Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Umbrella rigging

Several people have asked how I attach my umbrella to my pack so I can use it 'hands-free."  There are a few other ways to do it, but this method (that I learned from Jim (PITA)-thank you again!) is easy and inexpensive.
Hands-free, so I can use my hiking poles (or goof off).
For materials, get two shock cord loops with cordlocks (3/32" shockcord), and a short (3") piece of 1/2" (inside diameter) foam pipe insulation.

Shock Cord loops
Cut the shock cord to 8-12" lengths (I made them longer to start and then cut them down when I figured out how much I used so they wouldn’t flop around).  Thread the shock cord into a cordlock, and tie into a loop.
Shock cord loops with cordlocks.
The shock cord loops are attached to the pack at two points.  Location of the points depends on the pack (i.e. number and location of loops on the pack strap) and the angle you want the umbrella.  For greater flexibility, I larkshead the loops to the pack so I can make adjustments to change angle of the umbrella as the sun or rain moves.  I leave the loops on the pack.
Shock cord loops on the pack and foam pipe insulation on the umbrella shaft.
On our Gossamer Gear Mariposa packs, Renee and I both like the upper loop at the base of the load lifter and the lower loops near the chest strap.  Sometimes I attach the lower loop below the chest strap like shown in the previous photo, but other times I put the loop above the chest strap.  I wish there was another loop below the load lifter for the upper loop though, and may end up sewing one on eventually.

In general, distance between the shock cord attachment points affects the stability of the umbrella, so if the points are close together, the umbrella tends to move around more.  But if they are too far apart, the umbrella shaft may dig into your shoulder.

Foam Pipe Insulation
The foam pipe insulation goes around the umbrella shaft and slides up and down.  The foam keeps the umbrella more stable and provides cushion when the upper shock cord loop is secured around it.  When the umbrella is collapsed, the foam pipe insulation slides down the shaft so the umbrella can be closed completely.

“Rigging” the umbrella
Thread the umbrella shaft through the top and bottom shock cord loops.  The upper shock cord loop goes around the foam pipe insulation, and gets cinched down.  The lower cord lock rests in the groove of the umbrella handle.
Upper shock cord around the pipe insulation, lower cord on the umbrella handle groove.
Adjust the tension of the shock cords on the umbrella by tightening or loosing the cordlocks.  This gives the umbrella less “wobble.”  If they are too tight, your shoulder may get bruised, so play with the tension or adjust the location of the foam insulation.

Hands-free without the pack
I also have a hands-free rigging method for when I'm not wearing the pack.  I use my bra strap and shirt bottom (folded over) as the two “attachment” points.  It looks funny (especially with a purple bra), but it works when I can't otherwise find a shady spot and want to have both hands free to eat.
Alternate hands-free “rigging” using bra strap and shirt.
Note about carrying the umbrella
While I just described how I use the umbrella hands-free, I also want to add that the more I use the umbrella, the more frequently I carry it in one hand and stow one or both hiking poles in my pack.  This allows me to adjust the angle of the umbrella to keep more of the sun off me.  I tend to use the hands-free rigging on long downhills (where I like to use my poles) and while bushwhacking so the umbrella doesn't get caught on branches.
Umbrella in hand while climbing over logs and ducking under brush.
During our trip to the southwest, we encountered other hikers who would look at us strange for carrying our umbrellas.  I’m used to getting funny looks- especially for wearing leg gaiters, arm sleeves, and DIY clothes- but the umbrella seemed to bring it to a whole new level.  We chuckled as dayhikers gawked, grinned when a sweet couple asked to take our picture, and smiled sheepishly when people said they could see us coming for “miles” (The shinny silver is so not LNT- it does not blend it to the environment). 
Carrying the umbrella at Canyonlands Nat'l Park.
As another umbrella-related aside, I finally figured out to reach my umbrella when it's stowed in my pack WITHOUT having to take off my pack or ask anyone for assistance.  Just for fun, here is a video of the “quick draw umbrella”:

More about umbrellas:
Excellent article by Frances Tapon about the benefits of using an umbrella.
I found further uses for the umbrella on the Arizona Trail.
Another handy umbrella tip by SlowBro, for making an umbrella sling.

Update: Rockin also has a hands-free umbrella method if this doesn't work for you.

You can't get the Chrome Dome umbrella from Golite anymore, but Gossamer Gear now carries them here.  Note that I am a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador, but I got my Chome Dome from Golite.

25 comments:

  1. The "quick draw umbrella", I have figured out. It's the "quick put the umbrella away" that I'm bad at!!! I'm thinking of attaching a string to the side pocket, so I can pull on the string with one hand and do a reverse "quick draw umbrella" with the other...

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    1. Haha! You're right about putting the umbrella back- completely awkward! :) Totally gotta do that string idea! :)

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  2. Thanks for the tutorial. Umbrellas haven't caught on in the Grand Canyon yet either.

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    1. Have they caught on *anywhere*? I have yet to meet anyone else carrying one.

