You can continue to count SNEWS® team members among the umbrella-lovers of the world. Which is why we continue to be huge fans of the Birdiepal Swing Liteflex umbrella which we reviewed back in February 2006. (Click here to read that review.)
In open forests, along wide trails, in the desert under a blazing sun, or when undertaking adventuresome traveling, umbrellas are fantastic, serving as a sort of portable personal shelter whether moving, standing or sitting. Back when we used the Swing Liteflex, if we had seen any room for improvement, a light would have been one to name. Now the company has introduced an umbrella with all the same great features as the Liteflex, but this time with an LED light built into the handle. Now you can stay dry even on “dark and stormy nights.”
Like its sister umbrella, the Swing Flashlight is 26.4 inches long (a little longer than the previous version to accommodate the light), and easily compact enough to tuck into many suitcases or backpacks. When open, the 39-inch-diameter canopy is more than sufficient to deflect rain and sun. Best of all, the entire umbrella weighs only 12.7 ounces.
The light is powered by four CR2032-size lithium batteries, like those found in watches or hearing aids. With three LED bulbs, the light is more than adequate for illuminating the path right in front of your feet. Although it does not cast a particularly bright beam, it’s enough to keep upright, watch for puddles, keep an eye on your dog, take a glance at a map or adjust a coat zipper. The light is part of the hardfoam handle and shines directly down and slightly forward when the umbrella is being held naturally in a hand. Conveniently, the flashlight can also be unscrewed from the base of the umbrella handle and used separately — useful if you need to fumble around inside a tent, car or other spot where you really don’t want or need to have an umbrella banging around (even one as light as this).
If, like the SNEWS team, your preference wavers toward umbrellas unless the weather is really blustery, then we can assure you there simply is not a better made one on the market. Perfect in every way for those umbrella aficionados.
SNEWS® Applause Meter: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $56
For more information:www.euroschirm.com/usa/index.cgi (Click on the USA flag for English and then on “trekking umbrellas.”)