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Cat Jasins
(CatJasins) - MLife
The Poncho Tarp: Techniques and Gear Systems for Inclement Conditions on 08/09/2006 08:18:27 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

The Poncho Tarp: Techniques and Gear Systems for Inclement Conditions

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: The Poncho Tarp: Techniques and Gear Systems for Inclement Conditions on 08/09/2006 11:18:08 MDT Print View

This is going to sound pretty arrogant. I don't mean to be confrontational, but some plain speaking is warranted here, so here goes:

The article describes what happens if you have not learned poncho techniques and if you have not discovered the advantages of the cape - and I'm not talking about the Gatewood cape, though it seems to be a fine piece of gear. I mean a simple rectangle 8x5 that forms the "hood" on a long hem. First, the differences between the poncho and the cape that eliminate or reduce some of the disadvantages of the poncho.

poncho, leaky hood - cape, no hood to leak

poncho, distorted structure due to hood or collar hole - cape, no hole, no distortion.

poncho, flaps in wind, may not cover arms - cape, cone shape reduces flapping and maintains coverage in wind, arms have more coverage. Both poncho and cape should be used with thumb or finger loops to keep the arms covered - especially when using poles.

poncho, hides the feet - cape, hides them a good bit less

The disadvantages of both capes and tarps are largely a matter of not outfitting them correctly or not using them properly. For example:

Flapping and poor foot visibility? Both problems are largely addressed with a waist strap.

Arms get wet? Add thumb loops to the hems to keep the fabric over the arms.

Having to attach and remove guy lines? Pockets that are also reinforcements can hold the lines and provide a little weight on the corners to reduce flapping. They keep the lines instantly available. The rubber band trick mentioned in the article is an invitation to low comedy whenever you go past blueberry bushes, gorse or any other brush.

Small size compared to most tarps means less weather resistance? Not if you use a half-pyramid or leanto setup. The half pyramid will handle serious wind and is roomy, and the leanto is not too shabby. You can't get decent coverage with a cape or poncho in an A-frame unless it is over a hammock, so why try?

Leg coverage? Why diss a poncho or cape for poor leg coverage? Does a rain jacket keep legs dry? So wear rain pants or chaps with the poncho.

Poorer upper body ventillation than highly breathable rain jackets? Granted. But while that highly breathable jacket is breathing, water is pooling under the straps, back and hip belt, stopping ventillation and producing enough hydrolic head to leak into the jacket. And all that padding is getting wet and water is being forced through the back of the pack, increasing your weight as well as the "yuck" factor in days to come. With a poncho/cape, full coverage of the pack and torso means you will stay drier in *some* and perhaps *more* conditions than you can with a conventional W/B jacket. Your pack will certainly stay drier than it ever will with a pack cover. When rain is constant over days, I stay drier with a poncho/cape - and converted on the AT in '03 when the rain kept coming. When rain is of short duration, under an hour, I also stay drier. A jacket is definitely superior when the rain is intermittent and I'm going past dripping brush. Then, I rely on a very lightweight, W/B jacket that would not work as my only rain gear. Which leads to another matter:

An SUL, W/B jacket such as Sportshell (3 oz) can keep you reasonably dry while setting up or running errands around camp. It will serve as a wind shirt - which you need anyway and will fend off drips from wet brush along the trail. For heavy duty (long trails), I use a Durafab jacket (7 oz) for the same purpose.

A poncho/cape will not eliminate the need for chaps or rain pants. It will not substitute for a wind shirt. There is no weight saving to be had there. The poncho/cape will substitute for a heavier (than the windshirt) and more expensive W/B rain jacket and it will do a better job of keeping you and your plunder dry. As a tarp, it has limitations, but used properly, it will keep you at least as dry as a larger, shaped conventional catenary tarp in an A-frams set up.

