BackpackGearTest
  Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Rain Gear > Umbrellas > Montbell Sun Block Umbrella > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto

Sun Block Umbrella

Sun Block Umbrella
by MontBell

Reviewed by Jamie DeBenedetto
Updated Dec. 13th, 2015


Report Contents

INITIAL REPORT
July 30th, 2015

FIELD REPORT
November 3rd, 2015

LONG TERM REPORT
December 13th, 2015

Reviewer's Information

Collective Use and Field Conditions

Product Information & Description

 

Arrival Condition

First Impressions

 

Initial Report
July 30th, 2015


Reviewer's Information

Name Jamie DeBenedetto

Me and the Saguaro

Age and Gender 42 year old female

Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Weight 170 lb (77 kg)

Email JamieD1005(at)gmail.com

Background/Experience

I spent many hours of my youth fishing, rafting, creeking, and day-hiking in the wild places of Arizona. I caught the backpacking bug in high school. Presently I work as an exPAWdition leader so I'm in the field, usually with a pack of dogs, at least sixteen times a month. Primarily I'm a day-hiker with the occasional family camping trip mixed in throughout the year.
I prefer hammocks over ground sleeping and I gravitate toward multifunctional gear that enhances my comfort level with minimal fuss and weight. My total pack weight is typically less than 25 lbs (11 kg).

Location

Phoenix, Arizona - The Grand Canyon State - USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Product Information Back to contents

Manufacture URL

www.montbell.com

Year of Manufacture

Presumed 2015

Made in

China

MSRP

$34.00 US

Color Options

Silver with Black Lining

(Listed Specifications - Taken from the packaging and/or website)

Weight 8.6 oz / 245 g
Canopy Opened 3 ft 3 in / 1 m
Compacted 9.8 in / 24.9 cm
Shaft Opened Length: 21.5 in / 55 cm; Thickness: 0.02 in / 0.45 mm (This seems awfully small, I think it's a typo on the website)
Canopy Material 70-denier polyester twill
Other Materials Not given
UPF Rating 50+

(Observations as Received)

Weight (taken with a digital office scale) 8.9 oz / 253 g; Without stuff sack: 8.6 oz / 245 g
Canopy Opened 2 ft 10 in / 0.61 m
Compacted 10 in / 25.4 cm
Shaft Opened Length: 21.5 in / 55 cm; Thickness: 0.4 in / 1 cm

 

Product Description Back to contents

MontBell's Sun Block Umbrella is a handheld, lightweight parasol that is supposed to offer the added benefit of rain protection. It's compact and comes with a little zippered stuff sack and its own hang-cord. (shown on the right) To facilitate the compact aspect, each rib (MontBell calls them arms) is hinged about halfway down allowing the user to carefully fold the canopy to half its normal size before storage. The canopy is made of 70-denier polyester twill. For regular folks like me that's the fabric industry's way of telling us the thread weight, "denier", the type of material, Polyethylene Naphthalate and the type of fabric weave. In the case of twill, it's a diagonally woven pattern. Polyester, as a man-made material offers very good UV protection in and of itself. The UPF rating for the Sun Block is 50+, which means only 1/50th of the UV radiation it comes in contact with will pass through the canopy material. The telescoping shaft is made of a lightweight metal, I'm assuming aluminum. The runner, stretchers and ribs are made of a combination of plastic and metal, again, I'm assuming aluminum. The handle is small and also plastic. It's barely palm size, only slightly longer than 1 inch (3 cm).

 

Arrival Condition and Informational Material Back to contents

The Sun Block arrived fully intact and free of defects as far as I can tell. The ribs and shaft deployed as intended and everything that was supposed to slide or lock into place did so. The canopy fabric stretched out as it should and all seams appeared to be in good shape. The stuff sack looked to be blemish free as well, even the little zipper.

As one might expect with such a simple item there wasn't much by way of informational material. Only two tiny hangtags accompanied the umbrella. One was the manufacturer tag with logo, barcode, country of origin, model numbers and contact info. The other, gave an important use warning and operation instructions. This tag was most helpful and totally necessary because of the delicate nature of the umbrella. If opened incorrectly the fabric or the ribs could be damaged. Following the specific order for opening and closing was most important and spelled out very clearly on the tag. I had no problems understanding these instructions.


Compacted version

Expectations and First Impressions Back to contents

Based on past experience with other MontBell gear, I've found the quality of their workmanship to be generally very good. I'm expecting nothing less with this umbrella. Having said that, the Sun Block is definitely the most fragile piece of equipment I've tried from MontBell so I'm a bit concerned it may not be up for the type of flora we have here in the desert. Obviously only testing will tell and I will certainly do my best to be careful with it but I have to be honest, my expectations are a little on the low side.

The polyester canopy material seems fairly abrasion resistant, as does the shaft. It's really the plastic components within the support structure of the parasol that concern me, in particular the rib joints, which look to be the most delicate pieces. Folding and unfolding the umbrella requires bending and snapping these into place each time. Since plastic has a nasty tendency to weaken with use, I'm hoping they hold up to repeated use.

Other than the fragility concern, I'm excited to put the Sun Block to work. We have lots of sunny days here in Phoenix and not much rain so it's the perfect environment for a UV repelling gadget. I do, of course, hope to have the opportunity to evaluate it in the rain if our monsoon season cooperates. I don't generally like to carry items that have only one significant use, having something for both sun and rain helps justify adding it to my kit. If I like it enough I may even consider trading in my sun hat. I'm also going to make an effort to think of other creative ways I might use the umbrella, perhaps I can replace more than one piece of gear with it!

