Best Backpacking Rain Ponchos of 2020-2021

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If you want to stay dry while walking in rainy weather, backpacking rain ponchos are a pretty good bet.

In this article, you will find the best backpacking rain ponchos of 2020-2021. We reviewed waterproof ponchos for all budgets, styles of travel, seasons, and specific uses, and highlighted our top 13 choices. But that’s not all. We also assembled a quick list of our favorite ponchos for hiking and backpacking and created a comparison table with the essentials of each of the contenders on our list.

Believe it or not, loose-fitting ponchos have some clear advantages over rain jackets and coats. In the buying advice section, we discuss the matter further. There, you will also find everything about how to choose the right rain poncho for your needs. Additionally, we describe the most important factors such as materials, weight and packability, features, prices, durability, etc., in detail.

This article is a small but important part of our rain gear section where you can find information about different types of rainwear including rain pants and hardshell jackets. For those who’d like to know more about water-resistant materials and their features, we recommend our post dedicated to the specifics of the water-repellent, waterproof, and water-resistant fabrics.

Rain poncho hiker
Good rain ponchos can be worn and are effective on and off the trail

Quick answer: BEST BACKPACKING RAIN PONCHOS FOR 2020-2021

1. Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho                                        View on Amazon

2. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho                                View on Amazon              View on CampSaver

3. Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho                                   View on Amazon

4. Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho                                                              View on Amazon

5. FROGG TOGGS Ultra-Lite2 Poncho                                    View on Amazon

6. Terra Hiker Rain Poncho                                                              View on Amazon

7. Exped Pack UL Poncho                                                                 View on Amazon               Moosejaw

8. Hazard 4 Poncho Villa                                                                   View on Amazon

9. Outdoor Products Multipurpose Poncho                          View on Amazon               View on REI

10. Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho         View on Amazon

11. Rab Silponcho                                                                                  View on Amazon               View on CampSaver

12. Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho                                            View on Amazon

13. ACT FIRE Rain Poncho                                                                View on Amazon

 

Best all-around

#1 Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho

Snugpak enhanced patrol poncho

Weight: 370 g (13 oz)

Price (MSRP): $49

Waterproof technology/rating: Paratex Dry (5000 mm WP & 7500 g/m2 per day moisture vapor permeability)

Material: Paratex Dry material

Size: Length: 193 cm (76″); Width: 152 cm (60″)

Packed size: 10 x 20 cm (4″ x 8″)

Notable features:

  • DWR-treated waterproof breathable Paratex Dry fabric and fully taped seams
  • Adjustable hood and thumb loops for a snug, comfortable fit
  • Chest map pocket with Velcro closure and storm flap for easy access to maps and other essentials (avoid storing bulkier items in this pocket as it’s uncomfortable)

Pros:

  • Well-designed and functional, it provides complete protection from rain and water thanks to the waterproof breathable fabric treated with a DWR finish and the fully taped seams
  • Lightweight and compact poncho (packs away to a small size) that fits well over a backpacker and his/her pack even if it is 70-80L or more
  • Can be upgraded by a poncho liner (the Snugpak Poncho Liner is probably the best liner option to complement this poncho) to get a good combo for three-season use even in low temperatures
  • The design allows using the poncho as an emergency shelter if needed

Cons:

  • The sleeves are a bit short (plus those who are taller/have longer arms won’t be able to make use of the thumb holes)
  • The zipper looks flimsy
  • Difficult to stuff it in the stuff sack because the latter is too small

Best for: Backpacking

Liner to pair with the poncho: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Best lightweight

#2 Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho

Sea to summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho

Weight: 145 g (5.2 oz)

Price (MSRP): $99.95

Waterproof technology/rating: Polyurethane (PU) inner coating, 1200 mm

Material: 15D Ultra-Sil Nano fabric

Size: 140 x 118 cm (55″ x 46″)

Packed size: 6.5 x 13.5 cm (2.5″ x 5.25″)

Notable features:

  • The ergonomic three-panel peaked hood allows for good visibility while keeping the rain away from your face
  • Long back panel for use with a backpack
  • Waterproof 15D Ultra-Sil Nano fabric; what’s more, all seams are double-stitched and fully taped

Pros:

  • Lightweight waterproof construction with double-stitched sealed seams, it allows for a light breeze while hiking so that you don’t get wet from the outside or from the inside
  • It literally fits in the palm of your hand so it will occupy very little space in your backpack (can be folded and creased easily)
  • Very strong and durable fabric given how light it is (the 15D Ultra-Sil fabric is siliconized nylon with a polyurethane (PU) inner coating)
  • Multipurpose poncho that can be used as a raincoat, pack cover, ground cloth, tarp or as an emergency shelter. If you need a real tarp poncho, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Tarp Poncho is a great option that’s worth checking out

Cons:

  • Too short for taller people – for some it will be a little longer than a rain jacket
  • Expensive for a poncho
  • Not for prolonged wet conditions, works best for light to medium rain

Best for: Ultralight hikers/backpackers

Liner to pair with the poncho: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon | CampSaver

 

Best multipurpose

#3 Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho

Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho

Weight: 780 g (1 lb 11.5 oz)

