Best Military and Survival Ponchos of 2020-2021

Camotrek is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. See the disclosure page for more information.


Whether on a mission or on a walk in the rain, military and survival ponchos are an excellent choice for keeping you and the content of your pack dry. Survival ponchos are intended for emergency situations. Thus they need to be lightweight and super packable to take up as little space in your pack as possible. On the other hand, military ponchos need to meet the rigorous standards of quality and efficacy of the military. Certainly, for most people, it’s not easy to get a real military poncho actually used in the army. Despair not, because you can still have a military-style poncho, which is probably the closest to real military poncho than any other design on the market. Typically, military-style ponchos* are hard-wearing constructions designed to help you maintain your outdoor activities in bad weather. So while heavier, they are usually more solid and reliable than survival ponchos.

This post is about the best designs of military and survival ponchos of 2020-2021. Here you will find our top 13 ponchos together with their most important features, characteristics, pros, cons, and best use. You will also find a comparison table with the essentials of each of the models on our list as well as a buying advice section with everything about how to choose the right military survival poncho for your needs.

While this article is part of our tactical & camo section, we strongly recommend that you check out our rain gear section for more information about different types of trousers, ponchos, and jackets for rainy conditions as well as everything concerning water-repellent, water-resistant, and waterproof textiles and clothing.

Military vs survival poncho
Both military (left, Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop) and survival (right, SOL Heat Reflective) ponchos have their advantages and disadvantages

Quick answer: BEST MILITARY & SURVIVAL PONCHOS FOR 2020-2021

1. Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho                                        View on Amazon

2. SOL Heat Reflective Poncho                                                    View on Amazon              View on REI

3. MFH US Ripstop Poncho                                                            View on Amazon

4. Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho          View on Amazon

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

6. Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho                                   View on Amazon

7. Viper Tactical Poncho V-Cam                                                  View on Amazon

8. Hazard 4 Poncho Villa                                                                  View on Amazon

9. M-Tac Poncho                                                                                    View on Amazon

10. USGI Multi-Use Tactical Rain Poncho                              View on Amazon

11. GLORYFIRE Poncho                                                                   View on Amazon

12. ACT FIRE Rain Poncho                                                              View on Amazon

13. 5ive Star Gear GI Spec Military Poncho                          View on Amazon              View on LA Police Gear

 

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 (waterproofness: 5000 mm; moisture vapor permeability: 7500 g/m2 per day)

Material: Paratex Dry material

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

Packed size: 10 x 20 cm (4″ x 8″)

Notable features:

  • Seam-sealed construction made from waterproof and breathable Paratex Dry fabric treated with DWR finish
  • Adjustable hood for better protection from water and wind; thumb loops
  • Chest pocket with Velcro closure for easy access to maps and other (preferably small, non-bulky) items

Pros:

  • Well-designed and functional military-style poncho; the DWR-treated waterproof breathable Paratex Dry fabric and fully taped seams provide excellent protection from rain and water
  • Lightweight and very packable, it is still large enough to fit well over a backpacker and their pack
  • Can be upgraded by a woobie (the Snugpak Poncho Liner is intended to complement this poncho best) to get a good combination for three-season
  • The multifunctional design allows using the Snugpak Enhanced Patrol as an emergency shelter if needed

Cons:

  • Short sleeves so that taller outdoorsmen won’t be able to make use of the thumb holes
  • The zipper looks flimsy
  • As the stuff sack is too small, it is difficult to fit the poncho in

Best for: Backpacking

Compatible liner: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Best survival

#2 SOL Heat Reflective Poncho

SOL Heat Reflective Poncho

Weight: 77 g (2.7 oz)

Price (MSRP): $8

Waterproof technology/rating: N/A

Material: N/A

Size: Length (when worn, without hood): 96.5 cm (38″); Width: 142 cm (56″)

Packed size: 9.9 x 15.9 cm (3.9″ x 6.3″)

Notable features:

  • Full-size integrated hood
  • 90% Heat reflective coating helps to trap warm air preventing heat loss
  • Heat-sealed seams

Pros:

  • Ultralight material is 100% waterproof and windproof with sealed seams; small and compact, this poncho easily fits in the side pocket of your backpack, even in a day pack
  • An important part of your emergency kit, it works exactly as it should – the poncho is big enough to cover you and your pack and to keep you dry and warm while moving towards safety
  • Impressive price:quality ratio; not much more expensive than thin, disposable ponchos, the SOL Heat Reflective is made from tear-resistant material and is reusable
  • Bright orange color increases the chances the user to be seen by rescuers in case of emergency

Cons:

  • Doesn’t breathe that well (expected given the material and price), which can be a problem in warmer climates
  • Short – it will be easier for water to seep into your boots unless you are wearing rain pants/gaiters

Best for: Emergency preparedness

Compatible liner: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon | REI | Backcountry

 

Best lightweight

#3 MFH US Ripstop Poncho

MFH US Ripstop Poncho

Weight: 325 g (11.5 oz)

Price (MSRP): $37.95

Waterproof technology/rating: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) coating

Material: 100% Polyamide (ripstop)

Size: Length: 233 cm (87.7″); Width: 144 cm (56.6″)

Packed size: 19 x 21 cm (7.5″ x 8.3″)

Notable features:

  • PVC-coated durable nylon material for weather-resistance; welded seams
  • Adjustable hood with drawcord and cord locks
  • Four press stud poppers on each side, eight eyelets, and ties at corners can turn this poncho into various kinds of shelters

Pros:

  • Lightweight and compact for easy storage in your pack or in a coat pocket
  • Multifunctional – except as a poncho, it can double up as a groundsheet, sleeping bag cover or as a basha when the user snaps two ponchos together
  • The robust ripstop nylon material is extra abrasion and tear-resistant; it is also quick to dry
  • Looks good and the design is very practical making it simple to use

Cons:

  • You may have a problem with the neck size as the neck opening is fairly narrow
  • No sleeves – you’ll have to form them using the stud poppers (+ the studs are hard to open and close)

Best for: Lightweight excursions

Compatible liner: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

Best budget buy

#4 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 taffeta material is PU-coated with two layers of coating
  • Large metal grommets on all four corners allow to turn the poncho into a makeshift shelter
  • Large, deep, and adjustable hood with a drawcord and cord locks

Pros:

  • Good overall quality given the affordable price
  • Large yet light and compact tactical poncho
  • Versatile: works well for all your outdoor activities in bad weather and especially for camping and the like; additionally, it can be used as a poncho, tarp, emergency shelter, groundsheet, pack poncho, etc.
  • Extra-long, suitable for taller people as its length and width are 122 cm (48″) long and 137 cm( 54″) respectively (measured when the poncho is actually worn)

Cons:

  • Too short arm length: if you are taller with longer arms, your hands and wrists will stay exposed
  • Works best in absence of wind and doesn’t do that well in windy conditions

Best for: Multifunctional poncho for camping

Compatible liner: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

Best of the rest

#5 Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho

Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho Camo

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 (83″); Width: 145 cm (57″)

Packed size: 14 x 22 cm (5.5″ x 8.7″)

Notable features:

  • Hood with drawcord adjustment
  • Water-resistant polyester fabric combined with taped seams for added waterproofness
  • Press studs and metal eyelets at the edges allow making an emergency shelter from two ponchos connected together

Pros:

  • Heavy-duty rain poncho from the Surplus Line of Helikon-Tex: thoughtful design, quality material, and great details
  • Makes an effective multipurpose poncho system when paired with the Swagman Roll (for colder weather activities)
  • A good combination of lightweight 100% ripstop polyester material and simple and compact design
  • Versatile: works great as a poncho during any outdoor activity; can be reconfigured into a lightweight and compact emergency shelter if needed

Cons:

  • Relatively light but definitely not the lightest option on the market (other, lighter designs would suit you better if you want to travel light)
  • You’ll have to rely on the design for airflow because the material isn’t very breathable

Best for: Versatility

Compatible liner: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon

#6 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: PVC coating, 5000 mm water column

Material: 100% Polyester (ripstop)

Size: Length: 210 cm (83″); Width: 150 cm (59″)

Packed size: N/A

Notable features:

  • Drawstring-adjustable hood for better protection from the elements
  • Good details placed exactly where they should be to help turn this military poncho into a shelter (eyelets on the hem, press-stud poppers on sides, and ties at each corner)
  • Strong, ripstop polyester material

Pros:

  • The multipurpose design allows to use it not just as a poncho but also as a tarp, bivvy, basha (tarpaulin), groundsheet, sleeping bag cover, etc.
  • Military specification construction: good design, heavy-duty ripstop polyester material, and good stitching -> all these combined mean that the final result is a robust product
  • Great value as it is well worth the price you pay
  • Camouflage patterns that work great in a variety of areas

Cons:

  • The fabric is not very breathable (a common problem with rain ponchos) and there are two main reasons for that – the thick polyester fabric and the PVC coating
  • Great multipurpose poncho but seen as a poncho-specific design, it is a bit clunky

