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#107905 - 12/13/08 08:35 PM poncho/tarp?
dtp1991 Offline

Registered: 12/10/08
Posts: 11
Loc: Oregon
What are you opinions or experiences regarding using a silnylon poncho as a shelter.
I am considering getting the golite Ultra-Lite Poncho / Tarp.
It weights 10oz. $50. dimensions are 58x104 inches.
My major concern is the size not being adequate enough to protect from the rain.
Another is with the short width there are limited ways to set up the shelter.
Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks.

#107906 - 12/14/08 01:48 AM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
ronin Offline

Registered: 08/09/04
Posts: 41
What are you opinions or experiences regarding using a silnylon poncho as a shelter.
I am considering getting the golite Ultra-Lite Poncho / Tarp.
It weights 10oz. $50. dimensions are 58x104 inches.
My major concern is the size not being adequate enough to protect from the rain.
Another is with the short width there are limited ways to set up the shelter.
Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks.

Never used the GoLite although I have their Hex and love it. I looked at the GoliTe poncho tarp and decided that the Gatewood Cape was a better choice from my *unique* POV. Used it all summer and loved it. I then bought their Wild Oasis. Love it also.

Both: Lots of room. Easy set-up. Very well made. Lots of ventilation, including varied height set-up options. Bone dry (i ordered mine factory seam sealed). Outstanding support prior to and after the sale!

Size should not be an issue w/the GC. I've read that shorter folks think it's too long. <shrug>

Note: I haven't used the GC as a poncho because (so far) this year I was never caught in any downpours while hiking.

I think the price is well worth it. YMMV.




#107907 - 12/14/08 05:55 AM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
Dryer Offline

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3585
Loc: Texas
I made and use a Robinson Poncho Shelter a few years ago and use it when the hammock option is out. In fact, if you're hiking buddy carries one, you can pitch them together for a very roomy tent!

As far as size goes, I think mine is about 12' long, fully opened up. You want it to be able to get completely under the thing with a foot or so of margin at each end to stay out of rain/wind. You can pitch it as a lean-to, like my picture below, or simply cover up under it, like a bivy. I used mine last week while hunting in a day long drizzle. It covers my pack and everything.

I don't know much about the pre-made versions but this one works great!

Here's my setup:
paul, texas KD5IVP

#107908 - 12/14/08 06:05 AM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
kbennett Offline

Registered: 10/27/03
Posts: 820
Loc: north carolina
The poncho/tarp combo sounds like the answer to a dream -- you can replace your 2 pound rain shell, your seven-pound tent, and your pack cover with a 10-ounce piece of silnylon.

However, your concerns are valid. I have used a 5x8 tarp in bad weather, and it's quite small. If you have a fair amount of experience using a larger tarp (like an 8x10) in all kinds of weather, then you can downsize, but I wouldn't suggest it as your first tarp.

You might read this:

My own personal feeling is that a poncho/tarp combo works well in places where the rain comes in small bits -- say, out West in the summer. If you are hiking the Appalachian Trail in March, it's not quite as useful. (As a thought experiment, consider how you would set up camp in a downpour, after you have been walking all day in the rain wearing your poncho/tarp. Now that you have set up camp, and it's still raining cats and dogs, consider how you will gather water, cook dinner, and use the toilet, while your only rain gear is set up in tarp mode. Not saying it can't be done -- it can -- but you need to practice a lot ahead of time.)

Edit: my current shelter is a homemade 6x10-foot silnylon tarp. The extra couple of feet make a huge difference. I just carry separate rain gear appropriate to the season and location.

Edited by kbennett (12/14/08 06:06 AM)
--Ken B

#107909 - 12/14/08 06:27 AM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
Ulhiker Offline

Registered: 12/25/07
Posts: 65
Loc: Arkansas
I've used a 58x94 silnylon poncho as a shelter on several occasions and actually like using it a lot, but I have found that if you are going to be expecting rain, I would recommend supplementing the poncho with a bivy. This combination will protect your sleeping bag from the splash of heavy rain and give you a more enjoyable experience.
Hope this helps,

#107910 - 12/14/08 07:58 AM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
goatpacker Offline

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 86
Loc: Eastern Washington
This might be your best option:

My favorite L/W shelter & raingear. You may also want to consider a Patagonia Houdini (a L/W wind shirt) for wind & light rain protection. Then you can always add the cape for times of heavy rain.


