Review: Montbell U.L. Trekking Umbrella

A reflective umbrella will keep you significantly cooler than a non-reflective model when hiking in hot conditions. That’s the long-time consensus in the backpacking community. There’s only one problem………..it’s largely a myth.

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Crossing Death Valley with the Montbell UL Trekking Umbrella | Lowest to Highest Route, CA, USA, 2014.

I bought my Montbell U.L. Trekking Umbrella in 2011.

Initial impressions? Two things came immediately to mind:

1. WeightTipping the scales at 5.8 oz (165 grams), it was the lightest umbrella I had seen.

2.  DurabilityThe folding hinges & gossamer-like materials, made me wonder whether or not it would hold up long term.

In regards to #2, I’m happy to report that four years and many miles later, it is still in very good condition and showing little in the way of wear and tear.

As for the other details, they go something like this:

Testing Grounds

  • Include: Queensland, Australia (summer), Pacific Northwest (autumn), southern California (spring), Colombian Andes (summer) and Mexico’s Sierra Madre (all seasons).
  • Note: I don’t carry an umbrella on all of my backpacking trips. In certain environments, I think they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Click here for a brief overview of the conditions for which I think umbrellas are well suited.

Specs & Features

  • Weight – 5.8 oz (165 grams)
  • Folded Length – 9 inches (24 cm)
  • Open Width – 2 ft 8 inches (86 cm)
  • Canopy Material – 15-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon
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    UL Trekking umbrella | Folded and ready to store (photo from Montbell.us)

    Telescopic: The folding hinges of the Montbell U.L. are what make it so compact. As I alluded to in the introduction, at first glance I had my doubts in regards to the durability of this particular feature. However, in practice they’ve held up fine; they are definitely tougher than they look.

  • Aren’t telescopic umbrellas finicky to deploy and store? I’ve read this complaint on various reviews. Yes, you do need to manually unsnap the ribs each time you repack it, however, this takes all of about 10 seconds (less to deploy it). No biggie. In four years of usage, I’ve never found it to be an issue and have yet to have one of the struts/ribs break on me.

How does it Compare with its Competitors?

PROS – Size & Compactness

At 5.8 oz, the U.L. Trekking umbrella is some 2.2 oz lighter than the much-loved, but now defunct Golite Chrome Dome, (Note: The Chrome Dome, Gossamer Gear Liteflex HikingSix Moons Designs Silver Shadow and the Euroschirm Swing Liteflex are all one and the same umbrella. They just have different logos on them. All four models are made by Euroschirm).

In regards to compactness, with a folded length of just 9 inches, it is some 16 inches shorter than its above mentioned competitors. This is significant from a storage perspective.

Over the years, the one issue I have had with the otherwise excellent Golite model, is that when not deployed the umbrella tends to stick out over the top of a relatively small/lightweight backpack (see photo below). If you’re hiking on a well maintained pathway, this is not much of a problem. However, when hiking off-trail and/or on overgrown pathways, it has a tendency to catch on branches, bushes and felled trees.

Golite umbrella storage

The two hikers on the left (Liz Thomas & Joshua Stacy) are both carrying the GoLite Chrome Dome; notice the height of the stored umbrella in relation to their backpacks? | Wonderland Trail, USA, 2014.

CONS – Deployment & Coverage

As mentioned above, the Montbell U.L. takes longer to deploy than the Chrome Dome/Euroschirm umbrellas.

In addition, due to its smaller canopy, the UL Trekking umbrella can’t match its larger-sized competitors when it comes to keeping the rain off you. Not so much the head or the upper torso, but from the hips down. Similarly, due to it’s smaller coverage it also lags behind in regards to keeping your pack dry. However, this last point is no biggie if you’ve lined the inside of your backpack with a trash compactor bag.

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Greg “Malto” Gressel sporting his Euroschirm Swing Liteflex, during a dampish hike in New York’s Adirondack mountains

No Reflective Coating?

A reflective umbrella will keep you significantly cooler than a non-reflective model when hiking in hot conditions. That’s the long-time consensus in the backpacking community. There’s only one problem ………..it’s largely a myth.

Based on my experiences in the field (I used a GoLite Chrome Dome in 2006/2007, and then dusted it off for the Bibbulmun Track & Larapinta Trails in 2010) I’ve long believed that the discrepancy in temperature between hiking under a reflective canopy, as opposed to a non-reflective canopy, is negligible.

One or two degrees max.

By way of explanation, I turned to Greg “Malto” Gressel – uber-hiker, gearhead extraordinaire, engineer and all-around sciencey-type:

“The reason there is only a miniscule difference between coated and uncoated umbrellas, is because any air movement will nullify the discrepancy in surface temperature due to convection. As a hiker is walking along at 3 mph, the air will be replaced with air at ambient temperature.”

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Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva | One of the most accomplished desert hikers on the planet. In 2013, Dirtmonger completed an incredible 3000 mile plus loop around America’s southwest – much of it in the sweltering summer months | He made the switch from the Chrome Dome to the Montbell UL Trekking Umbrella in early 2015.

Recommended Usage

The Montbell UL Trekking Umbrella is not ideal for all conditions.

I would not recommend it over its larger sized competitors for high precipitation areas such as the Scottish Highlands, Pacific Northwest or even the Appalachian Trail.

However, for long distance hikes such as the Pacific Crest & Continental Divide Trails, upon which an umbrella’s primary purpose is to provide shade / sun protection, I think it’s a better option than the heavier and significantly less compact Golite Chrome Dome (or equivalents).

Disclosure: Cam Honan (thehikinglife.com) has been a brand ambassador and athlete for Montbell since 2014. He purchased this product with his own money in 2011. 

 


Comments

Review: Montbell U.L. Trekking Umbrella — 2 Comments

  1. Great review……living in the UK we don’t have such a problem with too much sunshine, but we do get some rain!!!!
    I have used a collapsible umbrella on hikes but, although compact, mine isn’t the lightest and there’s the issue of trekking poles as well…..the main problem I find is, usually with rain there’s wind!!!

  2. Another great article Cam! I use the Euroshirm 8oz. Chrome Dome umbrella with a hands free rig made from items I already had. Nice dry place to eat chow or take a break and I will hang it from a tree limb and change clothes underneath. Windscreen for cooking, heck how about hanging clothing inside the canopy to dry! I could keep going! Thanks again Cam!

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