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Backpacking and Hiking with an Umbrella
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Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Backpacking and Hiking with an Umbrella on 02/08/2012 13:18:52 MST Print View

Regarding poles, I guess most people here have already tried a pack under 10 kg and most surely all of us have tried hiking without poles sometime so it's most likely that both conditions met and we already know what it is before deciding to use the poles.

I use umbrellas and usually take one for the long trips but i make a more limited use than what's presented in the article. I actually don't like using the umbrella, I don't like the complexity it adds but I appreciate some of the advantages already commented and I particularly like the psychological benefit of being out of the rain as well as the physical part about having a dry environment for chores like checking a map or taking a picture.

The one thing I don't agree is about the need for a rainproof top. The windshirt+umbrella thing is not enough for me in anything other than mild, windless rain and even then my arms usually get uncomfortably wet (Golite Dome at play). I always take a waterproof top but still the umbrella lets me use a very simple one, even a non-breathable one that's as light as a windshirt and it's a good match to the umbrella.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
rain gear? on 02/08/2012 13:21:19 MST Print View

I can totally see an umbrella for sun, that would be a no brainer. If it's flat, or rollling terrain. Or climbing mountains in the sun, for sure, I'd stick a trekking pole in the backpack for that, I hate getting heat stroke, plagues me.

I would definitely use an umbrella in the desert or high heat situations on more or less flat surfaces, but can't see using one in any other circumstance, though it would be fun to try just to see. But my experience with umbrellas has been that my pants and shoes get more wet than if I hadn't been using it, due to the streams of water coming off it.

However, blanket statements like, you don't need trekking poles if pack weighs < 10kg/22 pounds have precisely ZERO value, since there is no law or rule that dictates such things, it all comes down to weight on knees, condition of knees, age, and a variety of other factors, all of which vary individual to individual. When writing such an article, I suggest avoiding such fictional rules, which are literally made up out of thin air, and stick to facts and experience, which are interesting and informative to read. I can assure you that my knees let me know with zero pounds on my back plus descent, and have for years, but I don't make the error of assuming all knees will let people know this, although my suspicion is that many, if following the fictional rule of < 10kg on back, will find as they age that they really wish had avoided such behaviors. I have to be honest, and say I held off quite a while becoming a member here precisely because of such tendencies to just invent things and then state them as true.

However, more interesting, is rain gear.

I always scratch my head when I read about people's rain gear wetting out. I spent the worst winter in terms of rain in the early 80s being a bike messenger, using the old style heavy rain coats/rain pants, the canvas backed rubberized stuff, very airy, not tight or light, this was all day rain, every day, for weeks and weeks on end, rain so hard anything in your hand like a package would be soaked inside of a few seconds. I never wetted out, and I never got more than a bit damp, despite riding through the rain, in the rain, all day, each day.

So clearly there's something more along the lines of a rain gear fail going on with such rain coats/pants than an intrinsic problem with wearing raingear per se. And that is not hard to pin down, given this is backpacking light. This thread has made me accept the weight of my 12 oz rain coat, and I'll just happily continue to be a light, not ultralight, backpacker.

Edited by hhope on 02/08/2012 13:29:49 MST.

Bradley Danyluk
(dasbin) - MLife
Thanks! on 02/08/2012 13:21:49 MST Print View

Cool article, thank you! I think I might give one a shot.

Just a couple little nit-picks:

- "An umbrella helps regulate your temperature because it lets the heat that your body generates while hiking evaporate quickly."

No :) It lets the sweat evaporate quickly. Heat doesn't 'evaporate,' and sweat can be any temperature.

- "I have put thermometers under an umbrella with reflective material alongside one with black material. My tests were not scientific, but I was disappointed with the results. Yes, the reflective umbrella is cooler than the black one, but the difference is small, just a couple of degrees. Perhaps it's just psychological, but it sure feels cooler under a reflective canopy."

I suspect this is precisely because you were using a thermometer, measuring air temperature. The purpose of the reflective canopy is mostly to block IR radiation, which has little effect on air temperature, but will heat up your body quite a lot once it hits you. I think the effect is more than psychological, you just didn't test the right thing :)
Incidentally, this same reflective property also means you will be a lot *warmer* underneath it when camping out in an open area at night.