Back to contents

 

 

Field Report
November 3rd, 2015

Field Tests August thru October Back to contents

Since receiving the MontBell Sun Block Umbrella a few months ago I've used it on and off during ten different hikes. Four of those outings involved rain in some capacity. All hikes took place in the desert mountain preserves of Phoenix, Peoria or Cave Creek, Arizona. The highest temperature experienced was about 95 F / 35 C back in Sept.

Pros and Cons Thus Far Back to contents

Given the compact nature of the MontBell Sun Block Umbrella I had no reservations about carrying it with me on most of my outings. In a place like the Sonoran Desert, where sunshine is never in short supply, I found if very appealing to have portable shade with me at all times. On the occasions where my hands were free enough to use the parasol I tried to bring it out for short breaks from our seemingly never ending summer heat. I felt like the shade it provided helped, at least a little.

Using the Sun Block is not difficult but it is a little tedious to deploy. It's certainly not a one-handed job! Normally, I would take it out of its stuff sack at the trailhead, carefully unfold the rib joints then draw in the handle and secure the umbrella in more of a semi-compacted state in one of the outside side pockets of my pack. That way, when I needed it, it would be 90% ready to open. My approach, while helpful to me, does highlight what I consider to be two issues with the umbrella. First, my preemptive method completely negates the compactness of the umbrella. Ideally it should be able to be carried in its smallest state, not in some subpar configuration. Second, the little strap that wraps around and holds the folded parasol together when the canopy is drawn in isn't designed to attach to itself securely when the rib joints are extended. This means the canopy is not as safely stowed when I'm walking as it would be had I left it in its folded and compacted state. It's a risk I take for convenience but I'd love to see a solution.

Although the Sun Block is primarily intended as a parasol it is made out of material that also sheds water so I wanted to make sure I tested its ability to handle rain when those opportunities presented themselves. As I wrote above I had four chances to do just that. Two were rather mild rain storms consisting of light to steady sprinkles for around ten to fifteen minutes at a time. The Sun Block dealt with those conditions perfectly. The other two outings offered much harder and much more sustained precipitation, even small hail briefly. The canopy material held up fine to all the moisture.

It was the wind that really challenged the support structure of the umbrella. I don't know how high the gusts were, I only know I feared the stress on the stretchers and ribs would be too much and something would eventually give. After twenty minutes of fighting to hold the umbrella low to my body and angled into the wind I chose to close it down and get wet rather than see it break. To be fair, I think most umbrellas have a hard time with strong winds. Unfortunately, most of our storms, at least summer ones, are part of the monsoon season, meaning they are accompanied by dust storms or at the very least gusty conditions.

Lastly, I found the hang loop helpful. I have a strap on my pack that clips the Sun Block in place but I was worried it might slide down and out of the strap while I was walking and I'd never notice it falling to the ground. The umbrella's little hang loop afforded me the option of running a second strap through the hang loop, taking away or at least minimizing, the chances of it falling off my pack. The hang loop is also helpful when trying to put the compacted umbrella back into its stuff sack. It's a snug fit but it does go back in with a little effort and patience.

Pleasing Aspects…

  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Durable so far
  • Handled rain for short periods well

Underwhelming Aspects…

  • Time consuming to deploy
  • Delicate
  • Fold away strap only works when the rib arms are folded up

Long Term Report
December 13th, 2015

Collective Use and Field Conditions Back to contents

Around here, autumn's arrival means more hiking but less concern for sun protection so I've only used the Sun Block twice more in the final stage of this test series. This gives me around twelve total use days.

Both of these last two outings were in the Phoenix Mtns Preserve in Phoenix, AZ. Elevation in this area averages about 1,800 ft (550 m). Weather conditions were clear, warm and sunny with temperatures in the mid 70's F (24 C).

Final Thoughts Back to contents

To put it simply, the MontBell Sun Block Umbrella is the neatest product I'll probably never use again. If that sounds a bit harsh, let me explain. I really like the Sun Block. MontBell has taken the tried and true idea of the parasol, modernized it, lightened it, compacted it and made it shiny (whoo!!). For its primary purpose of blocking the sun, I have nothing but good things to say. It performs that job beautifully. For its secondary purpose of repelling rain, it does well with that too. I've used it in both light and heavy downpours for short periods (less than half an hour) with excellent results. No wetting out of the material. Even its durability outperformed my expectations, which in fairness were a little low because of what appeared to be the delicate construction of the umbrella. I think it's important to note I was very careful with it on each use. I always followed the directions for opening and closing. When not in use, it was either totally compacted in the protective sleeve or semi-compacted and hung on the outside of my pack. When I felt the winds were too high to safely use it, I wouldn't, preferring instead to keep it packed away rather than broken.

Now obviously those are all really good qualities so why do I think I will never use it again? Two reasons: First, I'm a ridiculously practical person, it makes my husband crazy sometimes, and I just don't carry things on my back day after day for hours at a time that I don't think make good sense, even if they are shiny! In the case of the Sun Block, I can get the same sun protection from a long-sleeve shirt and a large brim hat without having to tie up one of my hands. Obviously this isn't really a dig on the umbrella itself, it's more the concept that's a problem for me. Second, due to the delicate nature of the ribs, I felt it was unrealistic to consider using the Sun Block in the type of stormy conditions typical to my area in summer. Having said all that, I don't see why this type of product couldn't suit the sun/rain protection needs of someone else, it just doesn't fit the bill for me.

I do very much appreciate the opportunity to experiment with a unique and interesting piece of gear like the Sun Block Umbrella and I hope anyone reading this report series found it helpful. My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and MontBell for making this test a reality.

JJD-2015

Back to contents

 

 

 

 



Read more reviews of MontBell gear
Read more gear reviews by Jamie DeBenedetto

Reviews > Rain Gear > Umbrellas > Montbell Sun Block Umbrella > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson