These trendy and practical umbrellas will make you wish for rain… well, almost
If you live in the UK, it’s rarely wise to leave the house without the best umbrella to keep you protected from an unpredictable downpour (or at least a waterproof jacket). No matter what the season is in Blighty, there’s always a chance you might get caught short in the rain, leaving you drenched if you’ve not thought ahead.
The best umbrellas are practical, stylish and easy to fold up and pack away. But if you’re not prepared and put off buying one until it rains, you can easily end up with a poorly made brolly – such as those quick grabs from the pound shop – that will fall apart in no time.
Thankfully, we’ve tested umbrellas of all shapes and sizes, and across all budgets, to bring you the most durable, waterproof, easy-to-use and smart-looking umbrellas on the market. And we’ve also included some top tips in our buying guide, to help you find the right umbrella for you.
How to choose the best umbrella for you
What types of umbrellas are there?
The two main types are full-length walking umbrellas and folding umbrellas. Walking umbrellas have a bigger surface area and don’t fold; these are good for windier weather and long periods of time in the rain, as well as for people who prefer the traditional look. The largest types are known as golfing umbrellas. For more convenient everyday use, a foldable umbrella can be tucked away in a bag ready for when you need it.
Both types are available with either automatic or manual opening mechanisms. The former requires a simple push of the button to unfold, which is great for when you’re in a hurry – but the mechanism tends to have a shorter lifespan. Manual opening systems involve a bit more effort to open, but are likely to last much longer.
Are there any types to avoid?
Steer well clear of low-cost, lightweight folding umbrellas. Sure, they’re cheap, but that’s normally because they’re made from low-quality materials and a frame that’s likely to see bits of aluminium poking out in odd places as soon as the slightest wind gets up. We suggest you also avoid umbrellas that fold into lots of parts, as they’re generally more flimsy, often difficult to operate and can pinch your fingers.
What type of handle should I go for?
The umbrella handle should ideally be cushioned, or at least comfortable to hold in either your left or right hand, as you never know what else you’ll have to carry. And a good grip is essential for windier weather. A wooden curved handle, for instance, will not only look vintage but will offer a better grip during transportation when the umbrella is folded down.
What features should I look out for?
If you want to ensure your umbrella won’t blow inside-out in howling winds, consider a vented or two-layer fabric canopy. Also consider a brolly with fibreglass ribs, which flex with the wind rather than breaking. If you can afford it, look for a canopy with a polyester pongee fabric for increased strength and water resistance. The more common nylon canopy is fine for occasional showers, however.
On the subject of the canopy, make sure it’s big enough – to avoid wet shoulders – and think about the shape and style. The classic birdcage can be pulled right down over your shoulders, while the ingenious Senz shape protects you from the rain, whatever direction it’s coming from.
As for weight, stay clear of heavy and bulky designs – unless you don’t have to think about carrying anything else. At the same time, be mindful that while aluminium is lighter than steel, it also breaks much more easily.
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The best umbrellas you can buy in 2023
1. Blunt Classic Umbrella: Best umbrella for sheer performance
Price when reviewed: From £78 | Check price at AmazonWe found this looked as good as new even after several downpours. It’s full-sized and full-length so there’s plenty of room to protect someone else from the rain and it’s seriously sturdy, doing us proud even in really heavy rain without so much as a wobble in high winds. It’s not one to pop discreetly in your bag when not in use – but, then again, why hide it away when it looks so good and comes in such a fabulous range of colours? Other options are available on Amazon as well directly from Blunt.
So what makes it perform so well? Blunt puts it down to several techy reasons, most notably the fact that its tips open like mini-umbrellas into their own specially designed pockets, which distributes the tension right to the edge where it’s needed the most.
Key features – Canopy size: 120cm diameter; Length when folded: 84cm; Weight: 640g; Other colours available? Yes
2. Fulton Tiny-2 Umbrella: Best pocket umbrella
Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at John LewisSometimes carrying an umbrella around with you at all times can be cumbersome, which is why compact pocket umbrellas such as the Fulton Tiny are so useful.
As its name suggests, the Tiny will happily live at the bottom of your bag, or perhaps even in your pocket, until the right time comes. It folds down flat, measuring just 6cm x 15cm when closed (with an 87cm canopy diameter when open). Made from lightweight aluminium and with a fibreglass frame, it’s reasonably hardy, but it may struggle to hold its own in torrential rains and gusty downpours.
Key features – Canopy size: 87cm diameter; Length when folded: 15cm; Weight: 160g; Other colours available? Yes
3. Totes Auto Open/Close X-tra Strong Umbrella: Best folding umbrella
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at John LewisA good folding umbrella should be small, easy to open and close, and strong enough to withstand everyday winds. This one ticks all those boxes and more. No matter how much you open and close it, the mechanism remains effortless, while the large and particularly water-repellent canopy is designed to provide protection in winds up to 70mph – that’s 60% stronger than your average folding umbrella.
While it’s not the lightest umbrella we tested, it’s by no means irritatingly heavy and the rubberised handle sits comfortably in the hand with a good grip even when wet. Also handy is the elastic wrist strap and matching storage bag.
