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12 best umbrellas for facing the unpredictable British weather

We put a range of brollies to the test in drizzle, heavy rain and wind over several weeks, to find the ones that really kept us dry

Alex Lee,Siobhan Grogan
Tuesday 09 April 2024 10:13 BST
Choose a sturdy, stylish brolly and you’ll always feel like singing in the rain
Choose a sturdy, stylish brolly and you’ll always feel like singing in the rain (The Independent )
Our Top Picks

If there’s one thing you can rely on in life, it’s the unpredictable British weather. Investing in a sturdy umbrella that can survive the wind and rain will ensure you’re not left sopping wet and miserable, clutching desperately onto a brolly that’s flipped inside out.

But picking one that will last a lifetime isn’t as easy as picking rain-soaked daisies from the garden. There are so many factors to consider, such as design, durability, size, weight, handle grip, whether it opens and closes automatically or manually, reinforced canopies, cases and more.

There are umbrellas for every scenario. Handbag and backpack umbrellas that can be pulled out at a moment’s notice, larger umbrellas that can protect the whole family and can be chucked in the car boot, and golf umbrellas for, well, golfers.

There are clear umbrellas for weddings, lightweight umbrellas for kids and windproof umbrellas that won’t have you shamefully trying to pull them right-side out. We’d also recommend getting a?waterproof jacket?if you’re determined to stay completely dry. Whatever the occasion, we’ve tested a number of umbrellas that will have you covered – literally.

How we tested the best umbrellas

We put a range of umbrellas to the test in drizzle, heavy rain and winds of up to 30mph over several weeks and months to find the ones that really kept us dry and saved us from the embarrassment of having them blow inside out, only to be dumped within days.

If they did flip inside out, would they flex back in again? Was the metal and the canopy strong? Did they look good? And how easy were they to use? Portability, coverage and design were all important considerations in our tests.?????

The best umbrellas for 2024 are:

  • Best umbrella overall – Blunt metro umbrella: ?69.95, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget umbrella – Fulton tornado: ?37, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best windproof umbrella – Senz large: ?65, Senz.com
  • Best handbag umbrella – Marimekko mini manual unikko umbrella: ?50, Marimekko.com
  • Best clear umbrella – Fulton birdcage umbrella: ?19.90, Amazon.co.uk

Blunt metro umbrella

Blunt metro umbrella.jpg
  • Best: Umbrella overall
  • Style: Foldable
  • Weight: 385g
  • Open diameter: 100cm
  • Closed size: 37.5cm
  • Wind tested to: Category 1 hurricane (up to 95mph)
  • Automatic or manual: Automatic
  • Why we love it
    • Really stylish
    • Clever design
    • Sturdy in high winds

Blunt’s metro umbrella is the dreamiest brolly you’ll ever lay your eyes on, with a stylish, scalloped design that not only looks good but is also practical. Its design is thoughtfully engineered, and helped us avoid close calls and accidental pokes in the eye when navigating busy London streets.

That’s because the Blunt metro has reinforced pockets at the canopy edge to keep the spokes out of harm’s way and stop them from popping out as they often do on cheaper umbrellas. It also has a 360-degree spinning canopy to protect the core mechanism if it is knocked. It never blew inside out in strong, 30mph winds (it’s rated up to 95mph), and remained strong and sturdy in our hand.

It has an auto-open button, and the umbrella release button is rubberised, so there’s no danger of catching your finger on any metal tabs, collapsing down with ease. The handle is super comfortable to hold, and the genius half-zip case meant we didn’t have to wrestle trying to put it back in its sheath. It comes in a range of bold and bright colours, as well as more subdued hues, plus it’s pretty lightweight and can fit neatly in a backpack, though maybe not a small handbag.