Edited by vickrhines on 08/09/2006 11:20:38 MDT.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Minor tarp/poncho suggestion on 08/09/2006 13:40:18 MDT Print View

The article mentions that guylines have to be detached and re-attached each time (for most people) which means tying and untying - and slows down setup time. Could this be mitigated somewhat by using the little 'biners-with-a-loop made from Fastex material? (They slightly resemble a lopsided figure 8, with a gate in one loop.) You could tie one end of the guy line to the loop, then simply clip the guy line to the tarp rather than re-tying it each time. If the Fastex material wasn't sturdy enough to hold up to the stress, you could use one of those light "toy" biners. (Or, if this idea has any merit, maybe BPL will manufacture some titanium ones?)

Graeme Finley
(gfinley001) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Minor tarp/poncho suggestion on 08/09/2006 15:07:40 MDT Print View

This is exactly what I use to attach/unattach guy lines to my poncho tarp. Only takes a few seconds and doesn't require any dexterity. I might not trust them to stand up to seriously strong wind gusts but I personally don't use the poncho/tarp combination when that kind of whether is on the cards.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Minor tarp/poncho suggestion on 08/09/2006 15:56:51 MDT Print View

I used mitten hooks, but they were not robust enough. I am going to order some shock cord hooks and flag clips the next time I order hardwear.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Minor tarp/poncho suggestion on 08/09/2006 16:28:06 MDT Print View

If you are into sewing, here is a pretty good way to manage poncho/tarp lines:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Stitch 6" squares of silnylon with velcro strips to the corners and add webbing and lines. Note the position of the Velcro strip.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting The reinforcement pockets turn inside out with the lines inside then Velcro closed. All in one neat, handy, non-snagging package.

Similar reinforcement pockets go on the sides, except the squares are set diagonally to the hem. No pic of that.

Edited by vickrhines on 08/09/2006 16:49:29 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Minor tarp/poncho suggestion on 08/09/2006 18:50:08 MDT Print View

Hi Vick,

I've been looking all over the forums for your old post about making the cape/tarp hood snaps but can't find it. Would you mind very much giving me the link or posting the pics again? Thanks very much.

edit: Sorry about that, Vick. I just managed to find the thread.

But I do have another question... Earlier you mentioned using velcro tabs, but more recently seem to be advocating snaps... Do you have a preference?

Edited by butuki on 08/09/2006 19:11:13 MDT.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Minor tarp/poncho suggestion on 08/09/2006 20:39:13 MDT Print View

Miguel,
I dunno. Yes, no, maybe. I go back and forth.
One set of snaps is set 6" inboard of the hems on the body of the cape. With Velcro, you can sew it on with minimum compromise of the fabric seal, then give it a good coat of sealant. To achieve the same structural integrety, I put snaps on a ribbon and stitch the ribbon to the cape to avoid stitching the snaps directly to the fabric. So each system is equally water resistant. Then again, large snaps hold better than simple Velcro and Velcro with keepers, while tenacious, is more trouble to seal and release than snaps. The snaps weigh more. See what I mean? I have converted to snaps for the time being. If I could find useful, reliable plastic snaps, I would be less conflicted.

BTW, on the hood: I put the attached stuff sack where the crown of my head goes in the hood. The extra layer of cloth somehow makes the hood more comfortable. I have lined the hoods of these things with mosquito net to keep the clinging fabric off my face. But I almost always wear a hat and drop the hood, so the net is superfluous, and I have not put it on later iterations of the cape.

My latest best discovery is making line pocket/reinforcement patches as illustrated in an earlier post.

There are several ways one can play with capes to create a more specialized shelter such as a pyramid with a closed front, but I use the cape over my hammock and a simple rectangle meets my needs. Besides, a half-pyramid is a bombproof shelter and with an nothing more than 8x5 cape, it creates a roomy trapezoidal protected floor area 2.5' wide tapering from 8' to 7' under a wind and rain shedding roof with 3 feet of head room where you need it. That's hard to beat in a shelter that weighs about 11 ounces with lines.

nathan matthews
(nathanm) - F

Locale: Bay Area
BPL articles on 08/09/2006 21:09:04 MDT Print View

Not sure if this should be here, in chaff, whatever. (so ye have been warned).