Price (MSRP): $37.59

Waterproof technology/rating: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) coating, 5000 mm

Material: 100% Polyester (ripstop)

Size: Length: 210 cm (82.7″); Width: 150 cm (59″)

Packed size: N/A

Notable features:

  • Hood with a drawstring and a cord locks for better protection and individual fit
  • The eyelets on the hem, press-stud poppers on sides, and ties at each corner turn this poncho into a good multipurpose design
  • Strong, ripstop polyester material

Pros:

  • Multi-function uses – not just a poncho: also works great as a tarp, bivvy, basha (tarpaulin), groundsheet, sleeping bag cover, etc.
  • Military specification construction: good design, thick and quality ripstop polyester fabric, and good stitching -> all these combined mean that the final result is a well-made product
  • Great bang for the buck: well-worth the price you pay
  • Beautiful camouflage patterns that work great in a variety of areas

Cons:

  • The fabric is not quite breathable (which is a common problem with most materials used for making ponchos) as it’s thick polyester coated with Polyvinylchloride
  • Thoughtful design built for multipurpose use so it isn’t that great as a poncho (if having to evaluate the poncho-specific design only, we’d say that it is a bit clunky)

Best for: Long expeditions where you can enjoy its exceptional functionality

Liner to pair with the poncho: Available -> Amazon (Woodland, Coyote, Flecktarn, Olive, Tropentarn, French CEC)

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Best heavy-duty

#4 Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho

Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho

Weight: 495 g (1 lb 1.5 oz)

Price (MSRP): $32.90

Waterproof technology/rating: N/A

Material: 100% Polyester (ripstop)

Size: Length: 210 cm (82.7″); Width: 145 cm (57″)

Packed size: 14 x 22 cm (5.5″ x 8.7″)

Notable features:

  • Hood with drawcord adjuster
  • Taped seams for added waterproofness
  • Press studs and metal eyelets at the edges allow for connecting two ponchos together (the final result can be used as an emergency shelter)

Pros:

  • Well-designed and well-made heavy-duty rain poncho from the Surplus Line of Helikon-Tex; quality material, reinforced grommets
  • Designed to work together with the Swagman Roll: together they make an effective combination that works well in colder weather (the combo can be used even as a sleeping bag with rainproof liner)
  • Lightweight polyester material (though the poncho itself is not that light!), the poncho is very compact when folded and packs down small
  • Versatile: works great for any outdoor activity as well as a lightweight and compact emergency shelter

Cons:

  • Not the lightest option on the market (there are lighter designs that would suit you better if you want to travel light)
  • The material isn’t very breathable

Best for: Versatility

Liner to pair with the poncho: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Best budget buy

#5 FROGG TOGGS Ultra-Lite2 Poncho

FROGG TOGGS Ultra-Lite2 Poncho

Weight: 255 g (9 oz)

Price (MSRP): $19.99

Waterproof technology/rating: DriPore Gen 2 waterproof/breathable film

Material: Polypropylene (nonwoven for added ventilation)

Size: Length (when worn, without hood): 102 cm (40″); Width: 132 cm (52″)

Packed size: 20 x 25 cm (8″ x 10″)

Notable features:

  • Integrated, adjustable hood with cord locks
  • Side snaps for a secure fit and extra protection from rain
  • Storage bag included

Pros:

  • A great budget-friendly option that’s easy to get on and off and will keep you comfortable and dry on rainy days – keeps even downpour off
  • Thin and silky lightweight material; the convenient design and nonwoven fabric allow for good airflow and ventilation to keep you dry from the inside too
  • Versatile: works well for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, sporting events, etc. – any outdoor activity
  • Blood-resistant (IPS tested and certified to meet ASTM F 1670/F 1670M – 17a), which is good news for those who’d use it for hunting or fishing

Cons:

  • The snaps are too loose and may not stay snapped even in light wind
  • The material is very thin and works best for emergencies/occasional use (using too frequently such a flimsy construction can be too risky)

Best for: Budget-oriented outdoor enthusiasts

Liner to pair with the poncho: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Best for light rain/drizzle

#6 Terra Hiker Rain Poncho

Terra Hiker Rain Poncho

Weight: 310 g (10.9 oz)

Price (MSRP): $16.99

Waterproof technology/rating: 3000 mm

Material: 210T Ripstop taffeta (polyester)

Size: Length: 221 cm (87″); Width: 140 cm (55″)

Packed size: 8 x 22 cm (3″ x 8.7″)

Notable features:

  • Adjustable hood with drawstring and cord locks
  • Thickened eyelets allow this poncho to be used as a tarp or as an emergency shelter
  • Hook-and-loop closures on each side for making adjustments

Pros:

  • Great poncho for light to medium rain; a thin and lightweight yet strong material
  • Very well-made; good-sized as it is long and roomy enough to fit comfortably even a taller guy carrying a relatively large backpack underneath
  • Multi-function uses – can be used as a ground cover, tarp, shelter, pack poncho (can accommodate up to 60L backpack) or anything else you want
  • Easily stored and highly portable: rolls up real nice and folds into a little bag that won’t take up much space in your backpack

Cons:

  • Rainproof not waterproof – it’s best to use it only in drizzly conditions (also during short bursts of rain)
  • Works well as a shelter but not that well for harsher conditions (especially if it’s windy) as it’s not very durable
  • The hood is fairly small so that you might not be able to use it with a helmet on

Best for: Hiking and backpacking in light/medium rain

Liner to pair with the poncho: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Best pack poncho

#7 Exped Pack UL Poncho

Exped Pack UL Poncho

Weight: 201 g (7.1 oz)

Price (MSRP): $139

Waterproof technology/rating: Silicone/PU coating, 1500 mm

Material: 15D Ripstop nylon

Size: Length (varies): 165-210 cm (65″-82.7″); Width (varies): 150-180 cm (59″-71″)

Packed size: 9.9 x 20 cm (3.9″ x 7.9″)

Notable features:

  • Comes with an integrated pack compartment for backpacks up to 100L volume
  • Can be folded flat into the integrated chest pocket
  • One-hand adjust hood is anatomically shaped and has a protective brim

Pros:

  • Easy to use with a large backpack on; allows for unrestricted movement
  • Super light and extremely compact; you have two options to store it – into its own interior chest pocket or can be packed into the stuff sack
  • Many useful features: integrated zipper pack compartment, pack attachment loop, snap buttons on sleeves, waterproof interior chest pocket, mini stuff sack, convenient hood with cinch cord and stiff brim, and taped seams
  • Available in different sizes, which makes it easier for many people to get the right fit

Cons:

  • The abundance of features can be confusing initially so you’d need some time to accustom yourself to all the details this poncho has
  • Expensive for a poncho-only design

Best for: Backpacking

Liner to pair with the poncho: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon | CampSaver | Moosejaw

 

Best of the rest

#8 Hazard 4 Poncho Villa

Hazard4 Poncho Villa

Weight: 1043 g (2 lbs 4.8 oz)

Price (MSRP): $139.99

Waterproof technology/rating: N/A

Material: 86% Polyester, 14% spandex

Size: Length: 201.9 cm (79.5″); Width: 135.9 cm (53.5″)

Packed size: 28.5 x 33 cm (11.2″ X 13″)

Notable features:

  • Ample adjustable hood with brim section can fit over head-wear
  • Large grommets allow for using it as a tent/tarp; side snaps for better protection in severe weather
  • Large Velcro panels on front and back; smaller panels on the shoulders and head-back

Pros:

  • Quality and functional modernized version of the classic military poncho design, it is a rugged construction with great features: large grommets to tie rope through, MOLLE on the loop fastener on the pocket flap, Velcro panels, etc.
  • Attachment loops and snaps to allow for an upgrade (the Hazard 4 Fleece Poncho liner is sold separately) for when the weather gets colder
  • Quality material and stitching: water-resistant/breathable softshell fabric (86% polyester, 14% spandex) is very comfortable; fully taped seams for better protection in foul weather
  • Easy to pack and store as the poncho can be stuffed into its own front pocket

Cons:

  • It’s a great multipurpose poncho but it’s also heavy – the heaviest poncho design in this review
  • Not for heavy rain or extended rain exposure as it’s water-resistant, not waterproof (still, it will keep you dry in a downpour for like 15-20 min); also once wet, it’s slow to dry

Best for: Versatility (it’s an everything poncho)

Liner to pair with the poncho: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#9 Outdoor Products Multipurpose Poncho

Outdoor Products Multipurpose Poncho

Weight: 255 g (9 oz)

Price (MSRP): $32

Waterproof technology/rating: Polyurethane coating

Material: Polyester taffeta

Size: Length (when worn, without hood): 99 cm (39″); Width: 140 cm (55″)

Packed size: 11.4 x 16.5 cm (4.5″ x 6.5″)

Notable features:

  • Full-cut integral hood; hood cord and cord locks for making adjustments when necessary
  • Rust-resistant snaps at wrists and sides
  • Nylon cords placed at corners for easy conversion to rainfly or tarp

Pros:

  • Multipurpose design: can be used as a raincoat, pack poncho, tarp, and a ton of other things
  • Simple, streamlined construction made from PU-coated polyester taffeta; taped seams; convenient adjustable hood; the Multipurpose Poncho design works relatively well in wet conditions
  • Lightweight and easy to pack and carry (the poncho weighs 255 g/9 oz; it’s 281 g/9.9 oz with the ripstop carrying case); packs small and is easy to stash in a backpack/daypack
  • Durable polyester material holds up well in most situations and conditions; also it dries fast and well

Cons:

  • The snaps pop open easily
  • The material is not breathable so you’ll have to rely on the specific poncho design to keep you sufficiently ventilated

Best for: Hiking

Liner to pair with the poncho: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI

 

#10 Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho

Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho

Weight: 310 g (10.9 oz)

Price (MSRP): $19.97

Waterproof technology/rating: PU coating

Material: 210T Ripstop taffeta (polyester)

Size: Length: 244 cm (96″); Width: 137 cm (54″)

Packed size: 10 x 20 cm (4″ x 8″)

Notable features:

  • The polyester material is coated with two layers of waterproof polyurethane coating
  • Large metal (steel) grommets on all four corners
  • The hood is large, deep, and has an adjustable drawstring

Pros:

  • Versatile: for all your outdoor activities in bad weather; works as a poncho, tarp, emergency shelter, groundsheet, pack poncho
  • Extra-long: the size is good for taller outdoor enthusiasts as it’s 122 cm (48″) long and 137 cm( 54″) wide when worn
  • Large yet light; folds up compact and packs away
  • Comfortable during all your wet adventures

Cons:

  • Short arm length (up to the elbow or mid-lower arm); hands and wrists stay exposed
  • Doesn’t do that well in windy conditions

Best for: Multi-function poncho for camping

Liner to pair with the poncho: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#11 Rab Silponcho

RAB Silponcho

Weight: 232 g (8.2 oz)

Price (MSRP): $80

Waterproof technology/rating: Silicone-impregnated material

Material: Nylon 30D ripstop

Size: Length: 240 cm (94″); Width: 150 cm (59″)

Packed size: 8 x 15 cm (3″ x 6″)

Notable features:

  • Drawcord hood and rear hem for better protection from wind and rain and for individual fit
  • Webbing loops and snap closures on the edges permit the Silponcho to be a real good multifunctional poncho
  • Ultralight Sil-Coat silicone impregnated fabric

Pros:

  • A versatile multipurpose poncho that can be used as a tarp, bivy, pack or sleeping bag cover; works great in hot climates but can also be used in not-so-hot conditions
  • Crafted from waterproof, strong, and abrasion-resistant 30D Cordura nylon fabric
  • Extra-long: the size is good for taller people as it’s 120 cm (47″) long when worn as a poncho
  • Lightweight and fairly breathable – one of the lightest designs available for some serious backpacking

Cons:

  • Pricey for such a simple backpacking poncho design
  • Doesn’t work very well in cold and/or windy weather
  • Not for short people

Best for: Trekking in hot climates

Liner to pair with the poncho: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon | CampSaver

 

#12 Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho

Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho

Weight: 440 g (15.5 oz)

Price (MSRP): $95

Waterproof technology/rating: waterproof breathable Ceplex Active membrane, 10 000 mm

Material: 100% Polyamide (nylon)

Size: Length (when worn, without hood for size M): 140 cm (55″)

Packed size: N/A

Notable features:

  • Zip-off back for large backpacks
  • Attached, adjustable hood
  • One front pocket that can be used as a stow pocket

Pros:

  • Well-designed and well-made poncho for backpacking; good craftsmanship and details
  • Very comfortable and easy to move in even when worn over a backpack; the zip-off back allows to fit large, heavy backpacks
  • Waterproof and windproof, the Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho offers great protection from wind and water; treated with PFC-free Eco Finish
  • Relatively robust construction made from sustainable, bluesign certified material

Cons:

  • Too short arm length (note that the overall length is OK so the poncho can fit and taller outdoorsmen without problem. The length can actually be too much for shorter guys)
  • Bulky especially when packed

Best for: Trekking

Liner to pair with the poncho: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#13 ACT FIRE Rain Poncho

ACT FIRE Rain Poncho

Weight: 397 g (14 oz)

Price (MSRP): $33.90

Waterproof technology/rating: 20 000 mm

Material: N/A

Size: Length: 229 cm (90″); Width: 152 cm (60″)

Packed size: 22.4 x 22.9 cm (8.8″ x 9″)

Notable features:

  • Highly waterproof material (its claimed waterproofness rating is 20 000 mm)
  • Steel grommets allow the ACT FIRE Rain to be tied up to make a shelter
  • Adjustable hood with drawstring

Pros:

  • Great waterproofness – 20 000 mm water column is equivalent to the waterproofness of a fully waterproof rain jacket – the ACT Fire Rain will keep you dry even after hours in rainy conditions
  • Lightweight yet sturdy material and construction; packs small and folds up into an easy-to-store stuff sack that will occupy little space in your backpack
  • Longer and wider than most ponchos available; large enough to fit over a 6′-something guy carrying a large backpack
  • For multiple uses: you can easily convert it into a tarp, rainfly, temporary or emergency shelter, ground cloth, etc.

Cons:

  • Too noisy: makes some strange sound when walking
  • Some of the materials used look like being of poor quality: seam tapes, grommets, and cords, in particular

Best for: Emergency

Liner to pair with the poncho: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Table 1: Best rain ponchos for hiking and backpacking – comparison table

PRODUCTDESCRIPTIONPROSCONS
Snugpak enhanced patrol poncho
Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho

#1 Best backpacking rain poncho



Weight -> 370 g (13 oz)
Price -> $49
Waterproof technology/rating -> Paratex Dry
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Well-designed and functional; provides complete protection from rain and water
-> Lightweight and compact poncho (packs away to a small size)
-> Can be upgraded by a poncho liner
-> Can be used as an emergency shelter if needed


-> The sleeves are a bit short
-> The zipper looks flimsy
-> Difficult to stuff it back in the stuff sack

Sea to summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho

#2 Best lightweight



Weight -> 145 g (5.2 oz)
Price -> $99.95
Waterproof technology/rating -> Polyurethane (PU) inner coating, 1200mm
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Lightweight waterproof construction with double-stitched sealed seams
-> Packs down small - literally fits in the palm of your hand
-> Very strong and durable fabric given how light it is
-> Multi-purpose poncho


