Any opinions for the minimalist: would it be better to carry a tiny fold up mini umbrella or surrender to greater space usage of a rain jacket in my one small pack?
We take rain jackets or rain coats with detachable hoods. They double as a jacket or coat without the hood. Umbrellas are kind of a nuisance on crowded streets. You can find light weight jackets or coats that don't take a whole lot more space than a little umbrella. Rain jackets go with us to warm areas, coats to cooler places. Mine are Eddie Bauer WeatherWise. They are pretty light and I carry the one I have along in a medium size compression bag. My wife just got a new rain coat with buttons instead of a zipper. She has arthritis in her fingers and using a zipper is a problem.
I take both , and find my rain jacket takes up no room at all it squishes up pretty small and weights next to nothing, I have a micro umbrella that fits in one of the outside pockets of my messenger bag style purse . Rain jacket is cruicial as you can wear it alone when somewhere hot, but wear it over a fleece jacket when cold..and I have worn it like that in july and august in France and Switzerland where even in summer you can hit cool snaps, or at elevations..
I take umbrella with me all the time, it can be a hot sunny day so leave jacket at hotel and then sudden rain,, i don't like wearing a hat/hood unless its pouring rain.. really pouring, hate hat head. Look at Eddie Bauers for lightweight rain/wind jackets,, you don't really need a heavier bulkier one like a North Face or a gore tex style one, especially if you time your "colder countries" ( northern ones) for after May..
I also take both, and find that my rain shell--a lightweight breathable waterproof that folds up very small--does double duty as a wind shell.
The big questions would be, where are you going and what do you plan to do? If your intinerary is mostly cities, I would only bring an umbrella. But if it includes hiking, or any outdoor activity where you can't easily pop inside if it starts to rain heavily, I would bring both.
I also commonly bring both. You might want to check for less bulky rainwear; mine, from REI, weighs virtually nothing, and this is probably a good time of year to find sales. Last trip (in Sept/Oct), I was surprised how handy my umbrella was when I got stuck out in the sun (eg, interminable waits for busses on Sundays); I now understand why I see people using parasols on sunny days. I'd recommend you not count on buying one of the cheap street umbrellas in Europe; they're relatively heavy, have sharp metal edges, and break really quickly.
I would take both. You will definitely need both, being here for three months at this time of year.
Sally, I always pack both a mini-Umbrella as well as a Rain Poncho similar to this: http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=product&theParentId=126&id=321 I tend to use the Poncho only as a last resort, as the darn thing is a nuisance to get back into it's pouch after use. I've experienced a few occasions when even the Poncho wasn't enough, but fortunately those are rare. Happy travels!
I take a rain shell and use it as an extra layer if it gets cold. I've had sleet in Ireland in May before and the rain shell came in handy. Umbrellas tend to poke others in the eye and are dangerous on crowded sidewalks.
I take a rain poncho, similar to the RS one. The benefits: 1. It keeps most of you dry. Unless you are very tall, it falls below the knees 2. It keeps your backpack/purse dry and anything else you are carrying, including a camera 3. When it is no longer needed I turn it inside-out (wet side in) fold it a couple of times and put it in a plastic bag, until needed again. They dry very quickly, sometimes while you're still wearing.
4. Both your hands are free. When I'm back at the hotel and it's thoroughly dry, it's easy to spread out on the bed and fold up properly. I've also discovered that if I wear it under a light coat, it acts as a windbreaker, keeping me warm on gusty spring days.
I always bring a light rain jacket with hood. But I have noticed in the cities, everyone uses umbrellas. I hardly ever see rain jackets and I have traveled in every season. I don't have good luck with umbrellas. They last as long as the first big gust of wind.
I was only in one city (Florence) when it rained but on every corner there was someone selling umbrellas for 5 euros. I suspect this is similar in every tourist destination. My wife pointed out as she left this morning that she was taking "The Florence umbrella". For a three month trip I would assume you will definitely see some rain.
I would go with a rain jacket and I would definitely bring a rain poncho as well . A rain poncho will cover yourself and your gear and if, after the rain stops, you need to sit down for a while on the ground (waiting for a bus or train) you have a waterproof blanket to sit on.
