The perfect, durable, compact umbrella

Melbourne’s rainy season is upon us. It’s been a few years since my blog post about good strong compact umbrellas, so here’s a quick update.

A good umbrella is vital for a dedicated walking/PT person.

The brief: an umbrella that, folded, can fit in my work bag (eg a maximum length of about 35cm) and go anywhere. And — this is the hard bit — as durable as possible. Foldable umbrellas tend not to be made of the strongest material due to compactness, and what I don’t want is it falling apart when caught in the rain.

Broken umbrella (happily, not mine)

Senz

I did buy a Senz Mini. It went well for a while, but then part of it got bent out of shape, and it wouldn’t close properly. It was replaced under warranty. I had also bought Marita a Senz Mini. It lasted a bit longer (out of the warranty period!), but she had some similar problems with it.

Then I lost mine… and bought a newer model, the Senz Mini AO (the acronym standing for Auto Open, not Adults Only). So far, that has been fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have upgraded the parts we had issues with.

In fact the Senz AO has subsequently been replaced by the Senz Automatic and the Senz Smart S (a budget version).

As with all the Senz models, the shape of it (with the handle set forward, rather than in the middle) means good coverage, even for a relatively small design.

And when folded, it’s very compact; about 28cm long. It’ll stick out, but can go into a pocket.

Blunt

When M’s Senz was becoming too problematic, I bought her a Blunt XS Metro to replace it.

Feedback from her and others suggests there are pros and cons here; in comparison with the Senz foldable umbrellas the coverage is less, and the folding mechanism isn’t as compact, meaning when not being used it may not fit in some bags.

But the Blunt models do seem to be constructed to a high standard, making them very durable.

There’s also a variant of this one: the Blunt XS Metro + Tile, which has a Tile inside it, a chip designed to prevent it being lost. When activated it can play a tune so you can find it. It can also tell you via the app where you last saw it (I’m guessing this simply tells you where you were when your phone was last in range of it). It might help you find it if lost somewhere static. Not sure it’d help if (like I did) you leave it on a train.

Is there a perfect compact umbrella?

Comparing the Blunt XS Metro (A$89) vs the Senz Automatic (not even sure of the current cost, as they are so hard to find):

  • The Blunt looks like it is tougher (fibreglass ribs vs the Senz’s aluminium and steel).
  • But the Senz is more compact when folded (Senz 28cm vs Blunt 36.5cm, and while the canopy is slightly smaller, the shape and handle position provides better rain protection.

Surfing around the net I did find this: the Gustbuster Metro (A$64) got a good review. This Metafilter thread also has some suggestions.

Has Choice reviewed umbrellas? Judging from their web site and their paper magazine index, apparently not.

Anybody know some other contenders for the perfect, durable, compact umbrella?

Just do us all a favour: don’t bring out the golf umbrellas on busy city streets. They belong on the golf course.

The umbrella wrapper

This is near the entrance to one of the local supermarkets.

I understand what it is — it wraps your umbrella in plastic — I just don’t understand why such a thing is needed.

Umbrella wrapper

While it’s nice to see them catering for pedestrians (since I’d assume few people coming from a parked car would bother with an umbrella), I have yet to see anybody actually use it.

Seems to me if you arrive with a wet umbrella, shaking it out before you come in is a better way of dealing with it. The dispenser is only at one of the two entrances in any case.

In fact, in a place where plastic bags are plentiful, I would have thought anybody arriving with an umbrella that they felt was so wet they had to wrap it up, would have had plenty of options without a special dispenser having to be provided.

Maybe I’m missing something.

My precious umbrella is gone.

My precious Senz umbrella is gone. Left on the train to Frankston on Friday night.

We’d had a delicious dinner at Shakahari in Carlton. Good food and laughs galore, and caught a tram back to Flinders Street. The train had just gone — 20 minute wait, so we took a quick walk around Fed Square and the river.All that's left: the umbrella cover

It started to rain, so the brolly came out. When we caught the 10:15 train, I put it under the seat.

20 seconds after getting off the train, I realised it had been left behind. I ran back but the train was leaving. Argh. If you recall how long it took me to find a good umbrella, you’ll understand my frustration.

The Senz Mini had been good, but not actually 100% perfect. Last year one of the metal bits bent out of place. I contacted customer service, who asked to see a photo. They reckoned it was defective, and sent a free replacement. It was an improved model, and worked well. Until I left it behind that is.

