Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Learning to poncho (a recent convert)
Display Avatars Sort By:
Nick E.
(trAletrasch) - F

Locale: PNW
Learning to poncho (a recent convert) on 02/19/2012 21:27:41 MST Print View

Hey everybody

I just sold my beloved TT contrail, after just a seasons worth of use.
I need to go lighter.
I am very strongly considering buying a golite poncho tarp, after doing some research ive decided my only other choices could be a gatewood cape-
Or a sea-to-summit poncho tarp.

My goal is to be AS LIGHT AS POSSIBLE.
the golite looks so sleek...i find its weight appealing.
I want to see pictures of all the mostcraziest, makeshift and creative ways any tarp-ers here have (or do) pitch theyre ponchos. Or tarps, im really trying to justify not using a bivy. The half-pyramid and a-frame pitches seem o.k. but ill most likely not pin my corners to the ground because it looks like im going to use ALL available space under the golite to stay dry.
Whats the WETTEST stretch of days or rain-battered nights youve had to endure while tarping SANS BIVY?
I need inspiration here! my 1st SUL summer is in sight!

Edited by trAletrasch on 02/19/2012 21:29:38 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: poncho tarp on 02/19/2012 21:57:23 MST Print View

A bivy is pretty handy. Without you'll have very little room for error with site selection and pitch.

I like the Golite because it's light and stuffs to the size of an apple. If I expect lots of rain on a trip, I bring a larger tarp (and separate rain gear).

Edited by DaveC on 02/19/2012 21:57:47 MST.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Learning to poncho (a recent convert) on 02/19/2012 23:14:30 MST Print View

I am a recent convert myself and purchased the Golite Poncho Tarp last year. "Fortunately" I was able to experience some bad weather on a brief overnight trip to the Buffalo Peak Wilderness in Colorado last September. I hiked in the rain with my Poncho and experienced wet lower legs. Upon arriving at camp it was still raining and I had to quickly pitch my shelter which had been my rain gear so I got more wet while pitching. So in one short overnight trip I had experienced two of the clear downsides with poncho tarps. Fortunately I had practiced my pitches at home and was able to setup quickly and avoid getting too wet. The Half Pyramid pitch I use for bad weather pitches three sides to the ground but leaves little space for moving around while waiting out a storm. With that experience I have decided to use the Poncho for cases where I expect weather to be good but am willing to deal with short periods of inclement weather. However, I am looking at the addition of a second Tarp to my kit for cases where I expect bad weather or where the trip is long enough that the chance of bad weather is likely at some point. In those cases I would likely take the Poncho for hiking in the bad weather but have a larger tarp for shelter which also allows me to move around under the tarp better while it's still raining for cooking etc..For that I am considering the MLD Cricket Tarp or MLD Trailstar.

Nick E.
(trAletrasch) - F

Locale: PNW
el poncho on 02/20/2012 02:54:00 MST Print View

yeahhhh i am beginning to think a bivy will be necessary for poncho-pitching unless (like randy says)i have a large tarp or secondary rain gear. heh heh, its easy to succumb to the allure of sleeping bare tarp & bag. i have seen the golite pitched half-pyramid, it leaves frightening little room for evading condesation. if it were guyed at least a foot to each stake, i think that'd solve the problem but eliminate bombproof storm mode.
thanks for the nuggets of knowledge-from-experience. for that specific reason (getting wet whilst pitching) i thought about staking/pitching from under the poncho. i know that would lead to a scene of silliness and frustration, however. I might just bring a DriDucks jacket, and as for the lower legs getting wet; I really dont mind it. hiked for days on the PCT last sep. in a garbage bag rain kilt, not sure i'm ready to add rain pants to my pack...the condensation/sweat issue is dauntng to me.
is the only solution going to be bringing a full set of rain gear, or at least a rain jacket?
an umbrella comes to mind...

