Basically, this is a lightweight fishing shelter which works in a similar way to a fan: it opens in just the same way, except that the two "edges" - aluminium tubes - come together, and are locked in place. (You might be able to make out these two "edges" in the picture).
Then it's a simple case of dropping it onto a brolly pole, and you're done.
OK - so what are the advantages over a "normal" brolly? Well, the first one has already been touched on: for the amount of cover available, the weight is tiny: the Brotel weighs just over 4 pounds: my 50 inch wavelock "Nubrolli" closer to 8! This is partly down to the lightweight (but strong) nylon-type material used, and partly down to the use of 6 fibreglass spars rather than the usual aluminium or steel. The spars and aluminium tubes "hinge" at a tough plastic boss at the top of the Brotel. It's a very simple, straightforward, clever design.
Following straight on from the small weight is the impressive amount of cover provided: more than a 50 inch brolly. As you will see, there is no central pole like with a brolly, and the back of the Brotel is flat to the ground - no cold winter drafts! It also has built-in mini storm sides, which make a huge difference to the degree of protection. Yet there is enough room between these storm sides to use a bed chair if you want, or (if you're like me) a seat and a ton of clutter.
So far so good - but it gets better...
It is an immensely practical shelter, in my experience (and I've got two Brotels!) The picture shows two black "lines" on the back panels: these are in fact zipped openings which can be used to pass a pole or a landing net handle through - clever idea.
In addition, there are a load of pegging points around the Brotel which when used with the guy lines (not provided), result in a very robust shelter. As an aside, using guy lines is important in any wind - they are used to tension the top of the Brotel in order to increase headroom (the fibreglass spars do tend to flap slightly otherwise, especially in a wind, onto its back, and the height of the Brotel is reduced. The guy ropes go a long way towards sorting that out).
To be honest, there's not a lot else to say: it simply gets on with the job in an unfussy and effective manner - I would not go back to using a "normal" brolly under any circumstances. Very cosy!
It even comes in a sleeve which allows you to bring it home soaking wet without drenching the inside of the car!
Downsides? The only one that I've really come across is when trying to set up on uneven - especially sloping - ground: the flat back does occasionally mean that it's necessary to "persuade" a corner of the Brotel flush to the ground by judicious use of a peg.
One definite improvement I would suggest is to add a pair of storm caps to the two spars immediately above the storm sides: these allow the use of extending banksticks to further stabilise the whole affair, adding significantly to the strength and the effectiveness of the shelter.
To summarise, the Brotel is my preferred option when going out in any inclement weather: it's light weight and the almost bivvy-like amount of shelter available mean that you're more likely to take it along in the first place!
A last surprise is the price: for such an innovative and effective piece of kit you'd expect to pay a premium: in fact you can get this very Brotel for about ?45!
Note: At the time of publication, mail order company The Bivvy Hospital has Brotels for sale at heavily discounted prices. Call them on 01444 245049