9 Best Backpacking Ponchos To Keep You Dry

The Norwegians have a saying: There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Anyone who’s ever been caught in the rain without adequate gear would agree.

If you enjoy backpacking, then a waterproof hiking poncho is a basic necessity. That’s why we’ve put together this review of the best backpacking ponchos on the current market.

  • Terra Hiker Rain Poncho With Hood
  • Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Nano Tarp Poncho
  • Snugpak Patrol Poncho
  • Adventure World Globotrekker Lightweight Backpack Poncho
  • Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2 Waterproof Breathable Poncho
  • SaphiRose Rain Poncho For Women—Hooded With Pockets
  • Fire Force Ripstop Rain Poncho
  • SaphiRose Hooded Rain Poncho

Shopping For A Rain Poncho: What You Need To Know

A poncho raincoat is made of a single piece of material, with a hole on top for your head to fit through. Many of them feature hoods as well, which adds an additional level of protection from the elements.

Here, we’ve provided answers to some of the most basic questions that people have concerning these unique garments.

What Are Rain Ponchos Made Of?

Rain ponchos should be lightweight yet durable—and above all, waterproof. That usually means that some form of vinyl or nylon is used in the construction.

You might be familiar with the cheap plastic ponchos that are sold in drugstores, but for obvious reasons, these should be avoided for backpacking purposes.

While you’re narrowing down your options, look for quality waterproof materials such as GoreTex. This fabric folds up easily, is resistant to tearing, and will keep you and your gear dry, even during downpours.

What Do You Wear Under A Poncho?

If you’re expecting inclement weather, you should dress in layers of wool or fleece. These materials will continue to keep you warm even in damp weather. Just be sure that your layers aren’t too heavy to restrict your movements.

A word to the wise: Stay away from cotton, since it will leach away your body temperature become uncomfortably heavy when wet.

Cotton will make you sweet during the day as your moving and hiking but will make you freeze when temperature drops and you stop being active.

If you are wearing long johns, make sure you go pick up some made from Polypropylene. This is a great material that will wick moister away from your skin keeping you warm.

For more tips on how to layer your rain gear for hiking trips, check out this YouTube tutorial.

What Does A 20k/20k Rating Mean?

A waterproof rating of 20k means that the garment is able to withstand 20,000 millimeters of water pressure. To put it simply, a rain poncho with a 20k rating should be able to keep you dry in the rainiest conditions.

The second 20k in the rating refers to breathability or the degree to which heat and vapor are permitted to pass through the fabric.

I find it easier to understand the difference in construction and how different waterproof materials are made a put together rather than just a rating system of waterproof measurements.

When you’re exercising, your body is continuously shedding water vapor and heat.

Breathable garments allow these elements to escape back into the environment, helping you to stay comfortable even in adverse weather conditions.

Is 5000MM A Waterproof Rating?

Garments that have received a waterproof rating of 5000MM have very little resistance to moisture.

While they might be suitable to wear in drizzly weather, they have very little resistance to pressure. You would do better to seek out a hiking poncho with a rating of 11,000MM or higher.

Is GoreTex 100% Waterproof?

While GoreTex does offer some gear that is fully waterproof, not all of the brand’s products carry this distinction.

Their Infinium line, for example, is advertised as being “water-resistant,” meaning that they offer a lesser degree of protection.

Always be sure to check the labels carefully before making a purchase.

Is There A Poncho For Hot Weather?

Ponchos can be uncomfortable to wear when the weather is particularly warm and humid.

If you’ll be hiking in the rainforest or a similarly tropical climate, look for a poncho with the highest breathability rating that you can find.

Make sure your other garments are made of light, breathable materials as well.

The 8 Best Backpacking Ponchos To Keep You Dry

1. Terra Hiker Rain Poncho With Hood

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This hiking poncho weighs in at just over half a pound and can be folded down to fit easily into a backpack or jacket pocket.

It’s durable enough to be used when thru-hiking, but it can also be worn over a hooded sweatshirt on an afternoon picnic or trip to the beach.

The Terra Hiker is cleverly designed, with a back that’s spacious enough to cover a good-sized rucksack. The cuffs feature snaps on either side to help keep the poncho sealed.

Although it’s made of high-density polyester fabric, the waterproof rating on the Terra Hiker is just 3000MM. Keep this in mind when weighing your options.

  • Lightweight
  • No off-gassing when garment is unpacked
  • Material is durable and resistant to tearing
  • Very affordable
  • Fabric is not that breathable
  • Neck hole is somewhat small
  • Does a poor job of covering your arms
  • Low waterproof rating

2. Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Nano Tarp Poncho

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This garment is a tarp poncho, meaning that it can pull double duty as a two-person rain shelter when it’s not being worn.

The high-tech nylon fabric will keep you dry for hours, and the waterproof seams are double-stitched for additional protection.

