If you enjoy outdoor activities, you’ll be well aware that they always come with some degree of unpredictability – but none more so than the weather. Even if you’re armed with up-to-date weather reports, it’s all too easy to get caught out. That’s why, whatever you’re doing, you need to pack one of the best rain ponchos!
Lightweight, compact and waterproof, as well as unrestrictive, easy to put on and multipurpose – what’s not to love about the humble rain poncho? If you don’t already have one in your pack to save you from an unexpected soaking, take a look through our selection of ponchos specifically chosen with the avid outdoorsman in mind.
Best Rain Ponchos
- Charles River Apparel Pacific Rain Poncho
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- Frogg Toggs Waterproof Breathable Poncho
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- Survive Outdoors Longer Heat Reflective Poncho
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- Snugpak Patrol Rain Poncho
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- Terra Hiker Waterproof Rain Poncho
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- Sea To Summit Nano Tarp Poncho
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- Coleman Adult Eva Rain Poncho
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If you don’t have a rain poncho on standby for your next hike, don’t waste your time scouring the web, we’ve done the hard work for you!
Charles River Apparel Pacific Rain Poncho
The Pacific Rain Poncho by Charles River Apparel is a fantastic alternative to flimsy, disposable ponchos. This superior quality rain poncho provides you with extra protection from the elements when you’re out on the trail.
Made from 100% polyurethane, complete with a knitted backing for added wind protection and additional fabric strength, this poncho will keep you dry and warm in all types of weather. Thanks to its heat-sealed seams, you won’t have to worry about yourself or your gear getting wet whether you’re out backpacking or on a short day hike.
One of the main advantages of this model is its generous neck opening. This makes it extra-easy to put on in a hurry, no matter how sudden the downpour. With side snap closures under the arms, as well as at the neckline, you’ll have plenty of protection from the rain and wind.
This hiking poncho also features an integrated hood complete with drawstrings. So it’s quick and easy to put on and adjust around your face. Even if you’re hiking in the driving wind and rain, you will benefit from a hood that stays put and conserves your body heat.
At one pound in weight, this rain poncho is by no means the lightest available. However, it is a durable model that provides extra wind protection thanks to its double-layer construction. It measures 52” by 80” and is easy to store away in the included matching bag.
Although the Pacific Rain Poncho is not the lightest option available, it makes up for this with effectiveness and durability. It’s ease of use and quick adjustment options make this poncho an excellent choice for your next hike, be it a short day hike or an extended multi-day trek.
Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2 Waterproof Breathable Poncho
If you are looking for an affordable, lightweight rain poncho for your next hiking trip, then the Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2 is a top contender. It is made from non-woven polypropylene which is not only waterproof, but also recyclable, making this a model a more environmentally-friendly choice.
Ultralight, this rain poncho weighs in at just nine ounces, so you’ll barely notice you’re wearing it. Thanks to its included stuff sack, it’s easy to put away after use and its compact size takes up a minimum of space – so you won’t waste precious backpack capacity.
Waterproof, with welded waterproof seams, you can rely upon the Ultra-Lite2 to keep you dry even in heavy rain. Thanks to its integrated hood with adjustable cord locks, you can easily customize its fit to your needs. It is also fast and easy to put on, even when you’re out on an exposed trail.
The side snaps help to keep your poncho in place, while allowing it to remain breathable with excellent freedom of motion, but they are not strong enough to stand up to heavy winds. So, bear this in mind if you are looking for a sturdy hiking poncho for use in stormy weather, rather than just for the occasional downpour.
Thanks to its lightweight and highly packable design, we think this poncho is ideal for sticking in your backpack, where you can forget about it until it’s needed. With its side snaps and adjustable hood, it provides ample protection and will keep you and your backpack dry during heavy downpours.
Survive Outdoors Longer Heat Reflective Poncho
For emergency protection from wind, rain and snow, this reusable heat-reflective rain poncho makes a smart buy. Thanks to its 90% heat reflectivity, it will help to keep you warm while you seek shelter. Tear-resistant, weatherproof and waterproof, this backpacking poncho helps you to stay prepared for sudden weather changes.
Complete with thermal-bonded seams, this poncho will keep both you and your backpack dry, so there’s no need to fiddle about with your backpack rain cover in the event of an unexpected downpour. The full-size integrated hood not only protects you from water, but also helps to maintain effective heat retention.
At just 2.7oz this model is ultralight and extremely packable, folding down small enough to fit in your day pack’s pockets with ease. It is also tough, being made from highly-resistant polyurethane material. Any accidental tears or snags won’t shred – making this a suitable rain poncho for backcountry hiking.
