In a rush? After extensive research, we’ve concluded that the best poncho for backpacking is the Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Nano Tarp Poncho.
Despite how goofy they might look, ponchos are still great hiking accessories. I once thought otherwise, but getting caught in a thunderstorm while hiking – without any waterproof gear – quickly changed my mind.
Since then, my trusty poncho has earned a permanent place in my packing list. It’s lightweight, durable, and can cover most of my body and backpack.
What’s not to love?
Best Rain Ponchos For Backpacking: Our Top 5 Picks
Now, you might be ready to buy a poncho, but how do you make sure you choose the right one?
After all, there are hundreds of options out there, and more are being created every year. They differ in sizes, materials used, quality, durability, and so on… yet they’re so very similar nonetheless.
That’s why I wrote this guide – to help you choose the best poncho for you.
Let’s dive in.
Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Nano Tarp Poncho
Let’s start with the weight. Packed, this poncho only weighs 8 oz., which is pretty good. The packed size is 3’ x 5.25 inches, so even the most economical hikers can find a way to fit it in their backpack.
Of course, it goes without mention that it’s 100% waterproof. That’s thanks to its 5D Ultra-Sil Nano fabric, which is both light and durable.
However, for me, the most amazing feature of this poncho is easily its versatility. Sure, it’s a poncho – and a damn good one at that. But it can also serve as a two-person shelter (57’’ x 104’’). This gives you plenty of options and allows you to pack more efficiently if you’re a seasoned hiker.
- Completely waterproof thanks to its15D Ultra-Sil Nano fabric
- Lightweight – it weighs only 8 oz. when packed
- Can easily be converted into a two-person shelter (epic for emergencies)
- Great ventilation so you can avoid sweating like a turkey in November
- It’s a bit pricey compared to some other options on this list
- If you’re not wearing a backpack, it can be pretty wide
Best for: people who want the overall best poncho for serious camping and backpacking.
Terra Hiker Waterproof Rain Poncho
It comes in 4 colors (green, blue, black, orange) and two sizes. The larger ones come with a built-in pocket, so you’ll have even more safe storage space.
The main benefit of this poncho is its durability. Unlike those cheap plastic ponchos, this will keep you dry even during prolonged wet conditions – think hours and hours of heavy rain.
- 100% waterproof – even during long thunderstorms
- Built-in pocket allows for more waterproof storage options
- Price – it’s a great affordable option for price-conscious customers
- Large enough to cover 60 – 80 L backpacks
- Not great in windy conditions
- Not the most breathable of ponchos
Best for: backpackers on a budget who want a simple, yet durable rain poncho.
Charles River Apparel Pacific Rain Poncho
Made from New Englander polyurethane, this bad boy is 100% waterproof. People have tested it in raging thunderstorms of various types and came away dry as a bone.
Since it’s pretty big – 52’’ x 80’’ – the only way you won’t be sufficiently covered is if you’re a player in the NBA. On top of that, it comes with adjustable sleeves so you can be even more protected from the elements.
- Price – it’s really affordable for a poncho of this quality
- Incredibly durable – it will keep you dry even in a torrential downpour
- It measures 52’’ x 80’’, so it’s pretty big and will cover you adequately
- Comes with sleeves so it will keep you even more protected from the rain
- Out of the box, the plastic kind of smells. But, it goes away completely if you leave it to air out for a few hours
- Can be a bit difficult to fold it back into the pouch
Best for: backpackers looking for an affordable, yet quality rain poncho.
Mil-Tec Ripstop Wet Weather Poncho
Its olive color allows you to blend in most forest surroundings, allowing you to enjoy watching the wildlife while being unobserved.
Next, its feather-light weight (1.4 lbs. packed) means it’s ideal for hikers and backpackers. That’s without taking into account that with some stakes and a cord it can serve as a decent emergency shelter.
Unfortunately, it’s not 100% waterproof and might eventually leak, so if you’re frequently hiking in rainy areas you might want to give this one a pass.
- Its olive color will help you blend in your surroundings
- Can double as an emergency shelter
- Pretty long – it will almost reach your boots
- Extra-large – it can cover both you and a small-to-medium backpack
- Not 100% waterproof
- Only comes in one size – might be too large for petite folk
Best for: casual hikers and campers who want a nice and simple poncho.
