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A solution to the Poncho Tarp problems
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Nick G
(HermesUL) - F
A solution to the Poncho Tarp problems on 08/19/2012 22:15:41 MDT Print View

I have a 13 oz Sea to Summit Poncho Tarp which sets up beautifully as a shelter (to be replaced with a 7 oz Golite Poncho Tarp as soon as they're back in stock, assuming the price doesn't keep going up).

However, the problem exists that once the poncho shelter is up, I can't go outside. That's a real pain--it would be impossible to hang a bear bag, go to the bathroom, get water, or anything after the tarp is up.

So I ordered four 1-2 oz cheapo ponchos that are little more than a garbage bag for $5.32 from amazon. During the day, these would be way too flimsy and non-durable to hike with, but for quick trips out of the shelter just to stay dry, they ought to do the trick. If they only last a couple weeks camping, that's fine--at a cost of $1.32 apiece, it's worth the savings (although I hate the thought of all that trash!)

Total weight of the go-lite poncho tarp system, including string, aluminum stakes and GG polycryo groundcloth, would be around 12 oz (or less than 20 oz with my current poncho). Total cost of the system, if starting from scratch, would be about $70-$80.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't 12 oz for raingear and complete shelter system less weight than some of the much more expensive options?

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: A solution to the Poncho Tarp problems on 08/19/2012 22:24:10 MDT Print View

Yes, but this is exactly the situation where you need to strike a balance between weight and convince/comfort. Poncho tarp is too small for me. I don't like them for rain wear either.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Too small for normal use on 08/19/2012 22:58:59 MDT Print View

Based on my experience last year I will never use a poncho tarp as my regular shelter when rain is expected. Setting up in the rain is one problem, but once you are setup there is simply no room to do anything but crawl in your bag and wait or sleep. A poncho tarp is still useful as a poncho and/or as emergency shelter in cases where rain is possible but less likely. If rain is likely I bring my larger GG SpinnTwinn tarp.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: A solution to the Poncho Tarp problems on 08/20/2012 07:40:58 MDT Print View

The Driducks emergency poncho would make a good backup when using your main poncho for shelter. It is too short to use as with a pack. You could probably rig it as a vestibule or cover your pack with it. I have carried a 45 gallon low density poly garbage bag as backup for my Gatewood Cape. It is just a couple ounces and can be used for all kinds of emergency/improvised purposes, like a half bivy for lower body (comes to my armpits) or split open for a ground sheet, solar still, or in this case, cut head and arm holes to wear as rain gear in camp.

Umbrellas come to mind if the weight can be excused by actual trail use.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
poncho tarp on 08/20/2012 08:32:56 MDT Print View

I've used a poncho tarp on several trips and wouldn't even consider going w/o a bivy- simply to much risk of rain getting blow in and wetting my bag in my experience

I DO think the 1 oz disposable poncho is a very doable solution for getting around camp when the poncho is already setup or to get the poncho/tarp setup when it's already raining - I've been carrying one in my daypack (or running pack) when the forecast looks very favorable- it packs up smaller than a deck of cards

Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Re: poncho tarp on 08/20/2012 09:35:47 MDT Print View

I personally really like small tarps, and a poncho/tarp is one of my go-to's for solo weekend or overnight trips (or even longer), regardless of the weather forecast. I've used those disposable ponchos on a couple of trips, but my usual solution is just to make sure the DWR finish on my windshirt is in good shape, which is plenty for setting up camp, hanging a food bag, going to the bathroom, etc.

Works for my hiking style since I don't mind getting a little wet, and I usually hike long enough that all I want to do when I make camp is eat some food and go to sleep or read a little. If you tend to spend a lot of time in camp then small tarps probably aren't for you.


Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: poncho tarp on 08/20/2012 10:44:12 MDT Print View

"If you tend to spend a lot of time in camp then small tarps probably aren't for you."

