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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Head to Head: Montebell Trekking Umbrella versus Go-Lite Dome Umbrella

It was raining today, so Lisa & I got a chance to test the GoLite Dome Umbrella head-to-head against the Montbell UL Trekking Umbrella in real weather conditions.

The Go-Lite is the heavier of the two (by almost 50%), and does not pack down to a small handy size. However, it is by far the less finicky to shut and open. The design is simple, and the canopy is sufficiently large for one person, though not sufficient for a person with a decently sized backpack --- the backpack will get wet. The canopy material is made of nylon and seems thick enough to be sturdy under normal wear.

The Montbell packs into a little 6 inch stick (about the length of a toothbrush), and hence packs away very nicely (it comes with a tight little stuff sack), but the mechanical construction led me to be really wary, and the ballistic nylon material seems a bit thin. With a bit of practice, however, I found that I could open up the umbrella without undue worries, though stowing is still a bit of a tricky business and required a bit of care.

In practice, the 4 oz weight difference between the umbrellas is not really noticeable, even under heavy rain. The Go-Lite feels a little more solid, but the Montbell held up really well as well. The longer carrying stick of the Go-Lite makes it easy for you to rest the umbrella against your shoulder, but the light weight of the Mont-bell makes vertical carrying over a 3 hour hike a minor problem at worst, but I never did shake my feeling about how fragile the Montbell was.

My conclusion is that for a trip where lightweight is a premium, the Montbell is worth the extra $15 it costs, and for a trip where resupply is potentially a problem, the sturdier Go-Lite will provide better piece of mind. For our Coast-To-Coast walk, Lisa will carry the Go-Lite and I'll carry the Montbell. I'll try to remember to post the results when we come back from the trip.


Scarlet said...

Why don't you just use Goretex jackets and rain flies for your backpacks? I think it would be really annoying to carry an umbrella with a pack for 20 miles.

Piaw Na said...

For the same reason raincapes are better than goretex jackets. If you're working hard enough, gortex jackets retain sweat and make you wetter than an umbrella. We'll wear jackets too, but we can get away with much lighter jackets because of the umbrellas.

md said...

I first read about using an umbrella for hiking in Ray Jardine's "Beyond Backpacking". It's an interesting idea. I also think I'd find an umbrella annoying - I rarely use one. What do you do if you've got trekking poles in your two hands? I guess you have to make the choice not to use poles when it's raining.

What's the Coast-to-Coast hike you're taking?

Piaw Na said...

We definitely have a conundrum with trekkking poles. I'm figuring that if it's raining, we're unlikely to attempt the tough peaks, so trekking sticks won't be as necessary. Our other strategy is to only having two trekking poles (one each), and so only one hand is free.

We're planning to do Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk in England.

Scarlet said...

I hate carrying an umbrella just walking around town, so that wouldn't work for me. YMMV.

8tgyf said...

I've carried the Golite Dome umbrella on every hike and backpacking trip since 2002, used as both a sun shade, often replacing a hat, and vs. the occasional hike in the rain. I don't own any Gore-Tex and refuse to use trekking poles, so the umbrella is ideal for my uses. Recently in Yosemite NP it began to pour and while fellow backpackers donned their rain suits and day hikers scrambled back to the trailhead, I hiked along with my windbreaker jacket unzipped, warm and dry under my umbrella.