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Fulton tornado umbrella

fulton tornado .jpg
  • Best: Budget umbrella
  • Type: Folding
  • Weight: 545g
  • Open diameter: 120cm
  • Closed size: 37cm
  • Wind tested to: Extreme weather
  • Automatic or manual: Automatic
  • Why we love it
    • Sturdy umbrella
    • Opens and closes automatically
  • Take note
    • Slightly uncomfortable to hold

You’ll be in good company if you choose a Fulton – the family-run business was founded in 1956 and its umbrellas were used by Queen Elizabeth II, and now the King and Queen Consort, because even royalty can’t escape the British rain.

The Fulton tornado is one majestic-looking umbrella. Featuring a wide canopy that two people can just about fit under, and a clever three-stage automatic frame. We always felt protected from the elements under this brolly, and it never flipped inside out.

It’s strong, featuring reinforced polymer ribs of steel for extreme strength and a vented canopy, so never felt like the thing was going to collapse in on us in high winds. Plus, this one opens and closes automatically, and folded up so that we could store it away easily in our rucksack.

There are a few things to consider, however. The handle is a little uncomfortable to hold with its bulbous size and foam texture, and it’s also on the heavy side. But, given its affordable price tag, it’s a pretty good buy.

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Fulton birdcage umbrella

fulton clear umbrella.jpg
  • Best: Clear umbrella
  • Type: Stick umbrella
  • Weight: 530g
  • Open diameter: 84cm
  • Closed size: 94cm
  • Wind tested to: Wind-resistant
  • Automatic or manual: Automatic
  • Why we love it
    • Nice clear design
    • Keeps you fully covered from the rain
  • Take note
    • Can’t be stored in a handbag or backpack

If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for us. If you’re sick of bumping into people every time it rains, as you can’t see a thing under your umbrella, Fulton’s birdcage umbrella is for you. The very brolly used by the Queen Elizabeth II features an elegant dome shape that stretches right down to your shoulders, for full coverage.

The dome shape already gave the umbrella some resistance in the strongest of winds, but its fibreglass ribs really ensured it was flexible enough to withstand a big gust of air. And the clear PVC material made it a doddle to see through, while keeping us completely dry.

The curved handle is easy to hold and comes in four colours with a matching trim on the canopy. The clear design makes it particularly suited for weddings, if the weather turns. It doesn’t fold up, however, so you do need to carry it like a cane when not in use, but it closes and opens automatically, to make that chore easier.

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Hunter transparent moustache bubble umbrella

hunter transparent umbrella .jpg
  • Best: Umbrella for style
  • Type: Full-length stick
  • Weight: 466g
  • Open diameter: 86cm
  • Closed size: 89cm
  • Wind tested to: Not specified
  • Automatic or manual: Manual
  • Why we love it
    • Quirky print
    • Covered two on the school run
    • Surprisingly lightweight

Add some pizzazz to precipitation with this statement umbrella from British brand Hunter. The sturdy brolly has a hybrid frame of fibreglass and reinforced plastic, for maximum flexibility, and barely even trembles in the fiercest wind, while the transparent canopy means you can hold it low over your face but still not bump into anyone.

We tested it in the pouring rain on the school run, and it easily kept two dry underneath. The quirky moustache-shaped trim is printed tastefully with the Hunter name and comes in military red and black, which co-ordinate perfectly with Hunter boots, if you have them.

Despite its size, it’s also surprisingly light to hold for a long time with the matte curved handle, although there’s no case to keep it dry after use. Still, we’ll be storing it in our car boot, secretly hoping for rain, just so we can whip it out.

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The Davek solo umbrella

davek solo.jpg
  • Best: Premium umbrella
  • Type: Folding
  • Weight: 510g
  • Open diameter: 109cm
  • Closed size: 29.8cm
  • Wind tested to: Wind-resistant
  • Automatic or manual: Automatic
  • Why we love it
    • Rock steady in high winds
    • Automatically opens and closes
  • Take note
    • Heavy
    • Pricey

We’ve never swooned over an umbrella before (honest) but this elegant brolly from New York company Davek had us at ‘hello’, with its smart red gift box. Inside, the umbrella is the ideal compromise between a teeny handbag-sized option or a long stick umbrella that can’t be folded away.

