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An umbrella designed using aerodynamic theory to withstand 100km/h winds (senzumbrellas.com)
145 points by bensummers on Nov 11, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

I have one of these. It certainly is much better at resisting the strong winds England can blow than a classic umbrella (which lasts about 15 minutes around here).

Unfortunately, it has two other problems that hamper any recommendation. The first is, as another commenter mentioned, it won't stay closed when collapsed without a fiddly velcro tie. You have to wrap it around the entire umbrella body, which is keen to spring open whilst you struggle with it. With cold, wet fingers this can be tricky.

The second problem is the build quality. Whilst generally OK, within 6 months mine had developed two flaws. It won't stay fully extended, as one of the little clips that pops out on the telescopic handle failed. It thus loves to collapse down to a size suitable for a toddler at any opportunity. The second is one of the canopy support structs popped out and bent, so it doesn't quite hold rigid.

It's a pity that what is otherwise an excellent design is hampered by one poor choice, and some shoddy construction. I don't know if the flaws on mine are isolated, but if that were the case, I'd have expected one flaw at most - not two orthogonal failures. Moreover, given the price, I scoured their website to find support and customer services when it broke. I had no luck whatsoever in finding after sales service, and couldn't return it to the store (it was a gift).

I had the exact same problem. It is now permanently in my closet. This is what I wrote in my Amazon review:

In everyday use, there's a pretty major issue: it won't stay closed. When you fold it and hold it upright like you would any umbrella when you get indoors, it just falls open, getting your pants went and making you (and others) trip on it.

You can try to hold it shut, but the sticks are all different lengths, you need to individually grab each one, and you won't have any spare hands to open the door or get your keys. You can try to wrap it up, using not one, but TWO straps, which will get your hands all wet. And it's annoying as hell to have to do all the time.

It also won't stay closed when you prop it up against a wall, it will just fall all over the floor and make everything wet.

As if that weren't enough, the shape is odd: it makes it hard to cover yourself completely. I've tried. It is always too narrow in one direction. It also makes you look like a dork.

To be fair, it is solidly built and can hold its own in strong wind. The handle smells slightly but is comfortable to hold. Watch out though, because it's made of two parts that join as you open the umbrella, and it's quite easy to pinch yourself.

To sum up: bad design. Looks good on paper, terrible in actual use.

Absolutely agree with the poor build quality. The velcro tie is particularly poorly sewn on. However, in the US, they were carried by Totes which had a lifetime warranty. I've swapped mine twice now, but I don't know if they still are distributing them (not on their site anymore).

> canopy support structs popped

Do you program often?

"The senz° umbrella has been awarded all major design awards in the world."

We have all your awards. If you want them back, you will have to pay us one MILLION dollars!

But seriously, what a strange thing to put in your marketing. Surely you haven't won every design award there is.

In fairness, it could be a language issue. The story of the company references newspaper ads that are in some Scandanavian language I don't recongize...(maybe, that's a guess). Writing in a non-native language, even when your fluent, can leave the odd syllogism here and there.

The pop-up windows have "Venster sluiten" in the lower left. Google translate revealed this as dutch.

The newspapers are Dutch (as is the company). The copy-writing is just not very well done...

Also :We maxed out wind tunnels. We jumped out of airplanes. We´ve done just about anything to make sure our storm umbrella withstands winds up to 100 km/h.

Gee, if they'd have just given me a call, they could have stood in the back of my pickup and saved a bunch of money on wind tunnels and airplanes...

They have if they are allowed to define "major," which here they obviously think they are.

The senz° storm umbrella will withstand 100 km/h winds, or 70 mph if you like

I hope that's a typo. It's one thing to round up 69mph to 70, but quite another to round up 62 to 70. For starters, that gives you over 110kph!

I guess the umbrellas are overengineered anyway, and will stand up to 150 km/h or so anyway.

EuroSchirm's 'birdiepal outdoor' is a great extreme-weather umbrella. It's of traditional design, but constructed very strongly with glassfiber etc. Their website sucks, but they have a video somewhere of someone driving over it, taking it under a waterfall and generally abusing it. You can still flip it upside down, but it doesn't harm it, it seems.


EDIT: Here it is on Youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3oyTyWq9_I (don't bother unless you are _really_ passionate about umbrella's. I can't believe I've actually put this much effort into this comment...)

The video doesn't answer the crucial question -- will it still offer some protection from the rain? If not, what's the point, you can just fold it down :-)

I second the question. If the wind is blowing at 20 mph, the rain is going hitting the person from the side. It's not enough to solve the inverted umbrella problem when the main purpose of the umbrella is to shield a person from rain.

The sole purpose of this design is to avoid "the inverted" umbrella problem. But how much a problem is this? I have never seen this happen in real life.

Since moving to the Boston/Cambridge region, I've never had an umbrella last more than about ten rainy days.

I've been thinking about different ways to solve this exact problem for quite some time. The damage is largely caused by high shearing forces on the spurs that hold the umbrella up, so allowing those forces to be relieved by something in tension (I used 200lb test fishing line) should work pretty well -- but it tends to get in your way.

I'm tempted to order one of these just to see if it stands up to Boston weather. I've tried other commercial "inversion-proof" umbrellas before, and they were... not, but I don't think I've ever seen one that did this using a flexible aerodynamic design.

To answer both parents, the issue is gusting winds which can suddenly catch the brolly and invert it. This is a real problem, especially for cheap umbrellas.

Clearly if the winds were a steady 60mph or so you'd never bother to open the brolly or if you had it open you'd close it to save struggling against the wind.

In downtown Boston it's a big problem. You either dress like a fisherman or carry an umbrella with two hands. Mangled, discarded umbrellas are a common sight.

