See how this shelter rates with others in our Comparison Review of Tarps and Other Floorless Shelters
Are you looking for a truly ultralight, minimalist solution for shelter and raingear? If so, eventually your research will point you in the direction of a poncho-tarp.
The Integral Designs Sil Poncho represents the gold standard for high-quality poncho-tarps and, unlike other brands, offers enough width (five feet) and length (eight feet) to pitch as an A-frame without severely cramping your space.
Ease of Setup (3.5)
The only feature that distinguishes the setup of a poncho-tarp from a standard flat tarp is the extra step required to properly secure the hood and prevent it from becoming a failure point during a hard rain. Thus, one must twist the hood into a twinkie shape (cylindrical tube) and wrap the hood’s drawcord several times around its base, finishing off with a half hitch.
Construction Quality (4.0)
The Sil Poncho is built to Integral Designs’ usual high standard of quality, and we’ve been using them for hundreds of miles with no apparent problems whatsoever, without paying a lot of attention to special care.
We weighed the Sil Poncho on our scales at 8.95 ounces (no stakes or guylines). Adding about 25 feet of light Spectra guylines and eight titanium stakes, a package weight of less than 11 ounces can easily be achieved.
The Sil Poncho, in the hands of someone who knows how to properly pitch a flat tarp, offers no unusual problems. The hood does tend to flap around in high winds, but it doesn’t make as much noise as a fabric panel that is not properly tensioned.
The small size of the Sil Poncho allows the user to pitch it with a lot of tension, and low to the ground. Because of this, a tarp of this size does a creditable job of shedding wind and snow.
Storm Protection (3.0)
The Sil Poncho requires that it be part of a larger equipment "system" before you can consider it for seriously inclement conditions. Foremost is the use of some type of sleeping bag cover or bivy sack to protect your sleeping bag from rain spray, spindrift, and chilling from high winds.
Ventilation / Condensation Resistance (5.0)
As with any small, flat tarp, ventilation is not usually the problem. Your major concern is retaining warmth!
Flexibility of Pitching (3.5)
The small size of the Sil Poncho limits its ability to be pitched in unique configurations. Consequently, you are primarily limited to A-frames, lean-tos, and modified Baker pitches forgoing some of the more photogenic pitches offered by larger tarps.
Insect Protection (1.0)
If you are seriously evaluating a small tarp such as this for providing any protection from biting insects, you need your head examined.
- Weight: 9.0 ounces
- Width: 5.0 feet
- Length: 8.0 feet
- Height: typical, 3.0 feet (adjustable)
- Surface Area: 35 sq. ft.
- Square Feet / Ounce: 4.2
- Price: $70
At $70, you’d be hard-pressed to find a cheaper solution to both rain gear and shelter without making it yourself. Considering that a poncho-tarp is essential equipment for the ultralight backpacker wanting to reduce their pack weight to less than five pounds, $70 is a paltry price for minimalist rain protection.