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SPECIAL TRAVEL ISSUE | SIDETRIPS / Dry Goods

Umbrella Organization

October 15, 2000

A fold-up mini-umbrella is an indispensable travel item, particularly off-season. But they can be unwieldy or flimsy. Online, we ordered five lightweight models in a search for the best packable rain protection.

BEST ALL-AROUND

Eagle Creek Cloudburst Travel Umbrella

http://www.letravelstore.com

(800) 713-4260

Price & Delivery: $25, plus $1.93 tax and $4 for priority mail. The umbrella arrived within 3 business days.

Size & Weight: Closed: 12 1/2 x 2 inches. Open: 44-inch canopy arc. Weight: 13 ounces.

Colors: Black, Neptune blue.

Manageability: Easy to open and close. Its long pole makes it feel like a full-sized model. We like the protective sheath with its handy clip. Annoyance: The umbrella prongs get caught in the mesh cover.

Durability: The company claims this umbrella "self-repairs" if the canopy becomes inverted in wind, and it comes with a lifetime warranty.

*

ShedRain Smallest and Lightest Umbrella

http://www.travelsupplies.com

(877) TRVLSUP

Price & Delivery: $20, plus $9.95 for 3-day delivery. Standard ground shipping is free. Not one, but two umbrellas arrived within the week.

Size & Weight: Closed: 1 x 3 x 71/4 inches. Open: 40-inch canopy arc. Weight: 6.3 ounces.

Colors: Black, khaki, hunter green.

Manageability: The smallest, lightest umbrella we tested, so it's a breeze to pack, but closing it is a struggle.

Durability: The trade-off for its small size is flimsiness. We don't recommend it in windy conditions.

*

London Fog Ultra Light Automatic Umbrella

http://www.ChristineColumbus.

com, (800) 280-4775

Price & Delivery: $24.95, plus $4.95 for standard shipping and handling via priority mail. The package arrived in 3 business days.

Size & Weight: Closed: 1 x 2 x 11 inches. Open: 43-inch canopy arc. Weight: 9.5 ounces.

Colors: Black, navy, red, khaki, royal blue, postcard pattern.

Manageability: One push of a button is all it takes to open and close. The handle is comfortable. Like the most compact models, this umbrella folds flat, making it easy to pack.

Durability: Made of rustproof, windproof aluminum and topped with Teflon-treated polyester fabric, it's solid enough to use in nasty weather, but it still feels like a compact model.

*

Lewis N. Clark Travel Umbrella

http://www.altrec.com

(800) 369-3949

Price & Delivery: $21, plus $9.95 for second-day shipping. Ground shipping is $2.99. Our umbrella arrived within 4 days.

Size & Weight: Closed: 10 x 2 inches. Open: 38 1/2-inch canopy arc. Weight: 15 ounces.

Colors: Black.

Manageability: The automatic function works smoothly, making this the easiest model to open and close. The only drawback is the handle, which is uncomfortable to hold.

Durability: It's as sturdy as most full-sized umbrellas, and has a five-year warranty.

*

Flat-Packing

Umbrella

http://www.magellans.com

(800) 962-4943

Price & Delivery: $19.85, plus $1.44 tax and $9.95 for priority shipping (2 business days). We were very impressed with the service: Our umbrella arrived the next day.

Size & Weight: Closed: 8 x 1 x 2 1/2 inches. Open: 43-inch canopy arc. Weight: 8 ounces.

Colors: Black, navy, khaki.

Manageability: It fits almost anywhere and is relatively easy to open and close. (Since there was no brand name on the Web site, we didn't realize we were getting another London Fog model.)

Durability: It's fine for an average rain shower, but too insubstantial for a real storm. It comes with a lifetime guarantee, so hold on to the receipt.

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