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Silnylon Poncho tarp as winter precip protection
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Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Silnylon Poncho tarp as winter precip protection on 01/20/2010 07:39:06 MST Print View

Would something like the MLD Pro Poncho tarp be adequate for winter camping, snow shoeing, etc. (I wouldn't use it as my shelter, but bring it along as precip protection; at ~9oz it's lighter than my Alpha LT Gore Tex Pro Shell jacket)

Assume I'm hiking in wet snow that would defeat any softshell. I like the idea of a poncho in winter for protecting my pack, so I'm not only saving weigth on the jacket, but also in what I have to use in terms of stuff stacks/dry sacks to keep the gear in my pack dry, even if I had to MYOG a pair of silnylon sleeves to keep my arms drier than my Patagonia Houdini would.

How would something loose fitting like a poncho work for snowshoeing where I'm breaking trail through thigh-high snow?

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Silnylon Poncho tarp as winter precip protection on 01/20/2010 07:57:45 MST Print View

Guess it depends on where you are hiking. I know in the Northeast it would prob not be the best option for 2 reasons. First, I use my hardshell as part of my winter layering system. Second, winter up here tends to create lots of blowdowns and the deep snow places you higher up in branches that would be out of reach the rest of the year. Last weekend I did a 5-6 mile dayhike on very well traveled trails. A poncho worn on that day would have been destroyed. That said, if you are on open trails out west I could see where it would work as long as the layers you have underneath are warm/wind resistant enough.

Andrew Wilson
(andreww) - MLife

Locale: Vosges
Will work, but why? on 01/20/2010 07:59:40 MST Print View

Of course it would work, but cold, mixed/snowy conditions are exactly the place where wp/b shells work the best. Plus, a shell all sealed up adds considerably to warmth while resting/around camp; a poncho does not. Save the poncho for the summer, and get some use out of your $450 jacket!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Will work, but why? on 01/20/2010 09:14:26 MST Print View

A couple items to keep in mind. A poncho is going to extend down to your knees or further. It really gets in the way going up hills and plowing through snow.

To make it easier to use in these situations, it is best to use a piece of cord as a waist belt. With a waist belt it is going to have a lot less venting, and the material is 100% not breathable.

In winter you may be carrying your snowshoes on the pack, with the crampons facing out, which will poke holes in at at the minimum, if not tear it. If you lose the protector on your ice axe, it will rip the poncho if the axe is strapped to the pack.

IMO you will be better off with a WP/B jacket for all around use.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: Will work, but why? on 01/20/2010 09:36:09 MST Print View

Thanks for the responses, as they all make good points, in particular I hadn't thought about the snowshoes issue.

After posting, I found the article that put the idea in my head of possibly using the Pro Poncho (which I don't own yet) as winter rain wear, this article by Roger Caffin on making your own Mountain poncho. The big difference with his is that his has full sleeves, opens in front, and has a shorter length.

I figured I could MYOG a pair of sleeves (but negate some of the weight savings), and since the Pro Poncho has a waist cinch, roll up the extra length and secure it with that.

But it is probably a case of trying to do too much with one piece of gear, since I would be selling the Alpha LT(for which I certainly did not pay full price thanks to ebay) as I'd want that around for more alpine-esque adventures.

I found a pack cover useless last winter, so this winter I was going to get a dry sack, but I thought a poncho could eliminate that need.

I think I'm just trying to justify buying the MLD poncho.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 01/20/2010 09:51:46 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 06/16/2015 23:17:20 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: pro poncho on 01/20/2010 09:56:31 MST Print View

>> I say buy it anyway. :)

Ditto. Great piece of gear.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Depends on conditions Re: Silnylon Poncho tarp as winter precip protection on 01/20/2010 10:56:27 MST Print View

what weather are you planning for?
1- Wet stuff falling (rain or sleet)
2- Temp's right around freezing with snow falling?
3- Colder temps with snow falling and wind?

Rain/sleet is cold and messy. With a rain jacket and pack cover you still end up with a wet pack harness. The next morning it will be frozen. The rain jacket may also be rather steamy. A poncho might work well here as long as your arms are covered AND the wind isn't blowing.

For snow falling near the freezing point the main goal is to keep snow from melting on you. That usually only happens on top of your shoulders and down your back. A wind shell works fine otherwise.

For colder conditions, especially with wind, melting snow is usually only a minor problem.

I have been considering a combined pack cover and mini rain cape that would only cover my shoulders and upper body. This would keep the snow or sleet off my pack, shoulders, and from getting between body and pack. A windshirt with light DWR would do the rest. I think this would also be useful in summer where it's too hot for a full rain shell but you want to keep your core dry. Picture a pack cover with a mini-poncho maybe 3' square attached at the top. I suppose you might want it to run down to waist level. For lashing snowshoes I would put some slits at appropriate locations to allow the shoes to be attached directly to the pack.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Poncho on 01/20/2010 11:20:47 MST Print View

Jim I have an integral designs silnylon cape in size small in perfect basically new condition purchased in August of 2009 I'll mail to you for $30.00. ( light grey ) Here's the link:

I decided to go with an AGG poncho villa because it works with my Brawny tarp

PM if you're interested

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Poncho on 01/20/2010 19:35:30 MST Print View

Nick and Dave,

I need to start a proper gear thread about this, but as long as you're here, I need to ask; what kind of precip have you used the Pro Poncho in. I know I definitely want a Poncho tarp, and I'm having a tough time deciding between the Gatewood Cape and the Pro Poncho. I'd prefer the poncho for the open views it provides, but I'm concerned about staying dry, and the lack of headroom if I'm really stuck in a storm. I've never used a tarp in the rain. Does it really keep you dry? I have a TiGoat bivy sack for sleeping. With a Poncho tarp + my Duomid, I feel like I could cover all 4 seasons with 2 shelters.

