A Fine Day for Ducks: Walking in Wet Weather

duck shaking off water

Rain is water off a duck’s back! Image: manfredrichter Pixabay.com under Creative Commons CCo

I love April and May. Spring is a magical season – the world greening and blossoming and unfurling before my eyes as I walk to work. But how to stay dry while walking through those earth-nourishing spring showers?

What to wear when it rains?

The problem is not that wet-weather gear doesn’t exist. The issue for me is that very often, rain is only part of the weather picture for the day. It’s tricky to decide what to wear for maximum comfort:

  • When I know that the rain boots that keep my feet blessedly dry for a short time are guaranteed to give me heat rash and blisters if I wear them for two hours.
  • When I know that after about fifteen minutes, my 100% waterproof rain coat will make me feel like I’m a walking furnace.

One choice is easy though. When rain is forecast, I always take along an umbrella.

status of person holding umbrella, water cascading down

Nothing beats an umbrella on a rainy day! Image: Pixabay.com under Creative Commons CCo

Umbrellas are a necessity

The one item I can’t do without on a rainy day is an umbrella.

Umbrellas are, for me, the single most important item of gear for wet weather walking. I wear glasses and the fact is, if I can’t keep rain off my head and face, my glasses get so wet that I can’t see very well.

If you have an umbrella when you start out, and the rain stops, folding or wrapping it up is simple. Plus, it’s not heavy to carry.

Buying lots of umbrellas is one of the little-known costs of walking to work.

If you have a favourite umbrella… you probably don’t use it much. Umbrellas simply don’t last!

They get lost

Umbrellas are lost in massive numbers. In libraries, restaurants, subways, public washrooms, in fact anywhere people stop for a minute on rainy day, umbrellas are left behind … especially when it’s stopped raining. Umbrellas are a very common and rarely claimed item in Lost and Found offices worldwide!

wet street, bare trees, cloudy sky, skyscraper top in cloud

University Avenue on a rainy day

They get broken

Unfortunately, umbrellas are notoriously sensitive to that common partner of rain: wind. I have had high hopes for umbrellas marked as Wind Resistant, Wind Proof and even WIND DEFYING. Ultimately, none could handle a Toronto summer thunderstorm for an hour. For me, it was often the open windscape across the Bloor Street Viaduct that did them in. (Designers: here is a challenge for you.)

If you want some consumer information about umbrellas, I liked this Wirecutter article The Best Umbrella for comparative data.

Bare trees glisten next to road on rainy day

Rainy day on St. George Street

Safety in numbers

Be prepared to buy lots of umbrellas; keep at least one spare at work.

My personal research has proven to me that expensive umbrellas perform no better in windy weather than cheaper umbrellas, so go ahead and stock up on whatever umbrella is affordable. You’ll need backups!

Tall towers in cloud, road dark, cloudy sky

Rainy day on Queen’s Quay

Travelling light

Carrying umbrellas around when it’s not actually raining is annoying, and for that reason alone, I will spend more money for an umbrella that folds up super-small so that it can go in a pocket or bag when I don’t need it. Long stick umbrellas, which may or may not be more reliable in the wind, are not an option for me because they won’t fit in my backpack.

multicoloured umbrellas hanging from lines against blue sky

Best to have a spare – or two! Image: Pexels, Pixabay.com under Creative Commons CCo

One of the best inventions ever!

The umbrella is so useful that its popularity goes back several thousand years.

I recently read a short story by James Joyce in which an umbrella cloth-repairer was mentioned. I think that repair of personal-use umbrellas is probably a lost art, although I know that replacement cloths for patio umbrellas are still available.

According to Wikipedia, umbrella-related patents in the U.S. continue be filed in huge numbers.

Although I agree there’s room for improvement, I’m glad I have my stash of budget umbrellas to make my walks in the rain much more pleasant!

Here’s to all the showers bringing flowers soon! Keep dry!
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