This is The Wise Adventurer’s guide to the best rain ponchos on the market today. There’s nothing quite like the simplicity of a rain poncho for any outdoors activity. Just drape it over your head, shoulders, backpack, whatever, and forget about it. No pack cover to fumble with. No awkward rain pant to wriggle on over your wet boots. Rain ponchos are a simple and lightweight “one-size-fits-all” solution that always gets the job done in a pinch.
After testing and analyzing dozens of the most popular rain ponchos currently available, we found the Sea To Summit Nylon Tarp-Poncho to be the best of the bunch. The Tarp-Poncho has been a popular option among hikers for years, and for good reason: It’s made from super-durable materials, provides proven waterproofing, and is built specifically to accommodate the full range of backpacks found out on the trail from minimalist day packs to full-framed 80-liter behemoths.
The Sea To Summit Nylon Tarp-Poncho won’t be the first choice for everyone though, and that’s alright. Some folks want the smallest and lightest rain poncho available, while others just don’t need the added volume of a backpack-specific design. Don’t fret, we’ve got the perfect poncho down below for your next adventure whether you’re riding a bike, fixing a flat tire, or just going to a concert with rain in the forecast.
Of course if you’re new to rain ponchos and aren’t sure where to start your search, you’re also in the right place. Down at the bottom you’ll also find our buyers guide on outdoors rain ponchos to break down all the most popular features, terms, and materials you’ll find in a proper rain poncho.
Right, let’s dive in!
|Sea To Summit Nylon Tarp-Poncho: Best Rain Poncho Overall||Combining outstanding durability, reliable weatherproofing, and backpacking-specific features, the Sea To Summit Nylon Tarp-Poncho is the best poncho on the market, and also converts into a two person shelter in a pinch. See Review|
|Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Tarp-Poncho: Best Overall Quality||An upgraded version of the classic Sea To Summit Tarp-Poncho, but with ultra-light and compact silnylon construction. Industry leading materials, thoughtful construction, and outstanding durability without the weight penalty. See Review|
|Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2: Best Rain Poncho On A Budget||The industry standard for inexpensive rain gear, in poncho form: Cheap, lightweight, and reliable, from a brand you know and trust. See Review|
|Sierra Designs Lightweight Rain Poncho||An excellent blend of strength and fantastic waterproofing, with the added functionality of a utility tarp. Properly lightweight without sacrifying longevity. See Review|
|Terra Hiker Waterproof Rain Poncho||A budget rain poncho with an excellent waterproof rating and added features. Sturdy metal grommets and a great rain visor make a well-rounded package with added utility. See Review|
|Redcamp Waterproof Poncho||Excellent waterproofing and backpack-friendly sizing on a budget. Full length sleeves add warmth and rain jacket-level protection from the elements. See Review|
|Saphirose Waterproof Cycling Poncho||An excellent option for cyclists of any discipline. Thoughtful bike-specific features to keep the rain at bay while you pedal. Converts into a proper general use poncho off the bike. See Review|
– Size: 100” x 54” (254cm x 137cm)
– Weight: 14oz (400 g)
– Packed size: 7.5” x 3.5” (19cm x 9cm)
– Waterproof rating: 2000mm
– Preferred usage: Camping/backpacking with a large pack
If you’re looking for a poncho that’ll go the distance, the Sea To Summit Nylon Tarp-Poncho is as tough as they come.
That’s because it’s made from heavy-duty 70D nylon top to bottom, which is tougher than your average backpacking tent and isn’t scared of walking past the occasional branch, thorn, or thicket… That’s an important detail here, considering the Sea To Summit Tarp-Poncho is also designed to pull double-duty as a simple shelter in a pinch.
This is made possible by the attachment of small guy out points along the perimeter of the poncho, which basically convert it into a ridgeline-style shelter that’s ideal for bivvys, hammock sleepers, or other minimalist backpackers. Sea To Summit even specs the Tarp-Poncho with fully-taped, double-stitched seams to ensure it keeps the water at bay whether you’re wearing it or sleeping under it.