When it’s worn as a poncho, the sides can be snapped together, ensuring that no stray droplets are able to sneak through. The outer surface features a silicone coating, so it won’t absorb moisture.

While this model is large enough to accommodate a heavy backpack, it folds down to a convenient size. Be forewarned, though, that it’s difficult to get it back into the stuff sack once it’s been unpacked.

  • Provides excellent coverage
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Can be used as a tarp
  • Quality construction
  • High price point
  • No tie-outs for tarp function
  • Difficult to get back in the stuff sack

3. Snugpak Patrol Poncho

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The Snugpak is fitted rather snugly for a poncho, with sleeves that hew close to the frame. It’s fully waterproof, with an outer polyurethane coating and an adjustable hood.

The sleeves feature thumb loops that can be adjusted to keep out the cold when the temperature drops. A Velcro-sealed map pocket can be found in the chest region of the garment.

  • Large, deep hood
  • Thumbholes in sleeves increase flexibility
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Stuff sack is on the small side
  • Awkward design
  • Sleeves are a little too short

4. Adventure World Globotrekker Lightweight Backpack Poncho

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With its billed drawstring hood, flowing design, and generous size, this poncho bears a strong resemblance to a superhero’s cape.

It’s available in a multitude of bright colors, which should make it easy to find one that you’ll like.

The Terylene fabric is fully waterproof, and there’s enough of it to cover an oversized backpack. The poncho weighs only 12.32 ounces and measures about 6 by 4 inches when it’s packed in its stuff sack.

If you’re not wearing it with a rucksack, there are buttons located in the back that effectively hide the extra fabric. Note that AdventureWorld stands behind its products with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

  • Many color options available
  • Highly visible in foggy conditions
  • Hood features a rain bill
  • Moisture can wick away inside the poncho
  • Slightly bulky to pack
  • Back panel zipper is strangely configured

5. Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2 Waterproof Breathable Poncho

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Frogg Toggs offers an affordable, lightweight rain poncho that can fit easily in your backpack. Strategically placed snaps help to ensure the perfect fit, and the adjustable hood features cord locks to help keep your head and neck dry.

This is one of the most breathable ponchos on our list, making it a good choice for hot, humid weather. Unfortunately, it’s not as effective in downpours, but if the weather is warm enough, you might not mind that so much.

  • Very affordable price
  • Lightweight
  • Snaps help keep the poncho in place
  • Not very durable
  • Provides minimal protection from wind
  • Design is less sophisticated than comparable ponchos

6. SaphiRose Rain Poncho For Women—Hooded With Pockets

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The flowing, cape-like design of this hooded poncho gives it high marks right out of the box. The quick-drying polyester is both waterproof and breathable and eco-friendly to boot.

It comes with a matching pouch for storage, but it’s slightly bulky when it’s folded down. This rain poncho has a nifty elastic feature that allows you to tighten the hood without making it too restrictive.

Since it’s made of actual fabric and not plastic, it’s soft to the touch. Our favorite feature though is the full-body zipper, which makes this poncho much easier to take off.

  • Zippered front
  • Thoughtful, creative design
  • Carrying pouch includes a carabiner
  • Some issues with off-gassing
  • Not particularly breathable in warm weather
  • Zipper on the pouch is prone to sticking
  • Designed specifically for women

7.Fire Force Ripstop Rain Poncho

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The water-repellent urethane coating on this nylon poncho adds an additional layer of protection against you and the elements.

A locking drawcord on the hood, along with taped seams on the hood and neck, helps to round out the package. You can also use this garment as a shelter or a ground cover.

  • Can double as a shelter
  • Affordable price
  • Breathable fabric
  • Insufficient closure
  • Hood fits too snugly
  • Slightly heavy for backpacking

8. SaphiRose Hooded Rain Poncho

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Another offering from SaphiRose, this one with a unisex design. In addition to the front zipper, matching carry pouch, and generously-sized pocket, this model offers heat-sealed seams on the neck and wrists.

While it’s suitable for short hiking trips, we don’t think it’s durable enough to hold up to longer journeys.

However, it can be used as a canopy and a picnic blanket as well as a jacket, giving it a versatility that’s lacking in the other SaphiRose poncho on our list.

  • Affordable price
  • Eco-friendly material
  • Many color options available
  • Can be used as a shelter and picnic blanket
  • Strong off-gassing issues reported
  • Broad, shapeless design
  • Too large to suit many body types

The Verdict

Which of these models can be considered the best backpacking poncho on the list? If you’re female, then the answer is the SaphiRose women’s poncho, hands down.

It’s attractive, functional, and durable enough to withstand years of punishment from the elements.

If you’re looking for a unisex design, the Sea to Summit model is a great choice. Not only does it offer excellent water protection and full coverage, but it can also moonlight as a shelter in all types of weather.

Whichever rain poncho you choose, we hope you’ve found our roundup to be engaging and informative.

Stay dry, and happy trails!           

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