Back int the days when I hiked on a budget, I used a urethane coated poncho for rain protection and never really got soaked. Nowadays, we all have GoreTex and similar stuff. Very expensive. I'm wondering if anyone out there has gone back to the waterproof poncho recently and can compare the advantages and dsadvantages of it compared to all the high tech fabics in the jackets and pants. I'm thinking about going back to a poncho.
I bought a complete Goretex rain suit about 15 years ago, and found that while backpacking with a load, especially when climbing, I ended up wet from perspiration that wasn't transferring out quickly enough. After a few years, I went back to a poncho, but supplemented with an umbrella.
The pros: - Better ventilation because of the openness of the poncho - My poncho covers my pack, so I don't need a separate pack cover. - The poncho can be used as a small tarp.
Cons: - Less effective in wind driven rain - It always takes me 5 minutes to get the back of the poncho up and over my pack.
I still have my Goretex, but only use it when I won't be working too hard.
If you are going back to a poncho, why not use silnylon? You could save some weight. Mine is a Golite and it is pertty tough. Rugged enough for anything I would put it through on purpose. Just wondering why you choose coated over silnylon.
I am hard on gear. Every "water-proof breathable" parka I have leaks; every therma-rest pad goes flat. I have returned to cheap coated nylon rain gear and cheap foam sleeping pads. This means a lot of stopping to take off and put on the rain gear, but I do not mind that - I am always up for an excuse for a rest break. The umbrella sounds great in theory but I usually backpack above timber with too much wind. I am also going back to rain chaps rather than rain pants- they were quite popular in the 1960's. I will have to make my own - I do not think anyone makes them anymore.
I no longer use any "waterproof breathable" gear, I have a low-cost poncho I put in my pack for wet-weather hikes (for dry season I just have a water resistant wind jacket). I prefer the poncho as it serves other purposes: ground sheet in the tent, makeshift tarp, pack cover, etc. At $30 I don't mind replacing it when it leaks, but so far it's been 5 years of heavy use with no leaks at all. I don't hike in it, I prefer to get wet from the rain rather than sweat, but once my tent is up I change into dry clothes and put the poncho on for camp chores.
My rain gear consists of a backpacker-size silnyl poncho and a bit of cord in case it gets windy. It doubles as the front to a tarp shelter in the event of a real gutbuster or as a Garlington insulator on my hammock in the event of an unexpected cold snap. I wear a baseball cap under the hood to give it shape; the hood's a bit small and is the one part of the thing I dislike. It covers my pack when I hike so I don't need a pack cover.
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
I agree with hootyhoo. I have a Equinox sil-nylon poncho/tarp I use in warmer weather. It works just fine on most trails, so no need for anything more heavy duty. I would only go with something heavier duty if I were bushwhacking, and I rarely buswhack around here...especially in rain.
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I have a set of Frogg Toggs which are quite breathable but I'm having the same thought processes you are. In warm weather the heat builds up inside the suit and I find myself wishing for more ventilation.
I bought a Golite poncho/tarp the other day. I'm going to try it out this summer and see if it's good enough to use for a poncho and shelter. I chose it because it's longer in back (to cover the pack) and corner to corner it is 9'11'' long, about the length of my homemade hammock.
So far I can think of one downside to the poncho/tarp (besides the fact that it makes a REALLY small shelter, less than I'm used to). Inside the poncho hood my head can get pretty warm. But that's just from trying it out around my yard. Perhaps in a rain it wouldn't feel that way. But I'm wondering if I wouldn't prefer to use a hat to protect my head and just use the poncho for protecting my pack and my body.
If you are considering a poncho, I just ordered and recieved one of these dri ducks ponchos. I have to say, for the money ($12.00) with free shipping that I think it's one of the best gear deals I've come across in a long time. I did a couple of easy mods to it which was to install a drawstring with cordlocks in each of the end channels and sew a small grosgrain loop in each corner. This allows me to rig it up on the outside of my under quilt under my hammock for extra rain and splash protection. For ground dwellers, this would also allow it to be used like a bivy for added protection under a tarp by cinching one end all the way up and creating a foot box, just like converting a flat quilt to a sleeping quilt with great breathability. Even with the mods, it comes in at 9.0 oz. It's made out of the same polypropylene as the regular Dri Ducks rain gear so a certain amount of care is needed for use. But come on, twelve bucks.
Loc: North Carolina
I used a coated nylon poncho for a few years in rain and snow. I was pleased with the performance overall. It was dry, but had the common compliant of hot and sweaty. So I figured I could lose a few ounces going with sillyon of the same size. After a couple of treks in the rain I found that the sillyon soaked quickly and was just as hot and sweaty . I would have been better off without it.
So the sillyon has been stuffed and mounted and now I carry a little more weight but functionally drier poncho/cook shelter. Depending on weather I have a rain suit and use a pack cover as an alternate.