Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Review: Helinox Tactical Umbrella

My friends at HORNEST in Singapore sent me this Helinox product, and I've really enjoyed the Helinox Tactical chairs, which have accompanied me into snowfields and jungles, beaches and backyard cookoffs. So I was only too pleased to add some more Helinox products to my loadout. They are light, rugged, and portable.

The Helinox Tactical Umbrella is an ultra lightweight, yet highly durable take on the ubiquitous umbrella. Featuring a lightweight DAC aluminium pole at its center, which reminded me of one of my Easton Redline arrows and strutted with carbon fiber rods.

The canopy is teflon-coated polyester for superior water repellency and I put that to the test with some fairly heavy Melbourne summer rain, on several occasions. It worked really well, which was at first surprising given how small the umbrella is when stowed, being only 63.5 cm (25") long. The canopy boasts an UPF 25 rating (it blocks 96% of UV radiation)

It only weighs 210g (7.5 oz) but when opened up, it spreads to a broad full 100 cm (39.4") canopy.
At that size, and weight the Tactical Umbrella is light enough to bring anywhere, and keep ready to deploy when the skies open. Never go without protection from the elements again, with the Helinox Tactical Umbrella.

What makes it 'Tactical"? I suppose that's mostly advertising wank by the marketing team at Helinox, but then again, with its coyote brown finish, metal free design, and lightweight, compact design, you can forgive them their stretch. It also goes by "Trekking" and that name is more than fitting. I strapped this to the side of my backpack and whip it out when the skies open, it's out of the way until needed.

Being one piece and not folding like other "trekking" umbrellas, the design is both metal and mechanism free. There is no latch to break, no springs to jam or break, the tension of the canopy and the carbon fibre struts is perfectly designed and opens which a gentle slide of the strut-ring. It's held in place by a hook-and-loop closing strap, which even features a small loop field on the back side, to affix a 1" sized patch, perfect for a ranger-eye!

The closed cell foam grip and strap give you pretty good retention, especially important given the very breeze catching canopy, which is one of the things I've never liked about umbrellas. This handle however, along with its cord retention strap, is solid enough and robust enough that even Tactical baby can manage it in a breeze. The balance is really good, and whilst it's not long enough for me to use as walking pole, a shorter person could easily. It has a tip of the same closed cell foam as the handle, which makes it unsuitable for use as a walking stick over the long term, but does avoid the eye-poking risk that regular umbrellas may offer. This is a two edged sword however.

Having a soft tip makes it less able to be used as a damaging tool, in he way a hard spike ended umbrella might be able to, such as with the Unbreakable Umbrella. I found that by gripping the handle and choking up to the bottom of the canopy spars, it was possible to hold the closed umbrella like a baton.

A soft tipped baton, perhaps, but a baton. With the carbon fibre struts and the aluminium shaft at its centre, it's pretty rigid, and could be quite effective as a last-ditch defensive tool. I think it would stand up against a knife for long enough to make a break for it, or for a skilled user to use some hanbo or singlestick techniques as a defensive or even offensive tool.

Another aspect of the umbrella that I really likes comes from it's short handle, but broad canopy. It was possible for me at 193cm (6'4") on a tall day to scootch down and be almost entirely covered by the umbrella as I squatted. Consider this for both conceilability, by obscuring yourself under it directly, which could be supplemented by local foliage to form a hide of sorts. This also equates for use in its primary capacity as a shelter from the rain, it is entirely big enough to shelter under in a serious downpour you could drop down and almost entirely cover yourself.

For raingear, I usually opt for a boonie hat, poncho and maybe waterproof pants . However, I've been wearing the Helinox Umbrella slotted into my Mystery Ranch 1Day Assault Pack and have found it was easy to store and then deploy when needed. It worked really well, and I've had no regrets looking that extra bit like a Kingsman ... from a certain point of view, anyway.

1 comment:

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