factor and is very light so as to not be a concern to total kit mass.  

The only challenge I had was in very strong winds the umbrella would pop/invert fortunately the robust design allowed this to be a non-event and despite happening a few times in gusts was manageable. One trick I found to avoid this in all but the strongest gusts was to rotate the shaft of the Silver Shadow Mini until the retaining clip was facing the wind, in this way during the gust the retaining clip was torqued into place vs if the shaft is rotated 180 degrees and the mechanical stop can be displaced in a gust causing the umbrella to close. 


From wet and windy, to hot and sticky. The Silver Shadow Mini is a personal shade tree! Right, shade tree meets shade tree, very meta. 

That being said I have tested the umbrella in 30+mph winds and rain, sleet, and hail. The only time it was damaged was letting someone use it for a small period of time and they tried to close it, then open it in an odd way, when they returned it to me one small arm of the structure had broken. I blame them completely for this and don't think it had anything to do with the design of the Silver Shadow Mini.

I've taken the Silver Shadow Mini on trips all over the United States, Colombia, Macedonia, and in a few weeks Europe. 

The Silver Shadow Mini has become a trusted adventure companion. From California, and eastern Washington to Colombia and to Macedonia. 


I'm actually on my second one, as the first was stolen while drying from the rain at a science museum in San Francisco. I also upgraded the handle to the larger one for my second Silver Shadow Mini. My fiancé knew how much I loved the Silver Shadow Mini and bought it as a gift for my birthday!! This year as a Six Moons Ambassador I asked for the Silver Shadow Carbon. The frame construction is much more robust and the tension in the Umbrella seems to be much higher and able to resist wind gusts. The only issue related to use in a paragliding kit is the overall length of the Silver Shadow Carbon. So, as a result, my backup Silver Shadow Mini is with me now on this trip in Macedonia to race paragliders. 

Before Silver Shadow Mini (hiding from the sun anyway I can, to After relaxed and happy in full sun.

There is another segment of the paragliding experience that I started to utilize the Silver Shadow Mini, and that is on launch before take-off. There is a concept called para-waiting that occurs as pilots are waiting for conditions to improve. The last time I was in Colombia flying I used it to stay nice and cool on launch. The visibility of my private shade tree has led to many pilots inquiring where I found this awesome piece of kit. Multiple local pilots now are carrying sunbrellas and report back that it has changed their ground game. 


Jealous pilot stuck on the road, with nowhere to hide from the sun. Even the telephone poles are not helpful mid-day. 

The reality is that sometimes we are landing in very dangerous hot conditions where dehydration and exposure could be deadly. 

This tool is actually increasing pilot safety and reducing the risk of heat exhaustion. Especially when pilots have to hike with heavy kits and gear for many miles in the sweltering sun. My kit's total weight is less than 10kg, but some competition pilots can be carrying 20kg + of gear. Making the Silver Shadow Mini all the more useful. 


A potentially life-saving oasis in the desert. 

In summary, the Silver Shadow Mini has been an essential tool for my adventures starting in the last year. There is no going back, and in fact, it has improved my flying in the sense that I no longer look for a field with a shade tree, as I have my own personal shade tree in my pack. Thank you, SMD for a really stellar piece of kit.

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