Any backpacker knows that rain is just part of the great outdoor experience. And getting soaked through to the bone can be a really miserable experience (even worse if your gear gets soaked too). On the other hand, if you can keep yourself safe and dry, it’s a beautiful thing.
Luckily, rain ponchos are very affordable and pack extremely small. This makes them a “high ROI” piece of gear to take with you on the trail. Not much of a pain to carry it, and an enormous help if and when you the time comes that you need to use it.
If you’re thinking about picking up a poncho (or a few for your group), here are our favorites:
1. Frog Toggs
In our opinion, the overall best rain poncho for backpacking is the Frog Toggs poncho. This ultralight poncho:
- Is waterproof yet breathable
- generously sized (54″ wide x 40″ high)
- has snaps on the sides to minimize the surface area exposed to the rain
- has an adjustable hood with a drawstring
- has waterproof seams
- comes with a reusable stuff sack for carrying
This sucker is low cost, decently durable, and weighs just 8 ounces in the stuff sack. You can find this rain poncho on Amazon for right about $13. ‘Nuff said.
(Best Military Rain Poncho)
If you want a hunting or military rain poncho, there are plenty out there. Our favorite by far is the JTENG waterproof rain poncho.
This poncho is nicely camouflaged in a classic Mossy Oak pattern, and has an adjustable hood (with a zipper!). At 1.6 lbs, it’s definitely not the lightest weight, but with good reason. It’s made of extremely durable, and 100% waterproof PVC material.
In true military fashion, one of the coolest features about this rain poncho is that it has grommeted edges, so in a pinch, it can actually be used as a tent or a lean-to shelter. The grommets can be tied together to form a sleeping bag. Or, if you prefer, you can also lay it flat to protect you from the wet ground.
Any way you choose to use it, it’s waterproof and one of the more heavy duty rain ponchos that we’ve seen.
3. Snugpak Patrol Poncho
(Best Hiking Poncho)
While hiking, you need a poncho that’s not only lightweight but can also be packed in a small volume. The Patrol poncho from Snugpak offers all the necessary features in a durable lightweight design.
This poncho has a shoulder width of 52.7 inches and a front-to-back depth of 63.4 inches. The shoulder to hem length of 56.7 inches also provides great leg coverage. The generous dimensions and a smock-style design allow it to cover your backpack as well.
Moreover, it can also be used as a bivvy in emergency situations. At the same time, it’s featherlight and weighs just 13 oz.
The poncho comes with a long-lasting water repellent and a polyurethane coating for complete water resistance. Thanks to the special Paratex dry material used by Snugpak.
Note, Paratex has a HydroStatic head in excess of 5000 mm that makes it 100% waterproof.
The fully taped seams and a ripstop weave add to the overall durability. Besides, it’s windproof as well. That makes it a great choice to beat the wind chill.
A large hood with an adjustable drawstring toggle and thumb loops deliver added weather protection. In addition, a velcro map pocket with a storm flap is located on the chest.
On the whole, it’s the best rain poncho for backpacking when you want to stay dry and comfortable on a wet trail.
4. Terra Hiker Waterproof Rain Poncho (Best Backpacking Poncho)
This is a reusable rain poncho that not only keeps you dry but also serves multiple other purposes. You can use it as a sun canopy, a tarp, and also as a mat over any damp surface. What makes the difference are the multiple metal grommets that allow you to make full use of this poncho.
Coming to waterproofing, the material has a HydroStatic head of 3000mm for reliable protection. The 210T high-density polyester material is also seam-sealed for added durability. The material also dries fast.
The poncho comes in four different colors and will fit anyone with a height between 4.92 to 6.23 feet. As per specifications, the back is roomy enough to accommodate a 60-liter backpack. The hood has an adjustable drawstring and the cuffs come with velcro for added protection.
In truth, it’s not the lightest in this category. But at 0.68 lb, it isn’t heavy either. Also, it can be folded into a compact size that fits easily in a backpack.
All in all, it can be used in an urban setting as well as for mountain adventures.
Beyond that, the poncho offers an excellent price to performance ratio. Honestly, even though it’s an entry-level packable rain poncho, it can easily stand toe to toe with pricier options.
