Travel/Experiences

In Anticipation of Precipitation: Unique Umbrellas

With the recent showers falling on Bangkok, we’ve come to realize that rainy season is almost upon us. In order to get ready for the annual monsoon, we take a look at a variety of umbrella options to help us stay fashionably dry.

March 29, 2017
An umbrella is a seasonal necessity, but it doesn’t need to be merely a tool: an umbrella can be a statement accessory whether it be because of intelligent or stylish design. Now some may be more function than form and others more fashion than function but, regardless of your preference, there’s really no need to stick with the traditional design, which is lacking in both departments. Here’s a roundup of a few interesting umbrella options.

Aerodynamic Umbrella
A winner for both fashionable and functional design, the Senz° umbrella was designed to take on serious storms. Unlike the standard umbrella design that uses hinged ribs, the Senz° features solid yet flexible ribs that, along with its aerodynamic shape, prevent the umbrella from turning inside out, even in gusts up to 100km/hr. The Senz° even employs what one might call compassionate design: eyesavers with smooth edges at the tips of the umbrella canopy to protect passing pedestrians. Senz° umbrellas come in colorfully creative solid and patterned designs, and some clever designer has even created a bicycle mount so that you can attach your Senz° to your bike’s handlebars!

Umbrella Hats and Hoods
One of the earliest creative umbrella designs, the umbrella hat has undergone a number of iterations since the original rainbow-patterned design. The clear benefit of such umbrellas is the hand’s-free design; the drawback to most are how silly you will look while wearing one. Best for kids is the UFO Cap Umbrella, which is great because of how collapsible it is (much easier to store in a backpack than a traditional umbrella). Daring adults may prefer the Nubrella, which was featured on the TV show Shark Tank, and looks much more functional but requires a backpack-type harness, rendering it impractical for everyday use.

Songkran-worthy Umbrellas
Getting ready to get wet? Not with one of these babies! First up: the Chinese-designed Shield Umbrella, which wins points for portability (it folds up into a flat disc) as well as for being functional for regular rainy day use. Even greater coverage, however, is provided by the Japanese-designed, full-body Superbrella, which provides as great of protection as it does confusion: how do you fold it up??! Practically designed for Songkran is the Water-gun Umbrella, designed by artist Alex Woolley, which features a handle-mounted squirt gun that gets refilled by rain falling on top of the canopy!

Bubble/Birdcage Umbrellas
Back to the realm of reality, the ‘classic’ Bubble Umbrella may offer your best balance of protection and palatability: this isn’t an umbrella that’s going to garner stares but it certainly will keep you dry. Opt for one made of transparent plastic, like the Lavievert Bubble, and you can even see where you’re going!
Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 1964
Drone Umbrella
Believe it or not, there is more than one drone umbrella out there on the market. And they only cost around 40,000 THB! While perhaps not the most functional umbrellas, they sure make a statement. If you must, opt for the DJI Phantom 4 drone umbrella that automatically follows you via your smartphone GPS. It even has built-in collision avoidance technology so it doesn’t crash into things: of course, in Bangkok it might spend so much time dodging wires and signs that you’ll still end up wet.

Dog Umbrella
Ok, you could probably buy a drone umbrella for your dog too, but we like the Patgoal Waterproof Pet Umbrella. Not only is it waterproof, as the name suggests(!), but it has a built-in leash so it actually appears quite functional.

Inverted Umbrella
An honestly clever improvement on the fairly standard collapsible umbrella design, the Ylyycc Double Layer Inverted Umbrella opens from outside to inside but closes from inside to outside so you don’t get wet either closing or opening a wet umbrella. This is great for getting in and out of cars, when speed is important and dripping water on the floor is not.

Smart Umbrella
Another concept umbrella that has yet to make it to market, Pileus is an Internet-connected umbrella with a built-in camera, motion sensor, GPS, and digital compass, with the interior of the canopy functioning as a screen for a built-in projector. Thus, in addition to being able to snap and upload photos, the umbrella allows you to see a map of your current location, check the weather report, and project digital video, including movies! Augmented reality features were also promised but the Japanese-designed invention has yet to come to fruition.
Lost in Translation, 2003
Golf Umbrella
Another oldy-but-goody, the golf umbrella is great even beyond the greens for its wide canopy—a 68-inch one can cover three people! In addition to having two layers with teardrop shapes cut out of the inside one to allow wind to pass through, the Gustbuster Pro can withstand wind speeds of up to 100km/hr. The biggest drawback is that these oversized umbrellas are a hassle to carry when the rain isn’t coming down.

Rain-activated Umbrellas
Aside from attracting the occasional lightning strike, you wouldn’t think an umbrella could harness much energy from the power of a rain-storm. Guess again. One clever inventor has created the LightDrops umbrella, which converts the kinetic energy of falling raindrops into electricity, theoretically enough to power LEDs on the canopy interior. Another rain-activated umbrella uses the water to change the color of the canopy once it gets wet. When exposed to water, the Hydro-Chromatic Umbrella changes from classic black to multicolored and patterned, changing back to black as it dries.

Air Umbrella
The Air Umbrella was an ingenious creation that intended to use a wind shield (as opposed to a plastic one) to blast air up through the handle, therefore preventing any raindrops from landing on the holder. The Air Umbrella seemed like such a great idea that it raised more than $100,000 USD on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, as with many ideal Kickstarter campaigns, this product failed to materialize, leaving investors soaking wet, both literally and figuratively.