Are there any real benefits to umbrellas that claim to block the sun’s UV rays and keep you cooler? If true, this would be a boon for those of us with multiple sclerosis-related heat issues. Perfect for the sidelines of soccer games, catching an outdoor daytime concert, or lining up for Broadway tix on a sunny afternoon in NYC. So ActiveMSers put these cooling claims to the test the only way we know how: by testing and then over testing. This is what we discovered.
GustBuster SunBLOK umbrellas were donated for testing purposes. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. These funds help maintain this website. Details.
To conduct our test, we pitted a UV-blocking umbrella (in this case a GustBuster SunBLOK umbrella with a true diameter of 38”; a listed canopy of 48”) against two other umbrellas with different pedigrees as controls. One control was a darker umbrella, a freebie from Conde Nast for subscribing to Traveler, bright blue in color with a 38” wingspan with absolutely zero bells and whistles. For the other control: a large 50”-diameter golf umbrella trimmed in wide bands of red and white donated by my father-in-law who has a thing for oversized umbrellas (but not golf, go figure).
The Umbrella Test
To properly test and compare these three umbrellas, ActiveMSers set up a few ground rules to ensure the results would be accurate. First, the same brand of thermometer was used (three $9.97 Radio Shack travel alarm clocks, which record temperatures digitally in increments of .5 degrees). The thermometers all read the same indoor ambient temperature (72 degrees) prior to testing. The next priority: have a bright, cloudless day with high temps. A record-high day in Albuquerque in early June set a perfect 100.8-degree stage. Lastly, the umbrellas were placed on grass for less heat reflection from the ground, and then canted in the same general direction toward the sun. Thermometers were placed in the center of each umbella’s shade canopy and the test was on.
ActiveMSers roasted the three umbrellas for 45 minutes, all the while gathering the stares of concerned neighbors and nearly causing two car accidents with drivers eager to crane their necks at the next apparent Christo offering. The blue cheapie Traveler umbrella performed as expected: terrible. Within 10 minutes the temperature read 97.5 degrees and, after 45 minutes, a roasting 104.0 degrees. The massive golf umbrella faired slightly better, likely due to its large, open-air shadow and lighter colors. Temps also reached 97.5 in 10 minutes, eventually reaching a comfortably warm 101.5 after our 45-minute test. The UV-blocking umbrella, on the other hand, actually supported the lofty claims. After 10 minutes, temps hovered in the rather cool environs of 90.5 degrees. Even after 45 minutes, the protective shadow registered only 93 degrees—a full 11 degrees cooler than the Conde Nast offering and 8.5 degrees cooler than the larger golf umbrella.
Elapsed Time UV Block Golf Traveler
10 minutes: 90.5 97.5 97.5
20 minutes: 91.5 98.5 100.3
30 minutes: 92.5 100.5 103.0
45 minutes: 93.0 101.5 104.0
UV-protective sun-blocking umbrellas work. It’s no contest. We’d expect a typical black umbrella to be at least as hot as the blue Traveler, and even an all-white golf umbrella would not be significantly cooler than the red-and-white offering we tested. Although not tested, we expect similar performance from other heat-shielding umbrellas that use UV-protective material. Our suggestions would be to focus on weight (lighter is better), compactability (smaller is beneficial for travel, larger is better for watching your kids’ soccer games), and if you live in an area where zephyrs are problematic, wind resistance. Since our testing, the travel version tested from GustBuster has been perennially sold out and feedback from members reveals issues with weight. Fortunately, there are other options in the UV-blocking department. And a final bonus: they do a good job of keep you dry in a rainstorm, go figure.
FOR TRAVEL: UV-Blocker Travel UV Umbrella
Although not tested by ActiveMSers, UV-Blocker Travel UV Umbrella checks many boxes and claims up to a 15-degree decrease in temperatures. With a UPF rating of 55+, it does the sun protection business, weighs 18 oz, and is 37-inches wide when open. Their umbrellas block 99% of UVA/UVB rays and are endorsed by the Melanoma International Foundation.
FOR SPECTATING: UV-Blocker UV Protection Golf Umbrella
You could use it for golf, but this umbrella would be at home in little league stands, on the beach, or at a 4th of July picnic. UV-Blocker’s UV Protection Golf Umbrella weighs a touch over two pounds but its canopy is tent-like at 53 inches. It too blocks 99% of UVA/UVB rays and is endorsed by the Melanoma International Foundation, keeping temps underneath up to 15 degrees cooler. We have not specifically tested this umbrella.
ALSO CONSIDER: GustBuster Pro Series Gold SunBLOK
GustBuster’s Pro Series Gold SunBLOK features UV sun-blocking technology and the manufacturer claims a 10-degree difference (our tests bested even that). It doesn’t hurt matters that the Gustbuster has been wind-tested by the College of Aeronautics at 55+ mph and is guaranteed leak proof for the times when MSers actually need it for the rain. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee and a limited
lifetime warranty. It has a large 53-inch canopy.