All the time. You must have amazing weather where you live :)

Fucking bay area man. It never even thunders here. I've been here two years and already I'm a wuss like everybody else. I'm sick of complaining how hot it is when it hits 80 and how cold it is when it hits 65, and how it's raining when there's just a thick mist in the air.

Actually, the last time this happened to me was when I visited SF a few weeks ago. There was pretty shocking rain and awful winds. I had a cheap umbrella.

Yeah SF is probably the anomaly in the bay area due to lack of mountain cover.

well, if you happen to live in Scotland it happens like... every second day ;)

My last umbrella lasted 20 seconds (Halifax, NS). I just wear a full rain suit now.

It happens a lot to me - well, except that I fold it before the damage is done.

I almost don't use umbrellas, when I get the chance, anymore.

I've seen it happen. Usually it takes ~40kmph for this to happen, and usually with the cheaper umbrellas (duh) first.

I've used one of these in New York for a year or so, and while they stand up well to the wind, there are other design considerations where they're oddly lacking. For instance, on the compact version, the handle is much to small, making it uncomfortable to hold. On the larger versions, the umbrella doesn't stay collapsed, so every time you arrive inside you have to awkwardly fumble to tie the velcro straps around it while it flops open.

What happens when you're not walking directly into the wind? Do you have to continually re-orient the umbrella to point upwind?

Its design automatically re-orients the umbrella.

I was considering purchasing one for Chicago loop weather, but reviews on amazon indicate that if your wind is non-uniform (and in Chicago, it is), the umbrella fails as it constantly tries to turn into the wind (and they tend to be shoddily made). Oh well.

I gave up on umbrellas in Chicago and just got a nice raincoat from Patagonia.

I can confirm that the Senz performs quite well in Chicago weather, even in the wind-tunnel areas.

The problem, though, is that fabric is removed from the front of the umbrella to create the wing shape, and the result is less coverage than an un-aerodynamic umbrella of the same handle-length. So your feet and pant-bottoms almost always get soaked in any situation where you would actually need an umbrella.

A new wave of umbrella-induced eye poking is coming our way, when these things turn around to follow the wind.

I always hated the fact that normal umbrellas have their handles in the middle, especially when I'm sharing an umbrella with someone else.

This umbrella solved two problems for me! I'm seriously thinking about ordering one. My only concern is that would one side of the umbrella be significantly heavier than the other side? That'd be a pain to hold it up all the time.

No, you hardly notice that. I have one of these from an early production batch, back when this was just a nifty research project at Delft University and they were handing them out as University swag with the DU logo on it.

Thanks! I hope they handed them out at my uni too, lol

I have one of these and I love it. I wonder why this shows up on HN now though, as it is at least a couple of years old now (the company started in 2005).

The story behind it all makes for much more HN-worthy fare: it was started by students as a spin-off from a University project and is now a successful, profitable company: http://www.senzumbrellas.com/en/how-it-all-started/

I like mine even though the wind here hardly ever blows so hard that it breaks umbrellas. I like the asymmetry of it, you can hold it off-center (relative to your body) and still be completely covered (when there is no wind and rain is falling down straight from above as happens often here in the Netherlands). Also you don't (usually) poke out the eyes of people you pass in the street.

Woot had these on sale and I picked one up. I've used it several times, including some of the more spectacular storms that we get here in Texas and it works as advertised. I also appreciate that the long tail design covers my backpack which usually contains my laptop.

And you can use it to walk at twice the speed of the wind into the wind. Believe it or not.

I have one of these (they're actually pretty good) it reorients so it always faces the wind and the shape gives you more coverage over your back when it's not too windy. Also, it looks awesome.

The handle is small though, so it's a bit uncomfortable when used for a long time.

I used the Senz Mini for over a year. Once I ran two city blocks back to a movie theater because I had left it under the seat. It's an umbrella that stands out from the crowd. I stopped using it because, in practice, anything over a 20 mph wind will guarantee wetness no matter what umbrella you use. Also, I made the mistake of using the 35-mph rated Mini in a storm with 45+ mile gusts - and it literally ripped the support from one of the umbrella links.

In a strong enough storm, you'll just be like Mary Poppins.

If I have enough warning, I will actually wear a lightweight version of the same waterproof pants used by highway workers over my jeans.

It may stand up to wind but it doesn't look like it keeps the rain off of you. If you have 100mph winds coming in from an angle you better expect the rain to come in at the same angle too

Obviously. But the wind doesn't blow at 100 all the time, it gusts. You use the umbrella to keep the rain off most of the time, but you want it to survive the gusts.

Woot sells these for around $20 sometimes. The comments are usually a mixed bag, with some people saying it's really good, and other citing problems such as size, durability, etc.

There are a lot of comments here: http://www.woot.com/Forums/ViewPost.aspx?PostID=4074424

I am reminded of an "umbrellas haven't changed in 150 years" conversation in an anime somewhere.

Read this in the New Yorker a while back, sounds like a similar design:


I have one of these. The problem is it breaks when the wind changes directions.

[edit] I wonder why was this invented in the Netherlands...

And you'd probably lose it first day you took it out.

I'd worry about it acting as sail and flying out of your hands, but in general I love it. If I was richer I'd buy one.

Have you watched the video? It seems that traditional umbrellas act as sails. This one moves by itself so that the surface that faces the wind is small.

Yep, my brother had one and lost it soon after he got it.

My father got another one though and I must say it really works, you automatically lean into the wind with the umbrella. Can't say I use it a lot though, I mostly travel by bike and if it's really raining a poncho is much easier than holding up an umbrella.

If I had to face 100 km/h winds often enough that I'd be looking at buying a special umbrella, I'd start wearing a raincoat instead.

Wow! Love that web page - I didn't have to ready anything at all to totally get the idea.

Now to make my big idea webpage do that...

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