Best Rain Poncho For Camping/Hiking – Reviews and Guide 2020

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Last Update: 12.Nov.2020

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Red Ledge EVA Adult Poncho

EVA fabric is widely used in rain apparel for its extreme hydrophobic properties and sheer tensile strength. In addition to being waterproof, the fabric is also highly resistant to heavy winds, making it a great candidate for storms. When fully packed, the cape shrinks in size to about 6x4x1 inches, ideal for most backpacking applications. Due to its small size, you can also lay it over your backpack, making it one of the best backpacking ponchos. Furthermore, the backpacking rain poncho comes with two snaps on either side that make use and removal a whole lot quicker. But it’s not entirely flawless. While the cape is reusable, the more you wear it, the more it will degrade in quality. It’s still a great backpacking poncho that will last you a few monsoon seasons.
Best Choice Go to Amazon Shop

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Tarp Poncho

The main feature here is the poncho-tarp duality. It’s wide enough to be unraveled into a two-person shelter with enough space for your belongings. Moreover, two factors make it highly waterproof: the fabric choice, and the stitching. The fabric choice is a 70D nylon that’s been coated to inhibit water permeation. As for the stitching, each seam has been double-stitched and sealed with protective tape. What’s more is that the hood features three-panels instead of one. This further seal the cape against water, and makes it the best hiking poncho. Another unique feature is the fact that, due to its immense size, it will wrap over your backpack when you wear it. However, since it’s virtually as big as a tarp, it’s not a very packable rain poncho. But for most hiking applications, it takes the spot.

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Last Update: 12.Nov.2020

When out trekking a hiking trail, a rainstorm can strike at any time. Nothing’s more unreliable than the weather. But you can prepare yourself for the weather with a highly reliable piece of gear: your rain poncho.

Rain ponchos are popular not only for their fashion and looks, but also for their versatility. Use them as a tarp, a hammock, or a groundsheet – the choice is yours. 

Despite that, settling down on a rain cape is not easy. And that’s where we come in.

Take a look at our top picks for the best rain ponchos of all time, and our buying guide and Q&A section at the end.

Red Ledge EVA Adult Poncho

For everyday hikers and backpackers, Red Ledge offers a unique waterproof rain poncho. This is a standard 52 x 80 inch poncho that features a protective rain hood and an EVA fabric construction.
EVA fabric is widely used in rain apparel for its extreme hydrophobic properties and sheer tensile strength. In addition to being waterproof, the fabric is also highly resistant to heavy winds, making it a great candidate for storms. When fully packed, the cape shrinks in size to about 6x4x1 inches, ideal for most backpacking applications. Due to its small size, you can also lay it over your backpack, making it one of the best backpacking ponchos. Furthermore, the backpacking rain poncho comes with two snaps on either side that make use and removal a whole lot quicker. But it’s not entirely flawless. While the cape is reusable, the more you wear it, the more it will degrade in quality. It’s still a great backpacking poncho that will last you a few monsoon seasons.
Go to Amazon Shop
Pros

Strong waterproof fabric

Can survive strong winds

Fits right in your backpack

Reusable across seasons

Comes with a protective hood

Cons

Will degrade over time

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Tarp Poncho

The Sea to Summit Poncho is a lightweight nylon cape that converts into a small tent. Hikers who are looking for a more heavy-duty cape may be interested in this one.
The main feature here is the poncho-tarp duality. It’s wide enough to be unraveled into a two-person shelter with enough space for your belongings. Moreover, two factors make it highly waterproof: the fabric choice, and the stitching. The fabric choice is a 70D nylon that’s been coated to inhibit water permeation. As for the stitching, each seam has been double-stitched and sealed with protective tape. What’s more is that the hood features three-panels instead of one. This further seal the cape against water, and makes it the best hiking poncho. Another unique feature is the fact that, due to its immense size, it will wrap over your backpack when you wear it. However, since it’s virtually as big as a tarp, it’s not a very packable rain poncho. But for most hiking applications, it takes the spot.
Go to Amazon Shop
Pros

