10 Best Patio Umbrellas | March 2017
- lightweight and easy to move
- sturdy hinges on the crank
- included base needs to be secured
- includes a low voltage adaptor
- vent prevents tipping in high winds
- canopy material is thin
- weather resistant fabric won't fade
- can rotate 360 degrees
- a bit overpriced
- leds come preinstalled
- ni-mh battery included
- does not crank up and down smoothly
- no base included
- fits in most standard bases
- push-button tilt
- almost unbreakable ribs
- crank is smooth and works well
- great value for the low price point
- 5-position vertical tilt
- storage cover included
- available in red or tan
Don't Succumb To The Melt
Even for those of us with darker complexions whose skin is much more amenable to the crushing UV rays of our great solar body in the sky, it's nearly impossible to keep from melting when outdoors on a hot, sunny day.
I'm mostly Italian, so I tan like it's nobody's business. Even when I burn (which is rare), the red turns to a deep, rich tan within about 48 hours. Still, when it's too hot, it's too hot. So, what's a person to do if they're even more sensitive to sunlight than I am? Sunscreen can help keep you from burning, but it won't keep you from melting.
That's where the umbrella comes in, and it's the patio umbrella, with its increased surface area and stable grounding mechanisms that will save you from turning into a human puddle.
Now, it isn't that the shade created by an umbrella actually makes the air underneath it any cooler. If you measured the temperature of the air in the shade and in the sunlight, it'd be about the same. To a human being, though, and not to a thermometer, direct sunlight increases your perception of the heat by 10-15 degrees. Think of it as the opposite of wind chill. Under the shade of an umbrella, you feel the air for what it actually is.
On a 85˚ day, sitting in direct sunlight would make you feel like you were suffering a 100˚ heat wave. In the shade, that temperature would feel like 85˚, if not a degree or two cooler. This is especially true on brick patios. Bricks absorb heat from the sun and radiates it back up at you, baking you like a fine NY-style brick oven pizza. Keeping the bricks beneath you under the shade of an umbrella will help reduce the rise in temperature even further.
A Lifestyle In The Shade
You don't have to look too deeply within your soul to decide on the right patio umbrella, but that doesn't mean it's a decision you should just toss out there. After all, this is your summertime comfort we're talking about, not to mention the look of your carefully curated outdoor space.
The first parts of your decision are liable to be practical, whether or not a certain umbrella will be a good fit for the space at hand, whether it's big enough or too big, for example, or whether to opt for a fancier umbrella on a boom pole over a more traditional design. This part of your decision is going to come from the outside in, instead of the other way around.
After that, however, your aesthetic takes over, and style becomes the number one consideration among available umbrellas. One of the special features that some of these umbrellas boast is a built-in mood lighting system. Either charged by simple batteries, a solar charge, or electricity run to the umbrella, these lights line the underside of the umbrella's ribs and cast a favorable glow on all who sit underneath them.
You'll see the prices of any good patio umbrella increase along with an increase in the durability of the frame materials and weather-resistant canopy. If you opt for a cheaper solution, your canopy is liable to fade in the sun and tear more easily over the years. It's also likely that the ribs, stretcher, and shaft materials will break more easily if the umbrella gets carried off by the wind or even simply dropped by a handler. It's better to make an investment in materials that will last.
Made In China?
I'm don't mean to imply that the umbrellas on our list are universally made overseas. That's not the case at all. The very first collapsible umbrella, however, was chronicled in China back around the year 21 CE. It was outfitted for a carriage to keep both driver and riders shaded from the sun in what I assume was very heavy, regal clothing.
There is evidence suggesting the use of umbrellas prior to this Chinese example elsewhere in the country, but it's hard to know for sure whether or not these umbrellas were collapsible. These records date back to the 6th century BCE, so the idea of the umbrella has been with us for at least 2600 years, collapsible or not.
Images of Egyptian parasols have been dated back almost 3000 years, but these were much lighter devices used only for protection from the sun, and couldn't withstand the environmental conditions against which the Chinese developed their umbrellas.
What the Egyptians most notably contributed to the umbrella is its superstitious danger, specifically if you open it indoors. This was considered in Egyptian times to be an insult to the Sun God, and would bring misfortune on anyone silly enough to do it.
Whoever came up with it first, there's a curious European period of almost 1000 years after the fall of the Roman Empire, during which wealthy families abandoned the umbrella as a status symbol and protection from the sun. It wasn't until the Renaissance that the umbrella came back into fashion in Europe, where they developed into the common umbrellas and patio umbrellas we use today.