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    2. I picked up a brolly after reading about how you use yours... I went to show it to my hiking buddy and he pulled out the one he'd just gotten. They seem to be catching on in the PNW... although 'around-town umbrellas' are seen less often in Seattle than in other places I've lived.
      Thank you for all the good info.

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    3. Hi James Volk- I suppose that makes sense that they are catching on in the PNW! Hope your new umbrella serves you well for hiking. :)

      Umbrellas have been quite common out on the PCT. I did break mine by using it in the wind and had to get a replacement, but it was still worthwhile to carry one and I used it for sun, rain, and snow.

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  3. This is seriously hiker nerd content right here. Good stuff.

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    1. 'hiker nerd'-- thanks what a compliment!

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    2. Ha! Jake it figures I'd find you here! Joan, thanks for the great instructions. I'll be doing this for my Chrome Dome tonight.

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    3. Hi Jay, Hope the rigging works out for you!

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  4. Ok, this is totally off topic, but what skirt are you wearing?? I'm looking to get one for the JMT this summer :)

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    1. I sewed that fleece orange skirt. Based it off the Melanzani micro grid ultra mini skirt, which I also wear and love. 'Downside' is that fleece skirts have major static cling, especially when worn with long underwear bottoms. Though I find the static cling is useful because it keeps it less breezy in cold weather- so I consider it a 'feature' not a failure.

      Fleece skirts are also great because they provide lots of warmth-- I wear them under rainpants in winter and I sleep in my fleece skirt because my hips tend to get cold sometimes.

      I'm not sure how the fleece would be for the JMT in summer though- I loved having mine for my snow course, but I'm still undecided if I'll bring mine with me into the Sierra- *probably* but I may also go with a ripstop skirt instead.

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  5. In areas above tree line where you think the wind will be too strong for an umbrella try this 'trick'. Using both hands, hold the umbrella as far up the shaft as possible (just below the stretchers) and point the umbrella into the wind. Use as loose a grip as possible so when the wind shifts and swirls the umbrella will always pivot and point into the wind. Use the other hand to hold the handle. Again, loose grip, let the wind pivot the umbrella, it will naturally point into the wind and will not collapse.

    I used this trick crossing the Presidentials in NH in the rain with wind gusts of 20mph. The umbrella was vertical most of the time but my upper body stayed drier (and warmer) than my rain suit clad companions.

    Have fun!

    Onestep

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    1. What a great trick for high winds! We've just had quite a bit of wind on this stretch where I put my umbrella away, so I'll definitely give this a try. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  6. Been using an umbrella the second half of the Appalachian Trail, and half of the Appalachian Trail again so far. I'm always using it in the rain, but I keep it handy by stowing it loose in the bottom of my pack's rain cover where it looks like a wet day. I almost exclusively use it handheld, so I can move it around and push wet brush and low branches out of my path in addition to catching the rain overhead!

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    1. Glad to hear of your success with using an umbrella on the AT. I don't see them as often out here on the east coast, but as you mention, they are wonderful in rain. I'm with you about using them handheld out on the AT- lots more foliage here than what I encountered on the PCT. Out west, I used it more hands-free.

      Thanks for the comment!

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  7. Replies
    1. You're welcome! I keep forgetting to update this article-- one more thing was that you can use carabiners to attach it too (the small size) if you happen to loose your shock cord loops or if they break. Didn't work as easily to de-rig, but at least it was something.

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  8. I'm about to start the England Coast to Coast hike and anticipate quite a bit of rain. I'm looking forward to trying out my new Swinglite umbrella. Thanks for all the great tips!
    J "hard candy" Preston

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    1. How exciting to be heading out there! Hope the umbrella helps you enjoy the countryside. Happy Trails, hard candy!

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  9. Just finished hiking back and forth across Death Valley at Badwater Basin. Would not have been possible but for the shade of my umbrella.

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    1. What a great place--I've been wanting to head out there sometime. The umbrella sure does make certain hikes doable--glad you found a way to get out there. :)

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  10. Hi Joan...........thanks for the rigging tips - will definitely try your idea. My hiking partner and I have been contemplating different ways to carry an umbrella hands free, but I think this is a good one. Thank you! I've hiked here in the Pacific NW with an umbrella for years, and yep, still get funny looks from folks, but I love it. I find I can stay much drier and much cooler as I can unzip my jacket and take my hood down. So that icky-sticky feeling from sweating within is lessened. It does rain here a bit, you know.

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    1. Hope it works for you. If not, keep trying different ideas. Lady on a Rock also posted this method that I know works for many people:

      http://ladyonarock.com/2015/04/19/hands-free-hiking-with-umbrella/

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  11. Hi Joan,

    I'm a brolly convert too and use a similar rigging idea but the pipe insulation is a genius idea. I'm going to try it.

    I was in the Peak District (UK) the other week and it tipped it down for nearly two days. I used my brolly along with a Pertex windshirt, softshell shirts and eVent ankle gaiters and I kept dry and well ventilated. No wet, clammy shells to deal with or dry out. As you say, a brolly is great as a sunshade too.......not that we seem to be having much of that this year in England!

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