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: el poncho on 02/20/2012 14:32:42 MST Print View

Here are pictures of some of my tarps. I'm not very imaginative about it. But when I was first getting into tarps I searched and searched for pictures, so here's all I have.

My Golite Poncho
This probably wouldn't have kept any rain off me
Set up for privacy in one direction
Set up the same way as the previous I think I decided I liked the roominess of this set up the best. Enough overhead to protect me from a non-wind-blow surprise rain and provide privacy but not so much to keep me from feeling like I'm cowboy camping.
Set up the same way I awoke to drizzle on this day, which turned to rain.
If I raised it up I got more room

My 8x10 Equinox
This is an 8x10 tarp
This is the same 8x10 tarp
Here's the 8x10 set up folded in half. Probably wouldn't have kept much rain off.
Again, the 8x10 tarp
Again, the 8x10 folded in half
The 8x10 set up A-frame style to fit two people
The 8x10 set up again for two
One last boring picture of the 8x10

A website with way more and varied pictures than mine.
Tarp Camping

Jason McSpadden
(JBMcSr1) - M

Locale: Rocky Mountains
el poncho on 02/20/2012 15:08:13 MST Print View

Join Backpacklight and get access to some great articles about ultralight technique

like this one:

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Learning to poncho (a recent convert) on 02/20/2012 16:14:20 MST Print View

The article link that Dave C provided does an excellent job of pointing out advantages and disadvantages. I have used tarps and poncho/tarps as my main shelter for a long time. If I expect a lot of rain, then it is a 8 X 10 tarp for me, with separate rain gear (often a poncho), and a bivy is not needed.

I have done quite a bit of rain weather the past few months using a zPacks Hexamid with a zPacks poncho/ground sheet. The shelter has done an excellent job even in slanted rain, when pitched at the right orientation.

Since the poncho is also the ground sheet, I can take it off when I am done setting up, and put it on in the morning when I start to take down. If I wear shorts with a 7" inseam, the bottom of the shorts get wet, which I don't like. So I have been wearing 5" shorts with it. The poncho is not as big and loose like most ponchos, so it is easier to hike in, plus I am used to using a poncho. I did some bushwhacking last year down a desert side canyon with lots of boulders, shrubs, cat claw, and cacti and the poncho was not a hindrance. Total weight of the shelter/poncho/groundsheet is under 7 ounces, sans pole and stakes. In groundsheet mode, the poncho is actually a bathtub floor with the optional zPacks clips. A bivy is not needed.



Night 1a

zPacks Poncho

Nick E.
(trAletrasch) - F

Locale: PNW
Los Ponchos on 02/20/2012 16:43:55 MST Print View

Piper S., i read your insight all over the forums and big ups! you have much knowledge you bring to the table. thank you for all the pix, those golite poncho tarp pictures were just what i was looking for!!! i am basically sold on that piece of gear.
i wont be purchasing a membership any time soon, not that its anyones business but my funds are less than depleated.
If i werent jobless and needing to get back into classes i'd be springing for the hexamid solo....that is a very enticing shelter. it is the perfect shelter in my eyes.
alas, i am broke.

Piper S., what are your techniques for pitching shelter in rain? i am most likely purchasing a chromedome umbrella so i'm thinking that will definantly help alot while pitching and might even allow me to leave the driducks at home.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Los Ponchos on 02/20/2012 19:52:09 MST Print View

I never had to pitch the poncho or the Equinox tent in the rain and it has never done more than drizzle on me with either of those two items. By the time I got any experience in the rain I had a tent and umbrella with me (mosquitoes!). I find the poncho too big for me to use as an actual poncho. I'm only 5'3" tall. For me the poncho is for trips when I don't expect to actually have to hike in it.

My strategy for setting up in rain was about the same as it would be with a poncho. I looked for tree cover under which I could set down my pack and set up my shelter with little rain actually hitting me because of campsite selection under tree-cover.

