A favourite of commuters, trekkers and Rihanna alike, the humble umbrella always causes a storm at this time of year. Do you need one? Isn't a storm shell more practical? We’ll pass over the fact that most get left in a taxi/pub/bus and stick our neck out - a brolly is better, less sweaty and much cheaper. While carting around one can be a pain, there’s no doubting its practicality out in the wild as well as on the high street.
But do you go for a pocket portable or a full-stick? Metal or aluminium? Dome or half-canopy? Here’s some options to get you familiar with everything from retractable shafts to the importance of a tough rib structure. No sniggering, now. Here are the best umbrellas according to Pocket-lint.
Best for pockets & bags
Samsonite Hydra Supermini (£30)
Sized for handbags, Samsonite's Supermini is out just in time for the rains. Teflon-coated, though designed more for the odd downpour rather than a three-day trek through the Brecon Beacons, this aluminium-constructed foldout has a tiny rubber handle that's easy to grip and it's less feminine than it looks despite any "black is best" theory for men's umbrellas.
Weighing a laughably small 190g and measuring just 20.5cm when furled, this emergency, five-segment 'brella extends to 105.5cm. Its "anti-wind characteristics don't inspire much confidence in practice, and though we didn't experience a reversal of fortunes in high winds, it's the ultra-slim Supermini's aluminium and Fibreglass shaft construction that's is its USP. It's pocket-sized and perfect for a mad dash from car park to office/pub to taxi. Technically, it's a lady's brolly but, if you're a man and not butch enough to cope with that, then there's the gents version, known as the Technorain, that's just a tiny bit bigger.
Best for style
Aspinal of London Automatic Compact (£85)
The classic choice for the urban gent and those still bemoaning the disappearance of the bowler hat from City streets, Aspinal's handmade – in England, no less, and by master craftsmen – gent's umbrella is the sturdy, slightly dour choice to defend from downpours.
Armed with a telescopic, spring-loaded opening mechanism and an all-natural hardwood crooked handle with signature engraved nickel collar, Aspinal's overhead effort has a canopy span of 63.5 cms and a retracted shaft length of 45.7cms. It's a suave choice, and soaked in style.
Best for trekkers
GoLite Chrome Dome (£30)
In the wilderness during a cloud burst? No problem. Just reach for the Chrome Dome for an instant super-dry canopy. Proffered by one of the brands that has fuelled our obsession with travelling light, GoLite’s Chrome Dome boasts a full-stick design and a 56cm radius despite weighing a paltry 230g.
The waterproof, polyester canopy has metal for extra strength, though dome designs do tend to be stronger in any case. Worth considering for use while out in intense sunlight, it's hill walkers and trekkers out in all conditions that will benefit most from the Chrome Dome.
Best for windy days
Senz Stealth (£40)
There are pocket umbrellas, then there is the ultimate in wind-cheating weapons. The Stealth is firmly in the second category. Constructed in much the same shape as the radar-dodging jet fighter, though far less dangerous, this brolly is kite shaped. Once unfurled, you can literally meet a hurricane head-on, apparently.
Tossing gale forces aside, it managed to get us home dry and thoroughly impressed. The full stick version stretches 78cm and the compact one to 61cm, though just 27cm when folded. We'd recommend going for the big version. The compact was only just about enough to keep us dry in practice.
Best for visibility
Fulton Birdcage-1 (£15)
Black and blocking is how we tend to pick our umbrellas, and see-through designs are usually considered feminine in Blighty, but go to any railway station in Japan and you'll find these – and only these – under the arms of salarymen (Japanese for "worker"), and on sale everywhere for under a tenner.
The Fulton Birdcage-1 is dome-shaped to shield shoulders and backpack; made from transparent, good-quality PVC and features extra-strong glass fibre ribs. It may look slightly effeminate but it’s not. It's Japanese, all right? And in Japan - the land of the typhoon - strong, clear, plastic umbrellas like these make a lot of sense – and sell like hot sake.
Best for self-defence
Unbreakable (from £138)
Windproof is one one thing, but the promise of unbreakability is a brave claim indeed for a Blighty-bound brolly. Available in two versions – either with steel or Fibreglass ribs, the Unbreakable Umbrella is made by the US-based Real Self Defense and sold as a personal protection device - and not just from the rain, either.
Able to support the weight of a fully grown man – in case it's raining men, we suppose – this butch brolly is claimed to be the discreet weapon of choice by bodyguards. The only drawbacks are the high prices and a minimum 705g weight. Enjoy the video.
Best for exhibitionists
Do you like a little twinkle? Just like your buff new TV, this comedy umbrella uses LEDs and three AAA batteries in the handle to fuel its headline feature – a dynamic and ever-changing multicoloured twinkling. Don't worry, should the novelty wear off, it can be kill-switched when inappropriate.
Measuring 90cm in length and with a whole metre of canopy coverage, it’s ideal for kids and those obsessed with astronomy. You might feel a bit silly if you don't fit into either of those categories. You can buy the Twilight at Firebox.
Best for humidity
Tornado Fanbrella (£37)
OK, so you’re plainly not going to need this on these fair Isles but for those about to emigrate to the Southern Hemisphere, this'll put the wind in your sails. If you're not willing to wear the beloved Tilley hat to keep the sun off, then you only have one option left – the Fanbrella.
The Fanbrella comes complete with retractable fan blades under a UV-reflecting canopy. Not made for the British climate – it has plastic ribs – the Fanbrella does need four AA batteries that lend just over five hours of breezing as well as protection from the odd tropical downpour.