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 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 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
|Gossamer Gear Liteflex Chrome||8 oz||25.2"||39.4"|
|EuroSCHIRM Swing Liteflex Trek||8.3 oz||25.2"||39.4"|
|Montbell UL Trekking Umbrella||4.3 oz||20.9"||34.6"|
|Montbell Sunblock Umbrella||7.1 oz||20.9"||38.6"|
|Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Trekking Umbrella||9.8 oz||23"||28"|
|Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow Carbon||6.8 oz||25"||37"|
|Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow Original||8.9 oz||25"||37"|
|Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow Mini||6.8 oz||10"||38"|
|Six Moon Designs Rain Walker||5.5 oz||25"||37"|
|SnowPeak UL Umbrella||4.7 oz||21"||33"|
|Zpacks Lotus UL Umbrella||6.8 oz||25"||38"|
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.
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The Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow is nearly identical to the Gossamer Gear LiteFlex, yet it’s 1.2 oz lighter (mine: 199g vs 234g). Couldn’t tell you why without disassembling both and weighing the parts.
Isn’t the Gossamer Gear Liteflex Chrome Hiking Umbrella in fact “just” a Euroschirm Swing Liteflex Umbrella with the Gossamer Gear logo put on it?
Yeah, so. When you’re on the PCT and your umbrella breaks, I doubt EuroSchirm is going to pick up the phone and fedex you a replacement. Companies OEM gear all the time, especially small ones.
Yep that did happen to me when a tree snagged mine on the arizona trail so had Gossamer Gear send me one to my next town stop. Great service!
I’m curious what accounts for the difference in weight.
There are batch manufacturing and measurement differences all the time. It could be humidity or scale calibration. for example. If you’re obsessed about a 1/3 of an ounce, I suggest you seek medication. :-)
Also – Gossamer Gear is very accurate with their spec weights and they’re probably measuring a small consistent batch. Euroschirm isn’t a backpacking company and probably includes some packaging weight in their specs. Hard to really know.
I have a EuroSCHIRM and find it ideal for humid Appalachia. While I might welcome rain in my face on a hot day, sleet and hail are never fun. (Harsh sun is rarely a problem in these parts, except on bald mountaintops.) As Heather notes, rain coats get stifling, so I usually use my umbrella and wear my rain jacket unzipped, with the pit zips open and the hood off, basically just protecting my arms. I’d note that some of the UL umbrellas listed in the chart above have short shafts, and would probably not work well clipped to the pack strap. You don’t really need an expensive, special trekking umbrella for the occasional short trip, since any drugstore brand will do for moderate use. But, if you’re in the mountains often, then one is worth carrying, for the reasons Heather laid out so well.
I own both the GG and the 6 Moons.
The 6 Moons is definitely smaller and has noticeably less diameter.
It was just a question, Philip.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Thanks for answering it.
This may be the same as the old Golite Chrome Dome. I have one of those and can testify to its utility and durability. I bought several knock offs for friends who spend lots of time outside in the Texas sun. They love them.
It is the same.
When I was on the PCT, I met several people who had the one by Six Moon Designs and they reported that it wasn’t sturdy in the wind and rain, where I found Gossamer Gear’s Liteflex was. So it may be a bit smaller and less in weight, but maybe better geared toward sun protection. Just food for thought and I’d have to try myself to really judge.
Gossamer Gear threw this in for free when I ordered my Mariposa backpack on sale in December. – just before the new Mariposa was being sold. I was initially a bit bummed to be missing out on the new backpack with some minor improvements over the older model but I will be needing this thing when I return to Sedona and the Grand Canyon in June ( yes June.).
I started carrying an umbrella a few years ago and now I wish I’d been carrying it for decades. I’m like the author in that I don’t want to don rain gear unless it’s cold. The umbrella means my torso stays dry. (The last few inches of my forearms & my hands get wet, but unless it’s cold that’s not a problem.) Once a person starts carrying an umbrella, they find all kinds of uses for it. As the author mentioned, it’s a quickly-deployed shelter against the rain when one wants to take a meal or snack break; my tarp can stay in my pack & stay dry until I set up camp. It makes it easier to stay dry crawling out of a tent in the rain. It blocks a too-bright moon when you’re trying to sleep. Shelter against the rain when relieving ones self is awesome. Sitting atop a backcountry toilet under an umbrella feels like a luxury.
One of my favorite photos of myself shows me in full hiker-trash regalia: Tyvek rain skirt, umbrella, ratty long-sleeve shirt, muddy trail runners. A few folks I encountered on that trip decided my trail name should be Mary Poppins because of the umbrella. If only the umbrella enabled me to fly!
Thanks for all the commentary and extra uses of the umbrella, Kim! Yes, I think once someone joins the umbrella club, you never go back.
Heather, did you try the shoulder strap attachment? Seems that would be so convenient vs hand carry.
Sorry! Missed. the photo of the umbrella attached to your pack!
I didn’t know one existed when I bought my umbrella! Definitely would have been a bit easier and I may just make or buy one.
How do these work in wind ?
I’ve had a GG umbrella for a handful of years; it has served me well and is actually due to be replaced after the abuse I have exposed it to.
Of interest, looking on GG’s site and they have changed the umbrella a bit. The wt is now down to 6.6oz. Looks like the shaft is now Al rather than fiberglass and it also looks as though the diameter is now down 2″ putting near the six moons. Awaiting confirmation from GG on the changes, specifically the size.
These are probably “still” just rebranded Euroschirms.
You’re probably right Philip, most of the umbrellas are quite similar.
I did touch base with GG asking if the diameter had changed since the claimed diameter is the same as say the Six Moon Designs and if the handle material had changed from fiberglass to Al and here is their reply:
“The only change is the handle, strap, and umbrella frame. The new umbrella frame is lighter and stronger.”
They did send me a photo of the new and old versions side by side and the new is definitely a bit slimmer when closed.
Now of further interest, when I place opened Six Moon Designs next to a GG umbrella, the GG appears to be larger even though when both are measured they come to ~37″
Weird, but the GG does “feel” bigger.