Singing in the rain?

By Mir
October 16, 2006

The lovely Steph—she of contest fame—mailed me a stumper of a question:

hey Mir!
since it’s POURING and FREEZING here today and I am once again stuck without a decent umbrella, I was wondering if you could recommend a decent umbrella, at an affordable price that will last more than a few weeks?

This has me thinking about some sort of umbrella and electric blanket combo as a possible hit invention, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t Steph’s point, here. So: Is there such a thing as an umbrella that lasts?

Um. Not really.

Well; let me amend that. Generally speaking, compact umbrellas aren’t going to last. The same construction that allows them to fold up to the size of a postage stamp is the reason that the first strong gust tends to bend the spokes and rip the nylon from the frame.

If you want an umbrella that will outlive a compact, get a full-size one that doesn’t fold. Of course, then you’re stuck toting around something the length of your average golf club. It doesn’t fit in your briefcase or backpack, it doesn’t even sit properly on the floor of your car. The end result is that you never have it with you when you need it because who wants to tote that gigantic thing around?

I was astounded to discover that you can spend real money on umbrellas. (Want a giggle? Check out this review. I’m sure it will send you right out to buy that $475 Louis Vuitton model.) I just had no idea.

My current philosophy is simple: First and foremost, what I want in an umbrella is that it be there when I need it. I purchase umbrellas at the dollar store and leave them everywhere. I have one in the car, one in my briefcase, a couple in the house, etc. Not terribly frugal, I suppose, but at a buck a pop, I can be lavish that way. When they break, I don’t care, because they were only a dollar.

Dear readers, do you know the secrets of umbrella-purchasing? Is there a penultimate brand known to withstand hurricane-force winds and tidal waves with the bearer’s hairdo still intact? Please, do tell.

[Edited to add: Now my Amazon ad is directing me to the GustBuster! You have to read the description on that thing, at least; they take their umbrellas very seriously.]


  1. I have found my very best umbrellas at garage sales. Thrift stores would be a good bet as well. They are cheap enough that if they break, you can just toss them. But every once in a while you get a winner! I found the best umbrella I have ever owned at a garage sale for 2.00 And it’s pretty to boot.

  2. after reading all of those reviews on the first site you linked, i’m totally down for buying the $45 Lexon that apparently doubles as a quickfire weapon 😛

  3. If you’re in an area with tons of wind, this looks good:

    I have the smaller one:

    It generally works very well, but in extreme wind it has flipped (though not broken – I flipped it back and it was fine). This ebags review of it is similar to my experience: “The umbrella is well constructed and the auto open/close works well. It comes with a sleeve which you can shove the umbrella into to keep it from soaking items in your car/bag, etc. The umbrella is perfectly sized for a single person although you will have to adjust where you carry a bag to avoid having the umbrella drip on your bag Now, regarding the Windpro aspect of the umbrella, it’s good but it’s not perfect. It’s wind-resistant but I would not use it in strong gusts. I’ve had the umbrella invert on me one time but without any obvious damage to it. In light to moderate wind it will likely be more functional than the cheap umbrella you buy at the corner stand. That said I would buy it again and it certainly holds up better than a lot of the flimsier micro and mini umbrellas I’ve had. Keeping that in mind it’s also a little heavier than those models.”

    And let me also say that I’m dumb, because I never realized that an umbrella sleeve had an actual purpose besides keeping it neat, and I always end up putting them away somewhere in the house.

  4. Those Gustbusters are awesome. We had them at my workplace until employees took them all home and never brought them back because they’re so nice.

  5. I have found better umbrellas in Europe, even Japanese ones hold up better than American ones. UNLESS you invest in a golfer’s umbrella – those can be very durable – and of course can be the size of a small tent :O

  6. I have an umbrella opinion — shhh, yes, I do have opinions on MOST things. Anyway, I think you have to consider the type of weather you need to protect against. I say this because I’ve lived in FL, where you get 10 minute HORRIBLE rain showers then it is sunny again — but frankly, no one is walking around in it, because if you are inside or in your car — you just wait it out, I’ve lived in DC where you get more wind and driving rain and you need an umbrella, but one that doesn’t turn inside out is VERY helpful; and now I live in Northern Cali, where we get 6 months of rain and while it is fairly constant it is so light that most people don’t even bother with the umbrella.
    So, I mention that if you are dealing with mostly light mist, light rain, or some such — or even sun protection — you may wish to do the $1 folding cheapies. If you have to deal with wind, I’d suggest trying to invest in one of the gust-proof ones, even if it does fold up. You may also consider a folding one for the car, with the non-folding kind in the house and your office. This way you have an umbrella in case of emergency, but you have the “good” ones for when you need to walk the dog or run out for a bite at lunch.

  7. I bought an automatic open/close umbrella from a London Fog outlet that had a lifetime warranty. Something went wrong with the open/close button (which renders the umbrella useless; it doesn’t work the old fashioned way), and I sent it back. They replaced it. Of course, this required finding the right size box and going to the post office, two things I often find difficult, but it is now years later and the replacement umbrella still works, so the effort was worth it.

    bec 😀

  8. I live in a semi-arid desert, and you’ve made me want to go buy an umbrella heh.

  9. I have a few cheapies, but rarely even use those, because I’m so short that I hold my umbrella at everyone else’s shoulder height and knock them from the sidewalk. Guess I’d rather get wet than face a stranger’s wrath!

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