I have absolutely guaranteed that it will be sunny and dry, and that there will be a heat wave in the Netherlands and Belgium for our trip in April because I bought a WeatherEdge Girl on the Go Insulated Trench Coat from Eddie Bauer. It has a button-out lining and a hood that can be removed. I got this coat because I was wet and cold for the first 2 weeks of June in northern France last year. My oh-so-chic lightweight, fashionable and reversable rain jacket just didn't cut it and I didn't take enough layers to make up for that. I hate dressing in layers. I also hate umbrellas, but I was forced to buy one in Paris because that rain jacket didn't have a hood. It will be weird when I start out in Tucson, but I will wear that new trench coat on the plane (with the lining but without the hood) because I almost froze in my seat on the way to Paris last year. If you check the average weather for the places you are going at the time you will be there, I suspect that you will probably find it will be rainier and cooler than you might expect. If you get a rain jacket here and it seems too big for your pack, you can always wear/carry it in transit.
Based on your stated requirements, I suggest you carry a featherweight rain jacket (with hood).
I go with both - umbrella is good for light rain/mist in the city, but a good rain jacket/shell (that can be layered if it's chilly) is necessary. Neither one takes up much room or weight.
My wife discovered she was more comfortable wearing some kind of hat or cap under her raincoat hood. I always wear headgear outside so I hadn't realized it, but if the weather is cool you will feel better with something on your head underneath the hood.
Take both. The space requirement is not that large. You really need to keep the rain off of you. The problem with a rain jacket and hood is that it works great for the upper body but all that water gets transfer to the lower body which means very wet pants and shoes unless you use rain pants. The umbrella helps to keep the rain off the body so that the lower half does not get as wet as with just a jacket. For us the rain jacket serves many purposes so it would be included regardless. The umbrella would be the option item and not the jacket.
A packable rain shell doesn't take up much more space than the tiniest umbrella, and weighs significantly less. A mini umbrella is virtually useless when it's windy, so IMO much less functional than a waterproof rain shell. Even when it's not raining, your shell can be a lightweight windbreaker. Sometimes I'll buy an umbrella while I'm on the road. I never pack them, however, there or home.
on every corner there was someone selling umbrellas for 5 euros I suggest that those not be purchased. The sales are illegal and if you are stopped by the financial police you can be fined a four figure fine for buying one. They are regularly rounded up.
Many of the lightweight waterproof jackets fold into themselves in an inside pocket; some even have a clip-on snap so you can hook it onto your purse. I find a hood great to block wind & rain, but I also take a micro fleece hat I can wear under the hood because my ears are sensitive to cold; this + a pair of micro fiber ski glove liners fit easily into a jacket pocket and are lifesavers on damp, chilly days. Waterproof walking shoes are also a must for me.
Nigel, I find that hard to believe, we are not talking about buying counterfiet designer purses here , but cheap umbrellas. I see the illegal souvenir vendors by the Eiffel Tower all the time selling keychains etc, and I have also seen the police arrive, the venders run away, but I have never seen the police even talk to the customers.. i don't think they are interested in arresting of fining tourists for spending 3-5 euros on items that are not counterfeit. I think they want the vendors .
Where have you seen or heard of tourists being fined for buying an umbrella?
Whatever you take, also do this before leaving home. Get some waterproofing spray (The Walking Company, at stores and online, sells a pump spray if you don't want an aerosol), and use it to treat your clean shoes and also your bags. Anything except suede/nubuck. Used liberally, it won't render everything 100% storm-proof but will provide a welcome level of water resistance. You'll be less likely to get wet feet when out in the rain, and trust me, it's better to see those water drops rolling down the outside of your bag than to watch the bag get soaked. Of course, a poncho or raincoat is the best solution overall though it doesn't do much for your feet. But the waterproofing treatment also helps your stuff repel spilled coffee, etc., even if you're not out in the rain. I routinely treat all my new shoes and bags with the stuff, and I think it helps them repel dirt and stains as well as moisture. YMMV.
micro umbrellas are all but useless in wind. take the jacket, if you decide when you're there that you need the umbrella, microumbrellas are sold for less than 5 euro just about everywhere.