As a Native Texan, I loathe summers; triple-digit temperatures can plague us for up to 5 months a year (I’m looking at you 2019). Nothing beats me down more than heat and sun exposure.
Can you guess what section of my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike I was most worried about?
It wasn’t the Sierra, with its large mountain passes and potentially snow-covered traverses, nor was it Washington, with its volatile rainfall and steep ascents.
It was the desert!
Intense sun exposure, potentially limited water resources, and the possibility of having to hike at night and sleep during the day kept me up at night in my normal life. I knew I’d adapt, but I wanted an advantage. I NEEDED the advantage. So, I set out researching various lightweight sun umbrella offerings and settled on the Six Moon Designs Silver Shadow Carbon and attachment system.
Hundreds of miles of hiking later, it saved my precious bald and pale head on many occasions, and turned out to be the most vital piece of gear that I used on my entire PCT thru-hike.
General Specs/ Info
Price: $39.99 for the Silver Shadow Carbon Umbrella and $9.99 for the attachment system
- Carbon Fiber Frame
- EVA Foam Handle
- UPF 50+ Rating
- Closed Length: 25"
- Shaft Length: 23.5"
- Open Width: 37"
- Coverage: 7.5 ft2
Pros of the Silver Shadow Carbon Umbrella
Convenience: The length of this particular model, as opposed to the Mini umbrella, makes it an easy grab when reaching for it while walking. I was able to successfully grab the umbrella from my Hyperlite Windrider 2400 side pockets, extend the umbrella arms, and put it into the holder all without having to break stride. Due to its lightweight, you don’t even really notice it's there until you need it. It is also very compact and easily fits in backpack pockets when not in use.
Attachment System: The hands-free shoulder attachment system does just that, keeps you from having to hold the umbrella up on your own. The attachment system is very easy to use and keeps the umbrella in place. I personally feel like the Six Moon attachment system is a bit more versatile on the positioning side of things than others offered on the market. It is a true “hands-free” experience. It made talking into my phone and taking videos and photos while walking pretty seamless and stress free.
Heat Reflection: What makes the Silver Shadow better than a “normal” umbrella is that it’s reflective due to the silver coating on the outside of the umbrella. So not only does it give you that shade coverage you so desperately need, but it also actively reflects heat away. This umbrella works great in places like the desert section of the Pacific Crest Trail or high-exposure areas along the Continental Divide Trail.
Better Coverage than Sun-Hats: Another reason I chose the umbrella was to avoid the need for a sunhat — allowing my head to breathe and make the most out of the occasional breeze. Also, since sun-hats sit directly on your head, you’re still getting a lot of heat exposure and transfer from the fabrics.
Wind Exposure: The Silver Shadow can be used in light to medium winds with some finesse, but when it really starts to howl, it’s necessary to retract it. My solution to this was simply retracting the arms and holding onto it while it sat in the shoulder straps. It was a very minor inconvenience.
I’ve heard and seen many a horror story where someone got up on an exposed ridge or in an open area, and a strong gust of wind blew their umbrella in on itself, rendering it mostly useless. Note: this is not a comment on the construction or materials of the umbrella as it would happen with pretty much any umbrella put under these types of stress conditions.
Good to Knows
It does have a water-resistant PU coating. However, the umbrella is not seam sealed, and although I never took it out in anything other than a light to mild downpour, I would not recommend using it in heavy rainfall. Obviously it will still grant better coverage than nothing but there is a very high probability it will saturate and let water through the seams. With that being said, do not rely on this as your only piece of rain protection.
This was my favorite and most necessary piece of gear while out on my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. It is something I would recommend to any hiker on routes with long stretches of sun exposure, as I believe it is absolutely necessary in these conditions.
In 2021, with the low snow in the Sierras, and further exposure in ‘burn areas’ where wildfires had passed, I could have carried the umbrella all the way to Canada and been well served; keeping it on me instead of sending it home at Kennedy Meadows South.