-> Too short for taller people
-> Expensive for a poncho
-> Not for prolonged wet conditions

Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho
Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho

#3 Best multipurpose



Weight -> 780 g (1 lb 11.5 oz)
Price -> $37.59
Waterproof technology/rating -> Polyvinylchloride coating, 5000mm
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Multi-function uses - not just a poncho
-> Military specification construction and well-made product
-> Well-worth the price you pay
-> Beautiful camouflage patterns that work in a variety of environments


-> The fabric is not quite breathable
-> A bit clunky as a poncho

Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho
Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho

#4 Best heavy-duty



Weight -> 495 g (1 lb 1.5 oz)
Price -> $32.90
Waterproof technology/rating -> N/A
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Well-designed and well-made heavy-duty rain poncho
-> Designed to work together with the Swagman Roll
-> Very compact when folded and packs down small
-> Versatile: works great for any outdoor activity as well as an emergency shelter


-> Not the lightest option on the market
-> The material isn't very breathable

FROGG TOGGS Ultra-Lite2 Poncho
FROGG TOGGS Ultra-Lite2 Poncho

#5 Best budget buy



Weight -> 255 g (9 oz)
Price -> $19.99
Waterproof technology/rating -> DriPore Gen 2 waterproof/breathable film
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> A great budget-friendly option
-> Thin and silky lightweight material; allow for good airflow
-> Versatile: works well for any outdoor activity
-> Blood-resistant


-> The snaps are too loose and may not stay snapped even in light wind
-> The material is very thin and works best for emergencies/occasional use

Terra Hiker Rain Poncho
Terra Hiker Rain Poncho

#6 Best for light rain/drizzle



Weight -> 310 g (10.9 oz)
Price -> $16.99
Waterproof technology/rating -> 3000mm
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Great poncho for light to medium rain
-> Very well-made; good-sized
-> Multi-function uses
-> Easily stored and highly portable


-> Rainproof not waterproof
-> Works well as a shelter but not that well for harsher conditions
-> The hood is fairly small

Exped Pack UL Poncho
Exped Pack UL Poncho

#7 Best pack poncho


Weight -> 201 g (7.1 oz)
Price -> $139
Waterproof technology/rating -> Silicone/PU coating, 1500mm
One size fits most/all -> No


-> Easy to use with a large backpack on
-> Super light and extremely compact
-> Many useful features
-> Available in different sizes


-> The abundance of features can be confusing
-> Expensive for a poncho-only design


Hazard 4 Poncho Villa

#8



Weight -> 1043 g (2 lbs 4.8 oz)
Price -> $139.99
Waterproof technology/rating -> N/A
One size fits most/all -> Yes


->Quality and functional modernized version of the classic military poncho design
-> Attachment loops and snaps to allow for an upgrade
-> Quality material and stitching; taped seams
-> Easy to pack and store


-> Great multi-purpose yet heavy poncho
-> Not for heavy rain or extended rain exposure

Outdoor Products Multipurpose Poncho
Outdoor Products Multipurpose Poncho

#9



Weight -> 255 g (9 oz)
Price -> $32
Waterproof technology/rating -> Polyurethane coating
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Multi-purpose design
-> Simple, streamlined construction and design
-> Lightweight and easy to pack and carry; packs small and is easy to stash in a backpack/daypack
-> Durable polyester material holds up well in most situations


-> The snaps pop open easily
-> The material is not breathable

Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho
Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho

#10



Weight -> 310 g (10.9 oz)
Price -> $19.97
Waterproof technology/rating -> PU coating
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Versatile: for all your outdoor activities in bad weather
-> Extra-long length: the size is good for taller people as it's 122 cm (48") long and 137 cm( 54") wide when worn
-> Large yet light; folds up compact and packs away
-> Comfortable


-> Short arm length (up to the elbow or mid-lower arm)
-> Isn't effective in windy conditions

RAB Silponcho
RAB Silponcho

#11



Weight -> 232 g (8.2 oz)
Price -> $80
Waterproof technology/rating -> Silicone-impregnated material
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> A versatile multipurpose poncho
-> Crafted from waterproof, strong, and abrasion-resistant Cordura nylon
-> Extra-long length
-> Lightweight and fairly breathable - one of the lightest designs available for some serious use on the trail


-> Pricey for such a simple backpacking poncho design
-> Doesn't work very well in cold and/or windy weather
-> Not for short people

Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho
Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho

#12



Weight -> 440 g (15.5 oz)
Price -> $95
Waterproof technology/rating -> Ceplex Active, 10 000mm
One size fits most/all -> No


-> Good craftsmanship and details
-> Very comfortable and easy to move in even when worn over a backpack
-> Waterproof and windproof
-> Made from sustainable, bluesign certified material


-> Too short arm length
-> Bulky especially when packed

ACT FIRE Rain Poncho
ACT FIRE Rain Poncho

#13



Weight -> 397 g (14 oz)
Price -> $33.90
Waterproof technology/rating -> 20 000mm
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Great waterproofness - 20 000 mm water column is similar to a high-quality rain jacket
-> Lightweight yet sturdy material and construction
-> Longer and wider than most ponchos available
-> For multiple uses


