Using Your Poncho as a Tarp
Scott Janz October 27, 2016 0

Poncho as Shelter and Rain Gear

The road to Ultralite backpacking is simple: carry the lightest gear possible and carry only what’s necessary.

Most backpackers who practice lightweight techniques have little problem with that statement; it only makes sense that if you reduce the weight of an item your pack will in return be lighter. This approach alone can reduce your pack weight enough to allow the use of lightweight packs GoLite (Rest in Peace) or Ultralight  Adventure Packs. The latter, however, proves to be more problematic. To know what is necessary requires judgment and practice:

So what are some techniques in packing lighter? What do you mean by “Judgment”. It simply means this: Multi-purpose your GEAR, and I mean almost all of it.  Let’s take your sleeping shelter for example. I use a Tarp. So, how could I make a tarp into a multi-purpose piece of gear?

Five Advantages of Poncho Tarping

  1. Can you use your Rain Poncho as a Tarp? Absolutely!

Keep in mind that there some some other things to consider. Like ground cloth and the fact you may not have a bug net. I haven’t had a bug net in years, however, I tend not to get eaten a live like others I’ve seen outdoors before.

2. Weight

The best Poncho’s I’ve seen out there are the Sil Nilon one’s. They are light, easy to use, and have made great shelters. The Ultra-Sil Nano Poncho weighs a little over 8 oz. That is an amazing lightweight shelter system.

3. Versatility

This is the best of the best when it comes to multi-purposing your gear. It really comes down to practice, practice, practice. Imagine it’s pouring.  You have your poncho on, and how you need to make camp. Your Poncho is your Tarp.  Are you going to be able to set up your Tarp when it’s your Poncho keeping you dry? Well, the bad news is, probably not. However, it’s not going to be too bad. With some practice, odds are you will be able to pitch your Poncho/Tarp pretty fast. Look at the Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape. It comes in at 12 oz and sleeps one very comfortably with some head room to boot.

4. Pack-ability

There is something beautiful about packing your shelter system in a nice little ball that fits in the side of your pack for easy access. Remember, this is your rain gear also, you may need to access it quickly for pop up thunderstorms.

5. Multi-Purpose Your Hiking Poles

Here is where you are going to look like a Backpacker Superhero. How many times have you set up camp and then leaned your hiking poles against a tree? Well now, use them to set up your Shelter. Congrats! You have multi-used 3 pieces of important gear. Rain Poncho, Tarp, and Hiking Poles.

TIP: Don’t try poncho tarps until you’ve mastered tarp camping with an 8 x 12′. Then maybe shoot down to 8 x 10′. There’s no margin for error with a small tarp. With larger tarps you can sleep in the center and be more or less insulated from blown rain and the splash factor. You’re about as close as you can get to the weather with a 5 x 8; learn the tricks of the trade before you push the envelope. I use a regular “Paint Plastic Tarp” you buy at the hardware store for my ground cloth. Why? Ground Clothes are expensive, and if they get a hole in it, get out your wallet. Regular paint plastic can just get cut into new pieces.

Also, make sure you always bring an extra large garbage bag with you. These are great to put  your empty pack in at night when it’s raining to keep your pack dry.

Guy lines are essential. A 5 x 8′ tarp gives maximum area when it’s pitched as flat as possible. Guy lines help to keep the fabric taut and water draining instead of pooling. Prop sticks can be used in a pinch; find them before you go to sleep.

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