Best for: Multi-day trips and long expeditions

Compatible liner: Available -> Amazon (Woodland, Coyote, Flecktarn, Olive, Tropentarn, French CEC)

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#7 Viper Tactical Poncho V-Cam

Viper Poncho V-Cam

Weight: 450 g (15.9 oz)

Price (MSRP): $47.95

Waterproof technology/rating: N/A

Material: 100% Nylon

Size: Length (when worn, without hood): 102 cm (40″); Width: 140 cm (55″)

Packed size: 22 x 23.5 cm (8.7″ x 9.3″)

Notable features:

  • Waterproof ripstop nylon material and taped seams
  • Fully adjustable hood
  • Press studs on each side and metal eyelets on edges allow for customizations

Pros:

  • Excellent waterproofness – works efficiently during long wet days to keep the wearer dry
  • It’s a durable construction made from ripstop nylon material (in multi-terrain V-Cam) ready to meet the challenges of tough everyday in the bush
  • Good overall size: fits well to most body types and what’s more, it’s soft and very comfortable
  • Can be used as an emergency shelter (basha) or as a rainfly over the top of your shelter

Cons:

  • The press studs aren’t top quality
  • The material is thin but because of the coating it does not breathe that well

Best for: Versatile waterproofness

Compatible liner: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#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:

  • Adjustable hood with brim section is ample enough to fit over head-wear
  • Large metal grommets allow for conversion to a tent/tarp when necessary; side snaps for better protection in inclement weather
  • Velcro panels for badges: large panels on front and back; smaller panels on the shoulders and head-back

Pros:

  • A modernized version of the classic military poncho design, it has great features: large grommets to tie rope through, MOLLE on the loop fastener on the pocket flap, Velcro panels, water-resistant/breathable softshell fabric, fully taped seams for better protection in foul weather, 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
  • Well-designed and well-made; rugged construction with quality softshell material and stitching
  • Packable – the poncho can be stuffed into its own front pocket

Cons:

  • It’s a great multipurpose military-style poncho but it’s also heavy – the second heaviest poncho design in this review
  • Not suitable for heavy rain (it might hold up for like 15-20 minutes) or extended rain exposure as it is water-resistant and not waterproof; also once wet, the softshell fabric is slow to dry

Best for: Versatility

Compatible liner: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#9 M-Tac Poncho

M-Tac Poncho

Weight: 386 g (13.6 oz)

Price (MSRP): $39.95

Waterproof technology/rating: N/A

Material: 100% Nylon (ripstop)

Size: Length: 201.9 cm (83″); Width: 145 cm (57″)

Packed size: 17.5 x 22.1 cm (6.9″ x 8.7″)

Notable features:

  • Adjustable hood and midsection
  • The edges are equipped with cords in eyelets to convert it into a tent or some other type of temporary shelter
  • Buttons on the sides help fit it as a rain poncho

Pros:

  • Versatile and functional: can be used for all your outdoor activities, is relatively quiet, holds up to the elements to keep you dry and protected from wind and rain (even downpours), and makes an easy shelter system
  • Good balance between low weight and durability, it is made from lightweight and thin yet durable and abrasion-resistant ripstop nylon fabric
  • Solid military-style poncho crafted from materials of very good quality; if maintained properly, it could last a very long time
  • Stuffs back into the storage bag with ease and retains its shape; it’s also easy to care for

Cons:

  • The hood is too small to fit a helmet and other more substantial headgear appropriately
  • Only partially double-stitched
  • Not the airiest nylon material

Best for: Backpacking in foul weather

Compatible liner: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#10 USGI Multi-Use Tactical Rain Poncho

USGI Multi-Use Tactical Rain Poncho

Weight: 510 g (1 lb 1.3 oz)

Price (MSRP): $39.99

Waterproof technology/rating: 3000 mm

Material: 210T Ripstop taffeta (polyester)

Size: Length: 218 cm (86″); Width: 150 cm (59″)

Packed size: 15.2 x 20.3 cm (6″ x 8″)

Notable features:

  • Strong drawstrings for a much comfortable and tighter fit
  • Eight dark metal grommets to build a shelter
  • 16 universal double-sided dark metal snap buttons can be used as a securing method for further protection from rain and/or water splash

Pros:

  • Designed for multiple uses (can be used in many different ways): as a shelter, hammock, groundsheet, emergency stretcher, etc.
  • Good quality military-style poncho with sturdy snaps and grommets
  • When paired with a compatible woobie (the USGI poncho liner – sized 82″ x 60″ – is a very useful piece of equipment crafted from durable ripstop nylon) you get a good combo for use in lower temperatures
  • Pretty quiet poncho – it makes minimal crinkle and rub noise, which would be appreciated by those who’d use it for hunting

Cons:

  • Questionable durability – the material is quite thin and doesn’t seem to be of very high quality; this will certainly affect the strength of the poncho when being used as a shelter
  • The opening for the head is small
  • No head hole in the USGI liner so if you want to combine it with the woobie, you’ll have to make the head slot yourself

Best for: Occasional backpacking

Compatible liner: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#11 GLORYFIRE Poncho

GLORYFIRE Poncho

Weight: 1090 g (2 lbs 6.5 oz)

Price (MSRP): $59.90

Waterproof technology/rating: 10 000 mm (and 6000 g/m2 per day breathability)

Material: N/A

Size: N/A

Packed size: N/A

Notable features:

  • Water-resistant softshell fabric and fully taped seams
  • Can be stuffed into its own front pocket
  • Hook-and-loop patches on shoulders, front, back, and head

Pros:

  • Excellent water-resistance for a rain poncho thanks to the water-resistant material with nano-coating and 100% sealed seams and good-sized, adjustable hood that fits over headwear
  • A good alternative to the Hazard 4 Poncho Villa with similar features (advantages: cheaper and more waterproof; disadvantages: fabric, comfort, no dedicated liner)
  • Easily foldable and stored in its stuff sack or into its own front pocket
  • Good materials and well-designed construction crafted from a thick fabric that will keep you warm

Cons:

  • The size is too small for taller people; too short to cover the arms properly
  • Quite heavy

Best for: Camping

Compatible liner: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#12 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 rating is 20 000 mm)
  • Steel grommets allow the ACT FIRE Rain to turn into an emergency shelter
  • Adjustable hood with drawstring for better fit and protection

Pros:

  • Super high waterproofness rating of 20 000 mm is equivalent to the waterproofness of a fully waterproof rain jacket capable of keeping you dry for hours in rainy conditions
  • Lightweight yet sturdy material and construction for multiple uses: you can easily convert it into a tarp, rainfly, temporary or emergency shelter, ground cloth, etc.
  • 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

Cons:

  • The material is too noisy as the poncho makes some strange sound when walking
  • Some of the details such as the seam tapes, grommets, and cords look like being of poor quality

Best for: Emergency situations

Compatible liner: Not Available

Find the latest price:

Amazon

 

#13 5ive Star Gear GI Spec Military Poncho

5ive Star Gear GI Spec Military Poncho

Weight: 295 g (10.4 oz)

Price (MSRP): $37.95 (can often be found for approximately $20-25)

Waterproof technology/rating: N/A

Material: 100% Polyester (ripstop)

Size: Length: 229 cm (90″); Width: 142 cm (56″)

Packed size: 20.3 x 30.5 cm (8″ x 12″)

Notable features:

  • Water-resistant heavyweight ripstop material with taped seams
  • Two built-in snaps on each side for increased protection from the elements
  • Has grommets in each corner that allow the poncho to be used as an emergency shelter if needed

Pros:

  • Multipurpose, efficient design for increased protection from the elements (still it works better as a poncho than as a shelter)
  • This military-style poncho can really shed water even in a downpour to keep you dry and comfy all day long
  • Highly portable: folds up flat and packs down small so it won’t take up too much space in your backpack
  • Light and comfortable – you may not even notice that it’s on you

Cons:

  • While the material is ripstop, it’s fairly thin
  • The grommets are wafer-thin

Best for: Lightweighters (hunting, hiking, etc.)

Compatible liner: Available -> Amazon

Find the latest price:

Amazon | LA Police Gear

 

Table 1: Best military and survival ponchos – comparison table

PRODUCTDESCRIPTIONPROSCONS
Snugpak enhanced patrol poncho
Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho

#1 Best military 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

SOL Heat Reflective Poncho
SOL Heat Reflective Poncho

#2 Best survival



Weight -> 77 g (2.7 oz)
Price -> $8
Waterproof technology/rating -> N/A
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Small and compact, easily fits in the side pocket of a pack
-> Big enough to cover you and your pack and to keep you dry and warm
-> Made from tear-resistant material and is reusable
-> Orange color is more visible in case of emergency


-> Doesn't breathe that well, which can be a problem in warmer climates
-> Shorter than some more expensive designs

MFH US Ripstop Poncho
MFH US Ripstop Poncho

#3 Best lightweight



Weight -> 325 g (11.5 oz)
Price -> $37.95
Waterproof technology/rating -> PVC coating
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Lightweight and compact for easy storage
-> Multifunctional
-> The robust material is extra abrasion and tear-resistant
-> Looks good and the design is very practical