-> Too noisy: makes some strange sound when walking
-> Seam tapes, grommets, and cords seem of poor quality

 

Backpacking rain ponchos buying advice or what to consider

Materials

Many cheaper backpacking rain ponchos are crafted from thin, tightly woven waterproof fabrics such as PU-coated polyester taffeta (the polyester material is treated with a liquid protective film made of PU; this film has very good water-repellency and makes the fabric more robust and tear- and abrasion-resistant). Most such models of waterproof ponchos are single-coated or double-coated meaning that the coating has been applied just once or twice. Good examples for this are three models in our review – the Outdoor Products Multipurpose Poncho, the Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho, and the best design for light rain – Terra Hiker Rain Poncho. Another recipe for making cheap and effective rain poncho design is using polypropylene (PP). It is an inexpensive thermoplastic polymer similar to polyethylene. Widely used for making plastic items of all kinds including clear bags, ropes, and carpets, PP is famous for its versatility. The best budget-friendly design FROGG TOGGS Ultra-Lite2 is made from thin, nonwoven polypropylene.

Other materials widely used for backpacking ponchos are nylon (or polyamide) and polyester (coated or non-coated). Note that nylon should always be PU, PVC or silicone-impregnated because the nylon fiber itself is neither waterproof nor water-repellent. Hence if there’s no coating (and no waterproof fabric), the garment will soak under the rain in a matter of minutes. Unlike nylon, polyester is naturally water-repellent. That’s why you can find polyester models with and without any waterproof/water-repellent coating (Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho and Hazard 4 Poncho Villa are non-coated, whereas the Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho is PVC-impregnated).

The top-ranked Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho is crafted from Paratex Dry – breathable PU fabric. It’s lightweight and tough yet soft to the touch fabric. Treated with a durable water repellent (DWR), the latest edition of the Paratex Dry fabric has a rating of 5000 mm waterproofness and 7500 g/m2 per day moisture vapor permeability.

It’s rare to find backpacking rain ponchos made with classic waterproof breathable materials like membranes. The only such design discussed in this article is the Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho. This poncho comes with Vaude’s own waterproof breathable membrane called ‘Ceplex Active’. It’s an environmentally-friendly waterproof membrane (10 000 mm water column) treated with PFC-free Eco Finish whose role is to complement the waterproof fabric.

Water resistance and weather protection

The two main requirements for rain ponchos are to protect the wearer from the elements and to provide enough airflow to avoid wetting from the inside. Both are supposed to help keep the wearer dry.

Unlike hardshell jackets, rain ponchos cannot provide the needed wind and water protection in really harsh conditions. However, their role is different. It is to provide protection against light/medium rain and showers. And due to the specific design, even some cheap backpacking ponchos deliver a really impressive performance in light to medium rain. Note that the performance of your rain poncho can be dependent on fine detail. For example, there’s a difference between wearing your poncho over and beneath your backpack. Keeping your backpack beneath the rain poncho will decrease the pressure created by the pack shoulder straps (it’s the opposite when the backpack is over the poncho). This means that even a poncho (or a rainfly, umbrella, etc.) with a lower waterproofness rating can be capable of delivering sufficient rain protection in most conditions.

The majority of models in our review are either water-resistant or rainproof (rainproof is a garment with at least 5000 mm water column). This means that they can keep you dry for hours in light rain especially if there’s no wind. Considering the classic definition for a waterproof garment, the only two designs that can be called really waterproof are the Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho and ACT FIRE Rain Poncho. According to the manufacturer, the latter has a waterproof rating of 20 000 mm, which is highly unusual for a waterproof poncho made from unspecified material.

Rainwear with many small rain drops over it
Quality rainwear has the ability to make water bead on the garment surface

Photo by Dan Gold

The use of coatings, DWR finishes, and fully taped seams (they are among the weakest spots as a failure of the seams can threaten the performance of the whole poncho construction) make the fabric even more impermeable to water.

High winds and heavy/driving rains are making walking in the rain very difficult. Especially when wearing a poncho and not a heavy-duty rain jacket. The typical poncho design is simple, light, and thin as it’s focused on providing good ventilation and sufficient waterproof protection. However, it would hardly resist punctures from rocks or tree branches. Actually, it’s very rare to find a good backpacking rain poncho combining full weather protection with durability, abrasion-resistance, and well-designed features.

Weight and packability

Many people think that rain ponchos are extremely light. Certainly, some of the models like the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho are super light. But many others are not that light and PU-coating is among the main reasons for this. Moreover, the presence or absence of particular features (zippers, pockets, metal grommets, etc.), as well as the size, weave, thickness, and type of the fabric, are the main factors affecting weight.

So are waterproof ponchos very light or not? To tell the truth… it depends. We’ve reviewed ponchos weighing from 145 g (5.2 oz) for the lightest Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano to 1043 g (2 lbs 4.8 oz) for the heaviest Hazard 4 Poncho Villa. Nearly half of our top models weigh 370 g (13 oz) or more. The average weight of the 13 models is 403 g (14.2 oz), while the median weight is much lighter – 310 g (10.9 oz). The reason for this huge difference is the presence of few outliers like the heaviest two Hazard 4 Poncho Villa (weighing over 1 kg) and Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho (780 g/1 lb 11.5 oz). Should we eliminate these two, the new average weight (310 g) would coincide with the median weight. Graph 1 and Graph 2 are provided for comparison of the weight of all 13 models. Graph 1 shows that the majority of the ponchos reviewed including three of the top six designs weigh between 200 g and 400 g.