Drawbacks to this design are minimal, but we’ll point out that the heavy-duty material comes with a weight penalty of about 14oz, which isn’t outrageous for rain gear but is several ounces heavier than simpler and/or more expensive options on our list. Still, taking into account the Tarp-Poncho’s integrated hood peak, big-pack-friendly size, and the extended back panel that doesn’t sacrifice coverage when worn over a pack, you should see it as an investment in durability that checks all the essential boxes for a proper backpacking poncho.
|– Super durable 70D nylon construction|
– Double stitched and seam-taped water protection
– Converts to a 2-person shelter
|– On the heavier side|
– Packed size feels bulky
– A little pricy if you just need a regular poncho
– Size: 104” x 57” (265cm x 145cm)
– Weight: 8oz (227 grams)
– Packed size: 3” x 2.5” (8cm x 6cm)
– Waterproof rating: 1200 mm
– Preferred usage: Ultralight backpacking
Take all the pros of Sea To Summit’s classic Tarp Poncho, then subtract all the cons, and you’ve got the Ultra-Sil Nano.
By swapping out the heavy 70D nylon of the original in favor of high tech 15D sil-nylon fabric, Sea To Summit manages to shave off nearly half the weight, bringing the Nano down to just 8 ounces, stuff sack included. Same goes for the bulk of the original Tarp Poncho, as the Nano stuffs down to miserly 3” x 2.5”.
Other notable improvements include a drawcord hem at the rear, which allows you to sinch up the back of the poncho to keep it off the ground when you aren’t wearing a pack. You still get the same great 3-panel peak integrated into the hood, as well as the same double-stitched and fully-taped seams for proper waterproofing.
The main downside of the Nano is, of course, price, which is always a factor when dealing with silnylon. There’s a reason this is the fabric of choice for top-of-the-line mountaineering tents, so expect to pay for it upfront. The second drawback of this fast-and-light fabric is that it’s actually less waterproof overall than the simpler PU-coated nylon of the original. At 1,200mm, the Nano is fine for a shelter, but actually falls shy of the 2,000mm minimum you’d want from your raingear in an outright downpour. All things considered, the Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Nano is a great piece of kit, and an excellent lightweight option that’s actually less expensive than many of its premium competitors.
|– All the convenience of the original, at half the size and weight|
– Adjustable rear hem allows a wide range of packs while still providing great coverage
– Doubles as a minimalist tarp shelter
|– Sil-nylon costs extra|
– Lower waterproof rating than its heavier stablemate
Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite 2: Best Rain Poncho On A Budget
– Size: 76” x 54” (193cm x 137cm)
– Weight: 9oz (255 g)
– Packed size: 8” x 7” (20cm x 18cm)
– Waterproof rating: Unlisted, but thoroughly proven
– Preferred usage: Backpacking/general outdoors use
You just can’t talk about outdoors rain gear without mentioning Frogg Toggs. Frogg Toggs makes the most affordable, reliable, no-frills rain gear on the market, and their Ultra-Lite 2 poncho is one of their most basic and most popular options.
There’s a lot to love here. For starters, this isn’t a water-resistant poncho, it’s a completely waterproof layer. No amount of rain makes it past the 100% polypropylene shell. It may look far from fashionable, but it damn sure gets the job done.
We also love the simple yet effective snaps on both sides of the Ultra-Lite2. If you’re in a serious storm with rain-blown wind, these snaps allow you to snug the poncho up at your sides and armpits, providing the most secure barrier possible. When you’re in a lighter rain or scattered showers, you can leave as many snaps undone as you want for maximum ventilation.