Key features – Canopy size: 98cm diameter; Length when folded: 28cm; Weight: 340g; Other colours available? Yes
4. Fulton Birdcage-2 Luxe Photo Rose: Best birdcage umbrella
Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at AmazonBirdcage umbrellas are a great way to get full protection from the rain without having to battle with a large canopy – a godsend in city streets where big umbrellas can mean poking other people in the eye.
The Fulton Birdcage-2 comes in a range of styles, including the black and white dome shape with a fabric rose print border featured here: the border can be pulled right down over your shoulders to prevent rain from playing havoc with your hair, makeup or clothes whilst still allowing you to see where you’re going.
The handle is grippy and the product itself is sturdy, which is just what we would expect from an umbrella maker with a royal warrant. The aesthetic is nice and summery, and it opens and closes quickly and easily so you need never be caught short in a sudden downpour.
Key features – Canopy size: 88cm diameter; Length when folded: 96cm; Weight: 480g; Other colours available? Yes
5. Senz Original Stormproof Umbrella: Best umbrella for innovation
Price when reviewed: £93 | Check price at AmazonIn terms of performance, the aerodynamic design effortlessly slices through gale-force winds of up to 100km/h, even when you’re only using one hand. It never inverts and, what’s more, tests show it requires 40% less muscle tension while you’re using it. It even has unique “eye savers” on its spokes – reassuring for both you and innocent bystanders.
We were also impressed with the clear view it gave us, which saves you from embarrassingly clumsy moments. It comes in automatic and manual, but take the time to watch the video to learn how to use it – if you don’t allow it to move around or hold it in the right position, you’ll feel conned.
Key features – Canopy size: 87 x 90cm (WD) ; Length when folded: 79cm; Weight: 440g; Other colours available? Yes
6. Fulton Cyclone: Best super-strong umbrella
Price when reviewed: £38 | Check price at AmazonArnold Fulton founded this umbrella manufacturer in 1956. Today, it’s the biggest selling umbrella brand by far in the UK and even supplies umbrellas to the royal family, keeping the King and his rellies dry at the likes of blustery Balmoral.
The Cyclone – as you wouldd hope, with a name like that – can withstand some pretty gusty weather, thanks to its technically outstanding features including fibreglass ribs, durable polycarbonate joints and patented super-strength construction. The silicone finger pad makes it comfy to grip. We also like the carry case with detachable strap and pull-tab.
Key features – Canopy size: 131cm diameter; Length when folded: 101cm; Weight: 878g; Other colours available? Yes
7. GustBuster Pro Series: Best golfing umbrella
Price when reviewed: £45 | Check price at GustBuster The GustBuster brand is a favourite of notable names – and this award-winning, flip-proof umbrella is the top choice of many golfing professionals. Its 62in canopy is easily enough to protect two people from the elements (or one person and all their gear), while the double canopy design and solid yet lightweight fibreglass frame can easily cope with strong winds.
Despite its size, it’s a doddle to handle in the most blustery of weather, thanks to its proprietary elastic shock cords that allow the wind to pass through the umbrella while keeping water out. The alleviation of wind pressure also prevents the canopy from leaking after a short time. The rubber handle is comfortable to hold, and it comes in a selection of sizes so you can pick the right one for you.
Key features – Canopy size: 136cm diameter; Length when folded: 100cm; Weight: 830g; Other colours available? Yes
8. Rex London Vintage Transport Children’s Umbrella: Best children’s umbrella
Price when reviewed: £9.95 | Check price at AmazonWe love this retro umbrella that’s suitable for kids over three years old. Far sturdier than most umbrellas aimed at children – many of which, frankly, break within a week – this also has a gorgeous design, featuring all kinds of vintage vehicles that our little testers couldn’t stop talking about.
It’s not too heavy or tall for littluns to carry about, and the opening and closing mechanism didn’t leave little fingers getting caught – a regular source of tears for smaller folk when trying to get their umbrella up in the rain. And if you don’t like the vehicles, there are plenty of other styles to choose from in the range.
Key features – Canopy size: 65cm diameter; Length when folded: 52cm; Weight: 200g; Other colours available? Yes
9. James Smith & Sons Pencil Umbrella with Malacca Crook: Best traditional umbrella
Price when reviewed: £85 | Check price at James Smith & Sons UmbrellasMade by a family business that’s been selling umbrellas since 1830, the James Smith & Sons pencil umbrella is designed for women, although there’s a male version too. It’s pricey, but a more sleek and sophisticated brolly you will not find.
Highlights include elegant gold spoke tips, a black rope loop and wrist loop, and button fastening for keeping the canopy from flapping about when not in use. In our view, though, the best bit is the crook-shaped wooden handle made from Malacca cane, a mainstay of hand-crafted umbrellas for over a century – this one’s sourced from Malaysia with a sleek mottled finish.
Despite the high-quality materials, the umbrella is surprisingly lightweight and the manual opening works smoothly, with a decent-sized polyester canopy. The company runs a repair service for its own umbrellas, too.
Key features – Canopy size: 88cm diameter; Length when folded: 71cm; Weight: 350g; Other colours available? Yes