Some background. My subscription lapsed a few months ago, and I didn't renew for the same reasons many people gave this spring. The short version: I'm not in a position to buy gear, I don't care about gear reviews, and I wanted to wait see what the followthrough looked like on some of the other promised articles (technique, and whatever else folks could dream up).

I've been meaning to make a poncho tarp, but haven't done it yet. There seemed to be a lot of discussion about capes a few months ago, which was exciting for the reasons mentioned but also because it would save me some sewing.

Put these two together, add a dose of procrastination, and I decided the reviews of this article would be what decided whether to renew my subscription: whether BPL fulfilled one of the few needs I'd identified.

Reading the responses so far, I'm curious why capes or hoodless ponchos weren't discussed. What I expected of BPL was for a few people to try using them for a while, over the spring rains if not over winter, and report back as objectively as they could.

My needs and interests are probably ideosyncratic, but I'm curious about the rationale underlying this omission.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Minor tarp/poncho suggestion on 08/09/2006 22:43:31 MDT Print View

"There are several ways one can play with capes to create a more specialized shelter such as a pyramid with a closed front, but I use the cape over my hammock and a simple rectangle meets my needs."

Do you find that your 8x5 rectangular tarp is long enough to cover your hammock? Seems awfully short.

Eduardo Lartigau
(Eduardo)
Piramid/Tarp Poncho on 08/10/2006 07:52:12 MDT Print View

Hi Vick; I have a ID poncho, if possible you put a photo of the piramid shelter that you make with a 5X8 tarp poncho, this will help me very much, becouse I try make this and dont have a good coverage for bad wather. Sory my poor english. Tanks very much.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Minor tarp/poncho suggestion on 08/10/2006 07:59:51 MDT Print View

Miguel,
My cape/tarp is actually 8'4" x 4'10". The extra long hammock is, of course, in an arc. The distance across the top of the arc is about 7 feet, maybe less. I haven't measured it. I have 4" to 6" of extra tarp on the ends. The snake skins cover the webbing back to the trees and let water drip off before it gets to the hammock.

Once I tried to put my hammock up with a 9'6" poncho. There was barely enough room between the trees.

Remember, if the poncho/cape were too short, you could string it on the diagonal. A rectangular tarp on the diagonal is perfect for a hammock in which you sleep diagonally in the flat Carribean style. With that set up, you could get by with an even smaller cape. Remember, the HH fly is 5 feet on the sides and 8 feet on the diagonal.

John S.
(jshann) - F
My 2 sense on 08/10/2006 10:01:56 MDT Print View

Two typographic issues I notice are the bottom publish date is 2007 and the copyright notice comes up 2005.

Knot choices are interesting. In the past it was a bowline knot (or other loop) with girth hitch for guyline to poncho. Now it's a sheet bend. I don't understand the overhand loop. I thought that term was just a beginning point of some knots

Edited by jshann on 08/10/2006 11:51:07 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Poncho ventilation on 08/25/2006 22:48:18 MDT Print View

Vick said, "Poorer upper body ventillation than highly breathable rain jackets? Granted. But while that highly breathable jacket is breathing, water is pooling under the straps, back and hip belt, stopping ventillation and producing enough hydrolic head to leak into the jacket. And all that padding is getting wet and water is being forced through the back of the pack, increasing your weight as well as the "yuck" factor in days to come. With a poncho/cape, full coverage of the pack and torso means you will stay drier in *some* and perhaps *more* conditions than you can with a conventional W/B jacket. Your pack will certainly stay drier than it ever will with a pack cover. "

Yes indeed, and with the pack holding the poncho off your back, there is much more ventilation than any jacket. With a cape, your arms hold the fabric away from your chest and provide a little bellows effect. Good point on the leg coverage too.