A rain poncho can be an essential part of your wet weather gear. The best rain ponchos are 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:
- Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Nano Tarp Poncho (best ultralight option)
- Charles River Apparel Men’s Rain Poncho
- Snugpak Patrol Poncho (best for survival)
- Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2 Waterproof Breathable Poncho (great value)
- SaphiRose (best disposable rain tarp)
We scoured the internet and combined with our personal experience we bring you the 9 best rain ponchos for backpacking!
Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Nano Tarp Poncho – Best Backpacking Poncho
The Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Nano Tarp Poncho (phew! that’s quite a mouthful!) weighs in at just 8 ounces. The packed size is 3″ x 5.25″. The unpacked dimensions are 57″ x 104″. It is constructed from 15D Ultra-Sil Nano fabric (a siliconized nylon fabric with a polyurethane inner coating) that has a 1200mm hydrostatic head. The seams are double stitched and sealed. It’s available in two colors (pacific blue and lime green) and comes with a stuff sack.
Sea to Summit has designed this unisex rain poncho to be multi-functional. Not only is it one of the lightest backpacking rain ponchos on the market, it can also be converted into a groundsheet or a tarp with enough coverage for two people.
Like all backpacking rain ponchos, it isn’t completely waterproof (your arms may get wet). But its 1200mm hydrostatic head means it performs really well in heavy rain and dries off in no time. Weirdly, light drizzle is a bit more problematic because there’s no zip to vent. So it kinda comes down to the sort of rain protection you’re looking for.
If you’re expecting prolonged light rain, then you may want to choose a poncho with a zip to stop you overheating. But if you’re likely to experience occasional heavy showers, then it really is excellent.
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.
Really serious ultralighters might argue that the double stitched, taped seams are a bit overkill. It’s possible they add extra weight and extra cost while making the whole thing an inch or two smaller, for no discernible benefit. If that’s you, then you may want to spec and make your own bespoke poncho. But we suspect most people won’t be too bothered about these issues.
You should be able to pick one of from one of the following stores:
- Check prices at Campsaver.com >>
- Check prices on Amazon >>
- See availability on the Sea to Summit website >>
If you’re looking for a poncho lightweight enough to use for backpacking, that can double as an emergency shelter and you’re expecting intermittent, heavy rain, then this is quite possibly the best backpacking poncho for you.
For intermittent light showers or for walking in high humidity, then the absence of a zip makes it a little less comfortable.
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.
Charles River Pacific Poncho – Best Camping Poncho
It weighs around 16oz (450g) and measures 52 inches by 80 inches. It has a hood with snap neck and drawstrings. It is available in 4 colors with a matching stuff sack. And it is inexpensive.
This is a stylish and popular poncho from Charles River Apparel. First impressions include the array of colors, which means you can pick the best color to match the rest of your camping gear! Who says you can’t be the best-dressed person in the campsite!!
The material doesn’t feel tacky and plastic-y the way a disposable rain poncho does. In fact it feels quite soft and surprisingly quiet.
The heat-sealed seams help make it more waterproof and more durability. While the snaps at the neck and the adjustable hood are also excellent at keeping you dry.
Size-wise, this rain poncho is fair standard. For anyone up to 6′ tall it should come down to at least your knees. 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.
Some drawbacks are that it’s hand-wash only and the weight is probably a bit more than many backpackers would willingly sacrifice.
The main reasons we think this is the best camping poncho are because it’s really inexpensive, feels comfortable, keeps you dry and looks great.
It’s a bit bulkier and heavier than you’d strictly want for a backpacking poncho. But for knocking around a campsite (or for going to a festival) there’s not a lot to dislike!
Frogg Toggs UltraLite 2 – Best Hiking Poncho
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 neck area.It’s made 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 your face.Its large 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.
How To Choose the Best Rain Ponchos for Backpacking, Camping & Hiking
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.
PU-Coated Polyester Rain Ponchos
Most cheaper rain 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, making it an altogether less waterproof poncho.
These rain ponchos are often great value, and while they might not be the best rain ponchos 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 & Silpoly Rain Ponchos
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 waterproof 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 rain ponchos offer a decent balance of weight, waterproofing and durability – the perfect choice for serious hikers looking for a lightweight and versatile rain layer. And it’s highly likely that the best backpacking poncho for most people will fall into this camp.
Cuben Fiber Rain Ponchos
Cuben fiber is a miracle fabric for ultralighters with deep pockets. A cuben backpacking 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. As backpacking ponchos go they are might punchy on the wallet (around 200 bucks) but some people swear by them!
Gore-Tex Type Fabrics
In recent years, some rain jacket manufacturers have tried turning their hand to waterproof ponchos, using the same advanced materials. The technologies vary, but these waterproof breathable fabrics sound great on paper because if you can make great rain jackets…hey, why no a rain poncho too?!
Thing is, using a breathable fabric is less important with ponchos because they’re so well ventilated anyway. A waterproof poncho made from these more technical, multi-layered fabrics will usually be heavier than silnylon or silpoly, and it’s the weight saving that often tempts hikers towards rain ponchos in the first place.
With that in mind, these sorts of expensive rain ponchos are really more for travel than hiking, and they make an ideal raincoat substitute for hotter or more humid countries.
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. A canvas rain poncho isn’t really for hikers unless you’re deliberately going for a vintage-style load-out, but great for a fixed camp.
Rain Poncho Sizing
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.
Reusable Rain Ponchos vs Disposable Rain Ponchos
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.
There are a few other considerations to keep in mind that largely depend on your preference. These include hoods, pockets, sleeves & compression sacks.
The best rain ponchos tend to have some sort of drawstring that can cinch up tightly around your face. Simpler versions feature light hoods that you toss over your head. Believe it or not, some ponchos come without a hood at all.
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.
Most ponchos feature open sides that don’t completely shield you from really wet weather. 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 rain poncho with sleeves to make sure your arms are shielded, too.
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.
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.
How Much Do Rain Ponchos 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.
Should You Buy a Poncho or a Rain Jacket?
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 rain poncho, unless the weather turns grizzly and the heavy rain rolls. And in that case, a rain jacket may not offer enough rain protection as it 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.
Our Final Choice
As with a lot of backpacking gear, the best backpacking poncho is one that does the best possible job with the smallest possible weight penalty. That’s why we like the Sea to Summit Tarp Poncho. It’s a high quality, durable and lightweight poncho. Yes, it’s pricey. But if it’s affordable then it’s one of the best backpacking ponchos around.
If it’s not affordable, then it’s definitely worth checking out the Sierra Designs backpacking ponchos. They are almost exactly half the price and almost exactly the same weight.
The best backpacking rain ponchos tend to be reusable. But if you are after a disposable one then we suggest you look at the SaphicRose.
If you are looking for a more heavy duty rain poncho then the Charles River Apparel Pacific Poncho or the Snugpak Patrol rain poncho might just be right for you.