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Although rain ponchos might not be the most attractive piece of outdoor gear, they’re absolutely essential when it comes to backpacking. Because who wants to leave themselves to get soaked to the bone and exposed to the elements whilst they’re out on a trail? Not me, that’s for sure!
They are also relatively inexpensive, they’re breathable, you can use them to cover your backpack as well as your body, and if there’s a quick repair to be done, you can just go ahead and do it yourself mid-trip.
However, there’s a lot more to choosing the right piece of rain gear than you might at first imagine. There’s a huge range of materials, shapes, and sizes out there, so it always helps to have a buying guide, whether you’re choosing your first rain poncho or you’re looking for an upgrade.
Here’s what you need to know about rain ponchos before you make the leap and invest:
What are the advantages and disadvantages of rain ponchos?
As I’ve mentioned above, rain ponchos are a fantastic way to keep yourself protected when you’re outdoors. But as well as having a huge range of advantages, they do also have some disadvantages which are worth bearing in mind. Let me explain more.
● They’re breathable and airy
● They’re easy to put on and off
● They can cover more of your body than just a raincoat
● They’re a great cool option for a summer hike
● They’re easy to repair
● They’re lightweight and easy to carry
● You can throw them over your backpack too for added protection
● They aren’t the best option for winter activities
● They don’t protect from windchill
● They can often restrict your movement
● They can get damaged during adventure activities like climbing and mountaineering
● They often lack pockets (although some do have them)
● Your arms aren’t covered unless you hold them close to your body
● They’re not great for those times you need to carry lots of gear
What materials are rain ponchos usually made from?
Rain ponchos can be made from several waterproof materials which range in price and effectiveness. Here’s a quick rundown of the different types:
The cheapest material for rain ponchos is PVC. You’ll usually find ponchos made from PVC for sale in your local supermarket, and they’re generally considered to be low quality. Having said that, they’re a great option if you just need something lightweight and basic to stash in your bag.
PU Coated Nylon
PU Coated Nylon is made from a combination of nylon and waterproof polyurethane to create a durable, affordable waterproof raincoat. The only downside is that these rain ponchos made of these materials can get a bit hot and stuffy in the summer!
Rain ponchos made from Sil-Poly or Sil-Nylon are durable, reliable, heat-resistant and inexpensive. That’s why they’re one of the most popular materials used in the outdoor industry. They’re simply nylon or polyester that has been soaked with silicone. They’re a great effective option.
This waterproof material is made from carefully designed layers of fabrics and plastics, often known under the brand name of Gore-Tex. It helps to keep you dry whilst also allowing sweat and moisture to evaporate effortlessly. This allows you to feel comfortable no matter what outdoor activity you’re enjoying.
Cuben Fiber, also known as Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) is a non-woven, lightweight, and durable waterproof fabric that is used to make sails, tents, and other lightweight high-tech outdoor equipment. As you’d imagine, this does mean it’s on the more expensive end of the market.
How to choose the best rain poncho for your needs
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself when choosing a rain poncho.
1. Does it fit well?
When you’re choosing your rain gear, make sure that you have plenty of room to move around without feeling absolutely drowned in the fabric. This will help you feel comfortable without tripping over yourself.
2. Is it for men, women, or unisex?
It’s also worth choosing a poncho which has been designed for your gender as it will fit better and provide better protection from the elements.
3. Does it have a hood?
Yes, ponchos without hoods really do exist, as I recently found out when I bought my son a rain poncho as a gift. How embarrassing! So double-check that your rain poncho does have a hood and that it comfortably covers your entire head.
4. What’s it made from?
Rain ponchos can be made from a wide variety of waterproof materials, so check that yours provides the level of rain protection that you’re looking for and that you’re not allergic to the materials.
5. Does it come with a carrying bag?
Many ponchos come with clever carrying bags which help you fold them down small and carry them easily when they’re not in use. Whilst this isn’t a vital feature, it can come in very handy when you’re out and about.
6. Do you like the design?
Let’s be honest- we all like to look good when we’re out for a backpacking adventure. So, make sure you pick a poncho that you actually like! There’s a wide range of designs, patterns, and colors available.
7. What outdoor activity are you taking part in?
For a simple spot of backpacking, ponchos are an awesome buy. But if you’re planning to include other adventurous activities on your trip, a rain jacket might be better suited to your needs. Bear your activity in mind when making your choice.
As you can see, rain ponchos are an affordable and lightweight solution that will help you to stay dry when you’re out backpacking. But before you buy, make sure you know your needs, you’re clear on the activities you’ll be taking part in then make your selection with confidence.