Which rain poncho should I choose?

Choosing a poncho for your next hike 

It is not unusual for rain showers to come out of nowhere while you’re hiking in the great outdoors. To make sure you are protected wherever you are, there are some essential items you should take with you, including a rain poncho

Choosing a poncho for your next hike

How to protect yourself from the rain while hiking

Do you get worried about rain showers before setting off for a hike or other outdoor activities? Compact and lightweight, a rain poncho is perfect for unpredictable weather conditions. You can carry it with you without being weighed down.

What is a waterproof hiking poncho?

What is a waterproof hiking poncho?

Compact and lightweight, easy to store in the top pocket of your backpack, a hiking poncho, or rain cape, has many benefits. Unlike a normal waterproof jacket, a poncho covers a lot of your body, not just your arms and chest. Depending on the size you choose, you can even slip it over the top of your backpack, which is perfect for keeping your bag dry if it doesn’t come with a waterproof cover.

Finally, a poncho is particularly easy to carry because it is not bulky. You can store it in a pocket of your backpack and access it easily as soon as you feel drops of rain!

What are the different types of rain cape or poncho?

Before choosing your poncho, it is really important to identify the different types of poncho available. We find that the usage is likely to vary from poncho to poncho.

  • The classic poncho

    The classic poncho

    The classic poncho doesn’t have specific technical features. It consists of a main cape and a hole for your head. It should only be worn when hiking on safe trails with no risk of falling because this type of poncho may cover your feet.

  • The long-sleeved poncho

    The long-sleeved poncho

    Some classic poncho designs don’t have sleeves; however you can find ponchos that have long sleeves and a hood, giving you excellent protection in the event of rain. The sleeves give the poncho a better fit: the wind cannot get in. Long-sleeved ponchos can be worn on rougher terrain, but you must still be careful.

  • The poncho with a drawstring

    Ponchos with a drawstring are good in windy conditions, which can be dangerous for hikers. A poncho that has too much windage does not stay in place and may get in your way. This can become dangerous, particularly on challenging trails that require extra vigilance. A drawstring at the waist enables you to adjust your rain cape, making it fit your body better. On all different kinds of terrain, you’ll be protected and you’ll be able to see your feet.

  • The 2-in-1 poncho

    If you are looking for something with multi-purpose use, a 2-in-1 poncho is an option to consider. A “2-in-1” poncho can be worn as clothing, but it can also be set up as a shelter in a specific location to protect several people from the rain until the weather improves. You could use this type of poncho for hiking or for bivouacking to give you a sheltered space for those well-deserved breaks.

Which rain poncho should I choose?

When choosing a hiking poncho, you should pay attention to the different technical features that it can offer. This will help you to find a poncho that meets your needs, so that you can hike in optimal conditions.

- Waterproof: The most important feature of a hiking poncho. It is essential that your poncho is completely waterproof. While some models are recommended for light rain, others will protect you from heavy downpours wherever you are. Please note that your poncho’s waterproofness will be indicated in “mm”. As an example, a poncho that is 5,000 mm waterproof would resist an intense storm for around 3 hours.

- Practicality : As well as being waterproof, your choice of poncho must also be practical. As soon as the clouds appear and the first drops of rain start to fall, you need to be able to put your poncho on quickly. Easy to unfold and put on, your poncho provides you with quick protection in the event of downpours.

- Breathability : During a hike, the physical effort can be intense. Just like your other clothes, you should opt for a breathable poncho that will absorb sweat. The aim of a poncho is to keep you dry, so it is essential that your poncho also protects you from any moisture caused by sweat. So, when you are going for a long hike that covers uneven terrain, breathability is paramount.

The figures next to the product name: 50, 100, 500 and 900 are intended to indicate the hiker’s level: beginner, intermediate, expert. A poncho labelled 50 is very basic, designed for beginners who are only hiking occasionally: a large cape with just a button to help it over your head. A rain poncho labelled 900 is more specialised: it is the most waterproof of the range, and it has a large zip that enables you to open it in a single movement.

How to choose the size of your rain poncho – for men and women

A poncho enables you to continue with your activity while keeping your hands free, making it more practical than an umbrella. What sets it apart from other waterproof garments is its ability to protect you and your backpack when you go hiking.

Your rain poncho should be the right size for your body shape (because of their width, ponchos often cover a range of sizes) and big enough to also cover your backpack. This is why you’ll have two indications to take into account when choosing the right size: S, M, L, XL and the capacity of the bag in litres.

Find out how to choose the right size rain poncho for your body shape below:
- If you are between 157 and 173 cm tall, choose S/M for models labelled 50, 100 and 500,
- If you are between 174 and 190 cm tall, choose L/XL for models labelled 50, 100 and 500.

Sizes vary slightly for models labelled 900:
- If you are between 167 and 176 cm tall, choose S/M
- If you are between 177 and 190 cm tall, choose L/XL.

We also have ponchos for children.
Next, look at the capacity in litres that is associated with the product. You can of course wear the poncho without a backpack, the capacity in litres tells you the maximum sized backpack that would fit underneath.
We have ponchos that go up to 75 litres. If you don’t use a poncho to cover your backpack, it is best to pack all of your things in plastic bags and put a waterproof cover over your bag.

You now have all the information you need to choose your hiking poncho. If you are going on a hike in unpredictable conditions, make sure to be prepared and don't let the weather stop you from having your adventure!

Choosing a poncho for your next hike

The hiking, bivouac and backpacking editorial team

The Forclaz team shares its advice and experience to help you prepare for your backpacking adventures.

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