While this rain poncho makes an excellent choice to keep in your pack for rough weather, it can be fairly difficult to fold back up after use. So, if you’re looking for a rain poncho to use on a frequent basis, a simpler model may be better suited to you.
However, with its metalized, heat-reflective material, this hiking poncho provides ultralight protection from the elements, while keeping you dry and warm. It may be less suitable for regular use than other models, but we think it is a great, inexpensive product that will help you to stay safe when out trekking in the wilderness.
Snugpak Patrol Poncho
If you are looking for a comfortable rain poncho for wet days out on the trail, then the Patrol Poncho by Snugpak is one to bear in mind. Thanks to its generously cut smock design, you’ll find that it fits a lot better than other shapeless ponchos, yet it can also double up as an emergency bivouac shelter if required.
The adjustable hood and thumb loops allow you to get this poncho to fit closely and ensure that it keeps you covered whatever the weather. It’s effective, too. Made from Snugpack’s proprietary Paratex Dry material and treated with a DWR for excellent waterproofing, you can rest assured it will keep you dry in the heaviest of downpours.
Aside from its fully taped seams, this model also boasts an easy-access chest pocket. This velcro fastening pocket is great for storing maps or any other gear that you need to keep safe and dry, yet easily accessible.
At just 13oz, the Patrol is lightweight and folds away with ease to a mere 8” x 4” – handy for keeping in your backpack in case of unexpected rainfall. It comes complete with a stuff sack for easy transport, keeping it neat and compact in your backpack.
One of the few models to feature dedicated sleeves, this rain poncho makes an excellent choice for the serious hiker. Thanks to its superior waterproofing and close, yet unrestrictive fit, it will keep you and your pack fully dry and protected from the elements
Terra Hiker Rain Poncho with Hood
This rain poncho by Terra Hiker offers multipurpose functionality without the high price tag. This makes it an ideal choice if you are looking for an inexpensive waterproof hiking poncho that can also double up as a useful groundsheet or sunshade.
Seam-sealed and fully waterproof, this model is made from durable 210T high-density polyester. Thanks to its wide design, it can easily accommodate packs with a capacity of up to 60L. Therefore, it’s a great choice for protecting your gear on extended hiking trips, where you’ll probably be carrying more gear.
Weighing in at just 0.68lbs, this model is a little heavier than ultralight versions. However, unless you’re really counting every ounce, you’re unlikely to notice the difference to your pack weight. Although it is easily packed away into its drawstring stuff sack, this model is a little bulkier than flat-folding versions.
When worn, the hook and loop patches on the sleeves improve this poncho’s fit, keeping it in place when you’re out on the trail. This also makes this poncho very easy to get on in a hurry should the weather take a bad turn. Once donned, the elastic drawstring hood makes it extra-easy to adjust for a comfortable, watertight fit.
When used as a sunshade or emergency shelter, this model benefits from three-layer thickened hems and eyelets for attaching your trekking poles or tent stakes. As it is fully waterproof, you can also save on pack space and weight by using it as a groundsheet in your tent.
Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Nano Tarp Poncho
This multipurpose rain poncho by Sea to Summit is an excellent choice if you are looking for on-the-go rain protection that can also double up as an ultralight shelter, pack cover or groundsheet. This poncho is strong, lightweight and waterproof thanks to its 15D Ultra-Sil Nano fabric construction, complete with a PU inner coating.
Weighing in at 8.1oz, this model packs away incredibly small, so you won’t have to compromise on space and weight in your backpack. Whether you are an ultralight enthusiast, or just like to be prepared, you will appreciate how easily you can convert this model from a poncho to a two-person shelter in an unexpected rainstorm.
Side snaps keep the poncho in place when you’re wearing it and also make it fast and easy to put on. The double-stitched, seam taped hood features three panels for excellent coverage and wearability. And the generous brim will keep your face clear of raindrops for improved visibility out on the trail.
Understandably, this is one of the less fitted models due to its versatility. However, it does easily accommodate a large backpack, making it suitable for extended trips loaded with gear. If you’re just taking a small daypack, you can adjust the rear hem length with the integral drawcord for a better fit.
Coleman Adult EVA Poncho
The Coleman Adult EVA Poncho is a great budget choice to stash in your backpack for unexpected downpours. Its 0.15mm EVA construction lacks the durability of some other versions; however, it is an extremely lightweight, packable and low-cost solution to occasional inclement weather.
Fully waterproof, this poncho will keep you and your pack dry should rain make an appearance. Its welded seams ensure that you won’t get any leakage, thus keeping you protected in windy conditions. The side snap closures also help to keep your poncho in place without restricting your movement.
This Coleman poncho has a large integrated hood complete with drawstring to ensure a close fit, preventing any unpleasant neckline trickles. This also makes it easy to put on and take off, although the neck opening may be a little snug for large individuals. Fortunately, there is some level of stretch to the EVA fabric, so it shouldn’t feel tight or uncomfortable once on.
Although this model does not feature any pockets, it does come complete with a pouch for quick and easy fold-away storage. This makes it a great choice for stashing away in your pack for use when needed.
Lightweight, low-cost and extremely packable, this EVA poncho by Coleman isn’t suitable for tough treks or wilderness hiking. However, it will keep you dry during short trips and is easy to put on over your outer layers and backpack.
Thanks to its minimalist design, if you need an emergency rain poncho to keep in your backpack for unexpected showers, this model makes an excellent budget choice.
Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best Rain Poncho
If you’re still unsure which rain poncho is best for you, take a quick read through our rain poncho buying guide.
To ensure you pick the right model for your needs, we’ve listed all of the main features and criteria that you’ll need to consider before making your decision.
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Nobody wants to pay more than necessary, especially when it comes down to an often-overlooked hiking essential. However, as with any product, it makes sense to steer clear of any rain ponchos that are very low-priced.
This is especially important if you plan on hiking in the backcountry far from civilization, where you will rely on your gear for your survival. However, even on a short day hike, a sudden cold downpour can not only ruin your day, but it could also have negative repercussions for your health.
Therefore, if you intend to use your rain poncho regularly while hiking, it makes sense to purchase a model that combines quality materials with a good design, both of which come at a price. Due to their versatility, you should expect multipurpose, ultralight hiking ponchos to be a little more expensive than standard rain ponchos.
Pay close attention to the material that your backpacking poncho is made from. Most rain ponchos are made from various nylon or vinyl variants. Some of these materials are known for their toughness, while others have stretch properties.
Polyurethane is a popular choice for its waterproof, lightweight and stretch properties. Some companies have also developed their own materials, such as siliconized nylon fabrics, which are then combined with PU coatings for extra protection against the elements.
With so many different options available, be sure to check out exactly what type of material is used before buying.
Obviously, water-resistance is a key factor.
If your rain poncho leaks, you risk catching a chill, ruining some of your gear and perhaps your whole day. Although by and large, hiking ponchos are made from waterproof materials, there is one aspect that will need careful consideration – the seams.
Make sure that your model has specially treated seams, be they heat-welded, sealed or taped. Another important aspect to take into account is the location of these seams. The fewer seams you have exposed to falling rain on your head and shoulders, the better your poncho’s water-resistance will be.
You may find some rain ponchos providing better water resistance thanks to a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating. Durable Water Repellent coatings are finishes that encourage water to bead before rolling off the garment, thus preventing saturation and improving breathability.
Breathability and Comfort
When you’re out hiking, the likelihood is you’re going to be working up quite a sweat, regardless of that sudden heavy downpour. The last thing you need is to build up a layer of condensation inside of your rain poncho, which could lead to dampness and chilling.
To avoid discomfort, make sure that your new rain poncho has a design that favors heat dissipation. Breathable, waterproof materials are extremely costly; however, as the simple design of a standard poncho features non-existent or very wide arms, you should be able to lose excess heat as needed.
Although breathability is key to comfort, other factors such as weight, fastenings and fit can also affect your comfort levels, so don’t forget to bear these in mind when choosing your rain poncho.
When choosing your hiking poncho, another important aspect to consider is how easy it is to pack away. Thankfully, most come with a stuff sack or pouch into which you can fold your poncho until needed.
Whether you’re day hiking or backpacking, nobody wants to carry more bulk than necessary, so it’s important to check the packed dimensions of your rain poncho before purchasing.
For easy access in the case of a sudden downpour, it’s best to ensure that your rain poncho will fit into one of your pack’s external pockets.
Unless you are looking for a simple rain poncho for family cook-outs or occasional day-trips, you’ll want a durable model that can be used time and time again out on the trail. If you regularly hike in rugged environments, you may need to opt for a more robust, tear-resistant model.
Materials with a higher denier tend to be thicker and more durable; however, they are often heavier. This can be a drawback, especially when you are backpacking and already have a substantial amount of gear weighing you down. Therefore, it is up to you to weigh up the pros and cons depending upon your needs.
The vast majority of rain ponchos are sold as one size fits all, but this doesn’t always work out in reality! If you are particularly large, tall or small, you may want to look out for models that are specifically designed to match your body type.
When choosing your poncho, if it is of the more fitted variety, be sure to pay close attention to what pack size you can easily wear under it. Most loose, tarp-style hiking ponchos will work fine with any sized pack. However, if you opt for a smock-style model, you may be more restricted in terms of space.
Reusable or Disposable
Some ponchos are designed for single-use only. While they can be convenient to stick at the back of your pack, they are often of a lesser-quality which doesn’t always live up to the rigors of an easy day hike, never mind backpacking.
Single-use items are also bad for the environment, which is likely to be important to you if you enjoy spending time outdoors.
Therefore, we recommend opting for a reusable poncho for your hikes. When you’re far from shelter, it is important that you can rely upon your rain poncho to keep yourself and your gear dry. For this reason, a higher quality reusable poncho is definitely the better option.
Even if you are looking for the most basic hiking poncho, a few added extras can make all the difference.
Here are some of the most popular ones that you might want to look out for when choosing your rain poncho for hiking:
Storage bag/pouch – Extremely useful for keeping your rain poncho protected, neat and tidy when not in use. The smaller the storage pouch, the less space your poncho will take up in your backpack.
Drawstring – Drawstrings are extremely useful on ponchos, allowing you to put them on quickly, then to adjust for a customized fit. Extremely popular around hoods, some long models may also feature drawstrings that adjust the hemline.
Pockets – Pockets can be very useful on a poncho, saving you from exposing your inner layers while trying to reach for your map, compass or other items on the go. An easily accessible poncho pocket will enable you to access the small items you need, without risking wetting the rest of your gear or your clothing.
Zipper – Zippers are very popular. However, waterproof zippers tend to be rather expensive and often slide less easily than regular ones. While a zipper on your poncho sounds good in theory, unless they are protected by waterproof storm guards, they seldom work well in practice.
Side Snaps – The fit of wide, tarp-stye ponchos can vastly be improved by the use of several side snaps. These keep your poncho in place around your arms and upper body, without reducing your freedom of movement or the versatility of your poncho’s design.
If you’re out on a long day hike or backpacking overnight, then why not make the very most of your rain poncho by purchasing a multipurpose model that has a variety of uses?
Here are some of the most common uses for multi-purpose hiking ponchos that can be very helpful when you’re out in the wilderness:
Shelter – Use your tarp-style poncho with your trekking poles to create a shelter, either in an emergency, an impromptu night outdoors or for an ultralight set-up.
Sunshade – If there’s not much in the way of shade and you need to take a break, use your poncho as a screen between yourself and the sun’s rays while you relax, eat or get your bearings.
Groundsheet – Thanks to their waterproof properties, a tarp-style poncho makes an excellent groundsheet in damp conditions, especially when you’ve got an ultra-light set-up where every ounce counts.
Waterproof Dressing – In an emergency, after you’ve dressed the wound with your first aid kit, you can cut strips off your poncho and tie around a cut to keep it dry.
Carryall – If your backpack is failing or you have extra gear you need to carry, you can use your poncho as an improvised carryall.
Bucket – Okay, so your poncho doesn’t have rigid sides, but being waterproof, you can use it to carry water for short distances if needed, such as from a nearby creek to your camp.
Rain Poncho Vs Rain Jacket
They may sound similar, but there are a great many differences between a rain poncho and a rain jacket.
Rain jackets are fitted, have sleeves and conventional fasteners, most often zippers. They tend to have DWR outer treatments, a waterproof layer and a breathable inner coating for comfort. Rain jackets designed for hiking are generally very expensive.
Rain ponchos, on the other hand, are lightweight and designed to be used in the event of a sudden unexpected downpour. Ponchos are extremely loose fitting and waterproof. They can be put on very quickly and are designed to also cover and protect your backpack and gear. They offer excellent freedom of movement and are generally inexpensive.
Of course, both rain ponchos and rain jackets are essential pieces of hiking kit. One cannot simply replace the other. In bad weather and during colder times of the year, you will need a rain jacket for hiking. However, you should also have an emergency rain poncho to take with you on every hike for those unexpected weather changes.
Lightweight, compact and waterproof, a hiking poncho can really make a huge difference to your safety and well being when confronted with unexpected weather. They are also useful in emergency situations where they can double up as a shelter, groundsheet, waterproof dressing or an extra bag to help you carry your gear.
As we have seen, there is an excellent selection of rain ponchos on the market for you to choose from, covering all budgets and needs.
Whether you are looking for an all-purpose model such as the versatile Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Nano Tarp Poncho, or an inexpensive model for emergency protection against the cold and damp, such as the Survive Outdoors Longer Heat Reflective Poncho, you’re sure to find the ideal hiking poncho for your needs in our top-rated selection.
No matter which model you choose, rain ponchos are a simple, yet crucial piece of kit that should be in every outdoor enthusiasts’ gear collection.