Fall in the Pacific Northwest typically means rain for several months in a row, and although you’ll often hear the claim “Portlanders don’t use umbrellas,” plenty of them still sprout open this time of year. And, of course, plenty of them break their spines, blow inside out, or get otherwise trashed. Two companies, setting out to build a better umbrella, have sent me samples to try out: the Hedgehog Carbon Umbrella and the YESbrella.
Let’s take a look at the Carbon Umbrella from Hedgehog first, which is available now for a retail price of $99 directly from Hedgehog and also on Amazon. This umbrella is built for durability: it doesn’t have a push-button open or close, and is strictly manual. It has dual carbon fiber ribs: each of the six “spokes” of the umbrella is actually two ribs, and they’re attached to the stem in a way that each rib can flex independently, which helps keep it from turning inside out. I was even sent a video of somebody running over the Carbon Umbrella with a car, and then opening it up to show that it still worked. (I didn’t try that out myself.)
The tips of the ribs are completely covered both with the fabric and a flat metal knob, which is a nice touch because you’re less likely to poke somebody in the eye. The canvas can actually be removed and swapped out easily if it gets damaged (or, you know, if you just want to make sure your umbrella matches your outfit). Additional canopies range from $10 to $15, and I like the bright colors available—I’m so used to black umbrellas that it’s nice to have a burst of sunny yellow instead. Soon, you’ll even be able to upload your own designs for custom canopies.
The bottom of the Carbon Umbrella’s handle is open, which I thought was kind of a strange choice, but it turns out that it’s designed to store the umbrella sleeve! The elastic strap makes it easy to shove the sleeve in, and then holds it in place. I’ve always wondered what to do with the umbrella sleeve when I use an umbrella, and they’re so easy to lose. I like this solution a lot.
Size-wise, the Carbon Umbrella folds down to a fairly compact size (13″ long), making it comparable to other compact umbrellas I’ve had. It still has a larger canopy than my standard umbrella seen above, though: 41″ across from tip to tip, compared to my old umbrella at 37″ … and that was my “big” umbrella. Now let’s take a look at the YESbrella, which is the longest when folded, but also provides the biggest canopy: 44″ across.
The YESbrella is currently funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge of $56 (or $49 for the early bird tier). It’s expected to retail for $108, comparable to the Carbon Umbrella, but won’t be delivered until May 2020 if the estimate is accurate. Note that I was sent a sample, so there may still be tweaks and changes to the design before the final production.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
What sets the YESbrella apart is that it’s a reverse umbrella: it folds up away from you instead of toward you, so it’s not dripping wet on the outside when you close it. Not only that, but it has a spring-loaded closing function (opening it is manual), which makes it a lot easier to get into your car when it’s raining without fumbling around and trying to close the umbrella without getting soaked. With the YESbrella, you just pull the slider, the umbrella collapses as you pull it inside and shut the door, and it’s nice and dry on the part that’s now in your lap.
The YESbrella has a rubber ring on the top: you can use it as a carrying handle or to hang up the umbrella if you don’t want to drip water (though you’re still encouraged, as usual, to prop open the umbrella after use to allow it to dry fully). Or, if you’re in a place where you can let it drip a little, you can set the closed umbrella handle-side-up, and the ring will just squish out of the way.
The YESbrella also uses carbon fiber ribs, so it’s built to be sturdy even if it’s not quite the tank that the Carbon Umbrella is. Because of the reverse folding, there’s an additional piece of fabric that covers the underside of the ribs (and becomes the outside of the umbrella when closed). That allows for the contrasting fabric colors seen in the photos above … and makes me look like an Oregon Ducks fan, I suppose (though I have no affiliation). The YESbrella comes in several color options—including black, in case you want something
Although other reverse umbrellas exist on the market, most of the ones I’ve seen are full-size, so they’re still much longer when folded; the YESbrella’s advantage is that it’s much wider than compact umbrellas, but still folds down smaller than a full size (and much more quickly).
Here in Portland, we tend to get a lot of rain, but it’s mostly drizzly and not usually heavy rain. (Though, ironically, this fall when I was supposed to be trying out two umbrellas, it has been unusually dry, and we finally got some good rain this week.) For me, the YESbrella is a nice fit because it provides a lot of coverage (good when the rain is misty and drifting a lot) and makes it much easier to get into the car when it’s raining.
We don’t have as much heavy wind usually, so I don’t necessarily need the extreme strength of the Carbon Umbrella, but I do like its compact size and light weight. It also comes with a lifetime warranty, so you can weigh its initial cost against the need to buy replacement umbrellas. I think it would come in handy in places with bigger storms (like Florida, where I grew up).
Disclosure: I received samples of these umbrellas for review.