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There are certain intractable truths about umbrellas: You will never remember yours when you need it most, you will leave it in a cab or a bar or the home of someone you would prefer not to return to, and people attempting to operate them in metropolitan areas should have to have permits. And even if you do happen to bring one with you and you don’t forget it or disembowel someone, as soon as you and your umbrella enter any indoor space you are guaranteed to get water absolutely everywhere.
UN. TIL. NOW.
I first noticed inside-out umbrellas popping up all over Amazon, where they uniformly had dozens (if not hundreds) of five-star reviews. The concept is so simple as to almost be insulting: Instead of opening outward, so that the part of the umbrella that gets wet remains on the outside once it’s closed, thereby dampening your shoes and floor and life, it works in the opposite direction, trapping the moisture inside. And the opening process itself is far more elegant and easy to control, decreasing the likelihood that you will take someone’s eye out.
As someone who hates discomfort and loves gadgets, I had to try it.
I ordered the Rainlax Inverted Umbrella ($26.99) and was rewarded almost immediately with a Nor’easter. And... it did what it was supposed to! The design meant that the umbrella was not violently ripped from my hands nor inverted even when the wind hit upwards of 40 mph, and it did not drip all over the subway nor the floor of my office when I finally ducked inside.
I did not deck anyone on my commute home, and I did not need to leave the umbrella in my hallway to dry off. I liked the C-shaped handle (although a strap probably would have been sufficient) and I even liked how the pattern was on the inside when the umbrella was open — like a little treat just for me to enjoy. And apparently, it comes with a lifetime no-return-required guarantee, so even if I do break it or leave it somewhere, I’m covered.
The problem, though, is its size. This thing is HUGE, both opened and closed — more like a tent combined with a walking stick than any umbrella I am comfortable wielding in the densely populated area in which I live. I guess it could come in handy if you are trying to shelter someone else while you walk, but everyone knows that is the stuff of rom-coms and golf courses and doesn’t actually work in real life.
I have faith that this technology can be applied to a variety of umbrellas both great and small, so it’s no reason not to seek one out yourself; just be sure that you, unlike me, understand the demands of your lifestyle, and know that you are not buying a dainty little thing that you can throw in your bag.
The many inside-out umbrellas of the internet seem to mostly derive from the KAZbrella, a patented and Kickstarter-backed product designed by an aeronautical engineer who set out to fix the traditional umbrella’s “flawed design.” They’re pricey — around $75, including shipping to the US from the UK, and you should also factor in the time it takes to arrive — but they come in a beautiful range of colors and you can select different features, like the shape of the handle. If you’re completely fed up with your umbrella-related woes and willing to invest a little more, check them out.
Mostly what all these umbrellas do for me is serve as a reminder that no matter how unsolvable some problems may seem, there could still be an ingeniously simple way to fix them.