The hood of this rain poncho comes with a drawstring closure as well, and while it certainly does its job keeping the wind and rain away, its unstructured design sits awkwardly at the corners of your face, so we typically prefer to wear it over a hat with a rigid brim to give it structure and keep rain from our eyes. Aside from that, there really isn’t much to complain about here. This is a typical poncho shape, so it doesn’t fully cover your arms or legs (and covers even less of them when worn over your pack), but that’s just part of the tradeoff you take over a dedicated rain jacket.
|– Dirt cheap|
– 100% waterproof
– Excellent breathability
– Incredibly lightweight
|– Leaves your forearms and lower legs exposed|
– Wearing with a pack reduces coverage
– Provides little to no added warmth
– Size: 43” x 102” (108cm x 259cm)
– Weight: 8.5 oz (241 g)
– Packed size: 8” x 6” (20cm x 15cm)
– Waterproof rating: Unavailable
– Preferred usage: Backpacking/general outdoors use
Sierra Designs’ original rain poncho won a lot of fans with its outright toughness and proven waterproofing, but it had one glaring flaw: With its 80D fabric and added front zipper it was just a bit too heavy and bulky for serious backpacking duty.
Well, the folks at Sierra Designs listened to their fans, and their new Sierra Designs Lightweight Poncho adaptation is one of the best out there. By switching the fabric to a lighter 40D nylon and tossing out the zipper and stormflap, they were able to shave this poncho down to just 8.5 oz (size medium) without losing too much of the outright durability the original was known for.
It still doubles as a ground tarp thanks to its grommeted corners, and has the same snap-closure side adjustments that allow you to dial in the right amount of ventilation vs. protection. The extended rear portion is built to accommodate a decent sized pack without giving up too much coverage, and the simple drawstring hood adjustment gets the job done.
While it doesn’t feel nearly as substantiation as the outgoing 80D nylon model, Sierra Designs’ Lightweight poncho is still plenty durable, and makes a happy medium for universal outdoors use. Aside from the less rugged fabric, our only serious complaint with this poncho is that it retained the peakless hood of the outgoing model, so you’ll likely want to wear it with a hat to keep rain off your face.
|– Good balance of strength to weight|
– Added grommets add tarp utility
– Pack-friendly cut
|– Less overall durability than original|
– Would prefer a rain peak on the hood
– Bulkier than some
– Size: 87” x 55” (221cm x 140cm)
– Weight: 11oz (310g)
– Packed size: 9” x 3” (24cm x 8cm)
– Waterproof rating: 3000mm
– Preferred usage: General outdoors use
The Terra Hiker Waterproof Rain Poncho is another one of the best rain ponchos on a budget. No, it doesn’t have the name recognition or long-running history as a Frogg Toggs suit, but it’s got a few unique perks of its own worth considering.
For one, Terra Hiker’s waterproofness is lab tested at 3000mm. Granted, we’ve had plenty of experience with Frogg Toggs and can absolutely verify they’re fully waterproof, but we sure wish they’d give us a more scientific rating. Another benefit that the Terra Hiker has over its budget-friendly cousins is the addition of metal eyelets at the corners of the poncho, which add some utility to its design, especially in emergency situations.
Other perks in the Terra Hiker poncho include a decently functional peak at the hood to keep rain off your race when moving, fully taped seams throughout, and the use of a high-density polyester fabric that’s tougher than just about anything else on the market at this price.
Of course at this price the Terra Hiker isn’t perfect, and it’s got a few shortcomings that keep it from dethroning the tried-and-true Frogg Toggs as the best budget pick. The most glaring of which is the velco closure/adjustment system, which uses a single long strip of velcro roughly half way up the body to section off the arms and keep the poncho in place. This is fine for low wind situations, but leaves a bit too much of the poncho open to flap around than we’d like when the weather really gets rough. Aside from that it’s a few ounces heavier and bit bulkier than its competitors, which makes it less attractive to backpackers or day-hikers with limited pack space.
– Outstanding water resistance
– Metal grommets add utility to design
|– Velcro closure system isn’t the best|
– Heavy for what it is
– On the bulky side
– Size: 55” x 94” (140cm x 240cm)
– Weight: 9.4oz (270 g)
– Packed size: 8” x 4” (20cm x 10cm)
– Waterproof rating: 2,000mm
– Preferred usage: General outdoors and emergency use
The Redcamp Waterproof Rain Poncho is another budget option worth considering, especially for anyone wanting maximum coverage for their upper body.
That’s because Redcamp’s rain poncho has the unique addition of velcro-adjustable sleeves, which are designed to extend fully down the length of your arms rather than stopping at your forearm like most ponchos. It’s a minor feature, but one we appreciate, especially for hiking in cold weather.