The Solo packs down to a respectable 30cm when closed, to fit in a larger bag or rucksack, yet it’s as solid in high wind as a larger stick style. Coverage is a comfortable 94cm when open, which just about kept two of us dry, and the high-grade steel, fibreglass and aircraft-grade aluminium frame was rock steady.

It comes in plain navy or black, or black trimmed with either lavender, green or pale blue, and has a leather wrist strap, handy clip for attaching to a bag and a smooth ergonomic handle. We loved the fact we could open it one-handed, even when weighed down with bags, thanks to the auto-open and close button, which also ingeniously corrects the ribs if they ever do invert.

It’s on the heavy side and definitely pricey, but Davek promises to repair or replace the umbrella for free forever if it fails to work properly. Just make sure you don’t leave it on the bus.

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London Undercover navy city gent lifesaver umbrella

London Undercover navy E1 city gent umbrella.jpeg
  • Best: Investment umbrella
  • Type: Full-length stick
  • Weight: Not specified
  • Open diameter: 106cm
  • Closed size: 91.5cm
  • Wind tested to: Not specified
  • Automatic or manual: Manual
  • Why we love it
    • Easy to hold
    • Lightweight
    • Kept us completely dry

Seriously up your rain game with a pricey but devastatingly chic handcrafted umbrella from London Undercover. This is probably the fanciest brolly you’ll ever lay eyes on but it will definitely put a spring in your step on even the dampest days.

Handmade in – surprise! – London, it has a sleek silver tip cup and spokes, an unshakeable steel frame and a navy polyester canopy that opens to a generous 106cm diameter to keep you bone dry. We particularly loved the curved handle made of stylish dark brown maple, which was easy to hold and not at all heavy.

It can’t be folded and tucked into a bag, of course, but you’ll want to keep this umbrella swinging proudly from your arm anyway. The brand will even engrave it for you, if it’s a present.

Want to spend a little less? Try the company’s London vintage map classic umbrella (?95, Londonundercover.co.uk), which we also loved – it features a fascinating 1930s map of the capital under the black canopy.

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Totes eco-brella x-tra strong auto open/close umbrella

totes xtra strong umbrella .jpg
  • Best: Strong umbrella
  • Type: Folding
  • Weight: 452g
  • Open diameter: 108cm
  • Closed size: 32.3cm
  • Wind tested to: Wind-resistant
  • Automatic or manual: Automatic
  • Why we love it
    • Really strong
    • Packs easily into our backpack
    • Opens automatically

Ever dumped a brolly in disgust after it’s turned inside out at the merest hint of wind? We have. There’s no chance this fantastic umbrella will meet the same fate, though, as it was easily one of the hardiest we tested, standing firm even on a very blustery day when we’d normally skip a brolly completely. Made of 100 per cent polyester with an aluminium and steel frame, it’s been previously tested in a wind tunnel and Totes claim it will withstand 60 per cent stronger winds than an average umbrella.

Although it’s a reasonable 32.3cm when folded and easily packs into a rucksack, it opens up to a diameter of 108cm, which kept us completely dry even in squally rain. The canopy is also made completely from recycled PET polyester fabric, but you’ll never know it just by looking.

There’s no need to battle to close it after the wind’s done its worst either, as it closes automatically at the (smug) push of a button. A fantastic all-round buy.

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Fulton cyclone umbrella

fulton golf umbrella .jpg
  • Best: Golf umbrella
  • Type: Stick umbrella
  • Weight: 878g
  • Open diameter: 131cm
  • Closed size: 100cm
  • Wind tested to: 78mph
  • Automatic or manual: Manual
  • Why we love it
    • Extremely large canopy
    • Strong in high winds

Golfers, this is the umbrella you’ve been searching for. Larger than your standard brolly, it’ll protect you from the rain and the sun, including your basket, while out on the range. And you won’t have to worry about holding it upright when you’re on the course on a blustery day because it’s wind-tested up to 78mph. It was strong in our tests and had us protected at every angle.

