Gossamer Gear Umbrella Review

Rules for Backpacking Rain Gear

  1. There is no perfect solution.
  2. If it rains long enough and hard enough you will eventually get wet.

I don’t mind getting wet. What I do mind is getting chilled, or getting drenched, and getting miserable. Keeping your gear dry is the first priority because you should always be in a position to call it a day and set up your tent, tarp, or hammock to shelter in. To wait it out. I am absolutely fanatical about that.

But when it comes to rain gear which allows you to keep moving there are so many variables. It does matter though. It can be more than being miserable, it can mean hypothermia and maybe even death. We actually had a father and two boys die when day hiking the Ozark Trail in Missouri because they got wet on a day when the weather turned cold and they were unprepared. Only the dog survived.

For commuting on my bike the answer is easy. I wear a poncho. It doesn’t restrict my movement, air can get inside so I am not drenched in sweat, and the one I use, a cheap Coleman poncho, does the trick. Besides, it is 34 minutes from door to door. Hiking and backpacking is more complex.

When hiking the AT my wife and I outfitted ourselves with Frogg Toggs, and ultralight umbrella’s from Gossamer Gear. We had pack covers, and we used contractor bags to put our sleeping bag and extra clothing in. Why the umbrella?

Although it not so much an issue on the AT the umbrella has material on the outside to reflect the heat. I understand it is pretty popular on the Pacific Crest trail for that very reason. I have only used it in light to medium rain, not a downpour, and can report that it works great for that. But your feet will get wet. What about that?

There are two schools. One is to try to keep your feet dry. The other is to acknowledge they are going to get wet and use quick drying shoes and socks. Experienced people do one or the other but most of the people I follow and respect just take it for granted that their feet or going to get wet.

We kept our umbrellas outside the pack and within easy reach. Our drill was to prioritize putting on the pack cover, and then having done that don the umbrella. It worked well as long as the wind wasn’t high. If the wind is blowing hard, or in the wrong direction, you are going to have the thing flip.

The conclusion? For anything less than a downpour the umbrella is a good idea, and for limiting sun exposure it serves double duty. At around $40 bucks it is reasonably priced. There are probably other suppliers, but Gossamer Gear sells one branded for them that is made in Germany.

I do not know if I am going to stay with Frogg Toggs or not. Frankly I do not have enough experience yet to make a determination yet. I am an avid reader of what other experienced people have to say about gear though. I was impressed with a review from the Section Hiker blog on the LightHeart rainjacket. I recommend reading all of what he has to say, not just about this one rain jacket, but especially about waterproof breathable jackets. Spoiler alert. They are not reliable over the long run.

By the way. I am fascinated with the Gatewood Cape. It provides shelter and acts as a poncho. If I was backpacking by myself I would already have one.

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Update on the Bicycle Wrist Mirror

See the post just before this for background. Bike mirrors, even the best of them, take getting used to. It took me several months to get used to this one. I did not wear it religiously, but I did continue to use it from time to time. So… I got used to it. I also learned a few tricks. So this is a followup after it was thoroughly tested.

Glare. Given the angle of the mirror on your wrist glare is an issue, and a few reviewers mentioned that on Amazon. I learned you can simply close the mirror, placing the mirror face down, and the problem goes away. It is designed so that there is velcro to keep it from flapping around. If I am not in traffic I fold it down hiding the mirror. I use it mostly for high traffic areas, but don’t need it on the extensive trail system here in Columbia, MO., where there is no motor vehicle traffic.

Angle. The effective angle is a bit odd, and probably changes depending on the geometry of your body (length of arms, etc.), and that of the bike. For me I have to hold my hand out to the left angled up, and cock my wrist to the side. If I do that I have a great view of what is behind me.

Blind Spots. Learned where to place the mirror. Problem solved.

Magnification. Still an issue. Would a bigger mirror with different optical properties help? Probably.

Practice. Practice helps you learn how to judge the distance and look into the mirror. I have found that most things with a bike take practice. How many of you have feel over in the process of learning to use toe clips, or step in pedals. Over the years I have abandoned both, and after a long while taken them up again and I either fell over once or had a real close moment. When I purchased my new touring bike I had two keel overs due to learning the geometry and fit of the bike.

Perfection. Ain’t gonna happen. I have tried many of them over the years and all have flaws.

I bike commute and tour. I want every reasonable, and practical, safety feature I can get. I know many still go with the turn the head and look approach. Which is fine. I just want to augment it.

Evening Bike Ride

Surly Cross Check on the New Trail Bridge

I took an hour ride after work today.  Beautiful night, great workout weather, and wonderful fall trees.  I rode the Surly!  Starting to love it, but the stock  brakes are HORRIBLE. Is it just the pads? Worse than a tandom I had, which vastly  improved with just a brake pad upgrade. My bike shop is moving 100 yards from my house so that problem will get solved soon.

As you can see Fall is beautiful here in the Midwest.

I arrived him as it was getting dark. Commuter traffic is so dangerous here. One car turned tight toward me as I was making a left, and they were making a right, off of a residential side street.  That stretch is treacherous, and especially so during rush hour when when it corresponds with dusk.

Safety First

I love the new battery powered LED lights.  Finally bike lights worth the money.


Cycle Safety

Just a short rant on safety and bicycling.  I plan a few more, but this one is about carrying pepper spray on my commute.  Why?

I ride about one mile on lazy residential back roads to the trail.  Vehicular traffic is heavy but manageable.   Then it is onto the trail system that, unfortunately, has many people who use the trail that either do not leash their dog, or long leash it to the point that their beloved pet, that would never hurt anybody, lunges at you as they chortle in loving parental delight at the escapades of their beloved rascal.  Usually pit bulls.  Then there is the beautiful park that has been taken over by a pretty rough crowd (one guy walks around with a 12 inch hunting knife strapped to his leg), where an acquaintance was assaulted, on a walk through with friends, ending up with a chipped tooth.  The same place where a group of angst filled fun loving teenagers did not want to make way for me and stared daggers at me for disturbing their delinquent repose.  Oh, and if you are into the crack scene you can scratch that itch there too.  There have been other tense moments.  Also, the trail system is not well patrolled and there have been instances of assault and one sexual assault just last week.  It is not a total disaster, but it has the potential, to be. By the way,  there is a short bypass to that park so I don’t even ride through it anymore.  I also make it a point to warn people, usually students from the University of Missouri, not to continue their run through it either.

A few days ago I happened I meet a friend on the trail whom I had not seen in about a year (he has not been riding because a car hit him about five months ago in a parking lot – I will be dealing with cars/trucks a bit later on down the line) and I noticed he had a pretty large can of pepper spray strapped to his bike.  He told me his own war stories.  What to do?

That night I went straight to Amazon.  There I found this product:

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So now I ride back and forth with pepper spray strapped to my bike and still feel out gunned.

So now I ride back and forth with pepper spray strapped to my bike and still feel somewhat vulnerable.

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It is just a regular canister of Sabre pepper spray in a velcro holder.  Is this overdoing it?  I hope I am not becoming “that guy,” but I don’t wanna be that victim. Oh, and my friend?  In his pannier he carries a .357 magnum.  Missouri is sometimes like the wild west.  No kidding.