The issue with rain ponchos for many avid hikers and backpackers is that while they provide good all-around coverage, the short sleeves often leave the sleeves of our non-waterproof mid-layers exposed to rain. Having a wet puffy jacket or fleece sticking to your skin is awfully unpleasant, especially if you happen to wearing a down jacket that shouldn’t be getting wet in the first place.
Many of the Redcamp’s features follow suit with the rest of the pack from there like a drawstring hood (with a rain peak!), adjustable closures alone the sides, and reinforced grommets at the edges for tarp or shelter duty in an emergency. It’s a bit bulkier than some when packed into its included stuff sack, and although the Redcamp has a reliable 2,000mm waterproof rating, it’s achieved through a thin waterproof coating on the inside that we don’t expect to last more than a few seasons. Still, for occasional use, last minute backpacking trips, or as an extra emergency rain poncho, the Redcamp is a solid value.
|– Excellent waterproof rating|
– Full-length sleeves are rare in a poncho
|– Bulkier packed size than some|
– 100% polyester is less durable than more expensive fabrics
– Waterproof coating isn’t the most durable
– Size: 52” x 88” (132cm x 224cm)
– Weight: 12oz (340 g)
– Packed size: 8” x 5” (20cm x 13cm)
– Waterproof rating: 5,000mm
– Preferred usage: Cycling and general outdoors use
Cyclists looking for a poncho that does double duty off the bike will appreciate the Saphirose Waterproof Cycling Poncho.
It’s got all the essentials of a general use pancho including an excellent waterproof rating of 5000mm, snap-on adjustable fit/ventilation, and a generous rain visor to keep falling drops off your face. Where it really shines, however, is on a bicycle.
That’s because the Saphirose includes a list of thoughtful bike-specific features in its design. For instance, you’ll find elastic loops at the end of each sleeve, which are designed to slide over your fingers to keep the poncho in place as you move. Looking underneath this rain poncho, you’ll also notice a pair of pinch clamps attached to elasticated lines, which are designed to clamp onto your handlebar controls to keep the front of the poncho anchored to the bike as you pedal.
Once you get where you’re going, you simply unclip the poncho and fasten down the side snaps to snug it down to your body, and you’ve got a classic full coverage poncho to protect you while you walk.
Of course this is a cycling specific model, so it’s main drawback for many is that it isn’t designed to accommodate a large backpack. Granted, you could still get away with a daypack (say 20 liters or so) without the Saphirose riding up your legs, but we wouldn’t recommend anything larger than that. Still, if you’re a cycling commuter who enjoys the occasional all-weather hike, it’s a great one stop shop.
|– Incredible water resistance|
– Handy mounting points for cyclists
– Waterproof chest pocket
|– Not ideal for backpacking|
– Not particularly breathable
Rain ponchos are great because they’re just the most convenient way to beat the rain. Rather than having to take off your pack, put on your rain jacket, struggle into your rain pants, and then slip a separate pack cover over your bag, rain ponchos are big enough to simply drape over all the above, and get on with your hike.
Granted, most ponchos don’t offer quite the same degree of coverage for your lower body (depending on the length) and most don’t fully protect your arms either, but the considerable space and weight savings they offer make them a lasting favorite for thousands upon thousands of outdoors enthusiasts of every discipline.
The best rain ponchos are made from the same materials as backpacking tents, tarps, and rain jackets, and share the same ratings (when available) for waterproofing. Waterproofing is typically measured via hydrostatic head testing, which is expressed in “mm” ratings.
You don’t need to know how hydrostatic testing works to know what it means (although if you do, we do a thorough explanation of it in our buyer’s guide for the best high wind tents): Higher numbers signify greater water resistance, and vice versa.
In terms of choosing the best rain poncho, generally speaking any poncho rated at 2000mm or higher is the kind of thing you can take into a downpour and stay dry under. Some ultralight ponchos trade off a degree of outright waterproofness for lighter weight fabrics, and fall around the 1200mm -1500mm range. These ponchos will do the trick in lighter or shorter rainstorms, but they’re more prone to letting some degree of water seep through if it’s raining buckets outside.
