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Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW

The lightest silnylon poncho/tarp we have reviewed, but also the shortest.

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by Roger Caffin | 2006-05-31 03:00:00-06

Introduction

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 1

The Oware poncho/tarp is a 5'2" by 7'8" rectangle of silnylon with a hood in the middle. The hood has a bungee drawcord closure around the face. There are 12 guy points around the edges plus four snaps to close up the sides. Just another poncho/tarp?

What’s Good

  • Light weight
  • Wider than most lightweight poncho/tarps
  • Adequate number of tieouts
  • Big hood size - a hat fits inside easily

What’s Not So Good

  • Hood seams are not sealed, and can leak slowly in tarp mode
  • Shorter than most lightweight poncho/tarps
  • The sewn-up neck section can get warm
  • The round hood opening is hard to seal in tarp mode, and can leak
  • Second row of stitching attaching tieout tape is through a single layer of fabric
  • Tieout tape is wide and folds flat making it hard to thread guy lines

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Oware

  Year/Model

2005 Poncho/Tarp

  Style

Poncho/tarp

  What’s Included

Stuff sack, 30 ft (9.1 m) cord, 10 ft (3 m) bungee

  Fabric

Silicone-impregnated nylon, 1.3 oz/yd2 (44 g/m2)

  Weight

Measured weight 7.8 oz (221 g); manufacturer’s specification 8 oz (227 g)

  Dimensions

62 in x 92 in (157 x 234 cm), actual and measured

  Features

Sewn-in hood with drawcord and cordlock, 2 snaps to close arm openings at each side, 12 nylon tie out loops, hood seams folded over

  MSRP

US $74

Performance

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 2
The Oware poncho/tarp spread out on the snow with snap positions marked by blue lines.

The Oware Poncho/Tarp has two parts: the body and the hood. The body is a simple flat sheet, hemmed all around, with five tieouts down each side, counting the corners, and one in the middle of each end. The tieouts are made from 26-millimeter (1-inch) tape and are sewn onto the hems.

There are two sets of snaps set on each side to hold the edges together under the arms. One pair is set into a reinforced bit of the hem and the other pair is set through some of the tie outs. Their positions are marked in the above photo by short blue lines.

The hood is made from two pieces and is sewn into an oval hole in the middle of the rectangle. It is sewn up the front and has 3-millimeter bungee cord around the face opening, secured with a cord lock.

The Oware poncho/tarp packs into quite a small volume - see the picture at the end of this review. The red bag is 4" x 6" (10 cm x 18 cm) when flat.

Poncho Hood

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 4
Details of the neck seam.

The hood has plenty of room inside for a hat to be worn under it. In fact, without a hat it falls over my eyes, but with a large Australian bush hat on my head it is just fine. The hood is large enough to cover the brim of my hat, keeping it dry, and the hat means that my head is insulated from the silnylon fabric and any condensation. The front of the hood is sewn shut so you can close the hood opening when the poncho is used as a tarp. However, this closed area around the neck can make the neck region a bit hot since it can’t be opened for ventilation. I would prefer 2 millimeter bungee cord to the 3 millimeter cord used: that would be softer and lighter, and quite adequate for a face opening.

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 3
The Oware Poncho/Tarp with a hat under the hood (left) - a clear view, and without a hat (right) - vision blocked.

The connection between the hood and the rest of the poncho should allow light rain to slide off the join, and the seam over the top has been folded over, but neither seam is sealed. There will likely be some condensation happening anyhow, so total waterproofing seems a bit unnecessary for poncho mode, but is useful in tarp mode.

Poncho Body

The poncho is 62 inches wide, wider than many lightweight poncho/tarps (see table here), but I find the width a bit small. When I put my arms out I find my wrists are sticking out a bit and my windshirt is going to get seriously wet. I could pull the windshirt sleeves up or I could just pull my arms inside the poncho. To make the poncho any wider would mean a major seam as it already uses the full width of the standard silnylon fabric. The length of the poncho is plenty for me at 5'5" (160 cm) tall: it comes down near my ankles. The length is dictated by its use as a tarp of course and is less than many lightweight poncho/tarps (see table in link above).

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 5
The poncho is 62 inches wide, wider than many lightweight poncho/tarps, but does not offer full coverage for arms.

The snaps down the sides seem huge, but they weigh only about 0.35 ounces (10 g) total. We aren’t always that careful at the end of a wet day when trying to whip the poncho off and erect it as a tarp, so maybe the size is justified - I haven't had any failures to date.

The Oware Poncho/Tarp rides up in the back when worn over a big pack (a lightweight style big pack, that is), but there is still coverage. If the pack is large enough, the snaps do not line up properly on each side. However, you can get creative here and line up snap #1 at the front with snap #2 at the back. It also means the arm gaps are pulled back a bit, but in pouring rain you may well have your arms inside anyhow.

The big worry with any silnylon raingear is condensation. I find that the voluminous nature of the Oware Poncho/Tarp means it doesn’t ‘cling,’ and air can circulate freely. How freely it circulates high up in the mountains with a strong wind blowing is another matter. Under those conditions you might find it convenient to tie the back corners around your waist with some guy line or the bungee cord.

I have tried wearing this and other ponchos in thick scrub in the rain. Basically, it doesn’t work. The poncho is at serious risk of damage owing to the way it flaps around, and I get just as wet under it as without it. But I should add in all fairness that I have the same problems with a conventional parka. There are some situations where you are going to get very wet, regardless.

Tarp

The theory behind a poncho/tarp is that you whip it off and quickly erect it as a tarp at the end of the day. You can’t erect it as a tarp while still wearing it - well, not very easily anyhow. I have to say I find pitching a poncho/tarp to be a very slow process. What isn’t often mentioned is that you have to fish out a minimum of six guylines and attach them to the tieout loops at the edges before you can pitch the tarp. And this takes time, while the rain is pouring down. No, I am not going walking with all those bits of string attached. Getting the tarp pitched correctly also takes a fair bit of time, in the rain. Practice in dry weather to hone your pitching skills to reduce the time you are exposed to wet weather.

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 6

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 7

The Oware Poncho/Tarp in tarp mode.

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 8
The ends of the tieouts are attached with stitching through a single layer of fabric.

There are enough tieout loops, but the tape is wide and folds very flat, which makes threading the guylines through them difficult. Half the stitching attaching the tieout loops to the poncho/tarp is off the hem and through only a single layer of fabric (see photo). I’ve seen no failures at these points on the test Poncho/Tarp to date, but it appears this could be a weak point. Note: Dave Olsen of Oware reports that this has not been a failure point.

The tarp is wide enough for one person under low winds and under higher winds if you pitch it a bit lower to the ground. The length, at 7'8", is shorter than many lightweight poncho/tarps. The tarp can be used in conjunction with a breathable bivy sack in milder weather but, for taller folks especially, is better suited for use as an awning over a waterproof/breathable bivy sack in very wet weather.


Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 9

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 10

The fold in the roof from the hood opening collects rain and sags. The blue line (right photo) shows the edge of collected water during a garden hose simulated rain test.

You will of course get rain through the hole in the middle (where the hood is) unless you close it off. The simplest solution is to twist the neck of the hood up and tie the bungee cord fairly tightly around it, and this seems to be a reasonable way of closing the hole in theory. However, the result is not entirely satisfactory as the pitched tarp shows a severe distortion in the middle no matter how the hood is adjusted. This distortion worried me a fair bit when I saw it, so it was time for a rain test. I should mention here that when it rains where I live in Sydney (Australia), it rains. We can get 1 inch (25 mm) in an hour, easily. So I simulated some ‘medium rain’ with a hose on fine spray, and the result was not satisfactory. The folds in the slight distortion collected rain, and the fold deepened steadily as more ‘rain’ was collected. Eventually the channel in the middle had lots of water in it: the edge of the pool some time later is marked by little blue line in the right hand picture above. Such pooling is obviously a worry.

The first time I did this the pool shrank as I watched, and there was only one way this could be happening. I dived under the tarp for shelter from ‘the rain,’ and sure enough there was a big stream of water coming down from the hood. Some of the leak was through the stitching in the hood but most of it must have come through the face hole in the hood, even though I had tied it off. I suspect that the hole was underwater.

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 11

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 12

Unsuccessful (left) and successful (right) ways to close the hood opening.

I rearranged the tie-off to have the face opening further from the bungee cord (right picture), and a second rain test showed much less water coming through. But there was still a steady dripping of water through the stitching. You would get a wet sleeping bag from this. I tried to adjust the tarp guy lines to eliminate the folds around the hood, but to no avail. The folds are inherent in having a round hole in the middle of the tarp. Some poncho/tarps use a slit for the hood instead of a round hole: that design usually closes up much better under tension. The problem here is that you can’t really know whether you have tied the hood up properly until it rains, and you can not adjust it from the inside!

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 13
Holding the hood up to stop water pooling.

So I tried another trick with a line from pole to pole to hold the top of the hood up. This worked moderately well with only a few drips coming through the stitching.

Summary

The Oware Poncho/Tarp is a reasonable poncho if you don’t have longish arms or are prepared for the lower part of your arms to get wet (as is the case with most lightweight poncho/tarps). As a tarp it is on the short side and appropriate accompaniments (breathable or waterproof/breathable bivy sack) should be added depending on expected weather and your height.

Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW - 14
Oware Poncho/tarp (red) and Chaps (blue) in home made silnylon bags.

That said, I would be quite happy to include the Oware Poncho/Tarp in my daypack for emergencies, or even just unexpected mildly bad weather. It’s light and it packs small (red bag).

What’s Unique

The Oware Poncho/Tarp, at 7.8 ounces (measured), is lighter than many other lightweight poncho/tarps (GoLite UltraLite Poncho/Tarp - 11 oz, Integral Designs SilPoncho - 10.2 oz, Mountain Laurel Designs Silnylon Pro - 9 oz). At 62 by 92 inches, it is wide but short. It offers a lightweight solution for the shorter person, or for emergency or mildly inclement conditions.

Recommendations for Improvement

  • Seal the stitching around the hood, or provide seam sealant to buyer
  • Change the hood attachment from a circle to a slit to avoid making a depression in tarp mode
  • Reduce the thickness of the hood bungee cord
  • Add a tag to the top of the hood to hold the hood up when pitched as a tarp

Citation

"Oware Poncho/Tarp REVIEW," by Roger Caffin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/oware_poncho_tarp_review.html, 2006-05-31 03:00:00-06.

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