If you live in the UK, you probably can’t bear the thought of leaving the house without an umbrella. Because no matter what the season in Blighty, there’s always a chance you might get caught short in the rain, leaving you drenched in regret for not taking a brolly with you.
But if you’re not prepared and put off buying one until it rains, you can easily end up with a poorly made umbrella – such as those quick grabs from the pound shop – and it’ll 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 asked the experts for their top tips when buying one.
How to buy 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 might 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 and 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 too. 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.
The best umbrellas to buy
1. Blunt Classic Umbrella: Best umbrella for sheer performance
Price: £60 | Buy now from Amazon
We found this looked as good as new even after several downpours. It is full-sized and full-length so there’s plenty of room to protect someone else from the rain too 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 especially when it looks so good and comes in such a fabulous range of colours?
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 specs – Canopy size: 120cm x 120cm; Length when folded: 84cm; Weight: 640g; Colours available: 10; Warranty: 5 years
2. James Smith & Sons Pencil Umbrella with Malacca crook: Best traditional umbrella
Price: £85 | Buy now from James Smith & Sons Umbrellas
Made 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 specs – Canopy size: 88cm diameter; Length: 71cm; Weight: 350g; Colours available: 7; Warranty: 1 year
3. Fulton Tiny Umbrella: Best pocket umbrella
Price: £21 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners
If you’re always caught out when it rains, the answer could be a compact umbrella that can live at the bottom of your bag until required. Where most little umbrellas are disappointingly flimsy, this minuscule and lightweight one has a polyester pongee cover that’s great for protection from sudden showers.
The frame is made partly from aluminium, with added fibreglass for strength, while the rubberised handle never slips out of your hand. Measuring just 6cm x 3cm when folded, it will hardly take up any room in your bag or even your pocket – just don’t expect it to manage in torrential rain.
Key specs – Canopy size: 87cm diameter; Length when folded: 6cm; Length when unfolded: 15cm; Weight: 158g; Colours available: 2 plain + seasonal patterned; Warranty: none
4. Fulton Birdcage-2 Luxe Photo Rose: Best birdcage umbrella
Price: £28 | Buy now from Amazon
Birdcage 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 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’d 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 specs – Canopy size: 88cm diameter; Length: 87cm (open) 96cm (closed); Weight: 480g; Colours available: 2 styles; Warranty: none
5. Gustbuster Pro Series 62: Best golfing umbrella
Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon
The Gustbuster brand is a favourite of notable names from Donald Trump to the royal family – 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, the Pro Series 62 remains 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 specs – Canopy size: 136cm diameter; Length: 102cm; Weight: 800g; Colours available: 7; Warranty: lifetime
6. Totes Auto Open/Close Xtra Strong Umbrella: Best folding umbrella
Price: £27 | Buy now from Amazon
A 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 specs – Canopy size: 98cm diameter; Length when folded: 28cm; Length when unfolded: 56cm; Weight: 340g; Colours available: plain black + seasonal patterned; Warranty: none
7. Fulton Cyclone black and green: Best super-strong umbrella
Price: £42 | Buy now from Amazon
Arnold 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 queen and her rellies dry at the likes of blustery Balmoral.
The Cyclone is new for this year and – as you’d 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 specs – Canopy size: 131cm diameter; Length: 101cm; Weight: 878g; Colours available: 2; Warranty: none
8. Senz Dreams Original Folding Umbrella: Best umbrella for innovation
Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon
In terms of performance, the aerodynamic design effortlessly slices through gale-force winds of up to 100km per hour, 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 specs – Canopy size: 91cm x 91cm x 28cm; Length when folded: 28cm; Length when unfolded: 57cm; Weight: 360g; Colours available: 9; Warranty: 2 years
9. Rex London Vintage Transport Children’s Umbrella: Best children’s umbrella
Price: £9 | Buy now from Amazon
We 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 specs – Canopy size: 69cm diameter; Length when folded: 53cm; Length when unfolded: 53cm; Weight: 210g; Colours available: 1; Warranty: none
10. Davek Solo: Best metropolitan umbrella
Price: £110 | Buy now from Amazon
So you want an ultra-strong umbrella, but one that’s stylish enough to use for work or an evening out and small enough to carry around in your bag? This classy yet sturdy umbrella ticks all these boxes and more, although it doesn’t come cheap. Its press-button open and close system is among the quickest and smoothest we’ve tried – very useful when you don’t have both hands free. The steel shaft, flexible carbon polymer ligaments and 190-thread count fabric means it’s built for the worst weather and you can clip it to your bag, which is an undeniably handy feature.
Including plush materials such as high-grade steel, fibreglass, zinc alloy and aluminium with black leather, the Davek Solo is not only both highly practical and durable, it’s also a thing of beauty – and to top it all, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. Not one to leave in the restaurant, but if you do at least you can replace it at 50% off the retail price. It’s on the heavy side, though, and the clip affects the ergonomics of the handle.
Key specs – Canopy size: 109cm arc-diameter; Length when folded: 30cm; Weight: 509g; Colours available: 4; Warranty: unconditional lifetime guarantee (except shipping)
11. The School of Life The Pessimist’s Umbrella: Best statement umbrella
Price: £24 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners
This black umbrella isn’t going to set the world on fire with whizzy features or enable you to stand still on an exposed hill and marvel at how it hasn’t turned inside out in Britain’s worst storms. But it’s a decent everyday option for those who value aesthetics. With a rainfall print in the inside, it also features Seneca’s renowned dampening aphorism: ‘What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears’.
Too depressing? John Lewis is having none of it, offering paragraph upon paragraph of philosophical explanations on how pessimism isn’t about despair at all and that this umbrella is in fact a ‘consoling melancholy’. Thankfully, this telescope umbrella also manages to keep you dry, with an effortless opening and closing mechanism and a big, fairly durable canopy to keep the rain off on wet days. It folds up nice and small too.
Key specs – Canopy size: 98cm diameter; Length when folded: 35cm; Weight: 600g; Colours available: 1; Warranty: normal 30 day return policy