Worn and tested by Trek Scotland in the Scottish Highlands whilst Multi Day Trekking through Spring to early Winter 2019.
Every year we get sent through pieces of gear which may not be that common in the UK but are growing in popularity in other countries. The Silver Shadow Umbrella certainly fits this category. We have to say that we have never seen anyone in the high mountain ranges of the UK with an umbrella, and it did make us wonder why not? Walk around a city in a shower and you are constantly dodging out of the way of a potential stab in eye from an oversized umbrella. They sit in our cars, or by the front door, as a quick and easy option to stay dry, so why not a similar approach to the great outdoors? Browsing articles about American thru hikers, and it appears that trekking umbrellas have become a very popular item. Read into the benefits of a walking umbrella and it soon starts to make a lot of sense. Firstly, there is no other waterproof item that is completely breathable, no matter what fabric you use. Protection from the sun and rain can be achieved from a single item. There is even an argument that an umbrella is lighter than most waterproof jackets and is ready to use without needing to take off a pack. It’s been over 10 years now since ‘Wally with a brolly’ Steve McClaren had a public grilling for his use of an umbrella, so maybe the public might once again be ready to embrace this form of weather protection.
The first noticeable point when using an umbrella in the hills is that you do stand out, especially at the busier summits. Some laughed, some took great interest, but we presume it was probably the same reaction when synthetic boots or walking poles were first making an appearance, so we cracked on undeterred. Climbing Ben Macdui on a particularly hot and sunny day the Silver Shadow made perfect sense. The large silver reflective outer surface deflects sunlight whilst the black inner Six Moon Designs says “absorb wandering rays.” This was a very hot day and you only had to look around at other walkers to realise that this design really does work well. We didn’t need to cake ourselves in sun cream as it provides a cooling shade with a UPF 50+ Rating. Even the most sceptical walker came over for a chat in interest at the sight of an umbrella on the UK’s second highest mountain.
The Silver Shadow Carbon then ticks the box when it come to protection against the sun but maybe not just yet in winning over public opinion. The Silver Shadow Carbon as the name suggests has a Carbon Fibre Frame which is super light at 198 grams and feels great to hold. One of the issues we thought with using an umbrella would be holding it whilst walking. It’s actually very comfortable to hold the EVA foam handle, with an added loop to secure to the wrist. It would be great to of included an additional tie or support to attach to a pack - which is available seperately. This way you could use the Silver Shadow hands free which would help when navigating with a map and compass.
The shaft length is quite short at 60cm and the open width is 94cm. This covers not only you but also your pack. On a very wet walk in Deeside we were kept free from the rain soaking into our top half with only a need to wear waterproof trousers. It shouldn’t feel strange as we have all used an umbrella at some point but when walking in a mountain environment in a downpour without using a hood, it felt unrestricted and comfortable with a noticeable difference in breathability compared to wearing a waterproof shell jacket. Even stopping for a bite to eat was made easy with us all starting to see why an umbrella could be quite a useful item.
When packed away it fits neatly onto the side of a pack although it doesn’t fold away or contain many moving parts to really pack down small. We were confused by this at first until the winds started to pick up. Six Moon Designs have kept the design basic for good reason. High winds and rain are not a friend to the Silver Shadow. Encountering horizontal rain on a particularly wet descent to Loch Muick was a struggle. Pointing the umbrella into the wind meant it stayed strong and never once on any trips did it turn inside out. But we did get soaked. The only area free from the rain was our heads and we would much of preferred to of worn ours hoods up than battle with a brolly.
We did find the Silver Shadow come in handy on quite a few other occasions. Using a camera in the rain, a shady spot whilst laying in the sun, packing kit away in a shower, an umbrella does have it benefits but we never put full faith in it to leave our waterproofs at home. This then counteracts the weight saving element, although if you are someone who doesn’t like to wear a hood, this could be a great item for you.
There is no denying that using a trekking umbrella has many benefits. Protection against the sun and offering complete breathability compared to a waterproof shell being the standout features. The Silver Shadow Carbon is comfortable to carry with one hand, very light, and well built. As a photographer having an umbrella meant that changing lenses, grabbing gear from a pack, and taking a photo in the rain was made easy. For general trekking on sunny days it was an option which surprised our guides as it offered a cooling shade amongst a barren Cairngorm plateau. Unfortunately, in Scotland we have a lot of sideways rain and strong winds, with this in mind we can see why it may be better suited for life in other countries than in the UK. We are on the fence with this one but have thoroughly enjoyed using the Silver Shadow Carbon and will certainly be popping it on the pack from time to time on future expeditions.
Trek Scotland is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...