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Buyer's Guide for Umbrellas

You're overwhelmed with the choices for umbrellas....how do you decide? And how do you make sure you're getting something good quality that is going to represent your company well? The following is our education on umbrellas that will help you with your decision-making process!

RIBS
The ribs are the 6 or 8 "spokes" of the umbrella, that attach to the shaft. They are what the fabric is attached to and creates the structure for the canopy of the umbrella. They are the most commonly broken part on an umbrella, and so they are first on our list for discussion!

Material Advantages Disadvantages
Steel
  • Strong
  • Less expensive
  • Rusts easily if not powder-coated
Aluminum
  • Lightweight
  • Rust-resistant
  • Not as strong/bends more easily
Fiberglass
  • Strong
  • Flexible (can bend in the wind and bounce back to its original shape)
  • Rust-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • More expensive

 

Our advice: If you have the budget, choose fiberglass...it provides the most wind-resistance due to the flexibility. If you have a smaller budget, choose powder-coated steel...it is strong yet inexpensive, and the powder-coating will help prevent rust.

SHAFT

The shaft is the centre pole of the umbrella. In general it is not broken too often, but can get bent or break if stepped on, leaned on like a cane, heavy things piled on it in the back of your car, etc.

Material Advantages Disadvantages
Wood
  • Rust-resistant
  • Premium look/feel
  • Not as strong, can crack/snap if too much force is applied (e.g. stepped on)
Steel
  • Strong
  • Less expensive
  • Rusts easily if not powder-coated
Aluminum
  • Lightweight
  • Rust-resistant
  • Not as strong/bends more easily
Fiberglass
  • Strong
  • Rust-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • More expensive

 

Our advice: If you have the budget, choose fiberglass...it provides the most wind-resistance due to the flexibility. If you have a smaller budget, choose powder-coated steel...it is strong yet inexpensive, and the powder-coating will help prevent rust. If you like the look and feel of wood, go for it, but be careful not to put it somewhere where it might get stepped on, and don't lean on it like a cane.

FABRIC

In case you don't already know, the fabric is what creates the canopy or shelter that keeps you dry.

Material Advantages Disadvantages
Nylon
  • Water repellent
  • Mold and mildew resistant
  • Not as soft
Pongee
  • Soft feel
  • Water repellent
  • Mold and mildew resistant
  • Screen printing requires flashing (base layer) under the logo
PVC
  • Clear/see-through
  • The plastic folds can get a bit sticky with one another when folded up
  • Can tear more easily since it has no flexibility

 

Our advice: Pongee or nylon fabrics are preferable. Just make sure you choose at least 190T density (thread count) for durability and feel, and if you choose pongee, ensure a flashing will be put underneath your logo so that your logo turns out crisp and the colours are true. If you really want the clear look, go with the PVC, but ensure you open the umbrella slowly/carefully so that you don't tear it. And our recommendation is to get a sample of the umbrella because the feel of the fabric is one of the main ways a person judges the quality of an umbrella...you want to avoid a cheap, plasticy feel.

HARDWARE

The hardware of the umbrella is the items used on the closure strap (velcro, snap or button), the cap on the end/top of the umbrella, the tips on the ends of the ribs, etc. In general, they mostly decorative and don't have a huge impact on the function of the umbrella, but they can contribute greatly to the look and feel.

Our advice: Look closely to ensure each item is attached or sewn to the umbrella well. In terms of material, look for metal or a high quality, durable-looking plastic. Low quality plastic is thin and weak and will crack/break easily.

OPEN FUNCTION

This is the way the umbrella opens from closed position. Manual open is where you push the umbrella up the shaft to the open position with your hand. Auto open is where you press a button and the umbrella pops open on its own. And auto-open-auto-close is where you press a button to pop open the umbrella and you press the button again to retract/close the canopy.

Advantages Disadvantages
Manual open
  • Less breakage
  • Less expensive
  • Not as convenient

Auto open

or

Auto-open-auto-close

  • Convenient
  • More expensive
  • More moving parts so more opportunity for breakage

 

Our advice: All the options are great for different reasons. If you choose auto open or auto-open-auto-close, make sure to choose a higher quality, stronger frame so that there is less chance of breakage.


HANDLE

In case you don't already know, this is what you hold onto when the umbrella is open.

Material Advantages Disadvantages
Plastic
  • Less expensive
  • Durable
  • Not as premium look and feel
Wood
  • Premium feel
  • Can crack more easily if under force (e.g. stepped on)
  • Can get scratched easily
Aluminum
  • Premium look
  • Can feel cold if the weather is cold
Rubber
  • Premium look and feel
  • More expensive

 

    Our advice: Generalizing plastic is difficult because the variety is huge...there is some premium, durable plastic with a matte finish, and then there is thin, weak plastic with a shiny finish. Get a sample and evaluate whether it gives a premium impression or a cheap impression. For rubber, ensure the handle is solid rubber and not just a rubber coating or rubber spray on a plastic handle...the rubber coating will eventually deteriorate and make the handle sticky.

    TYPE

    The type of umbrella is the category the umbrella falls in due to its size and purpose.

    Type Advantages Disadvantages
    Compact
    • Convenient
    • Fits in a bag or purse
    • More folding parts means more opportunities for breakage
    Long
    • Strong and durable
    • Elegant look
    • Doesn't fold up to fit in a bag or purse
    Golf
    • Large size/coverage
    • Strong and durable
    • Doesn't fold up to fit in a bag or purse

     

    Our advice: We recommend Compact umbrellas when convenience and portability are the priority, since they fold up to a smaller size and can fit in a bag or purse. E.g. For conferences and/or for travel or commuting to/from work. We recommend Long umbrellas when strength and durability is the priority. Since they have less folding parts, they are inherently stronger than Compacts. Plus, the size of a Long umbrella is large enough to provide great coverage but not too large that it will be hard to wield in crowded/busy areas (like walking downtown). We typically recommend Golf umbrellas for outdoor events and sports (soccer, golf etc.) where more coverage is required but you are not in a crowded area.

     

      OVERALL

      Our advice: If there are no details about the materials in the description of the product, you can probably assume they have chosen the cheapest materials and that is the reason they haven't bothered to mention the specs. Get a sample, get a sample, get a sample! There is no substitute for holding it, feeling it and using it to see whether it is what you want out in the world representing your company/brand.