Can double as a tarp

Wraps over your backpack

Double-stitched seams

70D nylon construction

Three-panel hood

Cons

Not as portable as others

Best Lightweight Rain Poncho

Outdoor Products Multipurpose Poncho

For those on the lookout for an ultra-light backpack rain poncho, look no further than the Outdoor Products Poncho. Sewn from reliable polyester taffeta and taped at the seams, this cape feels almost weightless.
It has a total weight of 9 ounces, and the complementary pouch only adds 0.9 ounces of weight to that. The main reason for this is its use of polyester, which is light and soft, although not very breathable. Even though polyester itself is quite waterproof, Outdoor Products adds a few more layers of protection. To start off with, you have the additional PU coating over the entire fabric, which seals water out of the cape. And then there’s the tape sealing at each seam that prevents water from squeezing through the crevices. It’s a nice rain cape that stays dry on the inside for longer. Nonetheless, there’s no denying the fabric isn’t very breathable. This can be a problem if you sweat a lot, which will leave you feeling musty and moist.
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Pros

Hardly weighs 9 ounces

Includes carrying pouch

Strong waterproof polyester fabric

Complementary PU coating

Seams are taped down

Cons

Not very breathable

Best Rain Poncho for Travel

Liberty Mountain Backpacker Poncho

Modeled as a “multi-purpose” travel poncho, the Liberty Mountain is an eminent choice for hiking and backpacking. It doubles as a tarp that wraps around your body and backpack and can be used as a makeshift shelter.
This feature is further facilitated by the grommets at the corner that make the entire structure stand firm. Like most tarp plus cape hybrids, this one too has been heavily waterproofed and sealed against water ingress. The main source of its waterproofing is the taffeta nylon fabric paired with the reinforced stitches and seams. So it’s great for rainy days as well as modest storms. Another factor that makes this poncho multi-purpose is its in-built stuff sack pocket. The pocket can be used as a stuff sack for storing the cape and other items. In spite of that, it’s not a relatively good choice for a backpack rain poncho. It weighs 17 ounces, and will drag you down while hiking. Nevertheless, it’s a decent option for general travelling.
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Pros

Reinforced stitches

Converts into a makeshift shelter

Grommets accounts for stability

Waterproof taffeta nylon fabric

Includes a stuff sack pocket

Cons

Weighs 17 ounces

Best Heavy Duty Waterproof Poncho

Exped Pack UL Poncho

Out of all the ponchos on the market, the Exped Pack UL is by far the most elaborate. It comes tightly packed in its integrated stuff pocket and features a multitude of loops and compartments.
It’s made from a tough nylon fabric that, combined with its taped edges, creates an extremely hydrophobic surface. It keeps water and dirt away, as well as heavy wind. A fairly sized snap-button on the cuffs of the sleeves prevents them from being pulled up by intense winds. However, what really makes this cape so unique is its incredible storage capacity. For starters, there’s a large pocket on the underside of the chest area that can be used to carry essentials. There’s another large pocket for storing 100 liters worth of food and drink packs. Not only that, but there’s also a hood that can be pulled tight via cinches. Some may find that the hood may be too tight, owing due to its stiff brim.
Go To Amazon Shop
Pros

Secure hood with cinches

Can survive wind and rain

Sleeves stay down

Includes chest pocket

100 liter total capacity

Cons

Hood may be too tight

Best Waterproof Poncho

Sierra Designs Storm Poncho

Finally, we have the Sierra Designs Storm Poncho. It’s not just the name – the Sierra Designs can withstand harsh rain accompanied by strong winds and sharp breezes. It’s designed to stay flush against your body at all times while allowing some room for breathing.
This multi-purpose cape is 100% woven polyester coated with a layer of PU waterproofing. On top of that, the poncho also features a Durable Water Repellant (DWR) coating. The hood is made so that it can sit underneath your helmet, meaning you can wear this on bikes and motorcycles. And it’s not just that. This cape doubles as a tarp for taking shelter in the rain. So you get a kind of two-in-one experience. Keep in mind, however, that this is a 2-ply poncho, which means that it won’t account much for breathability. So if you sweat too much, you might be in for a cold and clammy evening.
Go To Amazon Shop
Pros

Can be used as a shelter

Stays down even in strong winds

Lightweight polyester fabric

PU and special DWR coating

Compatible with helmet

Cons

Low breathability

Benefits

Hikers use rain capes all the time, but it’s not clear why. Essentially, what’s the difference between a rain cape and a regular jacket? While rain jackets may seem more intuitive to you, rain ponchos have their own uses.

Firstly, rain capes are highly versatile. There’s only so many shapes and forms a jacket can take. But a cape can be manipulated in whatever way you want. Turn it into a tarp. Use it to cover your bag. Or better yet, use it like a hammock. The choices are endless.

The second reason is the storage capacity. Capes themselves can be stuffed in a compression sack without worries of creases. And they can feature many more pockets than rain jackets. This again adds to their versatility, and gives you a secondary storage option after your primary backpack.