Cola, I'm strongly considering your offer. I check out the specs and was surprised how light the cape was. I was actually thinking it might be possible to cut away the front of the cape to make a head/pack cover similar to what Jim described in his post. That'd be as light as any dry bag I could get and more versatile. Let me think about it and I'll let you know.


obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Cape on 01/20/2010 19:50:19 MST Print View

Actually weighs 3.7 oz and could likely lower the weight .10 or more by swapping out the 1/8th inch shock cord around the entire bottom and the hood opening for 1/16th.

Compliment the cape with a kilt from ULA and you'll have lots of coverage for little weight and a couple of pieces that can augment your tarp's coverage as sidewall panels or whatever.

Edited by obxcola on 01/20/2010 19:52:41 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Poncho on 01/20/2010 22:42:38 MST Print View

>>> I've never used a tarp in the rain. Does it really keep you dry?

Most Poncho/tarps are going to be around 9' X 5' give or take. In wind driven rain/sleet it needs to be staked low to the ground and oriented properly. And the wind direction can/does change. This is where the bivy shines. When your poncho/tarp is pitched in "storm mode" you can normally stay dry with a bivy, but no "head room" as you mentioned. Makes for a long night. Also cooking can be problematic. I have weathered a few nasty storms with poncho/tarps over the years, but a not a common occurance for me. So with experience yes, it does keep you dry, but a bivy is recommended.

Gatwood Cape - I have a Wild Oasis. It is the same shelter as the Gatewood, but no poncho mode. I have used it in rain, light snow and sleet. Have used it when the percipitation did not let up for days... although I hiked during the day. In a bad storm, it has more usuable living space than a conventional poncho/tarp. It will keep you drier, because it is a completely enclosed (and causes more condensation). It is, and does, everything it is advertised to do (if you are 6' tall or less). But it is not my favorite shelter. It has nothing to do with the tent, I just don't like being in a tent period.

With both the poncho/tarp and the Wild Oasis, my main concern is finding a campsite that drains well and will not flood.

So where is this headed for me? I am slowly going back to where I started decades ago. 8' X 10' tarp. I recently bought a SpinnTwinn and just am thrilled with it. 10.1 oz for everything including stakes. It is big enough that in most situations a bivy would not be needed. I just bought a Marmot Essence (6.7 oz), and for me it will probably work as a windhirt too. So potentially I will have all my rain/wind/shelter needs covered for 16.8 oz; for most 3 season hiking.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
NO! on 02/07/2010 13:45:27 MST Print View

Ponchos and winter just do NOT mix. Too many reasons to cite. This from an Army winter survival instructor - me.

Just put a darn pack cover on your pack and take a good Gore-Tex or eVent parka.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: NO! on 02/07/2010 14:32:12 MST Print View

I have to partly disagree with Eric, but that needs explanation.

The problem we have here is that no distinction is being drawn between simple flat tarp/poncho (flat sheet with a hole in the middle) and a poncho shaped like a parka (like mine), not to mention all the variations in between.

I agree that a flat tarp/poncho is not suitable for winter use in windy weather. Too many drafts and bits flapping around. OK, that's my opinion.

On the other hand, with a parka and a pack cover you get wet down the back, your pack gets wet down the back, and later on you can end up with a bit of a frozen mess there. You can do better.

A specialised poncho such as mine or The Packa is quite a different beast, and that sort of design works excellently in the snow. It has proper sleeves and the front opening allows as much control over ventilation as a normal parka. It lets you keep your pack dry and your back dry too, which is really great.
This was going over the Col de Bonhomme near Mont Blanc in France. The weather was a bit 'off' that day, but we were quite comfortable in our ponchos. Frankly, we think we were more comfortable than we would have been with a parka.


Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
AHA! a Packa! on 02/09/2010 13:47:32 MST Print View

OK Roger, now we're talking about a horse of a different color. A packa would be great for winter due to its versatility. That, to my way of thinking is not a 'poncho".

And BTW, speaking of mere pack covers, I once (in the '80s) saw one that had a hood and shoulder cape built in to preclude rain getting down the back of the pack. Can't remember if it was Dana Designs or what.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Pack cover with shoulder cape on 02/09/2010 14:17:40 MST Print View

That's exactly what I want. For winter to keep snow from my shoulders and between my pack and body. For summer as a minimal rain protection (I'd get wet but wouldn't have so much water flowing down my body.)

I spent the weekend in the Sierra with snow heavily falling and temps just below freezing. I confirmed that my non-DWR windshirt leaves me with soaked shoulders from melting snow!