#107911 - 12/14/08 09:24 AM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
verber Offline

Registered: 01/26/04
Posts: 269
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
There is a long tradition of light weight backpackers using poncho/tarps. Ponchos can provide triple duty: rain protection, pack cover, and shelter for a very modest weight... but there are downsides as well. Personally, I think most poncho / tarps are too small for adequate shelter.

Poncho as shelter: The down side of the classic poncho / tarp is that in a serious storm there is little protection from blowing rain. It's common for poncho/tarp users to bring an ultra light bivy to protect against blowing rain which obviously raised the weight of the system. Other other issue is what to do when you need to leave your shelter for chores or "the call of nature". Options are go naked and dry off when you get back, use a DWR windshirt which can provide adequate protection for a short time, or bring a second rain item like those $1 plastic emergency poncho. I used a poncho tarp for around a year, but eventually switched back to slightly larger shaped tarp (and rain jacket) which only added a few ounce to my pack while giving me significant better protection.

Poncho as rain gear: in theory have good ventilation, can are be very light weight. Many people like that a poncho can be put on without removing a backpack. and can do triple duty: rain gear, pack cover and shelter. While the multiple use nature of a poncho is attractive, I have never been happy using a poncho. Disadvantages of using a poncho are that many people find them ineffective in high winds, awkward when bushwhacking and impossible to use when climbing. My personal experience is that my chest get soaked in sweat and condensation and my sides get damp from wind blown rain. I have tried ponchos for three different times, each six (or more) month in length. After each poncho experiment I switched back to a rain jacket.

The Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape does look to be one of the most protective shelters made from raingear. It seems beloved by it's owners.

#107912 - 12/14/08 01:50 PM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
Spock Offline

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 679
Loc: Central Texas
I have moved away from the poncho/tarp except sometimes hammocking. The reason is the availability of cheap, effective waterproof/breathable raingear weighing less than 13 ounces - either FroggToggs or DriDucks. You need wind protection as well as rain protection in 3 seasons and the w/b raingear replaces wind shirt and pants. Then a dedicated tarp makes more sense. On the other hand, a poncho tarp is OK for summer, IMHO, when the possibility of hypothermia is low or nill. IOW, I consider it to be a safety issue.

#107913 - 12/14/08 03:47 PM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: Spock]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6562
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
The idea of such a multiple-use item is really attractive and is in line with one of the important principles of going light. I therefore considered seriously the idea of a poncho-tarp and decided no way. First of all, I would have nothing to keep me or my pack dry when I'm setting up the shelter. Second, there would be nothing to keep me dry when I'm out of the shelter to cook and eat (in bear country), feed my dog, fetch more water, "necessary errands," etc. Third, a poncho hanging down my front blocks the view of my feet--and there are times I really want to see where they are going. Fourth, I often hike in the high Cascades or Rockies where rain often is horizontal rather than vertical. Murphy's law would dictate that it would almost always be coming from the side. Fifth, there wouldn't be room under even the Gatewood Cape (larger than the others) for both me and my dog, and an extra tarp or poncho for the dog would defeat the purpose.

So I'm a little less ultralight and, IMHO, a lot more comfortable!

Your Mileage, of course, May Vary.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#107914 - 12/14/08 11:39 PM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
BrianLe Offline

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
I'm quite fond of the poncho/tarp combo, depending on conditions, but even if bad (wet) weather is anticipated I'm very likely to bring my poncho, and it's the Golite poncho that I use. I like the fact that it's an extended length poncho sized well for covering a pack, but the lower back snaps up to shorten it to use without the pack in camp.

I thru-hiked the PCT this year, and actually carried a smaller poncho tarp as my only shelter and raingear for the first 700 miles, as rain is typically not a problem in SoCal, and I wasn't disappointed. I actually set it up as a shelter once in that stretch and got a few drops on it. I also carried a very light (not waterproof) bivy, which I also used just a scant number of times, a couple when I was concerned about dew fall near creeks, and once when to keep bugs off my face.

In the Sierras I switched to a light rain jacket and tarptent, and those worked well enough, but a poncho would have been fine there too I think, at least for rain shelter, and at least this year, for both, except for bug protection perhaps.

