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Rain jacket vs poncho
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Anthony Sorge
(possumkingdom) - F
Rain jacket vs poncho on 05/22/2011 03:49:52 MDT Print View

I'm currently trying to decide whether I want to drop some significant money on rain gear (rain jacket/pack cover/rain pants or skirt) or if I'd be better off getting a poncho that will cover me, my pack, and possibly take the place of rain pants/skirt as well. I'm also considering using the poncho (if I get it) in place of my North Face Tadpole tent, which takes up a lot of space and weight. I mostly do overnight backpacking trips in the northeast, but I am going to Glacier National Park for five days this summer. Just curious, for the people who have tried both rain jackets and ponchos, which you like better. Thanks!

Edited by possumkingdom on 05/22/2011 03:51:17 MDT.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Poncho vs Rain Jacket on 05/22/2011 05:09:58 MDT Print View

I alternate from time to time:

1) Standard gore-tex rain jacket
2) Gatewood cape
3) ID short rain cape, with wind shirt

I have totally moved away from the rain jacket. Mostly because of weight and because it is a a one purpose item.

The Gatewood is a pretty good shelter, but it is long and can blow around a lot when used as a rain cape. You can tie it close but then it can be difficult if you have to use your hands on steep ascents.

The shorter ID rain cape is not big enough to work as a shelter, but can supplement a small tarp.
I find that if I use the short cape with a wind shirt underneath, I don't get soaked as much as with a jacket. The comfort level is much higher.
The air flow under the cape reduces condensation more than a gore-tex jacket. The windshirt adds to the comfort by also breathability, repelling moisture and blocking breeze.

If it is really nasty, I will also use my polycryo ground cloth as a rain skirt.

Anthony Sorge
(possumkingdom) - F
Thanks on 05/22/2011 05:46:39 MDT Print View

That Gatewood looks nice as a shelter, but you're right, it looks REALLY huge as a cape.

Honestly I'm not AS interested in the poncho/cape as a shelter alternative right now, though I'm definitely curious about it...I'm more just looking to cut down on the cost/weight of more rain gear. My current rain jacket is the shell of the LL Bean Storm Chaser jacket, but I'd like to get something more lightweight and breathable, and avoid buying a pack cover and rain skirt if I can avoid it.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Pack cover and rain skirt on 05/22/2011 06:04:44 MDT Print View

Both of the rain capes I mentioned cover your pack and since I use my ground cloth as a rain skirt, I don't carry a dedicated rain skirt.

Some backpackers, myself included, don't use pack covers, but instead put things that need to be waterproof in ultralight drybags. I don't worry about rain getting my pack or other gear wet.

The one problem with pack covers is that they don't protect against wetness 100%. Pack covers don't work if you should fall during a stream crossing. They also don't protect so well while your rummaging through your pack in bad rain. There are many cases of pack covers getting blown away.

There are other scenarios as well.

Edited by brooklynkayak on 05/22/2011 15:05:08 MDT.

Thomas Budge
(budgthom) - F

Locale: Idaho
ID silponcho? on 05/22/2011 10:36:09 MDT Print View

I'm in the same boat ... considering doing away with rain jacket, pack cover and rain pants in favor of a poncho. Anyone have experience with the ID silponcho?

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Jacket vs poncho on 05/22/2011 11:39:15 MDT Print View

I started poncho tarping about 6 years ago (beginning with an old army poncho) and now all other options feel like "going heavy" to me. I love the minimalism of it as well as the added pack protection. A rain jacket is the one piece of gear that has failed on me time and again. From delamination, to peeling seam tape, to wet-through, it seemed like I was replacing them every 3 years (I had used Patagonia and Marmot brands). I've not been tempted to switch back, but when I do need a jacket for fly fishing I just use dri-ducks. Great value for 10 bucks.

The ID silponcho is a great basic poncho and would be a good choice if trying to decide if you like it. 5 x 8 is adequate coverage. The only thing I don't like about the ID is that the hood is not very adjustable and tends to try to cover your eyes.

John Frederick Anderson
(fredfoto) - F

Locale: Spain
Rain jacket vs poncho on 05/22/2011 13:53:38 MDT Print View

Here's my 2c

I have an ID poncho, a windshirt and an ID event rain jacket as rain gear.
I like the combination of the windshirt and poncho for longer treks not necessarily above the tree line.
If it get blowy above tree line, the ID rain jacket is a better option with dry bags in the pack- YMMV.
I combine either of these options with Golite Reed rainpants.
I hope this helps.

fred in barcelona

Tim Zen
(asdzxc57) - F

Locale: MI
Re: poncho and poncho-tarp on 05/22/2011 14:54:40 MDT Print View

Perfect timing on this topic. I was thinking about this method, but people's posting give me the confidence of the solution.

I can drop the 15 ounce "rain" coat and stick with my existing wind shirt and pick up a poncho.

I am not sure I understand the poncho as a tarp. How do you setup the tarp in the rain if you are wearing the poncho?

(ID is Integral Designs)

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
poncho tarping on 05/22/2011 15:26:51 MDT Print View

You will get a little wet. Here's a good starting point:

Michigan is a great place for poncho tarping. Relatively mild wind conditions relative to other places.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Neither on 05/22/2011 15:39:19 MDT Print View

Get a "PACKA" (parka/pack cover combo).

Thomas Budge
(budgthom) - F

Locale: Idaho
Packa? on 05/22/2011 16:09:42 MDT Print View

And where might one find a "packa" for purchase?

My one concern with converting to a poncho is dealing with wind. The silponcho has some snaps that are supposed to minimize flapping. Can anyone comment on how well they work?

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Rain jacket vs poncho on 05/22/2011 16:45:19 MDT Print View

I have been using a poncho tarp for about 2-3 years now and I am just now switching to rain gear and a tarp.

I have a Mountain Laurel Designs Silnylon Poncho Tarp.

The problem that I have run across is that with a poncho, it simply is a matter of time before I get wet and my arms are not fully protected by the poncho tarp.

Also, while in camp and having my poncho setup as a trap, I don't have any rain protection, which has caused me to carry a 1 oz disposable rain poncho to give me some protection while in camp.

So here is the math that I have for my poncho setup:

10.0 oz MLD Ponch Tarp

1.4 oz MLD Rain Chaps

1.0 oz Emergency Disposable Poncho for use while in camp while poncho rigged as a tarp

Total Weight of Set: 12.4 oz.

This is my new setup:

5.5 oz O2 Rainwear Jacket

3.4 oz O2 Rainwear Pants

3.4 oz MLD Cuben Fiber Mini Solo Tarp

Total Weight of New Setup: 12.3

So, for essentially, I have the same weight, but full coverage of a rain suit.

Note: The coverage of the mini solo tarp is smaller than the poncho tarp. In my case, I have a MLD eVent Bivy, so I am relying on the eVent to protect me from any reduced coverage with the slightly smaller tarp.


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Rain jacket vs poncho on 05/22/2011 17:04:36 MDT Print View

I think ponchos are most effective for UL hiking when used for both rain gear and shelter. You get the cost saving and the weight saving and your pack is covered too. They also provide excellent emergency shelter options for day hiking.

They aren't neat and clean looking, especially with the Gatewood Cape, and you just have to get over that. Ponchos don't work as well in high winds and I wouldn't even try bushwacking in one.

The Gatewood Cape is superior to a poncho, giving good rain protection and 360 degree coverage as a shelter for 11 ounces, while a conventional poncho really needs a bivy to give good all-weather protection. It also takes up very little space, so it works well with smaller packs. I'd LOVE to field test a Cuben version [wink, wink].

The snaps on the sides of a poncho help seal the edges. There's nothing wrong with using a simple belt from parachute cord keep it from flapping around and make the whole package a little neater. Those loose sides provide excellent ventilation, so you don't have to fiddle with pit zips and touchy laminated fabrics. A poncho would be an excellent first MYOG shelter project.

I do think of ponchos more for summer stuff, where you (hopefully) aren't spending all day in that rain. If I were going to the coast in Winter or shoulder seasons, I would probably lean towards rain jacket and pants and a storm-worthy shelter. Those hikes are short and flat too, so a couple extra pounds isn't a big deal.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Packa? on 05/22/2011 17:31:08 MDT Print View

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Rain jacket vs poncho on 05/22/2011 17:45:02 MDT Print View

"So, for essentially....the same weight, but full coverage of a rain suit."

Not quite, you now don't have any coverage of your pack itself aside from a pack liner you might have to protect contents. So either A) you have to use a pack cover (extra weight) or B) use a pack liner and settle for the outside of your pack getting soaked (lot's of extra weight when wet).

Edited by randalmartin on 05/22/2011 17:45:48 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Rain jacket vs poncho on 05/22/2011 20:17:53 MDT Print View


I fully agree with you and note my oversight.

Still, for me, even if I end up getting a pack cover, which are imperfect themselves at keeping your pack 100% dry, the 2.5 oz MLD pack cover is a small price to pay for having full rain protection.

Note: Even with the poncho tarp, I do carry a garbage bag pack liner as part of my standard kit, which I find can be useful to keep wet and dirty things from touching my clear gear in my bivy bag.


Christopher Kuzak
Jacket versus Poncho on 05/22/2011 23:03:30 MDT Print View

Used a cheap poncho for rain protection for a long time and never thought it worked well at keeping my dry. While light, wind would blow it all over and I'd get just as hot in it while hiking as I would wearing a plastic bag for protection. It was fine for hanging around camp in a light drizzle, but for anything else, it sucked.

I just purchased the Marmot Super Mica, a definite upgrade from my old Columbia Sportswear cheapy shell (which replaced the poncho). I haven't given it an official test yet, but was able to wear it exercising in the rain a couple times over the last week or two. I found it to be pretty breathable--really like the pit zips--and definitely waterproof. My initial impressions: better than my cheapy jacket, way better than a poncho.

Edited by KC on 05/22/2011 23:04:55 MDT.

Dennis Wolfe
(LoneWolfe) - F

Locale: Salmon River Country, Idaho
A Personal Choice on 05/23/2011 12:06:07 MDT Print View

The question of poncho vs. rain gear is one that people tend to feel strongly about.

I have always used a poncho. I like it because it keeps me and my pack dry w/o getting hot and sweaty. The ventilation is great. And it can be an emergency shelter. And it can provide a dry kitchen area. And it can be used to overcome a leaky or ripped tent. I just like the flexibility it provides and I don't mind that it flaps a bit when the wind blows. If I know I going to experience a lot of rain, I also carry rain chaps.

My $.02 worth.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Rain jacket vs poncho on 05/23/2011 13:04:55 MDT Print View

I never plan to hike intentionally in a storm (wind driven rain). If I have done that bad a job of reading the weather and find myself above treeline in wind driven rain then I will pay a price for being in a poncho.

My strategy is I won't hike in rain unless it's reasonably calm rain. Otherwise I will setup the poncho as a tarp and wait out the rain.

"If I know I going to experience a lot of rain, I also carry rain chaps."

+1 on MLD Rain Chaps @1.4 oz

Edited by randalmartin on 05/23/2011 13:20:40 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: A Personal Choice on 05/23/2011 16:05:44 MDT Print View

+1 on what Dennis wrote.

By using a Packa style of poncho (MYOG actually) I find that even high winds are not a problem.