Curious why you ended up ditching the solar panel. Purely a weight/usefulness consideration, or did it not work as expected?

Edited by dasbin on 02/08/2012 13:23:02 MST.

Francis Tapon
(ftapon) - MLife

Locale: Earth
Re: rain gear? on 02/08/2012 13:38:23 MST Print View


1. You're right that in windy conditions an umbrella may redirect water that would have hit your upper body and make it fall on your legs. If that bothers you, I suggest rain pants. In my experience, an umbrella provides superior lower body protection than a rain jacket.

2. Who made such a "blanket statement" that got you so excited?

I'll quote the article: "If you lighten your total pack weight to under 10 kg (22 pounds), then you MAY discover that trekking poles are no longer necessary."

The word "may" indicates that it's not an absolute truth and that your mileage may vary. So relax and enjoy being a member. ;)

3. I agree with you about rain jacket thickness and weight making a huge performance difference. I wrote: "There have been a few times where I've been in four days of nonstop rain. In such conditions, it's practically impossible to stay dry unless you're wearing one of those thick yellow fisherman's outfits."

It sounds like your bike messenger outfit was something similar to those thick yellow fisherman's outfits. As the article says: "To get a good rain jacket that will keep you dry in a sustained downpour, you'll need something that weighs closer to 12 to 16 ounces (340 to 454 g)."

So keep your 12oz rain coat. ;)

Edited by ftapon on 02/08/2012 13:39:39 MST.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
thanks for clarification on 02/08/2012 14:08:42 MST Print View

Sorry, missed the 'may', but I would avoid such rules anyway, even qualified. The weights are largely meaningless, many posters I see here (based on their pics) carry already 10kg, or more, extra on their bodies, for example, which would mean that they are at that limit point with 0k on their backs, just as an example. So such numbers are largely meaningless in any context, length of legs, all kinds of stuff comes into play, it's just an abstraction which really has no value or meaning.

But I was interested to see that there really appears to be a functional difference in rain gear based on the weight, I'd really been wondering about that, apparently there is a point of not only diminishing returns re rain gear, and other gear, but actual failure of functionality (ie, a rain jacket that wets out in real rain), which to me is the precise point where I decide to avoid the ultralight technique and use the light one. (similarly, my tarp will never have a hole that needs covering with an umbrella because I use a tent). I went back to weigh my old and almost unused northface (back when they were still good) goretex climblite raincoat, 22 oz, but I would guess works better than my new 12 oz stuff. Maybe that's why I've resisted selling it even though I never use it.

Yes, it was those old yellow ones, which sadly they have not sold for decades, the new cheap stuff is that really junky vinyl like stuff, which doesn't work nearly as well.

The stuff I used didn't have zippers if I remember right, which I may not, but I think it didn't.

the point however re trekking poles is that you can't use an umbrella if you are using trekking poles efficiently or correctly. I'd definitely give using one pole with an umbrella a shot though in summer especially, if in open terrain, though I'm not sure how the motions of one arm vs the other would work out, I don't care about the weight, 10oz is nothing compared to the extra water you save carrying and drinking if you're in the shade a lot more). And an umbrella does not replace a trekking pole, so it's either extra weight to carry (totally worth it in high heat/sun in my opinion) or something you don't use.

But thanks for the article, it's nice thinking about stuff and tools for the future, sun and extreme heat have been one of the banes of my backpacking life re heat stroke etc.

Edited by hhope on 02/08/2012 14:18:24 MST.

Francis Tapon
(ftapon) - MLife

Locale: Earth
Re: thanks for clarification on 02/08/2012 14:21:13 MST Print View


1. Perhaps instead of 10kg, I should have just said "ultralight." But some find that term vague, so I put a number of it, despite the shortcomings of doing that (as you point out).

2. I agree that if you're only going to bring a rain jacket (i.e., no umbrella) AND you expect a decent amount of rain on your trip, then you should probably get a rain jacket that weighs at least 12oz. Those that weigh less tend to get soaked after sustained rain.

3. "re trekking poles is that you can't use an umbrella if you are using trekking poles efficiently or correctly." I agree, although some BPL readers would reject such a blanket statement. ;)

Francis Tapon
(ftapon) - MLife

Locale: Earth
Re: Thanks! on 02/08/2012 14:23:35 MST Print View

Bradley Danyluk: Excellent nit-picks. I agree with you.