-> The neck opening is fairly narrow
-> No sleeves - you'll have to form them using the stud poppers

Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho
Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho

#4 Best budget buy



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

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

#5



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

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

#6



Weight -> 780 g (1 lb 11.5 oz)
Price -> $37.59
Waterproof technology/rating -> Polyvinylchloride coating, 5000 mm
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

Viper Poncho V-Cam
Viper Tactical Poncho V-Cam

#7


Weight -> 450 g (15.9 oz)
Price -> $47.95
Waterproof technology/rating -> N/A
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Works efficiently during long wet days to keep the wearer dry
-> Ready to meet the challenges of tough everyday in the bush
-> Fits well to most body types
-> Can be used as an emergency shelter (basha) or as a rainfly


-> The press studs aren't top quality
-> The material does not breathe very well


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

M-Tac Poncho
M-Tac Poncho

#9



Weight -> 386 g (13.6 oz)
Price -> $39.95
Waterproof technology/rating -> N/A
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Versatile, functional, and relatively quiet
-> Good balance between low weight and durability
-> If maintained properly, it could last a very long time
-> Stuffs back into the storage bag with ease


-> The hood is too small to fit a helmet and other more substantial headgear appropriately
-> Only partially double-stitched
-> Not the airiest nylon material

USGI Multi-Use Tactical Rain Poncho
USGI Multi-Use Tactical Rain Poncho

#10



Weight -> 510 g (1 lb 1.3 oz)
Price -> $39.99
Waterproof technology/rating -> 3000 mm
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Designed for multiple uses
-> Good quality military-style poncho with sturdy snaps and grommets
-> Makes a good combo when paired with a compatible woobie
-> Pretty quiet poncho


-> Questionable durability
-> The opening for the head is small
-> No head hole in the USGI liner so you'll have to make the head slot yourself

GLORYFIRE Poncho
GLORYFIRE Poncho

#11



Weight -> 1090 g (2 lbs 6.5 oz)
Price -> $59.90
Waterproof technology/rating -> 10 000 mm (and 6000g/m2/per day breathability)
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Excellent water-resistance for a rain poncho
-> A good alternative to the Hazard 4 Poncho Villa
-> Easily foldable and stored in its stuff sack or into its own front pocket
-> Good materials and well-designed construction


-> The size is too small for taller people;
-> Quite heavy

ACT FIRE Rain Poncho
ACT FIRE Rain Poncho

#12



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


-> Great waterproofness
-> 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

5ive Star Gear GI Spec Military Poncho
5ive Star Gear GI Spec Military Poncho

#13



Weight -> 295 g (10.4 oz)
Price -> $37.95
Waterproof technology/rating -> N/A
One size fits most/all -> Yes


-> Multipurpose, efficient design for increased protection from the elements
-> Can shed water even in a downpour
-> Highly portable - won't take up too much space in your backpack
-> Light and comfortable


-> While the material is ripstop, it's fairly thin
-> The grommets are paper-thin

 

Military and survival rain ponchos buying advice or what to consider

Materials

The materials used for military and survival ponchos are very similar to the materials used for backpacking rain ponchos. Among them:

  • Non-woven polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) – these two plastic materials are known for their versatility, water-resistance/waterproofness, and very low or zero breathability. Loose-fitting emergency rain ponchos are just one of their many different applications.
  • Mylar, PVC, etc. – materials with similar characteristics and properties to the PP and PE, they’re quite popular for survival ponchos. The SOL Heat Reflective Poncho is made from such type of material.
  • Tightly woven fabrics such as PVC or PU-coated polyester taffeta – cheaper options are often crafted from thin polyester taffeta because it is lightweight, affordable, water-resistant, and relatively strong material. Typical representatives of such ponchos are the Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho and USGI Multi-Use Tactical Rain Poncho.
  • Nylon (always coated or impregnated because it is inherently hydrophilic fiber) and polyester (coated or non-coated because it is inherently hydrophobic fiber) – durable and abrasion-resistant materials such as ripstop polyamide or nylon and polyester are used for hard-wearing designs – Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho, Viper Tactical Poncho V-Cam; softshell fabrics are used because of their wind and water-resistance. The Hazard 4 Poncho Villa is made from a quality, smooth softshell material (a blend of 86% polyester and 14% spandex in this case).
  • Breathable PU fabric – usually PU and PVC-coated fabrics aren’t very breathable but in the case of the Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho crafted from Paratex Dry, the breathability is impressive for a poncho (7500 g/m2 per day moisture vapor permeability).
  • Waterproof breathable materials including membranes – rarely used for ponchos yet there are exceptions like the GLORYFIRE Poncho made from fabric with 10 000 mm waterproofness and 6000 g/m2 moisture vapor permeability.