Packability is an important factor to consider when buying a rain poncho since your poncho is expected to spend lots of time on the bottom of your pack. Solid models compatible with a liner weigh more and are not that compact in comparison to lightweight designs. The Exped Pack UL Poncho is one of the most packable ponchos. The manufacturer made it fit nicely into its own stuff sack and what’s more curious is that the Exped Pack UL (UL is for ultralight) can be stuffed into its own interior chest pocket.

Graph 1: Weight comparison between poncho designs (in grams)

Backpacking waterproof ponchos weight comparison

Graph 2: Weight comparison between poncho designs (in ounces) 

Backpacking rain ponchos weight in ounces - comparison

Breathability and ventilation

Ponchos are famous for the superior ventilation they can offer on the trail, in the mountain, and everywhere else. However, the way this happens differs greatly from that typical way the more traditional waterproof breathable garments do it. Note that while traditional waterproof breathable designs like rain pants and jackets rely on waterproof breathable fabrics and features like pit zips, side zippers, and ankle zippers to provide enough airflow for keeping the wearer dry during walking in bad weather, ponchos rely more on their specific design and fit rather than on the moisture vapor permeability (breathability) ratings. Sure, higher moisture vapor permeability is welcome, but as we pointed out in our post about the best hardshells (you can find a link in the ‘Related Articles’ section below), even the most breathable design won’t keep you completely dry when walking actively with a heavy pack in harsh conditions.

Why ponchos are so good at providing ventilation and air circulation? It’s because loose-fitting ponchos allow for increased airflow to help release the accumulated heat from the body to the environment. Too narrow or too long sleeves, as well as hook-and-loop sleeve closures, naturally restrict the airflow needed to maintain normal body temperature during high-intensity endeavors.

Features and versatility

The waterproof poncho industry is dominated by the simplicity of style and streamlined designs. Unlike rain jackets and hardshells, rain ponchos rarely have high-tech features. Actually, they don’t need more than a handful of useful details. Here’s a list of the most popular features of rain ponchos that can be of use:

  • Zippers – pack ponchos come with integrated zipper pack compartments to fit a backpack underneath the poncho. Some like the Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho have 1/2 zips for easy on and off when extra ventilation/warmth is needed.
  • Grommets and eyelets – used to strengthen holes in the fabric, they together with web-tie cords help convert a poncho into a tarp, rainfly, bivvy or emergency shelter.
  • Hoods – hoods with stiff protective brims are typical for rain ponchos because they shed off rain and allow the wearer to use the hood with or without headwear on.
  • Drawstrings and cord locks – adjustable drawcords and cord locks help adjust the hood and hem when needed, which is crucial in bad weather.
  • Pockets – pockets are among the not-so-typical features of backpacking ponchos. Depending on their size, pockets can be used for holding light and compact things like maps, snacks, documents, money, etc. Chest pockets and waterproof inside chest pockets are present in some models.
  • Taped seams – manufacturers try to eliminate the chance of wetting from the outside by using taped seams. Seam-sealed garments are more impermeable to raindrops, i.e. the poncho is more reliable.
  • Storage bags – typically all ponchos (except for those that are really dirt cheap) come with a stuff sack where you can fit and store and protect your poncho from moisture and abrasion.

Some poncho models are good only as ponchos (FROGG TOGGS Ultra-Lite2), whereas others such as the Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop work more like a versatile piece of rain gear than a simple poncho. Whether you need an emergency shelter or a rainfly, multipurpose ponchos are a good asset to have in your backpack. The downside of good, solid multifunctional ponchos is their weight.

Fit, mobility, and comfort

One of the reasons to use a rain poncho is that it won’t limit your movement while backpacking in the rain as it should be easy to move around in. If a particular poncho design restricts your movement in any way, you’d better pass on this one and look for another model that would allow for complete freedom of movement.

Fit is another important factor to consider. Great fit affects comfort making mobility easier. Ponchos usually fit most body types well but there are exceptions too. Take the Rab Silponcho, for example. This ultralight poncho is very comfortable but it’s also extra-long, which won’t be suitable for not-so-tall guys. There are also shorter ponchos like the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano. While it is a light and sturdy multipurpose poncho, this particular design is too short for taller guys. There are also constructions with shorter/longer sleeves (Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain). We don’t think that any design with either too short or too long sleeves is a good option for most situations. Of course, whether a certain design is better or not is more a matter of personal preference rather than a universal truth.

One of the most comfortable backpacking ponchos is the Hazard 4 Poncho Villa made from a soft and nice softshell fabric. The softshell fabric is a blend of polyester (86%) and spandex (14%). Water-resistant, flexible, and airy, the fabric offers a good balance of stretch, breathability, and protection.

Durability

Many lighter backpacking ponchos sacrifice durability for low weight. Take two specific poncho designs – the Outdoor Products Multipurpose and FROGG TOGGS Ultra-Lite2. The thin and light material works well against the rain and allows for some airflow but these models aren’t among the most durable either the most versatile rain ponchos. Keep in mind that many lightweight poncho designs are flimsy and may not survive their first use.

