For most people, the first and last thought when it comes to staying dry while backpacking is a rain jacket. But there is another entirely viable option, and that is a backpacking umbrella. There are many drawbacks to an umbrella. They will not perform well when it is both windy and raining, for instance, and if you are someone who like to backpack with trekking poles, you will find yourself short one hand. But umbrellas also provide far better ventilation than a rain jacket, and do a better job of keeping your dry too.
What to look for when you are looking for a backpacking umbrella.
Lightweight - You don't want to just grab the umbrella from your closet to use as a backpacking umbrella, and the reason for that is the average umbrella is quite a bit heavier than the average umbrella designed for hiking with. Taking an umbrella over something like a rain jacket doesn't make a lot of sense, after all, if your umbrella weighs a lot.
Coverage - You want an umbrella that is big enough to protect you and your bag from the rain. But you don't want an umbrella that is too big, because a big umbrella will catch lots of wind, and will be more likely to become hung up on overhanging branches and the like.
Best Backpacking Umbrella
There aren't too many backpacking umbrella choices out there, but these are some of the best available options.
REI Flyweight Siliconized Nylon Umbrella - The Flyweight makes an ideal backpacking umbrella. It's extremely small when packed down, so that you can throw it in a jacket pocket or side backpack pocket for easy access when it starts raining. It also doesn't weigh too much, at 7.1 ounces, or 201 grams, and is big enough, at 36 inches of diameter, to give you and your backpack plenty of coverage.
GoLite Dome Trekking Umbrella - The Dome is the biggest backpacking umbrella on the list, with an impressive 45 inch diameter when fully opened. That extra size has a cost, however, which is weight. At 11 ounces, or 311 grams the Dome is the heaviest umbrella for backpacking on this list. But if you want something with a little more size, this is the ideal choice.
U.L. Trekking Umbrella - The lightest umbrella on this list, at 5.8 ounces, or 164 grams, is also the smallest, with a diameter of just 32 inches. You will have to be careful with how you hold it if you expect to stay fully dry, but on the plus side you wont be adding much extra weight to your backpack if you choose this umbrella.
Alternative Uses for Backpacking Umbrellas
Rain isn't the only thing that a backpacking umbrella is good for protecting you from. Many people also use umbrellas while backpacking to protect them from the sun. In this way, umbrellas make great dual use items for backpackers who expect to spend time in both the rain and the sun.