The Gossamer Gear Liteflex Hiking Chrome Umbrella is an 8 oz full-size trekking umbrella that provides sun and rain protection on the trail. It became a game-changer for me on my Pacific Crest Trail hike and it still reigns as one of my favorite pieces of hiking and backpacking gear.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: Umbrella with strap – 8 ounces
- Length (both open and closed): 25.2″
- Diameter: 39.4″
- Frame: High-density fiberglass ribs
- Handle: High-density EVA hardfoam with grooves
- Canopy: 100% polyester fabric with teflon coating
- Sun Protection
Sun and Heat Protection
I originally bought the Liteflex was to protect myself from the long days of sun in the southern section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Gossamer Gear claims that the Liteflex Umbrella can feel up to 15 degrees cooler under its canopy, and I will attest that it made my little, shaded world much more comfortable. Its reflective chrome material does just that – it reflects the sun – and I could definitely tell it felt hotter when I would remove my sun umbrella.
The LiteFlex is ideal for sunny, hot weather in desert hiking or at high altitudes. I’ve also used it where I live now in Idaho in the foothills and in the Sawtooth mountains because there is intense sun exposure. It’s also super helpful when walking through burn areas in Oregon, where you go through substantial stretches of scorched trees with no other hope for shade, other than what you can create with an umbrella.
The canopy of the LiteFlex umbrella covers a wide area of your face, neck, shoulders, and upper back and provides more coverage than what a sun hat can. It also shades your pack, helping to keep delicacies like chocolate from melting into a soupy mess.
With the Liteflex, I was also able to create my own shade when there was little around me in the desert and I needed a break during the day. Because it’s sturdy vs. flimsy and has a bit of weight to it, I found I could angle it easily to shelter myself. If I could find a little stubby bush, I could set the umbrella up in a way to hover over me so I could eat lunch without getting cooked by the sun’s rays.
A Different Form of Sunscreen
The Liteflex has a UV protection factor of 50+, which can help reduce the amount of sunscreen you need to apply during the day. Sunscreen can get heavy when you have to carry loads of it to constantly reapply, and it can be expensive, too. I found I could carry less sunscreen since I had the Liteflex, which meant less weight in my bag.
Sweating Less Means Less Water to Carry
Each liter of water you carry is 2.2 pounds (or one kilogram) of added weight to your backpack that you have to carry. On some stretches of the PCT and other long trails such as the Continental Divide Trail, Colorado Trail, Hayduke Trail, and Arizona Trail you can expect to hike lengthy stretches between water sources. Under normal conditions, the general rule of thumb is to carry a liter for every five miles. So if you have to carry water for let’s say twenty-five miles, that’s five liters, which equals 11 pounds of more weight to your pack.
I found that because I sweat less using the Liteflex umbrella, I didn’t need to drink as much as other times when hiking in roasting sunshine. When I had hiked 1,500 miles through Spain and Portugal, my energy often felt zapped and I would feel woozy as I walked in the intense heat with only a hat for protection. I was also always thirsty and felt dehydrated.
Now I’m NOT advising you to carry minimal water; it’s always prudent to carry extra when sources are limited. What I am saying is you may find you don’t need to haul quite as much if you’re using a sun umbrella. Do your own experimentation with this on a short hike to see before you try it out on a prolonged water carry. Everybody has different needs and responds in various ways to heat, sweating, hydration. I’m just sharing what my experience was when I felt cooler and more sheltered with a hiking umbrella.
Rain and Wind Protection
Although I purchased the Liteflex for sun protection, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked in wind and rain conditions. I remember one day I was hiking near Mission Creek in California and it started to rain. I got out my raincoat and then the lightbulb went off, “Wait, you have an umbrella on your pack to use!” Another game-changing experience for sure. The Liteflex did a great job in the rain and helped to keep me and my pack dry. Pack rain covers can do okay, yet if you’re in a downpour, an umbrella is going to keep your pack a lot drier.