Water resistance and weather protection

Two vital factors to consider when looking for a poncho are the level of protection from the elements it can offer and its ability to provide enough airflow. The combination of good weather protection and adequate ventilation should help you avoid wetting from the outside and from the inside. Note that even the most heavy-duty poncho construction won’t be effective in high winds and heavy/driving rains. BUt this is normal because unlike rain jackets and hardshells, ponchos can provide enough protection only against light/medium rain and showers.

Sturdy water-repellent and water-resistant fabrics treated with some kind of a water-repellent (PVC, PU) coating are typically used for making military ponchos. The use of hoods, sealed seams, DWR finishes, and even waterproof breathable fabrics (ponchos with more than 3000-5000 mm water column – GLORYFIRE PonchoACT FIRE Rain Poncho – are more of an exception) is also popular for achieving sufficient weather resistance. The greatest asset of a poncho is its specific design allowing even a poncho with a lower waterproofness rating to be capable of delivering sufficient rain protection in most conditions. Just use it properly (fit the poncho over your backpack to decrease the pressure created by the backpack shoulder straps) and you will be surprised how effective a simple poncho can be in keeping the rain off in inclement weather providing good ventilation at the same time. Take the Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho, for example. It’s only rainproof (meaning that its waterproofness rating is no more than 5000 mm) but offers both excellent weather protection and ventilation.

Military rain poncho outdoorsmen town
Survival and military ponchos can also be used for town walks

Photo by Raychan

Weight and packability

We’ve reviewed ponchos weighing from 77 g (2.7 oz) for the lightest SOL Heat Reflective to 1090 g (2 lbs 6.5 oz) for the heaviest GLORYFIRE Poncho. Six of our top models weigh 400 g (14.1 oz) or more; two of them are heavier than 907 g (2 lbs). The average weight of the contenders is 502 g (1 lb 1.7 oz), while the median weight is much lighter – 397 g (14 oz). As nine of the thirteen designs (more than 2/3rds) weigh between 300 and 500 g, it’s easy to see that this huge difference is caused by the presence of two quite heavy designs in comparison to the others (Hazard 4 Poncho Villa and GLORYFIRE Poncho weighing over 1 kg each). Graph 1 and Graph 2 show the weight of all 13 models as Graphs 1 does it in grams, whereas Graph 2 does it in ounces. These graphs are included for easy reference.

Many things can increase/decrease poncho weight but the material and its thickness, as well as some features such as zippers, metal grommets, eyelets, and pockets, are the main culprit. It isn’t surprising that simple designs made from thin materials like the 5ive Star Gear GI Spec Military Poncho are among the lightest.

Having a light and compact poncho in your backpack is essential especially if you don’t expect to be using it very often. Packable models take up by definition little space giving you more free space for other gear. In addition to the ultralight SOL Heat Reflective Poncho, we’d recommend another compact alternative – the MFH US Ripstop Poncho. Except for its great packability, it’s also a more robust alternative suitable for repeated use.

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

Military & survival ponchos weight comparison

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

Military and survival ponchos weight in ounces - comparison

Breathability and ventilation

We need to clarify the meaning of these terms first because people often confuse breathability with ventilation. It’s true that when talking about ordinary fabrics and clothes, they can denote the same phenomenon – the ability of the fabric/garment to allow for the passage of air through the fabric/garment. However, when talking about waterproof breathable fabrics, they usually have different meanings. Moisture vapor permeability or breathability shows how much a fabric allows water vapor to pass through it. It depends to a great extent on atmospheric conditions. Ventilation shows how much a fabric allows airflow through it. It depends to a lesser extent on atmospheric conditions.

Many outdoorsmen use ponchos because they can ensure superior ventilation on the trail, in the mountain, and everywhere else. In doing this, ponchos rely on their inherent ability to provide airflow. The typical poncho design is a key factor in providing ventilation and air circulation. Note that ‘typical’ in this case equals loose-fitting. In this respect, loose-fitting ponchos such as the Hazard 4 Poncho Villa and MFH US Ripstop Poncho can typically provide more ventilation than tight-fitting ponchos with too narrow or too long sleeves.

There are some models like the GLORYFIRE Poncho made from waterproof breathable fabric. This specific design has moisture vapor permeability of 6000 g/m2 per day, which isn’t bad compared to cheap rain jackets and ponchos. However, fabric with such a low breathability rating will make you sweat during high-intensity activities such as hill walking with or without a heavy pack since the needed breathability for such activities is in excess of 15 000-20 000 g/m2 per day. In the case of the GLORYFIRE Poncho, this may not happen because of the poncho-specific design that would help transfer the accumulated heat from the body to the environment (thanks to the superior ventilation it offers). Another interesting case is the ACT FIRE Rain Poncho whose waterproofness rating is 20 000 mm water column. We don’t know its breathability rating but such a high waterproofness rating of relatively cheap design almost always means that the fabric does not breathe well/at all. Again, this will be a huge problem for a rain jacket but can be perfectly fine for a rain poncho.

Features and versatility

Functionality is probably the most important requirement for military and survival ponchos. And it depends heavily on two things: design and features. Ponchos are expected to be easy to use in the field making simplicity an important quality. Thus streamlined designs are preferred to more sophisticated styles. Features are important too. Especially simple, basic features such as adjustable hoods, sturdy zippers, and reinforced metal grommets or eyelets. Additionally, high-tech features won’t do much difference unless they are integrated into a poncho design engineered for easy user operation.

Multipurpose poncho systems are a good asset to have in your backpack because they’re versatile pieces of gear that can be used as an emergency shelter, groundsheet, water-resistant sleeping bag (when with a liner) or a rainfly. While they rely on their convenience, weight can be a problem as multifunctional ponchos are often heavier than the not-so-versatile poncho models.

Here’s a list of the most popular and useful features of military survival rain ponchos:

  • Zippers – used for several different reasons from providing extra ventilation (more rarely) to helping to fit a backpack underneath the poncho (more often). Most models don’t have zippers but some like the Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho have 1/2 or 1/4 zips for easy on and off when extra ventilation/warmth is needed.
  • Hoods – a typical feature of ponchos, a large hood with a stiff protective brim can shed off rain and allow the wearer to use the hood with or without headgear on.
  • Grommets and eyelets – found on multipurpose ponchos, they strengthen holes in the fabric and together with web-tie cords allow for conversion to a tarp, rainfly, bivvy or emergency shelter.
  • Drawstrings and cord locks – key features for bad weather, drawstrings and cord locks help adjust the hood (more often) and hem (more rarely) when needed.
  • Taped seams – used to eliminate the chance of wetting from the outside as seam-sealed garments are more impermeable to raindrops. Seams that aren’t sealed are notorious for leaking in rainy weather.
  • Storage bags – allow to fit and store and protect your poncho from moisture and abrasion. Typical military ponchos come with a stuff sack. Since most survival ponchos are intended for single-use, they rarely come with a storage bag.
  • Woobies – another name of poncho liners. Woobies are expected to help keep the user warm in cooler climates. Made of light and quick-dry materials (usually polyester), they can be used as blankets, sleeping bags, shelters, hoodies, robes, etc. About half of the designs reviewed here have dedicated poncho liners.
  • Pockets – you will rarely see military survival ponchos with pockets. Still, the Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho, Hazard 4 Poncho Villa, and GLORYFIRE Poncho all have chest pockets for holding light and compact things like maps, snacks, documents, money, etc. In some cases, large chest pockets can also be used to fold up the poncho flat and pack it inside. Inside chest pockets are also present occasionally.

Fit, mobility, and comfort

Wet weather is notorious for its ability to constrain both mobility and comfort of those engaged in outdoor activities. Ill-fitting clothes and boots, add to the discomfort. That’s why it is important to have well-fitting apparel, boots, and equipment at your disposal. Good, well-fitting ponchos won’t limit your movement allowing for complete freedom of movement keeping you and your backpack dry at the same time.

The main problems with fit are related to too short sleeves (Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain) or when the overall length of the poncho is not long enough (SOL Heat Reflective Poncho) or when the length is too long (again the Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho). No one wants to feel water leaking in his/her boots or sleeves while backpacking in the rain – it’s perfectly understandable after all. Good-fitting ponchos make mobility easier and walking more comfortable and our advice is to look for a poncho that would fit your body well without restricting your movement in any way. If looking for something that fits most body types well, we recommend the Viper Tactical Poncho V-Cam.

Everyone’s looking for ‘comfort’ yet it is a strictly individual perception. That’s the reason why the market is full of models that differ noticeably. Take one of the most comfortable backpacking ponchos – the Hazard 4 Poncho Villa – made from a soft and nice softshell fabric. Made with a mixture of polyester and spandex (a nice softshell fabric), it’s water-resistant, flexible, and airy. Moreover, the fabric offers a good balance of stretch, breathability, and protection. Having said that, the majority of military ponchos are made from lightweight polyester or nylon treated with a water-repellent.