Featuring a classic black UV design, it has a rubberised handle, making it comfortable to hold and there’s even a silicone finger pad for increased ergonomics. It comes inside a smart carry case with a strap for slinging over your back when you’re all done.

It is very heavy, but that’s to be expected given its size and its glorious fibreglass construction. And while the cyclone is best for holes in one, we’ve also used it on drizzly walks in the park with our dog and it performed just as well.

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Marimekko mini manual unikko umbrella

Marimekko mini manual unikko umbrella.jpg
  • Best: Handbag umbrella
  • Type: Folding
  • Weight: Not specified
  • Open diameter: 94cm
  • Closed size: 16cm
  • Wind tested to: Not specified
  • Automatic or manual: Manual
  • Why we love it
    • Small enough for handbags
    • Provides decent coverage

The rain will never put a dampener on your day again with this teeny umbrella that can be chucked in any bag. Measuring just 16cm when closed, it comes in a monochrome floral pattern that goes with everything and is opened and closed manually. We were particularly impressed with the wide Velcro strap to keep the brolly tightly closed after use, which felt much more secure than the usual thin fastener and made it easy to slip back inside the cover after use. Despite its size, we found it surprisingly robust in all but the strongest winds, making this brolly a worthy handbag staple.

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Blunt coupe umbrella

blunt coupe .jpg
  • Best: Umbrella for the school run
  • Type: Full-length stick
  • Weight: 428g
  • Open diameter: 105cm
  • Closed size: 73.5cm
  • Wind tested to: 71mph
  • Automatic or manual: Manual
  • Why we love it
    • Stylish

If you love the look of the Blunt metro, the Blunt coupe is like a bigger, more school-run-friendly version of it. Keep it in your car and pull it out when the weather gets severe, and you’ll be able to house yourself and your children under this statement-making brolly.

It’s a full-length piece, so won’t fold away, but it looks as brilliant as ever, with its blunt tips hidden away inside pockets for a streamlined design. And while it’s a manual brolly instead of an automatic one, that functional decision helps keep the coupe light for something so broad.

The umbrella is sturdy, withstanding severe British winds (it’s wind-tested up to 71mph). We’re obsessed with Blunt’s umbrellas, and the coupe does the job just as well as the Blunt metro.

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Fulton aerolite

fulton aerolite.jpg
  • Best: Lightweight umbrella
  • Type: Folding
  • Weight: 86g
  • Open diameter: 83cm
  • Closed size: 20cm
  • Wind tested to: Wind-resistant frame
  • Automatic or manual: Manual
  • Why we love it
    • So light, it didn’t feel like we were holding an umbrella
    • Good coverage
  • Take note
    • Kept flipping inside out

OK, this might be one of the lightest umbrellas ever made. It’s so featherlight, sometimes we even forgot we were holding it. It weighs just 86g – that’s 10 50p coins, or a deck of playing cards, or a tube of mascara, or a box of bees wax. You get the idea, this thing is light, and folds away into a teeny-tiny cylinder.

But how does that lightweight design translate when used as an actual umbrella? Surprisingly well. It still features a three-stage frame and the polyester canopy effectively covered us from the elements. But its downfall is the wind. While it features five carbon ribs, it’s not strong enough to resist inversion. It kept flipping inside out at the smallest gust.

That’s the trade-off with having a lightweight brolly. The good thing? It doesn’t actually break when it does invert, you can just push it back in and it will continue on its way as if nothing happened. The wind won’t damage the umbrella, but you might feel a little embarrassed.

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The verdict: Umbrellas

You’ll probably never need to buy another umbrella again if you splash out a little bit on the Blunt metro umbrella. It’s a gorgeous brolly that looks the part and won’t let you down in even the strongest wind and rain. If you can’t face splashing out quite so much to stay dry, the Totes auto open/close umbrella is an impressive hard-wearing alternative that won’t let you down, and the Senz large is seriously good if you’ve just had enough of the wind.

To keep little ones warm and dry, invest in one of the best kids’ puddle suits

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