My 2023 Philmont trek MVP award goes to my Gossamer Gear sun umbrella. If you think these things are dorky you obviously haven't tried one: this thing is amazing!!!!! I pulled it out on my crew's June 17th shakedown (in Texas hill country) when it was hot as hades. My crew was envious. I inspired the other two advisors to go acquire their own. Based on their Philmont experiences, I know they're happy they did!
There are times when a sun umbrella is just not practical: like in moderate-to-heavy wind, or places with lots of overhead obstructions, or places where maneuvering the umbrella is more of a hassle than it's worth. Outside those cases, these things are a god send. They allow you to not wear a hat - which allows your head to breath and sweat to evaporate. They reflect the radiant heat of the sun so you will physically stay cooler. And guess what? Besides that they double as..... rain gear! Imagine that!
I live in Texas, so for me it's almost imperative. This past weekend (July 22) Tina and I went out for a 10 mile hike. We didn't have our sun umbrellas because I had loaned them to a friend. That is the last time I'll ever make that mistake. In my many years of training for backpacking, I have never had to dump water (training weight for the pack) until this past weekend. I had to dump it because it was SO hot that I simply overheated. My hiking shirt - the Patagonia Capilene Daily Cool Hoodie you see in these pictures (the best garment I've ever found when it comes to evaporative cooling) - couldn't keep up. I could only go about half a mile in between breaks. It was hot, but the whole thing would have been manageable had we simply had our sun umbrellas.
I used my sun umbrella most days at Philmont - either for protection from the sun, or protection from the rain. I did not get all sweaty hiking in my rain gear like most in the crew did. And I was SUBSTANTIALLY more comfortable when we hiked in exposed sun.
Wearing raingear when backpacking is a constant balancing act - will you get more wet from sweat or from the outside by rain? i.e. is it worth it to wear rain gear? My approach to rain gear is two tiered. The first tier is using my sun umbrella and a rain kilt. Unless the rain is so hard that this combo is insufficient or the other conditions make an umbrella impractical (i.e. wind and/or overhead trees), then the umbrella solution provides maximum comfort and ventilation. (My second tier of rain gear involves a more traditional raincoat.)
The key to this system is how I've mounted it to my shoulder strap. There are several mounting systems on the market. I've tried most of them. The best one I've found, by far, is the one also made by Gossamer Gear, available here. What I've done is cut the grey plastic nuts off of Gossamer Gear's mount and sew it directly to my shoulder strap. My pack has a shoulder strap pocket that the butt of the umbrella rests in, then I secure the shaft with the nut. I've added a second nut so that I have 2 different choices of umbrella pole angle.
Keep hiking my friends