If you’re looking for an affordable sea-to-summit poncho, this product from Terra Hike ticks all the right boxes.
5. Anyoo Rain Poncho
(Best Lightweight Poncho)
This multi-functional poncho from Anyoo comes in an amazing variety of bright shades. Even with the super affordable price tag, the performance is top-notch. Made from 210T ripstop nylon fabric and a PVC coating, the product offers 3000mm of waterproofing.
Note, this poncho is designed with snap fasteners, along with plenty of other openings for sufficient airflow. That makes it ideal for heavy showers as well as for light summer rains.
Beyond that, it can be used as a mat or a tarp in any outdoor condition. The tear-resistant material and the durable grommets along the edge add to the overall functionality.
Most of all, it’s made from a complete piece of fabric sewn together with the hood part. The overlock area is well glued to prevent any leaking.
What’s more, the hood comes with a hat brim and a cord adjuster for better rain protection. The hook and loop fasteners along the sides allow you to adjust the size easily. The overall freedom of movement is excellent.
The size of the poncho is large enough to cover a 50-liter backpack as well. However, once packed, it can be easily stored in the supplied carry bag. Weighing just 9 oz, it’s an ultralight packable rain poncho.
At this price range, this waterproof rain poncho offers great value with its superb durability and performance.
6. Mil-Tec Waterproof Poncho
(Best Waterproof Poncho)
Here’s the thing.
Mil-Tec specializes in producing tactical gear. So the performance and durability of this poncho are as good as any military rain gear.
For starters, it’s made from lightweight nylon material that offers 100% waterproofing and excellent tear-resistance. On top of that, there’s a polyvinyl chloride coating for additional protection.
Now, that makes it slightly heavier. But the ruggedness ensures that it won’t rip apart under tension.
Moreover, with a hydrostatic head of 5000 mm you can depend on it for full protection during heavy rain showers.
The poncho is 84 inches in length and 56 inches in width. That makes it big enough to cover a small backpack as well. It has eyelets on the hem and can be used as an emergency shelter or a groundsheet.
Also, there are press-stud poppers on the sides. So, you can use it as a sleeping bag if needed.
The one-size-fits-all design weighs 24 oz and comes in a camouflage design. Once folded, it’s 9 inches long and 7 inches wide. That makes it easy to fit in a shoulder bag.
Want a durable and reliable poncho for your survival kit? This is one of the best rain ponchos you can pick.
7. Charles River Apparel Pacific Rain Poncho
( Best Packable Rain Poncho)
This stylish poncho comes in six attractive colors and is great for beating the morning drizzle while walking to your office. It’s made from New Englander polyurethane that is windproof and waterproof as well. So you can easily count it among the best backpacking ponchos in the market.
Beyond that, the fabric is bonded to a knit backing and the seams are heat-sealed. The material is thick enough to withstand rough use. Then again, the fabric also dried quickly.
Frankly, it’s one of the best in this category in terms of durability.
Also, you get a large hood with a snap neck and drawstrings that prevent water from dripping inside from the neck area. Likewise, there are side snap closures under the arms which will keep the poncho in place in windy conditions.
It measures 52 inches x 80 inches. Quite simply, it’s big enough to provide complete protection. It can also fit over small backpacks. In addition, it offers great airflow. Once folded, it can be easily packed in the supplied bag and stored.
Keep in mind, that this isn’t the longest poncho in this category. So it isn’t the best choice for activities like cycling. But when it comes to overall performance, it ticks all the right boxes.
8. Huncho Rain Poncho
( Best Rain Poncho for Travel)
When it comes to comfort and functionality, this packable rain poncho is a chart-topper. One of the best features is front and back ventilation zips that assist in overall ventilation.
The design is compatible with not just backpacks, but also rifles and other equipment. The back zipper allows your weapon to pass through while keeping you dry. It also allows easy access to your backpack.
What stands out is the attention to the details. The poncho is also fitted with double-sided snaps. This allows you to connect multiple ponchos and use them as a large mat. The spacious hoodie comes with an extendable zipper and an internal drawcord.
The material used is 210T ripstop Tafetta with two layers of polyurethane coating. That provides a hydrostatic head of 5000 mm for 100% waterproofing.