The more solid, heavy-duty constructions (Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho and Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho) are usually well-designed and well-made. As far as durability is concerned, these two and others similar to them are much more reliable. It’s worth mentioning that some of the lightest models made from more durable fabrics like the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano (thanks to the durable Cordura fabric) and Rab Silponcho (crafted from 30D Cordura nylon) have a decent chance to survive more than a couple of trips.

Price

One of the strongest points to opt for a poncho is the affordable price and yet the market is full of models whose price ranges a lot. There are people who prefer disposable rain ponchos, which makes sense in some cases. However, we are not huge fans of ultra-cheap gear as it’s usually crap. It’s true that use and throw products have a loyal fan base but we prefer a more efficient use of resources.

The price tags of the ponchos in our review ranged from $16.99 for the cheap Terra Hiker Rain to $139.99 for the more than eight times more expensive Poncho Villa by Hazard 4. The average price of the thirteen poncho models is a bit more than $61, while the median price is $38. Note that the huge difference between the average and median price indicates that the prices of the most expensive styles have a huge impact on the average price. In fact, both the Hazard 4 Poncho Villa and Exped Pack UL cost approximately $140 each while eight of the rest 11 designs cost less than $50 a piece. Is it justified to pay $100+ for a rain poncho? Hell, no, if you’re on a tight budget. There are certainly better ways to spend a hundred bucks. However, if you can afford to spend that much on a poncho, go for it. Exped Pack UL is a great pack poncho. Lightweight and super packable, it comes in different sizes to fit people whose height ranges from 150 to 210 cm. It’s also stuffed with a ton of useful features like the waterproof chest pocket or the pack attachment loop, for instance. We recommend the Hazard 4 Poncho Villa for those who’d like to get a good combination of practical design, soft and sturdy fabric, and premium features.

The best budget option is the FROGG TOGGS Ultra-Lite2. Crafted from lightweight polypropylene fabric, it’s probably the best 20-dollar rain poncho on the market today. For those who prefer to get a good value at a reasonable price, we recommend the Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop and Snugpak Enhanced Patrol with or without a liner.

Graph 3: Backpacking ponchos price comparison (US dollars)

Backpacking waterproof poncho price - comparison

Maintenance and storage

It’s obvious that you should always follow the manufacturer’s care instructions for safe cleaning and drying of any waterproof garment no matter if it’s a poncho, hardshell or a pair of socks. Waterproof breathable clothing should be washed, dried, and stored in such a way as to increase the useful life of the garment. Those ponchos with membrane pores that can become blocked need to be washed regularly with mild soap and water. Then rinse the garment off to remove any detergent residue (one of the things together with dirt and sweat that can limit the levels of breathability). Those with membranes without any pores like the Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho don’t have any pores that can be clogged. Washing them more than necessary can actually do more harm than good.

The storage of a rain poncho is relatively simple. You just need to follow some simple instructions. Firstly, it should always be clean and dry before storing it. Secondly, keep a poncho made from a waterproof breathable fabric in its stuff sack or hang it on a coat hanger. Thirdly, if no recent use is expected, hang it freely on a coat hanger. This way, you’ll avoid getting wrinkles and damage to the cloth as a result of keeping the poncho in its storage bag for too long.

If at some point you need to repair a puncture, hole, tear or any other damage, you can do it by using the seam sealer from your backpacking repair kit or with PU/silicone glue depending on the coating of your rain poncho.

Conclusion

Walking in the rain can be fun if you’re adequately equipped to deal with the challenges. There’s a lot of information about different rain jacket and pant designs, their advantages, disadvantages, and best use. The information about rain ponchos and their specifics is nowhere near as abundant as the info about more popular types of rain clothing and gear. This lack of information is one of the main reasons why backpacking rain ponchos have been neglected by many outdoor enthusiasts. And there are some really good models available on the market.

In our minds, the Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho is the best all-around rain poncho for backpacking. It’s a lightweight and compact poncho with useful features and a convenient design, which allows using the poncho as an emergency shelter if needed. The other designs that impressed us a lot include two versatile and heavy-duty contenders – the Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho and Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho. Both are a bit heavier and more solid designs that rely on their features and functionality rather than low weight. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho is our top recommendation for those who are looking for the best lightweight option. At less than 150 g (5.2 oz), it’s extremely packable and is able to provide the much-needed airflow for high output activities. Exped Pack UL Poncho and Vaude Hiking Backpack Poncho are a bit more expensive rain ponchos that offer great protection from wind and water and can be fitted over a large backpack. Actually, these are the only designs that come in more than one size. Their great functionality more than compensates for the higher price.

So, what’s our best advice? It’s simple yet effective: just keep your waterproof poncho handy to be well prepared for all types of weather.

Have advice, suggestions, comments or questions? Drop us a line in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Related Articles

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Guide to Waterproof Breathable Clothes

All About Waterproof Breathable Fabrics

Waterproof vs Water-resistant vs Water-repellent

Best Military Survival Ponchos

Ultimate Guide to Hiking Clothing

Hiking in the Rain

 

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