View Full Version : Poncho vs. Rain Jacket & Pants
I was just looking over my gear list and decided that I could cull some weight by using a poncho instead of rain jacket and pants. Any thoughts?
Ponchos are OK, but in my experience they suck in high winds. I just had a cool one made for me I plan to test this weekend. I hope it rains on my hike (boy am I sick).
I tried a poncho once and found it to be akward and a pain in the butt. I forgo the rain pants unless it is really cold weather and have a tendency to not use them even then. I have a marmot precip but only wear it if it is very cold. Otherwise I hike wet and then get dry and warm, vs hiking hot and wet and then getting dry and warm. :rolleyes: HH
I have not tried hiking with a poncho, but for some reason i always carry an emergency poncho with me. im not sure if thats just wasted weight or not. i use my rain pants as cold weather long pants in adition to rain pants. that way i dont have to carry an extra pair. (itd be nice if they were zip offs) i just got a new rain jacket though and i really like it. although if your still wearing when the sun comes out and it warms up, its an oven.
I hiked extensively in a poncho during the 70's (20 out of my 23 days on the Long Trail had some amount of rain; I encountered 14" of rain in 14 miles of hiking the day a hurricane wore itself out over southern Vermont on another trip). I went to Gore-Tex parka and pants soon after they came out and now rely on Frogg Toggs (15 ounces for parka and pants and cheap enough to simply replace if they wear out partway through your thru-hike).
Most hikers would agree that you'll get hot in a parka, regardless of its advertised level of breathability. You're just cranking out too many BTUs when you're lugging a pack and there's no way to get rid of that heat when all the air around you is warm and humid. Going without is fine if its a gentle downpour, but the rain from most T-storms is coming from 50,000 feet where it started out frozen. You can get very, very cold in that type of rain, so I do not recommend that you try to forego rainwear altogether.
In my efforts to shed weight, I use my raingear as a windshell, a final layer, and as alternate pants for around camp or town.
It would seem that one advantage to the poncho would be ease of use. Now when it appears as rain might fall I am always playing the guessing game-when or if to stop and go through the hassle to remove pack, extricate rain jacket and maybe pants don the gear, put the pack back on and continue. With a simple poncho lashed to side of pack, just reach back and put it on without hardly breaking stride. When rain stops, reach up and pull it off, roll it up to some semblance of order and just slide it under the pack straps, still without stopping. They are horribly hot in a hot environment, though.
Rock hit it on head: Ponchos suck in the wind. Now, most of the trail is sheltered from the wind, so a poncho would probably work fine most of the time. However, there are times when you are very exposed to the wind. And in the Whites, hypothermia is a very real threat.
Myself, I started with goretex top and bottoms. After not using the bottoms, they went home until the Whites. Carried the top all the way, and usually used it, except for warm rains on humid days.
I saw that design on your site and would be very interested in hearing what you think of it. Please give an update when you have one.
Check out http://www.muw.edu/~ehinnant/packa/, a site I ran into awhile ago that sells a combination rain parka/pack cover.
A guy I hiked with this year had a poncho that also doubled as a tarp. Don't know what it was called. HH
While in Panama with the army we used our poncho as a hamock tarp much like you folks are using currently. It seems like you could also use it as a pack cover, thus creating a 3 in one item.
I haven't had a chance to really test my poncho/tarp. It's made from sil-nylon, so I'm slightly worried about durability when traveling through areas where the brush is thick.
Poncho/tarps are not a new idea. If you have read Earl Schaffer's "Walking With Spring", he mailed his tent home early in his hike and went the rest of the way with just an Army poncho for both shelter and rain gear. But his poncho would have been a lot heavier and more durable back then.
The earlier ponchos were some kind of rubberized fabric, heavier, greyish brown in color, if I remember correctly. I have no idea what they weighed. The newer ripstop nylon ones are lighter at about 1.5 pounds and are functional as everything. If wind bugs you, tie something around your waist with the poncho on. I am still leaning in that direction because the Columbia parka I now have and use weighs 1.6 pounds and the pants .80 pounds; eliminating both saves almost 1 pound, but then i would carry no pants at all. Decisions, decisions....
I wonder if a poncho could be made of some breathable fabric, to eliminate some of the sweating in hot weather? Is it even worth it?
"I wonder if a poncho could be made of some breathable fabric, to eliminate some of the sweating in hot weather?"
First, it doesn't solve the problem of wind, if you are hiking in an exposed area.
Second, if it's hot weather, then just strip down and enjoy the rain shower. Don't even try to stay dry.
Don't use EITHER. Ponchos are worthless in keeping "dry" even when standing motionless; while moving, they are absurd. As for rain pants (or even rain jackets), they're a waste as well. I carry a VERY light rain shell, mainly to keep wind off my arms/central body. Wearing rainpants while walking GETS you wet, since you sweat like a pig and even the best pants don't "breathe" in a rainstorm. So you end up just as wet, while "carrying" an extra pound of water in the pants (which weight about a pound also). Rain pants are almost universally sent home at Walasi-Yi. Don't waste time/money/effort on them.
I think that there is a time and place for good rain gear. One such place is in the Whites. Hypothermia is a very real threat. You need to stay dry as possible. The protection that good rain gear offers is definately worth it. Elsewhere, hypothermia is also very real during the shoulder seasons in the early spring and late fall.
Myself, like others, I started with rain pants. They were the first thing I sent back because I wasn't using them. However, I did get them back at Glencliff for the Whites. I did keep my jacket with me, and used it. It also doubled as my wind breaker.