The fabric is lightweight but durable enough to minimize tears. The dimensions are 86 inches x 55 inches and it fits users between 6’6 inches to 5’0 inches tall.
The zippers are seam-sealed to prevent any water leakage. Additionally, six eyelets and four snap buttons are reinforced with a double-layered lining. Also, there’s extra padding around the neck. This provides more comfort when the chest pocket is loaded with equipment.
To sum up, this high-quality poncho is a great choice for hunters and outdoor lovers.
Backpacking Poncho vs. Rain Jacket
The proverbial trade-off with every piece of backpacking gear is comfort against weight and space. The more things you carry with you, the more comfortable you can be in a lot of situations.
If you carry a pair of hiking sandals in addition to hiking boots, you will be more comfortable than you would with only one or the other. The same is true if you will be carrying a couple different jacket options, sleeping pads, pillows, extra socks, and more.
Such is the case with the “poncho vs. rain jacket” conversation. Both are nice for different situations.
Rain jackets are usually more insulated, making them heavier but also warmer. They are also more tailored, so they can be worn around town as more of an every day garment. Ponchos are typically thinner and not as substantial, so they won’t be warming you up the same way as a jacket. And obviously, you’re probably not gonna wear your poncho out around town, if it’s sprinkling and you need to run a couple errands.
On the other hand, jackets are shorter, and don’t protect as much of your body from the rain as a poncho does. Jackets can also be heavier, which isn’t great on the trail.
If you can’t carry both, then here’s the short answer: poncho is better if you’re not counting on it to warm you.
What About an “Emergency Rain Poncho”?
Many folks have heard of an emergency rain poncho, and wonder if they are a better option. The answer is no. If you want a poncho for backpacking, then you want something that is heavier duty than a survival poncho. Most of these are made of really cheap plastic (Picture a disposable nuclear waste suit or a tin foil emergency sleeping bag). They will puncture and rip easily if snagged by tree branches, or rubbed too much by your pack or clothing.
Rain Poncho Buying Guide
When you want to hit the trail and it’s rainy and windy, there’s no reason to back out. All you need is a top-grade rain poncho that will keep you dry and warm even when the weather turns harsh.
However, there are quite a few factors you need to keep in mind before picking the best rain poncho for hiking. While most ponchos look the same, it doesn’t mean they offer the same functionality.
Let’s take a look at the main factors to check in the best rain poncho.
Most rain ponchos come with a “one-size-fits-all” tag. But keep in mind that the dimensions vary. So, you need to consider your body dimensions before picking a poncho. In case you want your backpack to be protected by the poncho, you need a larger size.
If you’re carrying a large backpack, a small poncho will be too tight for comfort. If it’s too large, you’ll end up feeling deflated if you venture out without the backpack. It’s best to choose a size based on the kind of excursions that you prefer on a rainy day.
When your primary activity is walking, a poncho goes down to the mid-thighs or the knees should be good enough.
Before picking a poncho try it out to make sure that your mobility isn’t compromised. Also, ponchos will leave your shins and feet unprotected. Make sure you use waterproof pants and boots to keep dry while hiking.
Note, the overall durability and versatility of the poncho will depend on the type of material used.
One more thing…
Disposable ponchos made from plastic aren’t good for the environment. So avoid them unless it’s an emergency.
These are some of the common materials used for making a good quality waterproof rain poncho.
This is a common material used for most entry-level ponchos. While they offer good waterproofing, they aren’t long-lasting. So they aren’t environmentally friendly either. However, they are one of the cheapest options in the market.
Polyester is an artificial fabric that offers better durability and is resistant to abrasions and stretching. Polyester is also lightweight and retains its shape well even after prolonged use.
This is a special fabric that comes with a layer of waterproof polyurethane over nylon. This improves the overall durability and the hydrostatic head of the material. Generally, the coating is applied on the outer side of the fabric. Overall, this material is a good choice for a reusable rain poncho.
This is a specially manufactured synthetic fabric in which the nylon fibers are enmeshed by silicone. This greatly improves the tear resistance of the material. In addition, the fabric is 30 to 35 percent lighter than normal polyurethane material.