Unlike cheap disposable ponchos, the best rain ponchos are typically made from either polypropylene, nylon, or similarly high-tech fabrics you’d find in tent canopies like silnylon and Dyneema.
The main tradeoff you make when choosing materials is between weight and durability (price is a factor as well, but as always, you can have all three if your wallet is thick enough). For instance, consider the Sea To Summit Nano (made from silynylon) and the Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2 (made from polypropylene): Both are exceptionally lightweight and waterproof, yet they’re on completely different ends of the spectrum in terms of price. The main difference between the two is that if we had to pick one to wear while bushwalking through thorns, thickets, and tight overgrown trails, we’d go with the Sea To Summit all day.
With that being said, options like the original Sea To Summit Poncho (with its 70D nylon construction) are both relatively inexpensive and durable, yet they weigh considerably more than a set of Frogg Toggs. If you’re tough on gear, you’ll want to keep this tradeoff in mind.
Generally speaking, there are two types of rain poncho users: People who need them for hiking, and everyone else. If you’re using your poncho as hiking/backpacking rain gear, weight and packed size will be a major consideration driving your decision. If you’re looking for a combination of the lightest, smallest, and sturdiest rain poncho available, be prepared to pay accordingly. Most backpacking rain ponchos weigh in at 8 ounces or less, and are small enough to be easily stashed in an auxiliary pocket of your pack.
For everyone else, weight isn’t going to be a major factor, and packed size will more or less follow suit. Just keep your intended use in mind (emergency roadside kit, sporting events, cycling, etc.) and make sure the poncho you choose is small enough to bring along in whatever bag you’ll be carrying.
Most rain ponchos are little more than glorified tarps with a hole for your head, and they fit about as fashionably as a large trash bag. Let’s not mince words here: Ponchos are big, bulky, flowing, baggy, etc.
With that in mind, the trick to picking out a properly fitting poncho is finding the one that provides good rain coverage with or without a backpack on. A good hiking poncho is noticeably longer in the rear to give you extra coverage on your backside when draped over a large pack. Obviously if you’re not planning on wearing a pack with your poncho, your options are wide open, just make sure you take into account the overall length. If you’re on the shorter side and you go too big, your poncho will swallow you whole and (more importantly) constantly drag on the ground behind you.
The importance of durability in a rain poncho really depends on how you’ll use it.
If you’re just looking for an occasional use rain poncho for emergency situations, social outings, or rain protection in open areas, you aren’t likely to subject it to any serious tearing or puncture risks, so you don’t need to be overly concerned about having the “most durable” poncho on the market.
If you’ll be using your rain poncho for proper outdoors endeavors like extended backpacking trips or outright thru-hiking on the other hand, durability is important. We generally recommend buying the most durable fabric you can afford, as it’s worth its weight in gold to not have to worry about every branch in the trail tearing a hole in your poncho.
With that being said, there’s definitely a reason inexpensive rain ponchos from brands like Frogg Toggs are still so popular with dedicated outdoorsmen: If you happen to tear them, you can just seal them up with duct tape, hike into the next town, and buy a new pair for pennies on the dollar.
Taking all the above features into account, we found that the Sea To Summit Nylon Tarp-Poncho is the best rain poncho overall. It’s not the lightest or most compact on the market, but it’s still reasonably packable while boasting class-leading durability and excellent waterproofing.
If you’re serious about slimming down your pack, or just want the peace of mind of seriously high-tech fabrics, the Sea To Summit UltraSil Nano Tarp Poncho cuts both the weight and packed size of the beloved Nylon Tarp-Poncho in half, while still delivering predictable waterproofing and excellent durability.
If you’re more the casual hiker or poncho user, or just want to save your money for other big-ticket items like tents, stoves, or backpacks, check out the Frogg Toggs UltraLite 2. Frogg Toggs have been keeping hikers, bikers, and campers dry for decades, and their quality and reputation just can’t be beaten for the money.