I didn't debug/test the solar panel enough before going (it was a last second thing). It broke on the first day. Instead of asking my sponsor (Brunton) for a new one, I got rid of the solar panel and the gadget that it was supposed to recharge (a GPS/Smartphone). It shaved off over a pound. My gear list is on my website.

I'd reconsider using a solar panel for a future trip, although there is great benefit to being disconnected and free of electronics.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Backpacking and Hiking with an Umbrella on 02/08/2012 14:23:39 MST Print View

Great article! I've wondered about using one, now I have to just jump in and try it!

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
heh heh on 02/08/2012 14:33:34 MST Print View

Francis, agreed re blanket statement, let me restate it: can someone show if trekking poles and an umbrella can be used efficiently together while not breaking trekking pole efficiency.

I'd always thought the umbrella stuck in the pack was the solution, but some posters here said they found that to be useless and a headache.

I find the idea of an umbrella appealing in many circumstances, not all though, and most certainly so in summer. For rain though I think I'd rather just carry good rain gear that works, although some things you have to try before stating anything about it, but I have never had issues with good rain gear wetting out or failing so I suspect that it's what you say, people have just found the point of too light to be useful and passed it. In that situation though I totally see using an umbrella as an option, but personally I'd rather just go with better gear in the first place. That's the Norwegian in me, we like to use gear that works.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
How about? on 02/08/2012 20:10:22 MST Print View

Thought about using an umbrella for a while. But I like using my poles better. Think I'll grow a third arm and then all will be good.

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Thanks for the great article on 02/08/2012 20:31:15 MST Print View

Been using my umbrella for 5 years now. Couldn't live without it in Oregon. Now in Texas and works great for the heat. I like using trekking poles so I have rigged my umbrella to my pack strap for most times, unless it gets windy.
Here's a pic from last Spring in Big Bend when temps were hitting 103 F. My hiking companion without an umbrella had mild heat stroke. Portable shade can be a life saver.
-MarkBig Bend Umbrella

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
I like that on 02/08/2012 20:47:08 MST Print View

I wanted some way to mount one to my pack or even my body. Great idea Mark.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Umbrellas on 02/08/2012 21:12:32 MST Print View

I have a GoLite Chrome Dome.

Every time I carry it I don't need it.

Every time I need it, I'm not carrying it.

I've had a hard time rationalizing the ~9 ounces and carrying it as standard gear, especially on shorter/faster trips.

On only one trip have the circumstances really made it worth carrying: an early summer 6 day solo on the JMT with alternating days of pouring rain followed by a day of intense sun. I remember a particularly beautiful lunch stop somewhere near Vidette Meadow in an absolute downpour, crouched under my umbrella beneath a tree eating a bagel, cheese, salami. I was happy as could be. A few days later I passed a sun-beaten, very weary looking group near Mather Pass. They were sure coveting my umbrella....

I think they certainly have a place. If I were to do a thru-hike today, I'd likely bring it. They sure make rain easier.

...I carried two hook and loop strips to secure it to the front of my shoulder strap. Never had any difficulties like this unless things started getting windy.

Edited by xnomanx on 02/08/2012 21:29:01 MST.

a b
Portable Privy on 02/08/2012 22:17:53 MST Print View

I used an umbrella for my AT hike too.
Almost every hiker I met scoffed at it.. until it began to rain.
Despite being 5'7 and 3/16" tall my umbrella does not really keep me dry.
I just held my umbrella instead of attaching it to my pack which made it an almost thoughtless geusture to dodge Rhododendron on the AT.
I used trekking poles too, and simply lashed one of them to my pack and went mono-pole while using my umbrella.
My umbrella frees me from the claustrophobic hood of a rain jacket.
Most of the hike my umbrella was attached to my pack.
Sometimes i used it to create a "door" for my shaped tarp which allowed me to block wind but still allow plenty of ventialtion around the edges.
My favorite use for my umbrella.. and one that has not been mentioned here:
There is no finer rainy day wilderness toilet experience than to dig a cathole some place off trail and sit under an umbrella, blissfully and without hurry, "filling the hole" so to speak.
The umbrella makes the whole #2 experience into a sort of ritual in the rain.
I felt like: "Go ahead and rain, hail if you like Mr. Sky. I can squat here all day if i want".
It is not very common on the AT. In fact i only met one other hiker with an umbrella on the whole Appalachian Trail and she was a fellow triple crown hiker.
The umbrella is for me primarily a psychological booster even on the wettest darkest day.
Kinda like riding a mo-ped: It is not always practical but you cannot help but smile while you do it.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Experienced hikers on 02/08/2012 23:35:44 MST Print View