The material has a slippery and somewhat elastic feel and retains its shape very well. It’s also highly resistant to punctures and abrasions. On the whole, it’s a good choice for making a lightweight poncho.
Sil-poly is another excellent choice as a material for the best backpacking poncho because of its good durability and superior waterproofing. In this case, the material is silicone-coated polyester. It’s hydrophobic in nature and delivers superb waterproofing.
While choosing between sil-poly and sil-nylon, note that sil-poly offers better water resistance. But the durability of sil-nylon is lighter and offers more durability. So they can be more reliable as tarps.
On the other hand, Sil-poly can withstand UV rays more effectively. So it’s better for sun protection. When it comes to packability, both the materials score equal marks.
This special fabric comes with a ripstop construction for enhanced durability. It also offers a high hydrostatic head above 5000 mm. It comes with a hydrophilic polyurethane coating that makes it tough and lightweight.
Beyond that, it’s also windproof and offers good breathability. Another feature of the fabric is it’s soft to touch. That increases the overall comfort factor of a waterproof poncho with a hood by a lot.
The simple truth is, water-resistance of any poncho needs to be very good. For that, you need to choose a waterproof material with the highest hydrostatic head. The higher the value the more water pressure the material can withstand without leaking.
But that’s not all.
A poncho should also be designed to prevent any seepage of water. So the seams should be well-stitched. They should also be taped and sealed. If a poncho is designed with zips, it should also be protected to prevent water entry.
However, the overall quality of the poncho will also depend on the price. We will come to that in a moment.
Weight and Storage Size
Out in the wilderness, the weather can change at a moment’s notice. The best rain poncho for outdoor use needs to be designed for quick unpacking and packing. That way, you can use them easily during a sudden downpour.
It should also be small enough to store in your backpack or a small compartment. Most rain ponchos come with a carry bag. So check the folded size to ensure that it doesn’t take up too much space.
At the same time, you need to pick the lightest rain poncho without sacrificing durability and waterproofing. The trick is, finding the right balance between weight and quality.
The two most important factors that affect the price of a rain poncho are the material and the brand. Actually, the price of a backpacking poncho can vary a lot. So it might be tempting to go for the cheapest option.
But consider this…
A cheap poncho that leaks within a few hours is no good in the wilderness. Expensive rain ponchos are made from high-quality materials. That makes them more durable and reliable. In general, a well-made poncho will easily last for a few years.
So if you’re a frequent outdoor traveler a pricier option will be more cost-effective in the long run. That said, there are quite a few affordable ponchos on our list that offer great value.
There are a few features that can make the user experience of a reusable rain poncho much better. Firstly, a waterproof poncho with a hood needs to come with a drawstring. This will prevent water seepage inside the hood. Adjustable cuffs and elastic attachments on the sleeves are also useful.
Next, velcro straps or snap buttons at the sides are very useful to keep the poncho in place in windy conditions. Beyond that, you can also pick a poncho with chest or side pockets for keeping a wide range of items.
Most importantly, make sure that the poncho offers good breathability. Intense hiking can make you sweat and without the right ventilation, the waterproof fabric can trap the heat. Keep in mind, condensation build-up inside the poncho can have adverse effects in cold weather.
How do I take care of a rain poncho?
The important thing is to read the manufacturer’s instructions regarding washing and storage. Also, make sure that you dry the poncho after use by hanging it in a well-ventilated place. This will prevent the growth of mildew.
Do ponchos provide good windproofing?
Well, they aren’t the ideal choice for that. But with the right design, they can do the job. Make sure that you pick a poncho with a waistband or straps to prevent it from flapping around in the wind.
How do I know if my poncho can be used as a rain shelter?
The multiple uses of a poncho are generally mentioned by the manufacturer. In most cases, such a poncho will come with guy hooks and grommets. If you need a versatile poncho it’s best to pick a sleeveless design.
So it all adds up to this.
With ultralight technology evolving at a fast rate, ponchos are one of the most effective multi-functional outdoor items you can pick. For any seasoned hiker or a camper, a waterproof and lightweight poncho is a must in the backpack.
Here, we have listed the best rain ponchos in the market to help you make the right choice.
Now it’s your turn to choose the best.
Want more backpacking gear? Check out our other reviews on: