I didn't bother with a travel umbrella for many years, instead opting for a fold-up rain jacket with a hood.
It worked fine in places like Europe and North America, but the heat and humidity of South East Asia in monsoon season was a different story. There, I needed an umbrella if I wanted to keep the rain off without sweating and over-heating.
I've tried many different models over the years, from tiny versions that took up little room but didn't keep the rain off, to ones that were large enough for two people but barely fitted in a backpack or suitcase.
These days, when it comes to travel umbrellas, I look for three basic yet somewhat contradictory features. They need to be as small and light as possible, while being strong enough to handle wind gusts and the rigors of travel. Finally, they need to keep the rain off both me and, ideally, my backpack when I'm wearing it.
Design and Features
The Cabeau “Better” umbrella sits somewhere in the middle of those I've tested, being a little thicker and taller than many travel-sized models, but much smaller than a typical full-size version. It's relatively lightweight – I didn't notice any difference when dropping it in my daypack before a day out.
Its primary claim to fame is its offset pole. Rather than sitting directly in the center, the metal cylinder sits off to one side. According to the manufacturers, this “J-handle” allows for greater vision and provides up to 30% more coverage from the rain than standard umbrellas.
Other than that, it's a fairly standard travel umbrella. It opens up to 23" high and 39" in diameter, and weighs 13oz, with a sculpted plastic handle. It comes with a fabric cover, and includes a wrist strap that lets you hang it up to dry, and hopefully stops it from blowing away down the street when the wind picks up.
Real World Testing
There's obviously only one way to test an umbrella, and fortunately traveling in the Netherlands in spring provided plenty of opportunity - sudden heavy showers and wind are a part of daily life.
The handle is a black plastic affair, thick enough to hold easily and cut away on one side to offer a comfortable hand grip. The umbrella slid smoothly out of its cover and – more importantly – easily fitted back in again after a few days of use. That last aspect is less common than you might expect.
I was impressed with the coverage. It's not really big enough to cover two people fully, but was certainly large enough to keep moderate rain off both my pack and myself.
The offset handle was both a benefit and hindrance. While it did seem to offer better visibility and coverage, holding the umbrella further out from my body left it feeling unbalanced in windy conditions. It wasn't a deal-breaker, and there was no problem once the breeze died down, but sudden gusts did threaten to rip the umbrella from my hand more than once.
The “Better” umbrella felt well-constructed, and proved to be so over a few weeks of travel and regular use. The umbrella didn't blow inside-out and the metal spines didn't buckle or break, even with reasonably strong wind gusts and being taken in and out of my luggage all the time.
Despite the issues with the offset handle and wind gusts, I liked Cabeau's “Better” Umbrella. It's a well-made piece of equipment, and offers good single-person rain protection while remaining small and light enough for even minimalist travelers.
For around $30, it's a good, solid travel umbrella – and you can't ask much more than that.