JTENG Rain Poncho
Then this poncho is for you! (said in my best infomercial voice)
But seriously though, this not-so-little (56’’ x 55’’) poncho is an all-around solid choice for anybody who wants a simple, yet affordable backpacking poncho. It’s perfect for people who like to go hunting, fishing, or bird watching as it will keep you dry but also help you blend in your surroundings.
Unfortunately, it’s not made out of the sturdiest materials, so it’s best suited for occasional use in warmer areas.
- Camo is great for people who want some coverage from predators
- Can be used as a blanket or a tent, too
- Pretty large – 56’’ x 55’’ – so it can cover most people
- Ideal for hunters, fishermen, or bird watchers
- The materials are cheap and low quality
Best for: casual campers and hikers who only occasionally need rain ponchos.
How To Choose The Best Backpacking Poncho: A Quick & Easy Guide
Phew! Who knew there were so many choices when it comes to backpacking ponchos, am I right?
Now, even after reading the reviews above you might still need more information in order to make the informed choice.
Don’t worry, I have you covered. Let’s first quickly go over why ponchos rock.
The Many Benefits Of Rain Ponchos
On the first look, ponchos don’t look so impressive. I mean, you can just use a rain jacket, right?
Well, you can, but ponchos do come with several distinct advantages:
- They’re airy and have great ventilation so you’ll sweat a lot less
- They’re much, much cheaper than most rain jackets
- Most of them are large enough to cover both you and your backpack
- They can double as a tarp or a quick shelter
- They are extremely lightweight, allowing you to pack additional necessities
And that’s just for starters. Also, unlike umbrellas, they don’t break in the wind, so you’ll be protected from the rain no matter what.
Now that we’ve covered that, what are some of the things you should look out for when choosing a poncho?
Obviously, the first thing you need to look at is the material the poncho is made from. This is what will ultimately decide whether or not you’ll be drenched in rainwater or dry as a bone.
The most common poncho materials are:
- PU nylon
- Cuben fiber
Now, I don’t want to bore you with the technical details behind each material. It’s sufficient to say that the PVC ponchos are the cheapest (and look and feel like trash bags), while the cuben fiber ponchos are the most expensive ones (but they’ll last you for years to come).
PU nylon is a good middle ground between those two extremes and is a solid choice if you’re budget-conscious.
Ultimately, you can usually tell the quality of the poncho by its price, which leads me to…
Backpacking ponchos, surprisingly enough, vary a lot in their prices. Some of them cost only a few bucks, while others retail for hundreds of dollars.
It might be tempting to go for the cheapest option right out of the bat – I mean, who spends a lot of money on a poncho, right? In my humble (but usually correct) opinion, that’s rather shortsighted.
A quality, well-made poncho will last you for years to come, while a cheaper option will usually tear itself on the first branch you encounter hiking. Not to mention the fact that they usually leak water after a few minutes, which defeats the whole purpose of buying a waterproof poncho.
When in doubt, I always opt-out for a pricier, but higher quality option. Usually, they last me for at least several years, which makes the price difference negligible.
Size & Weight
Usually, ponchos come in a one-size-fits-all package, but not always (we listed examples above). You should be aware that almost all ponchos cover your leg up to your knees, but leave the shins and feet unprotected. Therefore if you hike in rainy areas, be sure to pack rain boots and durable pants.
Also, don’t buy ponchos that are too big for your needs. If you just go on short hikes with a small backpack, buying an extra-large poncho will make it drag on the ground and will probably tear. Always count the size of your backpack when deciding on the right poncho for you.
Some ponchos come with extra features that give them an edge against their competition.
Here’s a shortlist of some of those features:
- Storage bag
- Extra pockets
- Zippers & drawstrings
Additionally, some ponchos can be used as a tarp or a quick & easy shelter, thus adding to their versatility.
So – there you have it.
I hoped I’ve shown you the sheer awesomeness of the poncho, and why every hiker and camper shouldn’t leave their house without one.
When it comes to the best backpacking poncho, although there are many fine choices, I have to go with Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Nano Tarp Poncho.
Not only is it completely waterproof (thanks to its to-notch design and quality materials), it can also serve as shelter. On top of that, it has great ventilation and is really lightweight (8 oz.).
If you’re looking for a cheap poncho that looks (and performs) like a trash bag, this ain’t it, chief. But if you want a quality poncho that will serve you well for years to come, I highly suggest you check out this gem.