>"It is not very common on the AT. In fact I only met one other hiker with an umbrella on the whole Appalachian Trail and she was a fellow triple crown hiker."

That's one thing I notice about umbrella users. Invariably there are all the subtle signs that this is a one very experienced hiker who has arrived at their set up through a lot of experience and practice.

Maybe I'll get there myself someday. But instead, I think I'll learn from others and start using an umbrella sooner.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Portable Privy on 02/09/2012 07:59:47 MST Print View

"Kinda like riding a mo-ped: It is not always practical but you cannot help but smile while you do it."

A great line Matt. Made me smile reading it.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Rain gear that works? on 02/09/2012 09:14:35 MST Print View

> For rain though I think I'd rather just carry good rain gear that works

the problem here is whether that gear even exists if by "work" you mean keeping the hiker dry. And while I may agree some UL rain gear may be not up to the task I don't think it's just a matter of weight. Hiking in the rain with a pack on and doing so for hours means the hiker is gonna get somehow wet and I don't think there's any rain gear that will prevent that. Your (Harald's) urban experience as a bike messenger is surely valuable but IMO hardly representative of what happens on a multi-day backpacking trip in rainy weather. I guess you'd be very wet after a while hiking in that suit you used back then. And I guess we'd all wish it'd be so easy.

The umbrella helps and I use it often but not even the umbrella prevents from getting wet in the right circumstances. I think it's close to a consensus that hiking in the rain is not that much about keeping dry as it is about getting on well with being comfortably wet.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
backpacking and hiking with an umbrella on 02/09/2012 19:30:28 MST Print View

Luxury Lite packs are designed to hold an umbrella. I use hiking poles, so this set up is perfect for me: the umbrella is solidly attached to the pack and my two hands are free for my poles. I want an umbrella primarily for sun protection (I trust my rain gear). Here's what I've found:

--It doesn't take a lot of wind to disable an umbrella
--an umbrella attached to a pack will not always cast shadows across your face
--walking north in relatively calm wind conditions, an umbrella is an excellent source of shade
--actually for most hours and directions in relatively calm wind conditions, an umbrella is an excellent source or shade
--I'll probably leave my umbrella at home. A good sun hat and plenty of sunscreen will almost accomplish the same thing

I'm speaking about my experience in the Sierra, not desert or southwest conditions.
Again, I'm mostly concerned about sun, not rain protection.

Francis Tapon
(ftapon) - MLife

Locale: Earth
Re: backpacking and hiking with an umbrella on 02/10/2012 16:15:49 MST Print View


Although I've never attached my umbrella to my pack, I would agree with your assessment. As my article states, you lose perhaps 50% of the benefit of an umbrella when you jury rig it to your pack. That's why, in your experience, it was easily blown away and often provided limited coverage.

If you hold it, you can angle it for optimal coverage (usually giving you shade from your knees to your head) and angle it to prevent it from getting blown away. Doing this requires constant micro adjustments as the trail twists and turns through the mountains (and the sun moves across the sky). That's why jury rigging is sub-optimal.

However, there have been a few comments on this thread from people who have suggested that there's a way to jury rig the umbrella that allows you to easily make minor adjustments while you walk. I haven't seen their setup, so I'm skeptical that it beats holding it in your hand, but backpackers who can't give up their trekking poles should consider their advice if you'd like to try an umbrella.

David Maxwell

Locale: eastern, tn
AT ... you bet on 02/11/2012 11:36:39 MST Print View

I've been using my old beat up golite on the AT for over 10 years now. And I also hike with two poles. Unless I have to store one away to hold onto the umbrella during bad rain showers with wind. Otherwise it is attached to my pack.