A poncho can be an essential part of your rain gear. Usually compact, lightweight, big enough to cover your backpack and easy to put on and take off; they're an incredibly flexible way to protect yourself from intermittent rain on the trail without weighing you down.
Curious what to look for? Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the best rain ponchos for backpacking which include:
We scoured the internet and combined with our personal experience we bring you the 9 best rain ponchos for backpacking!
This stylish and popular men’s poncho from Charles River Apparel comes in a wide array of colors including red and royal blue, among others. You can pick the best color to match the rest of your camping gear!
It measures 52 inches by 80 inches and should cover you until your knees, for those up to 6-feet tall. If you’re taller than that, don’t worry, it’ll still fit, but your thighs could be exposed when standing. For most individuals, you should have enough room to wear your backpack underneath, as well.
The material used is a high-quality polyurethane and it has heat-sealed seams for durability. This will help keep you dry, along with snaps at the neck and an adjustable hood to protect your upper chest and head.
Other advantages here include a matching storage sack for easy carrying.
Some drawbacks are that it’s hand-wash only and the poncho might have a strong odor upon unpacking, as well. Give it some time in the open air and you should be fine.
- Can fit most men plus a backpack.
- Snaps at the sides and neck.
- Variety of colors.
- Made from high-quality material.
- Odor upon unpacking
You know this company means business when they’re contracted by the United States government to make equipment for the defence agencies, like sleeping bags.
This should give you an idea just how durable and well-made this poncho is. It’s constructed from Snugpack’s proprietary Paratex Dry material. This makes it excellent in the wind and rain as well as breathable and lightweight (weighing just 13 ounces). And all that adds up to one of the best rain ponchos on the market. An essential piece of rain gear!
The included storage bag comes with a drawstring up top for compression. This military poncho is longer in the back than it is in the front, which creates enough space for your backpack. On the downside, if you’re not wearing your pack, it could be quite annoying to have all that extra fabric behind you. This is especially the case for those on the petite side of life.
Other features include elastic cuffs around the wrists to keep moisture out and heat in, should it get cold. A Velcro-lined pocket on the front side has a storm flap, so the items inside remain dry at all times.
Three colors are available including black and olive green.
- Made to last.
- Elastic wrists.
- Velcro, storm flap pocket.
- Only suitable with a backpack on.
This poncho weighs in at just 8 ounces, constructed from 15D Ultra-Sil Nano fabric, which makes it completely waterproof. The double-stitched, sealed seams offer a higher level of rain protection that won’t leak moisture. Furthermore, the outer side features a layer of silicone that can withstand heavy rains and dry off in no time.
Sea to Summit designed this one as a multi-functional item. The first is as a poncho, measuring 57-inches long in the front and 104 inches at the back. This is plenty long enough for most men, but might be a bit too much for shorter ladies out there.
It’ll keep both you and your backpack dry with ease. Secondly, you can use it as a tarp cover that’s big enough for two adults. All you need is an a-frame, sold separately. It makes for a clever item that could be of great use on a camping trip.
The adjustable hood uses a three-panel design that means you can shape it around your head. This gives you extra rain protection from rain without losing any visibility.
Do keep in mind that this poncho is lightweight, so it doesn’t do well under windy conditions. You’ll need to watch out for any limbs that are poking out too, as the material could snag easily.
There are two colors to choose from, lime and pacific blue. Both are quite bright, so you should be seen from afar in the case of an emergency.
- Good level of waterproofing.
- Three-panel hood.
- Brightly colored.
- Storage bag included.
- Not ideal for windy weather.
- Can tear easily.
If you’re looking for a lightweight, environmentally-friendly option, then the Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2 Waterproof Breathable Poncho could be your best bet. It weighs a mere 9 ounces and the company constructed it from recyclable, non-woven polypropylene that’s entirely waterproof. This one-size-fits-all poncho is suitable for anyone up to 5 feet, 8-inches tall. Are you on the taller side? It could still fit, but don’t expect it to guard your knees against any rainfall.
The side snaps make it breathable and they’re bi-laminated to offer thorough protection from any water.
Drawstrings and cord locks helps the adjustable hood fit properly when the winds come around. You’ll appreciate this when you’re caught in a storm and have other things to deal with, aside from your hood flying off.
It comes with a recyclable storage bag and you have multiple colors to choose from including dark green, black and blue.
- Stuff sack included.
- Lightweight with excellent ventilation.
- Fully adjustable hood.
- Reusable and recyclable.
- Some report that it can easily snag on things.
This four-pack of disposable ponchos from SaphiRose will be a great choice if you’re going on a casual family camping trip. If you prefer to purchase them one by one, you have over 15 options to choose from including solids and patterns.
Depending on the one you choose, the poncho comes with either a zipper, Velcro or seal along the front side. They all offer zippered pockets to keep your essentials safe, should you get caught out in a drizzle.
A drawstring hood and heat-sealed seams offer further rain protection. There are button fasteners around the neckmade from high-quality polyester making in waterproof, lightweight and breathable. The steel grommets also provide the option to make a quick tarp or tent setup, should you need that.
The only downside is that it lacks wrist straps, which can make for a leaky arm cuff should the rains be pouring down.
- Wide variety of designs.
- Available in a four-pack.
- Steel grommets for multi-use.
- Disposable for casual trips.
- No wrist straps or cuffs.
The Terra Hiker rain poncho is made from a high-density polyester (PU3000mm) with a thread count of 210. The material should be as durable as they come, making it a sufficient choice for brutal conditions and packed forested areas. You shouldn’t have to worry about getting caught on anything.
The sides are seamless, which could be a drawback for some, but this will provide you with sufficient airflow. There are cuffs with Velcro closures, though, so there’s some protection from the rain. An adjustable hood features drawstrings to keep it cinched around yourlarge size makes it big enough to cover most adults and a 60-liter backpack. For more petite individuals, it could be on the roomy side, so it’s something to bear in mind.
One of the unique features offered by this poncho is the eyelets located along the hem. These double as holes for tent stakes, in case you need to secure a shelter quickly. You would then use the poncho for that, instead of wearing it.
Lastly, rest assured it won’t take up much space, as it can fold down to around 8 inches by 3 inches by 2 inches. It shouldn’t be a nuisance when stored in your pack.
- Multifunctional use.
- Durable materials.
- Drawstring hood.
- Compact when folded.
- No side snaps or zippers
We have another popular option from the SaphiRose company. The main difference here is that it’s not a one-time use poncho, but instead was built to last.
This rain jacket comes in a wide variety of colors from navy and white polka dots to floral prints and dual-tones. Especially where the ladies are concerned, there are some fun and funky designs. Solid options are also available if you prefer something more understated, all unisex in size.
You won’t have to worry about packing a wet poncho as this is a quick-drying one. It's made from 100 percent polyester in its construction, so you can have peace of mind that it’s both breathable and waterproof.
The heat-sealed seams offer additional protection all-around and an elastic-lined hood with cinch cords at the neck will help it remain snug and in place.
It compresses down to approximately 9.8 inches by 8 inches, which shouldn’t take up too much room in your pack. The included matching pouch makes storage a breeze.
- Funky color choices.
- Small size when compressed.
- Heat-sealed seams.
- Elastic hood.
- Might run too large for smaller individuals.
JTENG brings us another multipurpose poncho. The thickened eyelets placed at the corners allow you to set it up as a makeshift tent, in case any unforeseen circumstances crop up. You could also use it as a ground cover, even on sandy areas as the company claims it’s sandproof.
As a poncho, it has advantages, as well. It’ll cover most people to their knees, accommodating a large backpack to boot. You won’t be sweltering in hot weather conditions either, as the 210T high-density polyester fabric should keep things breathable.
That doesn’t mean the fabric is poor quality, though. It’s quite durable. There’s also waterproofing measured at 3000mm, making it resistant in most situations.
The cuffs of this tarp poncho open and close with Velcro and the company added thickened eyelets to ensure they don’t rip soon after purchasing. Its hood is on the large side with a reinforced brim, which should cover most people in the case of a downpour.
It comes in two colors, which are camouflage and an attractive green hue. Each will come with a carry pack and it’ll cinch down small enough to fit into a glovebox or a similar-sized location.
- Durable and fully waterproof.
- Easy to pack
- Really flexible rain gear
- The fit will be quite loose on smaller folk.
This well-known brand brings us a stylish poncho if we ever saw one. It comes in a variety of designs including this captivating outer space collection. In our opinion, it’s about as stylish as these units come.
This poncho is made from 210T high-density polyester fabric with a waterproof coating that consists of a 3000mm polyurethane material. This makes it able to withstand rough conditions and it should be tear-resistant to boot. If you’re going to be in densely-wooded areas, it’s something you’ll want to consider.
The velcro fasteners on the sides ensure that you remain dry and comfortable, while you can also open them for air flow, if needed. There are drawstrings around the neck for adjustability and a visor on the hood offering better visibility in the rain.
Foxelli didn’t make this poncho for looks only, the company had hikers in mind, as well. There’s room along the backside to cover a large backpack (50l) without affecting your movement.
Four steel grommets adorn this poncho, which means you can use it for sunshade or as a ground cover, for example.
It measures 95-inches long and 55-inches wide, providing plenty of coverage for most adults. When packed into the carry case, this ponco compresses down to a mere 9 inches by 3.5 inches. This ensures easy packing, regardless of your bag’s size.
- Snazzy designs.
- Steel grommets for other uses.
- Velcro fasteners.
- Visor on hood.
- Warranty and money-back guarantee.
- The dyes may fade overtime.
Our Final Choice
The last thing you want when you’re camping is to get caught out in bad weather with nothing to protect you. Our best rain ponchos for backpacking can help you solve this dilemma and keep you comfortable, regardless of the outdoor activities you're involved in.
We recommend opting for one made from durable material that’s also breathable, such as a polyester. Make sure it comes with sleeves and enough coverage around your face to protect your neck, too.
Are you after a single-use item or one that’s reusable? This factor will largely determine which style is best for you. Don’t forget that many of these can be used for other purposes, such as a tarp, for example.
If we had to choose just one, our favorite would be the Charles River Apparel Men's Rain Poncho. The sleeves, neck snaps and drawstring hood provide extra protection when rain approaches and there’s plenty of room to fit a backpack underneath.
Traditionally, the best rain ponchos were made from wool, but nowadays, they come in a variety of styles. The most common kinds you’ll find are the run-of-the-mill covers that you can throw-on at a moment’s notice making them an interesting alternative to rain jackets. They’re not all created equal, though:
What are rain ponchos made of?
You’ve got several choices when it comes to poncho fabrics, and which one you go for will depend on what you want to use it for and how much cash is in your back pocket.
- Cheaper rain ponchos are usually polyurethane-coated polyester, and these are great for slinging in your holdall on travel adventures.
- Most lightweight rain ponchos for hiking are made from silnylon or silpoly, while the lightest and priciest ones are cuben fiber.
- Other less common options include technical fabrics like Gore-Tex or old-school canvas.
Most cheaper ponchos will be polyurethane (PU) coated fabric – sometimes nylon but more often polyester. These tend to be slightly heavier than the fancier silnylon/silpoly ones, and the main downside of PU-coated fabrics is that in time the coating will start to degrade and flake away, reducing the waterproofing.
These ponchos are often great value, and while they might not be the top pick for a six-month thru-hike, they’re great for budget globetrotters looking for something that’ll keep them and their daypack dry in a Bangkok downpour or a soggy day on the Abel Tasman Trail.
Silnylon or Silpoly
Most mid-range rain ponchos will be silicone-impregnated nylon or polyester, often with a polyurethane layer for added waterproofing. Gearheads will bicker over which base fabric is better, but really it’s the other variables you want to be looking at, like the weight of the fabric and the waterproof rating (often expressed in terms of “hydrostatic head”). Some might need seam-sealing.
Silnylon or silpoly ponchos offer a decent balance of weight, waterproofing and durability – the perfect choice for serious hikers looking for a lightweight and versatile rain layer.
Gore-Tex Type Fabrics
In recent years, some waterproof jacket manufacturers have tried turning their hand to ponchos, using the same advanced materials. The exact technology varies, but these technical fabrics normally have some sort of water-repellent coating, coupled with a breathable membrane to stop them steaming up inside.
Thing is, using a breathable fabric is less important with ponchos because they’re so well ventilated anyway. Ponchos made from these more technical, multi-layered fabrics are usually heavier than silnylon or silpoly, and it’s the weight saving that often tempts hikers towards ponchos in the first place.
With that in mind, these sorts of ponchos are really more for travel than hiking, and they make an ideal raincoat substitute for hotter or more humid countries.
Cuben fiber is a miracle fabric for ultralighters with deep pockets. A cuben poncho could be less than half the weight and more than double the price of a silnylon one.
Cuben fiber is quite fragile, and there’s the worry that you’ll tear it if you have to thrash through rough terrain. but some backpackers have reported that its texture – which is stiffer and more crumpled than polyester or nylon – can make it less likely to drape and snag on brush or branches. This wrinkly trash-bag look also gives it a “hobo” aesthetic that some seasoned thru-hikers will enjoy.
The best cuben fiber poncho seems to be this one from Zpacks which doubles as a groundsheet. Punchy on the wallet at around 200 bucks but some people swear by them!
The bushcrafter’s choice. The world’s armed forces in the 20th century produced an apparently limitless stock of rubberized or waxed canvas ponchos for military surplus marts, but as old-school “workwear” becomes increasingly fashionable, some manufacturers are turning out modern examples too.
Canvas looks great, ages well and is incredibly durable (there’s a reason those ones in the army surplus store have survived since WW2), but it weighs an absolute ton. Not really for hikers unless you’re deliberately going for a vintage-style load-out, but great for a fixed camp.
Most times, rain ponchos for hiking, backpacking and camping come as one-size-fits-all. However, as we all know, this can vary greatly in terms of how it actually fits.
For example, if you’re on the taller side, you’ll want to opt for a poncho with sufficient length to it (otherwise it won't be large enough). One that measures right past your knees is something to aim for, but what about shorter folks? You don’t want to be swimming in this article of clothing, so you’ll also need to check the measurements accordingly.
Some prefer a poncho that can fit over both themselves and their pack (another major difference with rain jackets). If that’s you, you’ll opt for a larger-than-usual item to ensure you have enough space.
There are a few other considerations to keep in mind that largely depend on your preference. These include:
- Hood style: If you want a poncho that can cinch up tightly around your face, you’ll go for a drawstring option. Simpler versions feature light hoods that you toss over your head. Believe it or not, some ponchos come without a hood at all.
- Pockets: We don’t recommend open-style pockets because they can easily fill up with water. Rain ponchos for hiking that feature Velcro or snap pockets are a good shout if this is an essential feature in a poncho for you. Think about the items you’ll have on the trail and what you might need to keep on-hand.
- Sleeves: A fair amount of ponchos feature open sides that don’t completely shield you from the rain. If you’re expecting a light drizzle here and there, this might be sufficient. This also allows for airflow. Alternatively, you can opt for a poncho with sleeves to make sure your arms are shielded, too.
- Compression sacks: Every bit of space counts and you want to be able to cinch your poncho down to a reasonably-small size when it’s not in use. Many come with a stuff or compression sack for this reason. Fold it up and tighten the sack to get as minimal of a unit as possible.
- Uses: The best rain ponchos are reusable but some come as a one-time use item. If you’re not a regular camper and want to save a buck or two, a single-use poncho might fit the bill. On the flip side, depending on what outdoor activities you're planning to be involved in, we recommend opting for a reusable one if you think you’ll use it again and need something more durable.
- Cost: The good news is that your higher-end ponchos won’t break the bank. However, we do realize you might have plenty of equipment to purchase. Your average option will run between 15 and 35 dollars, depending on the materials and features. Keep your budget in mind when shopping around.
Why Don’t I Buy a Rain Jacket Instead?
Fair enough and we do hear you. Rain ponchos have some benefits, however, that typical jackets don't and mean you should really consider them as part of your rain gear.
For starters, a poncho will be far more cost-effective than a heavy-duty rain jacket. This makes a difference when you’re tallying up your camping expenses. Beyond that, you want to consider how you’ll be using your piece of equipment and what you have space for. Regular campers will be just fine with a poncho, unless the weather gets overly grizzly and in that case, a jacket may not be enough as is.
Rain jackets also take up quite a bit more space than a poncho does. The latter is more practical where packing is concerned, and again, every little bit counts.
Other Crafty Uses
A wonderful thing about rain ponchos for hiking is that there are clever ways you can use them in other circumstances. These include:
- Use your poncho as a ground tarp or cover in case you need to take a break and have a seat on the damp ground after the rain.
- Is it sunny and you want to avoid sunburns? You can hang the poncho from tree branches to create a perfect sunshade.
- Cut it up and tie the pieces of your poncho to trees around you in the case you’re lost or there’s an emergency, so that people can find you.
- Did someone get wounded along the way? If you’re in a pinch, cut a small piece of your poncho to tie around the area to limit bleeding.
- Your poncho can serve as a carry bag, either for additional items you acquired during your trip, or to collect garbage in an eco-friendly fashion.
Check out further tips for camping in the rain here.