At some point (I forget when) I switched my light rain jacket for a (golite) poncho, though I kept the tarptent. I just like a poncho better. When the weather isn't too cold there's nothing better IMO than wearing a poncho and shorts. I don't have much trouble with wind, as I use some shock cord or just regular cord to tie around my waist outside the poncho. For me and I think for many, it's the ideal balance between rain & wind protection and yet being able to breathe well. Too often in a full-on rain jacket I get as wet from sweat inside as from rain outside.

The golite poncho is not a roomy shelter. I wouldn't enjoy camping under it for an extended rainy period, but it certainly could be done. And per above, you get no bug protection. Some people are happy to defeat bugs with just a headnet, others might use a "bug bivy", I think both six moon designs and mountain laurel designs sell a version of this.

In terms of ways to set it up as a shelter, the golite poncho can be used pretty much the way other tarps can, though (for better or worse) it doesn't have the catenary curve, and of course there's a limited set of tie-outs, and in at least some configurations it works best when you can pull the hood up via an overhead (typically over-a-branch) cord. But you can make a pup tent, or a lean to, or something part way in between, or other structures, based on your experience and estimate of where prevailing weather will come from. I also used the golite poncho for a hammock shelter (hennesy hammock), but found it a bit on the scant side --- it seemed like I could never get really reliable complete coverage, though it was pretty close --- I did spend a few wet nights with this configuration last year with no ill effects, but I would indeed want something a little wider and possibly even a touch longer to give really complete coverage.
Brian Lewis

#107915 - 12/15/08 07:14 AM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
strongone Offline

Registered: 06/24/05
Posts: 166
Loc: North Carolina
Maybe it just me, but every time I use silnylon ponch in rain it gets wetted through and through. I end up as wet as if I didn't wear anything. I can't imagine a night of rain under a silnylon shelter that leaks like a sieve. So I have gone back to the heavier coated nylon long ponch, but now stay dry which is the goal.

#108146 - 12/21/08 02:42 PM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
deliriousNomad Offline

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 64
Loc: Matthews, NC
I use a sil poncho in warmer weather - I use it instead of a rain jacket just so I don't sweat so much. I don't have a problem with it wetting out/through - I stay dry with it.
I DON'T also use the poncho as a shelter for reasons already brought up - like having to bring an additional jacket and/or tarp, and rain geting in with so small a tarp over your stuff.

So - I bring a bigger tarp to put the bivy under, and use either the sil poncho in warmer weather, or a rain jacket for cooler/colder weather to ewar around camp when needed.
- deliriousNomad

#108149 - 12/21/08 03:59 PM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: dtp1991]
Arizona Offline

Registered: 02/26/02
Posts: 122
Loc: The Southwestern Deserts
Sil Nylon works for wet weather but it does not work for a sun shelter which is important in this part of the country. It is too translucent. I use a Sea to Summit regular nylon poncho/tarp. It keeps the rain off me and my pack, makes a decent sun shelter and a small place to get out of a shower to cook. I wish they made it a bit bigger though. I would like it to cover my arms better but I have not found a poncho that does that so far. Sea to Summit does make a good sil nylon poncho/tarp as well.

#108352 - 12/27/08 02:31 AM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: BrianLe]
GDeadphans Offline

Registered: 12/26/08
Posts: 382
Loc: Maine/New Jersey
This video has a great idea of poncho shelters

I plan on trying it as soon as the weather turns warm. I was going to use this free Coleman poncho I got at a festival. But the the video is the second one down on this link:

"To me, hammocking is relaxing, laying, swaying. A steady slow morphine drip without the risk of renal failure." - Dale Gribbel

#108387 - 12/28/08 02:18 AM Re: poncho/tarp? [Re: OregonMouse]
Keith Offline

Registered: 01/04/02
Posts: 1667
Loc: Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Don't bring a dog along on my treks, but I would concur. For myself, I was very attracted to the concept and the original enticement of low weights However, when you compare system to system, by the time you get bug bivy, some kind of sleeping bag protection and the fiddle factor to use them all, the advantage isn't nearly as strong as the first look at just the weight of the poncho/tarp.

What people are really saying here, it seems is that in settings where the liklihood of rain and bugs is low, it can be an appropriate strategy. Other circummstances may indicate other choices.

Edited by Keith (12/28/08 02:19 AM)
Human Resources Memo: Floggings will continue until morale improves.


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