I would probably prefer the 8x10 tarp for rainy places. The large size of the 8x10 makes me feel like there's no way I'd get wet and no way I'd need a bivy. I can fit all my gear and have room to spare and lots of room to sit up and cook. The drawback of the 8x10 is that it's sort of saggy. You have to get up and tighten stuff in the night.

My friend Lenny is 6'5" and used the Golite poncho for the entire PCT. He tested it in heavy So Cal storm conditions and stayed dry.
Here's how he always sets up.
Another view
Lenny wearing the poncho. Cut Lenny off at the knees and that would be me in the poncho.

I did a comparison of my various strategies. I forget the exact weights but it came out that the combo of:
- Golite Gossamer Gear One tent + umbrella was heaviest
- Equinox 8x10 tarp + umbrella medium
- Golite poncho + bivy was lightest

I still haven't sewed my Parcho kits yet. I wanted to try having a real upper-body rain item. So far I have only used an umbrella or a polycro ground sheet to hike in the rain.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
bivy on 02/20/2012 20:56:54 MST Print View

in inclement weather it would be tough w/o a bivy imo, the golite (and other poncho tarps) is pretty small ~ 9x5'- I wouldn't want to be under one in the rain w/o a bivy

my similar sized ID poncho


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Learning to poncho (a recent convert) on 02/20/2012 21:14:41 MST Print View

Get a Gatewood. It gives 360 degree protection that a poncho never could. Add a little polycryo film for a ground cloth and you have a good shelter. Easy to pitch as well.

I carry a poncho for day hike CYA and it takes the wear and tear off the Gatewood. A space blanket bivy can round it out for really stinky weather.

Ponchos and the Gatewood can be aided by a simple cord for a belt. I think 99% of liking ponchos is just getting over the lumpiness. They aren't as sleek as a $400 welded-seam rain shell, but the multiple use drops base weight like crazy. Not only do you get shelter and rain shell, but your pack stays dry, including the straps and back panel--- something you will enjoy come the next day and you aren't wrapped in cold wet foam straps and panels.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
GoLite Poncho Photos on 02/20/2012 21:47:59 MST Print View

This pitch provides a good balance between weather protection and space.

Golite Poncho Tarp, favorite pitch

Same pitch different angle

Sean Staplin
(mtnrat) - MLife

Locale: Southern Cdn Rockies
WIndy rain on 02/20/2012 23:27:25 MST Print View

In some situations where I have run into thunderstorms with wind that swirls and turns the rain into fine droplets that get under and around any pitch of a small tarp I just grab the bottom of the pole and lower the tarp to the ground. When there is a lull in the wind I lift it back up and shake the water off. It works pretty well mostly because those types of thunderstorms are pretty short and you can get back to sleep when it passes. BTW I also use a light weight bivi to keep my bag dry when using a small poncho tarp. For overall comfort I prefer my gatewood but like the openness of a small tarp pitched half pyramid or lean-to.

Nick E.
(trAletrasch) - F

Locale: PNW
el tarpo on 02/21/2012 01:55:57 MST Print View

that is a radical-looking Golite pitch, right there...
Piper S., those pictures of your hiking bud's poncho are really inspirational, frankly between using a method like that and the one shown above this post of mine, even if i raised my poncho a tad of the ground with some guylines i could manage a nice weatherproof pitch. i seem to remember reading somewhere (perhaps written by himself) that Andrew Skurka used a poncho tarp solely on a thru hike...and managed it as his only rain gear to stay dry. i believe he uses down sans bivy, as well...
I would like a gatewood, it really appears to be the smart way to tarp. throw a space blanket or some painters dropcloth plastic down and you'd be bomber.

tarped up last spring.

the setup here was made with some old coated nylon, the yellow dots are places sticks had ripped holes from makeshift pitching. i am truly on a budget. that picture was snapped moments after waking at 6am from an all-night deluge on a test trip along the boulder river trail in the cascades. i left my ti mug out all night and it was almost full upon waking. i was using a breathable bivy that weight 1lb and this crummy tarp weighed somewhere around 11-13oz, so it was about the same as my TT.
i stayed bone dry and didnt even have to get in the bivy. no high wind, but i'm thinking i'll have to adventure a little when searchig for places to pitch a poncho. i'm liking my odds.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: el tarpo on 02/21/2012 10:04:35 MST Print View

I have never understood an A frame pitch on something as small as a Poncho Tarp. Same issues as other front entrance shelters. Getting in/out involves climbing over your gear/bag. Am I missing something?