Just off the train, I tweeted to Metro, not even knowing if there’d be a response. They replied pretty quickly and said they’d get someone at Frankston to check in the train when it arrived there, and gave me the number to ring after 11:30. Excellent.

I rang, and the bloke was very helpful, and said they’d checked, but couldn’t find it. As he pointed out, it was a rainy night, and someone else may have founded it and used it.

Metro let me know I could try Lost Property next week, it might turn up. Even if it never turns up, that’s great service from them, and I hope anybody, resources permitting, would get that kind of response on losing something on the train. (It does appear so.)

Check the WTT

Gunzels know about the Working Timetable (WTT). Squirreled away on Metro’s web site, it forms part of documents released to allow other train operators (such as freight carriers) to run trains on Metro’s tracks. The WTT shows every scheduled train service, including the ones that don’t take passengers. It also shows where a train goes when it finishes its run.

I had a plan: check the WTT, and see if the train I’d been on goes back into the city. Sure enough: the 10:15 Flinders Street to Frankston arrives at 11:17, and then at 11:25 departs back to Flinders Street, going through my station Bentleigh at 12:01am.

Yep, I was going to jump in and check, just in case they had missed the brolly under the seat. The timetable said if I rode the train one stop to Mckinnon, I’d only have 5 minutes wait for a train back.

I got down to Bentleigh station at about 11:55. The new realtime Passenger Information Display didn’t inspire confidence — it curiously said the next train to the city was at 12:17, and not taking passengers.

The PSOs asked if I wanted a citybound train. It was delayed, they said, and checked with the Metro staffer behind the counter, who said it was currently held at Mordialloc, for an unknown period.

It was all too hard. Wait for an indeterminate time for the Lost Brolly train, then again for a train back (or walk, possibly in the rain).

I thanked them and went home. I’ll try Lost Property during the week, but if it never turns up, I’ll get a replacement.

And hopefully whoever found it is able to make good use of it. It’s a great umbrella.

I finally got a Senz umbrella

I finally bought the Senz umbrella I’d been covetting (ever since I took a look at one, courtesy of blog reader Flerdle).

senz was started by three Dutch industrial design students that were frustrated with traditional umbrellas. The design challenge was to design the ultimate umbrella and eliminate all of the well known umbrella struggles that mankind has suffered from since the invention of the umbrella 3400 years ago

The wonky-looking shape means it gives you better coverage of your back, and evidently is why it’s so strong. In this video (from some crazy Dutch TV show), they test one of them using a fire hose.

In Melbourne’s CBD Senz brollies are available from a little place called Ende Peedia, which is inside one of those ancient Paris-end Collins Street buildings — possibly the same one I used to go to as a kid to see an allergy specialist.

Rather than wait for the prehistoric lift to huff and puff its way up to the fourth floor, I used the stairs, then wandered down the corridor to find number 48.

The lady who runs Ende Peedia is terribly nice; she’s an architect and is selling a few boutique items such as mouse mats, coffee mugs and super-dooper umbrellas as a side business. Her display model Senz Mini is her personal umbrella – it was still a little damp from the rain earlier in the day.

I left (via the stairs again) out into the grey Melbourne day, a brand new Senz Mini under my arm, daring mother nature to throw a storm down on my way back to the tram stop. Alas, no rain, but I’m looking forward to testing it.

(Note: Ende Peedia doesn’t take cards, so make sure you have cash. If the door is locked, then knock — don’t just you give up and skulk away, umbrella-less, because you think nobody’s there.)

Where can I get a strong, durable, compact, light umbrella?

Unbelievable. After less than a year, and less than a-dozen uses, the Shelta umbrella I bought last May has already broken.

It’s not totally unusable, but structural integrity has been severely compromised.

Broken umbrella

I’ll certainly be chasing up the 12 months warranty as soon as I can find the receipt, but in the mean time, what are some more robust alternatives?

All I really want is something strong, durable, compact enough to fit into my bag, and light. Is that too much to ask? I don’t mind spending a bit of cash, because I’m pretty good at not losing them.

Comments last time suggested Blunt Umbrellas, or Senz, both of which appear to now have local stockists (last year Blunt did, but Senz didn’t).

Any other candidates?

And by the way, where does one get a pair of tough, okay-looking black work shoes?!

PS. Regular commenter Flerdle gave me a demo of her Senz umbrella (the standard size); it’s a slightly out-there shape, but looks really good. Thanks Flerdle.