Durability

The military is known for relying on solid, heavy-duty constructions. The case with ponchos is no different from any other case in this respect. Many designs here rely on military specification construction including hard-wearing materials, features, and compact design. Everything about the best military poncho designs is focused on ensuring performance, reliability, and comfort in bad conditions. This means that durability is among the essential requirements for such ponchos. As far as durability is concerned, we are impressed by the Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho and Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho. The combination of a heavy-duty ripstop polyester material treated with a water-repellent coating, good stitching, and solid details definitely works well for many situations.

Survival ponchos are not very durable but they should survive the one time you will be needing them. The low weight and excellent packability are much more important for designs like the SOL Heat Reflective Poncho engineered to work well and provide the necessary protection during an emergency. Note that many lightweight poncho designs crafted from thin and light materials are flimsy and may not survive their first use. If lucky, you might get a poncho with a decent chance to survive more than a couple of trips.

Price

Survival ponchos are cheaper than other types of ponchos because, generally, they are “use and throw” products. Still, there are survival ponchos for repeated use such as the SOL Heat Reflective Poncho. What’s good about this model is that while it’s much cheaper than other designs in our review, it is still reliable for emergency (and not only) use. Actually, if you bet on the SOL Heat Reflective, you’ll get a good value at a reasonable price. It has a higher price:quality ratio than the majority of the military and survival designs available out there. If you’re on the lookout for a good bargain, we recommend this model by Survive Outdoors Longer (yep, SOL is an acronym).

Military ponchos are more expensive but their roles are different as multipurpose designs are readily sought after by many outdoor lovers. The prices of the 12 tactical poncho designs in our review ranged from 19.97 for the Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain Poncho to $139.99 for the most expensive design – Poncho Villa by Hazard 4. The average price of these military-style poncho models is a bit more than $48, while the median price is approximately $39. The typical price of military ponchos (as can be seen on the graph below) is between $30 and $40 with just four models above that – among them the top-rated Snugpak Enhanced Patrol and the Viper Tactical Poncho V-Cam. Both offer a combination of practical design, good quality materials, and functionality. The most expensive designs are two ponchos that have a similar look and features (though the Hazard 4 Poncho Villa is of higher quality and thus comes at a premium price).

Graph 3: Backpacking ponchos price comparison (US dollars)

Military and survival poncho price - comparison

Arcturus Lightweight Waterproof Rain is a very good budget-friendly design as it comes at less than $20 but offers good performance thanks to the polyester fabric coated with two layers of PU coating, large hood, metal grommets, and the overall decent multipurpose design. It can do a good job in absence of wind and is not that good in windy conditions (generally, ponchos are not very good when the wind is strong and the main reason for this is the typical poncho-specific design).

Conclusion

Ponchos are a good alternative to rain jackets in light to medium rain and predominantly mild conditions with light winds. Yet the problem is that the market is full of (pretending to be) tactical, military-style, and all kinds of survival ponchos. The abundance of designs is a curse rather than a blessing when there isn’t enough reliable information about the different models. Unfortunately, that’s often the case with military survival ponchos and there are some really good models available on the market.

The Snugpak Enhanced Patrol is the best all-around military-style poncho. Suitable for multipurpose use, it’s lightweight, compact, and has many useful features for the outdoor enthusiast. If you’re looking for a solid, functional poncho with reliable features, we recommend the Helikon-Tex U.S. Poncho and Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho. Each of these two is made to excel in the field. Especially when paired with a woobie, you get a good multipurpose poncho system for three-season use. The best lightweight option (MFH US Ripstop Poncho) is recommended for those who’d need something lighter with a practical design yet reliable for everyday use in the field. The SOL Heat Reflective Poncho is the right choice to have in your pocket/pack/car for emergencies as it’s crafted from an ultralight but tear-resistant material and packs compactly. Plus it comes at an affordable price and has a reusable design.

Have advice, suggestions, comments or questions? Feel free to drop us a line! We’d love to hear from you.

 

* Note that throughout this article, we use the two terms  ‘military poncho’ and ‘military-style poncho’ interchangeably.

 

Related Articles

Rain Ponchos for Backpacking

Best Rain Pants

Best Hardshell Jackets

Waterproof vs Water-resistant vs Water-repellent Explained

Waterproof Breathable Clothes

All About Waterproof Breathable Fabrics

Backpacking in the Rain

The Father of Modern Camouflage

 

 

Like this post? PIN ME!!

Military and survival ponchos

Leave a Comment