The Backpacking Poncho: An Ultralight Alternative to Rain Jackets
Apr 12, 2022 at 2:45 am #3746016John S.BPL Member
Or make a version of the poncho tent.Apr 12, 2022 at 2:52 am #3746017
After hiking in rain for a hours and getting wet and cold through and through two years ago, even while wearing good and well cared for rain gear, I bought a lightweight poncho (Nigor tarp poncho, 170g). It’s slightly more difficult to put on and yes, it flaps in the wind, but it works. When it rains lightly I just throw it over my windshirt and I stay completely dry, and if the rain stops for a moment, I just wear it like a cape and ventilate. When it rains heavily, I wear it over over my rain gear. The rain gear stops all the drops that get blown in by the wind and keep my arms dry when they are not tucked away underneath the poncho. The poncho prevents the rain gear from wetting out. As soon as your rain gear wets out, it’s no longer breathable. With the poncho, the jacket and top of my pants don’t wet out and the gear will still breathe. This way, I have far less sweat building up underneath the rain gear, so I stay dry, inside and out. Yes, the poncho ads a little weight (pack volume is really small), but combined with a light 2,5 layer rain jacket it’s still lighter, smaller and more water-resistant then a heavy 3 layer jacket. Yes, it’s a bit more fiddly, but it’s also a lot more versatile. I have used the poncho as a windbreaker or tarp for two while having lunch (in the rain). I have used it as an extension of the tent to create shade or a dry spot for reading or cooking while camping and I can bring it along on a day trek as an emergency shelter. I’m very keen on grams but I won’t leave the poncho home unless I’m trekking in really warm and dry areas.Apr 12, 2022 at 4:45 pm #3746133
Very versatile things, ponchos.
Sue was ‘warm enough’ inside her poncho.
(Going up to Col du Croix de Bonhomme near Mont Blanc, Europe. This WAS summertime.)
Yes, over-trousers, gaiters and light joggers as well.
CheersApr 16, 2022 at 12:26 am #3746601Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Been there, done that. No thanks, I’ll stick with my eVent parka and pants.Apr 16, 2022 at 9:28 am #3746619
Sue is in exactly the kind of conditions where sweating out in a wp jacket won’t occur.Apr 16, 2022 at 3:52 pm #3746657
I don’t think she was sweating much at all!
CheersApr 26, 2022 at 7:26 am #3747650James WSpectator
Having backpacked with a Packa for a few years now and on my recent Thruhike of the Ouachita Trail, it’s apparent to me that this is something to strongly consider. The Packa has an integrated elastic band pack cover. So on a potentially rainy day you can pre-stage it on your pack. Mine weighs 12 oz on my postal scale. It is lighter and provides better rain coverage than pack cover/rain jacket combo as no rain can get between the pack and my back. This is a cheesy video, but shows you it’s versatility. https://youtu.be/sXao8pqLtk4May 4, 2022 at 10:35 pm #3748396Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Every 5 years or so I decide to give the poncho another try as shelter and rain gear. I will stick with it for between 4-18 months and then go back to a some sort of rain jacket and when colder rain pants. Why? Wet arms, struggles with snagging (even when I use a belt), soaks chest due to condensation (much less with eVENT or Shakedry shells), and I like having my shelter and rain gear separate from each other. Finally, I like more coverage (space) from my shelter than is practical from a poncho.May 7, 2022 at 8:30 am #3748651James WSpectator
Never had any of those problems with a Packa. It has pit zips and has true arms that are elasticized are the wrists. No need for a pack cover nor rain jacket.May 7, 2022 at 3:36 pm #3748699
Bear in mind that you do not have to use the sleeves. I usually walk with my arms crossed in front of me, keeping both my arms (and hands) and my chest warm. With a Packa-style poncho (or my MYOG version) there is adjustable ventilation down the front.