Types of Rain Poncho

  • PVC. PVC ponchos are known for their sheer stress bearing capacities and tough surface. But they’re not in the very least breathable.
  • Polyester. Polyester is a good waterproof choice for a cape. It’s lightweight, but not all too breathable. Not only that, but it’s quicker to dry than nylon or its vinyl counterparts.
  • PU-Coated Nylon. Almost all nylon capes have a PU coating on them. The reason being that nylon in and of itself is not very waterproof. The one benefit this fabric does have is its breathability, but the PU coating takes that away too.
  • Cuban Fiber. Most common with backpackers, Cuban fiber is revered for its high strength and ultra-light weight. It’s used in many outdoor applications, but may cost you a lot.
  • Polyethylene. Polyethylene is a relatively weaker polymer that is known for its chemical durability and UV resistance.
  • Sil-Nylon. Sil-Nylon is a synthetic materials that is popular among hikers and campers. It’s known for its low weight and immense durability. It’s not breathable at all though, but it is quite waterproof.
  • Sil-Poly. Sil-Poly is another synthetic fabric used in lightweight outdoor equipment. It’s known for its low water absorption index and high resistance to the sun’s UV rays.
  • Breathable Laminates. Laminated fabrics are becoming more popular in the rainwear industry. They have a low production cost paired with high hydrophobia. They’re great for use in a rain poncho, but may be rarer to find.
  • Paratex Dry. The main feature of this fabric is that it is able to allow internal moisture to evaporate. Which means it’s not only 100% waterproof but also 100% breathable.

Buying Guide

Storage, Size, and Weight

Firstly, look for the size that you want. Most capes come in a standard size that may slightly vary. Ponchos that are designed to work like tarps may be larger.

Weight is an important factor as you’ll likely be wearing the cape for hours. Look for ponchos that weight less than 10 to 11 pounds.

Also consider how you’re going to store it. Many capes come with their own stuff sack pocket or carry bag.

Water-Resistance

This is by far the most important consideration. Water-resistance of a cape can never be judged easily. And especially not without knowledge of fabric weights and the material. There are a number of materials, each with its own level of waterproofing.

Then there’s the PU coating and taping. A simple PU coating is sufficient for most purposes. But especially look for one on nylon ponchos. As for the taping, all good capes have strict taping covering their seams.

Zippers, Cords, and Pockets

While not an absolute necessity, zippers and cords help to adjust the cape. Cords can be found all around the poncho, around the sleeves, on the cuffs, and through the brim of the hood.

Look for a good amount of zippers, cords, and pockets that make your cape more versatile and economic.

Flexibility and Breathability

Flexibility usually isn’t a major deciding factor in rain capes. But if your poncho is the kind that goes over your backpack, you’ll want a bit of stretch.

Breathability is a whole other aspect. Capes in general are very breathable since they don’t sit flush against your body, unlike rain jackets. However, the fabric itself isn’t designed to allow air in, partly due to its weight and waterproofing.

Material

Choice of material is the most complicated and the most important buying factor to consider. There are a few key materials that ponchos are made from.

First we have our holy trinity of PVC, polyester, and nylon. PVC isn’t the strongest and capes made from this fabric don’t last long. Nylon ponchos, while not being very waterproof, are very breathable. Both of these are nullified by the additional PU coating on most nylon capes.

Polyester is your best bet. It’s lightweight, durable, and gets the job done. It’s not very breathable, but neither are the other three.

Then we have Cuban fiber, which is the lightest rain poncho fabric. It’s known for its immense durability in the face of wind and rain.

Paratex Dry, Dyneema, and Sil-Nylon are all special fabrics that have been engineered to do everything the other fabrics cant. They are considered to be more lightweight and more breathable. And Paratex Dry in specific is good for letting sweat evaporate.

Rain Capes that Convert to Shelters

Hikers and campers alike are always in pursuit of versatility. So the general reaction when they hear of cape-shelter combos is mostly positive.

Many newer capes now have the ability to convert into a full-fledged tarp. Most can house up to two residents. And they even have internal pockets for storing your goods.

Rain Ponchos vs. Rain Jackets

Ponchos are lighter than rain jackets and don’t stick to your body too closely. This means that you won’t feel wet or uncomfortable, and your range of motion is not limited.

They also have the benefit of being highly versatile, as many can double as tarps and hammocks. And to add to that, a lot of capes have way more capacity than their jacket counterparts.

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