Best Rain Ponchos for Backpacking

Rain Poncho

Rain ponchos for hiking and backpacking are essential for a hiker’s wardrobe. They help keep you dry, warm, and protected from the elements. When planning on heading out into the wilderness, it’s essential to ensure that your gear is ready for any weather.

The poncho is an easy-to-use piece of gear that’s excellent for various settings. When you want to go hiking but need to be out on the trail quickly but don’t want your equipment to get drenched; when it’s pouring rain, and you’re trying to keep your tent dry, or maybe you’re just planning on backpacking and need more options for warmth and insulation in the event of a sudden downpour.

Whether you’re looking to head out on a weekend hiking trip or a more serious backpacking trip, ponchos are excellent. If it starts to rain, you’ll be glad to have a poncho to keep the rain off you. They are also helpful when you want to change clothes or set up camp in an area with a limited cover.

While most people think of ponchos as being for rainy weather, they can also help keep you warm on cold days.

What are the Advantages of a Rain Poncho?

If you’re looking for gear that will make your time outdoors more enjoyable, then backpacking rain ponchos should be at the top of your list.

Here are some of the many ways that you’ll benefit from having a lightweight and compact rain poncho in your hiking or backpacking bag:

Stay Dry – One of the most significant advantages of using a rain poncho is staying dry.
Being wet, cold, and uncomfortable can ruin an otherwise enjoyable trip.
A rain poncho will keep you dry, even during a downpour.

Keep Insects at Bay – Rain ponchos also keep insects and other pests away while hiking or backpacking. Ponchos make tremendous bug nets so that you can enjoy the outdoors without being bothered by mosquitoes or other pesky bugs.

How to find the Best Rain Poncho for Backpacking and Hiking?

While rain ponchos are relatively lightweight, there are still a few things to consider before buying one for backpacking and hiking.

Here are some things to look for:

Weight – it’s easy to find backpacking rain ponchos that are lightweight. Some ponchos weigh less than 8 ounces so that they won’t be a burden on the trail.

Material Comfortable – durable rain ponchos can keep you dry while hiking or backpacking. You can find ponchos made from polyester, nylon, or water-resistant fabric. Also, make sure to double-check if the material is rip-stop or not.

Loose-fitting ponchos have some clear advantages over rain jackets and coats.

For starters, they’re far less cumbersome. You can easily carry them in a day pack or stuff them into a dry bag. They are suitable for extra protection against any campsite and trailhead elements.

Furthermore, they’re more versatile. They typically keep you cooler (and drier) than a rain jacket since they have more surface area. And if you’re willing to wear a base layer or rain pants underneath your poncho, it can offer superior protection against the wind.

Still, the most compelling reason hikers and backpackers buy ponchos is that they’re so inexpensive – a fraction the price of rain jackets and coats – and store so compactly. They’re also durable and lightweight, made with rip-stop nylon or polyurethane-coated nylon.

Non-waterproof ponchos (a must for backpackers) have mesh panels on the front and back. The waterproof versions (with wind-resistant linings) have solid fabric or an additional material layer. If you choose a waterproof model, look for one with breathable seams and a sleeve gusset on the underside of the arm to prevent water from pooling between your jacket and body.

Just because they’re not as heavy as a rain jacket or coat doesn’t mean ponchos are ultralight. Many models weigh 15 – 20 ounces or more (depending on the fabric and length). Every ounce matters on a long-distance trek with a 25 – 35 pound backpack.

In addition, some models are equipped with elasticized cuffs. It’s a clever feature for folks who want to fold down the excess fabric at their wrists, but it increases the weight of their poncho.

To break this down even more, here are some of the critical differences between ponchos and rain jackets for your consideration.

SPD Ponchos: They’re made with three or more layers of mesh that can be stitched together in various configurations (ideal for cooling).
They don’t have sleeves, which means they’re more susceptible to wind and water penetration.

On the upside, they’re a terrific value. They can easily fit into your pack’s side pockets (and some of them even hang below the main compartment). Their “loose-fitting” design means they won’t blow off in the wind.

Waterproof Ponchos: They’re made with a relatively heavy-duty rip-stop nylon fabric or coated nylon. The waterproof linings help keep out water and wind (even if your poncho is not seam-taped). Some models come with an inner rain skirt. They’re less susceptible to wind and water penetration than their non-waterproof cousins.

All-Weather Ponchos: These models are made with a nylon fabric that has a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. They’re lighter in weight, and some models come with an inner or outer rain skirt.

You won’t need an all-weather model if you’re going on a multi-day hike and plan to use the poncho primarily as a mid-layer (longer sleeves).

Roll-Up Ponchos: These models are made with nylon fabric with an elasticized cuff that rolls up for compact storage. Depending on your preference, they have a DWR (durable water repellent) finish and have various lengths.

Use your poncho to protect your campsite. poncho rain shelter

Here are our favorite recommendations.

Snugpak Patrol Poncho

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho

Mil-Tec Waterproof Ripstop Poncho

Helikon-Tex Swagman Roll Military Poncho – Multi-purpose Poncho & Emergency Poncho

Hazard 4 Poncho Villa