That is one of the most important points I have read in a long time. Everyone always focuses on weight savings of their shelter but I think making an honest assessment of your hiking/camping style is very important to getting the right shelter.

Nick G
(HermesUL) - F
Good feedback on 08/20/2012 12:19:44 MDT Print View

Part of what I want to determine here is whether or not a bivvy sack is necessary. I'm going out later this week to test it all out (not home yet, but my emergency ponchos are arriving today).

I'm thinking about an AT thru hike some time in the next few years, where I'll have access to shelters at least 90% of the time. In all likelihood, its unlikely that I would get rained on while under the poncho tarp more than half a dozen times in a 3-4 month period. I don't mind being damp from rain spatter if its only going to happen on rare occasions.

Randy is right that it is all a matter of perspective and camping philosophy--different situations merit different pieces of gear. I have yet to determine whether a poncho tarp is right for me.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
bivy on 08/20/2012 12:48:29 MDT Print View

here's my thoughts on a bivy w/ a small tarp- one it adds protection from rain events, two it provides bug protection, three it adds warmth to your sleep system, four it acts as it's own ground cloth so you can eliminate that from your list, five it's nice for cowboy camping as the DWR finish will shed light rain/sprinkles w/o setting up any tarp

at ~ 6 oz it's not too burdensome and does add a lot of advantages imo- w/ a larger tarp you can probably do w/o, w/ a smaller tarp I'm always going to pack one

Greg Pehrson
(GregPehrson) - MLife

Locale: playa del caballo blanco
Recyclable on 08/20/2012 15:19:02 MDT Print View

The OP was concerned about the amount of trash coming from disposable ponchos over time. If you choose to go that route, note that many supermarkets have a bin where you can recycle plastic shopping bags--the emergency ponchos can be recycled there when they rip.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Polyethylene over vinyl on 08/20/2012 17:13:57 MDT Print View

There is one kind of disposable vinyl poncho that you have to very selective about using. At the BPing store, we told everyone they were "suicide ponchos" because they would commit suicide pretty suddenly under certain conditions. This would happen in bushes or anything that snagged them, but also in moderate cold, such as a during an afternoon hail storm. We photographed a sarcastic EMT who used her first-aid tape to repair 37 holes in her suicide poncho after such an event.

For multi-purposing, I strongly prefer polyethylene trashbags - your basic Hefty-brand black trash bag. 45- or 55-gallon ones if it is to be used as a ad-hoc bivy system. And (white) trash-compactor liners if used mostly as a poncho. The trash-compactor bags are thicker, tougher and being a smaller volume, they retain more heat and billow in the wind less than large trashbags. I leave the bag intact until needed than cut/chew a neck hole and slip it on. If I need my arms for balance or hand holds, I also chew out arm holes.

If I never used/chewed it on the trip, I use it as - surprise! - an actual trashbag, as I near the pavement at the end of the trip to pick up all the litter one finds closer to "civilization".

Cody Bartz
(codybartz) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
trash buster on 03/23/2013 20:00:30 MDT Print View

Right on David, about using the bag to pick up trash on the trail.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Good feedback on 03/23/2013 20:55:07 MDT Print View

"Part of what I want to determine here is whether or not a bivvy sack is necessary. I'm going out later this week to test it all out (not home yet, but my emergency ponchos are arriving today)."

The poncho/bivy combo is fairly common in the military. While it was always paired up with a 2.5lb goretex bivy, I can't think of any time that I needed more than a ground cloth or at worst, a DWR bivy. This is including Panama monsoons. A little care is required during campsite selection to make sure water won't drain or pool under you. When the wind isn't blowing, you can pitch it a little higher and cook, read a book, etc.

For around camp purposes, a 2 oz throw-away poncho seems reasonable. If you don't want to cut holes into your garbage bags so you can use them later, you can tie two together at the two bottom corners and use that with your windshirt.

Edit: I've only owned synthetic sleeping bags.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 03/23/2013 20:57:05 MDT.