Edited by randalmartin on 02/21/2012 10:05:22 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: el tarpo on 02/21/2012 12:25:24 MST Print View

Yeah, I could never quite figure out how to get into a tarp pitched A-frame like that. I think you basically have to wiggle into your sleeping bag feet first and try not to bump your head on the tarp or get too wet on your way in. And how will you get your shoes off without getting wet feet before you do that??

Nick E.
(trAletrasch) - F

Locale: PNW
no more aframe on 02/21/2012 12:39:05 MST Print View

yeahh randy honestly nor have i. i hadnt planned on it raining that night, and in the morning had to lay down my packliner-garbage bag to crawl out on avoiding the sponge-like forest bueno
i have just ordered a Equinox Poncho Tarp from user WilliamZila on here for $35.00. Thats more like my price range i got lucky. its 58"x90" so thats, like, 4.8ft x 7.5 ft...almost the same size as the golite poncho, and i am 5'7" so i'm pretty hyped its gonna be my shelter for the '12 season. I plan to pitch it pyramid-style and flying-diamond, but i'll throwdown with the good ol' lean-to if conditions are mild.

I have a 15oz OR bivy i plan on cutting up, i'll cut out the face-flap (it has bug netting i WON'T cut out) and that should shave at least 2oz, but my goal is to keep my shelter under 1lb so i'll be exploring different ways to slash the bivy up to get it down to maybe 7, 8oz MAX. that would equate a 14, 15oz. shelter.

My hiking partner has given me a ENO BUGNET>
for hammock camping, its HUGE and looks like if it were flipped upside down and some of the hardware trimmed off it (even cut out the zipper, throw some velcro on that thing) it'd fit quite nicely underneath a poncho setup.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: no more aframe on 02/21/2012 13:17:10 MST Print View

I prefer an A-frame. Often much easier to stake out guylines. Unless very bad winds are anticipated, no need to stake one side or end to the ground. With a Poncho/Tarp, most people use a bivy anyway. This past weekend on a trip there were 5 of us. We had wind gusts at night that probably exceeded 60 mph, and I was the only one without a shelter. I slept fine. Temps without wind-chill probably were around 40F, maybe a little lower. Chance of rain was around 20%, so I didn't put up a shelter even though I had my Hexamid with me. I never set up a shelter if there is little chance of precipitation. Sometimes when hiking in the desert, I take a 3 or 4 hour break to get out of the heat of the day, and will use different pitches to create a sun awning.

Here is a Golite Poncho/Tarp. Most of the terrain was rock, so it was hard to find an area with a large enough square footage of sand. The A-Frame pitch allowed me to run the lines through brush and shrubs. It was high enough that I could sit under the tarp.

DSC00609 smaller

Nick E.
(trAletrasch) - F

Locale: PNW
nice pitch nick on 02/21/2012 13:38:27 MST Print View

nice pitch thats a pretty sweet ridgeline. i will rarely pitch a-frame. Here in Washington squals and drippings can move over you like the fieldmice that crawl across your sleeping bag...only is the peak summer months (and likely not in the olympics) do i feel secure cowboy camping. i envy desert-dwellers sometimes.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
more tarp craziness on 02/21/2012 19:04:10 MST Print View

I found another picture. Here's my 8x10 folded in half with my homemade bugnet.

My crazy tarp/bugnet setup