CheersJul 24, 2022 at 7:11 am #3755707
I know, I know. This is BPL, so grams matter and you want gear to be multi-use instead of it doing the same as other gear you already have in your pack. But after getting soaked on a winter hike walking in the rain for hours and getting wet through and through, despite my Marmot raingear, I decided to give the poncho a try. Having to put on wet base- and mid layers when it is around freezing isn’t great fun and even dangerous. The poncho I use wat sold as Nigor, which now sells as Bach (see above). The claimed weight is 220 g, but is actually only 172. Wearing the poncho over my 200g Marmot rain jacket, it keeps the rain jacket and the top of my rainpants completely dry. The rain jacket and pants catch whatever gets blown into the poncho, which isn’t all that much, but never ever wet out. So they breathe well and don’t wet out on the inside. You can even open your rain jacket for extra ventilation if necessary and as an extra bonus, even the straps and hip belt on your pack stay completely dry. So nice. At camp, I set up my Duplex and use the tarp as an extra awning. Even lightweight backpacking gets very comfy this way.. In the summer I don’t even bother with the rain jacket and I pair the poncho with my windjacket (Cumulus Windy Wendy) and at camp, the poncho makes a nice sunshade. Yes, the poncho might be redundant and extra weight, but is is still multi-use and adds a lot of comfort and safety to my kit that I wouldn’t have otherwise.Jul 25, 2022 at 3:37 pm #3755766
Inspiring to see that people actually do use it as a shelter as well. Good idea if you get caught in a storm during a day hike.Jul 25, 2022 at 6:16 pm #3755768
I like the idea of a poncho as a “redundant” rain gear item, in addition to a rain jacket. Being able to unzip a jacket underneath the poncho while walking sounds like a solid strategy in a lot of scenarios, as when it’s relatively warm but raining heavily. And I mean, in the 50’s and 60’s fahrenheit.Jul 25, 2022 at 7:29 pm #3755770
We stopped carrying rain jackets many years ago. We rely on our ponchos. They are so much more effective and convenient. When the sun comes out we don’t even have to stop: we just throw the poncho back onto the pack, and keep walking.
CheersJul 25, 2022 at 9:17 pm #3755773DWR DBPL Member
Seems to me that is an operation for two people… as I don’t think I could reach back and pull the poncho forward from the pack. I don’t think I could even get one on over me and the pack by myself. And winds are a problemJul 25, 2022 at 11:02 pm #3755775
Well, yes, having two people does help, but we find it completely unnecessary.
And I agree that reaching for the poncho behind you at or above waist level can be difficult. We don’t do it that way.
What we do instead is to reach over our shoulder for the poncho hood., and pull it forward. Once you have the hood, the rest of the poncho follows easily.
Also, our ponchos are tied to the pack straps just behind the neck, so they can’t ‘escape’ or get out of reach.
Works for us.
CheersJan 1, 2023 at 7:05 pm #3768967Bill BudneyBPL Member
@billbLocale: Central NYS
I am surprised that nobody mentions front-zippered ponchos. While uncommon, they do exist, and are superior to regular ponchos in that I can unzip the front like a jacket for extra ventilation around my core.
No name brands, but I found a few on Amazon under $25 (search “front zipper poncho”).
I prefer a windbreaker in most conditions (Nisley-style), keep Seeber’s highest-MVTR-jacket-with-pit-zips in my pack (for cold or around camp), and carry the poncho for rain (especially when warm/humid). I might try Caffin’s mountain poncho or the Packa someday, but I am happy with this poncho for now.
I love this place. The depth of knowledge here was unexpected, but is very cool.
Carrying all three is about the same weight as my old 60:40 parka (1kg). I could save half that by sacrificing some comfort if I ever care that much. (If pressed, I would probably give up the rain jacket first. I use it the least.)
Regarding common objections:
Jan 1, 2023 at 7:29 pm #3768970
- Easy on/off like a jacket.
- Poncho doesn’t make my back sweat (because it is over the pack rather than between me and the pack).
- I can keep my arms under the poncho if they get cold (rarely).
- My poncho doesn’t flop around if I snap the sides and zip the front. The pack keeps it snug; not unlike a jacket when worn that way.
I’d prefer a “snap close” or Velcro to a zipper on a poncho. Less fuss and issues with snag and grit. Or better yet, a pullover with a half zip. Any of these options still leave the problem of wind blowing the damn thing around. But in many ways, I can see the advantages of a poncho. Roger and Sue may have convinced me. Well, Sue convinced me.
and yes I know that a pullover poncho with a half zip won’t allow for throwing off the front of the body. But it would also have advantages.
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