I’ve found that the Liteflex holds up well in windy gusts and won’t flip inside out. I’ve met other hikers who had other brands of umbrellas away and put them away when it gets windy in the rain, while I still keep my Liteflex out for protection.
Another feature I value is that the Liteflex contains no metal in it, so it won’t act as a conductor during a thunder and lightning storm. It’s made of a fiberglass and plastic frame, meaning it’s storm-safe.
The handle is made of a hard foam which gives you somewhat of a dry feeling even when wet. No one wants to feel like you’re holding on to a sponge while hiking. It’s also got a loop on the handle if you want to hang it up or attach it.
Alternative to a Rain Jacket
In temperatures that aren’t cold, I don’t really like having to wear my raincoat. Even with pit zips, rain gear can feel stifling and I can get yucky and sweaty. The Liteflex umbrella can offer an alternative on some occasions to using a rain jacket, which means you sweat less and don’t have to worry about drenching your base layers or hiking shirt. Think of it as another form of rain gear in your kit, and for the weight, I find it to be worth it.
How and When to Use the Liteflex
The Liteflex isn’t complicated at all; there’s no hardware clicking mechanism so you just push it up and there you go, armed and ready. It has a durable fiberglass and plastic frame with a handle made of hard foam that doesn’t absorb water when wet. It’s also got a loop on the handle if you want to hang it up or swing it like a club.
I quickly discovered (the very first mile of the PCT) that I didn’t want to carry the umbrella, because then I could only use one trekking pole. So I took a moment to wedge the soft handle under the chest strap of my pack, which happens to be the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I tightened the strap and I was all set, ready to walk on with it rather secure in place. I say rather secure because there were times it would loosen and it didn’t always feel great pressed against my chest, but for the most part, I was just dandy that way.
Gossamer Gear sells a Hands-Free Umbrella Clamp for only $5.99 that you can buy with the umbrella or separately. It comes with a bungee clamp to clip on your shoulder strap. You can also DIY a solution like Philip’s (see How to Attach a Trekking Umbrella to a Backpack?) that I’m going to give a try rather than finagle with my previous set up.
Hands-free is overall the best way to go in my opinion, but with gusty winds or rain, I often found I had to hold the handle and carry the umbrella for more leverage.
Ease of Access and Storage
When I’m not using it, I like being able to keep the Liteflex accessible. There’s a deep side pocket on my Gossamer Gear Mariposa that works great for storing it. Because it’s super thin and not bulky, I can keep water or other gear items there next to it.
Other Ways to Use the Liteflex
While the Liteflex is an optimal choice for when you need sun and rain protection, I think it’s best used on wider trails with open space. I’ve tried keeping it open when I was going through the occasional tree cover, and it would bump and get caught at times. I will say though it’s incredibly hardy in being tear-resistant because I would’ve thought some branches I encountered would rip it, but didn’t penetrate the material.
Here are some other ideas of ways to use this hiking umbrella.
- If you hike with your dog, you can use it as a sunshade for them to when you stop to rest.
- It can be opened and used as a privacy screen or windbreak at one end of a tarp.
- I’ve talked to other hikers who have used their sun umbrellas to catch rainwater in the desert when water is at a premium. Simply open the canopy and let it collect, then scoop it out with your pot or cup.
- You can even use an umbrella as a hand-held privacy screen if you need “to go” and there aren’t any bushes to hide behind.
Comparable Trekking Umbrellas
The Gossamer Gear Liteflex Chrome Hiking Umbrella is a top-notch product that’s available at an affordable price. While carrying a hiking umbrella might be considered a luxury item by some hikers, I like to have a good balance of the essential and a few luxury items to make my hiking trips more enjoyable and comfortable. In my opinion, some gear is simply worth the weight. The Liteflex is great for sun protection, it does a superb job with rain and wind, and offers other handy uses.
Disclosure: The author owns this product.
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