The Best Rain Poncho For Hiking, Backpacking or Travel

5 Lightweight Ponchos To Keep You Dry If It Rains

In Summary: In 2016 I checked out 5 waterproof ponchos and I choose the Charles River Pacific as the best waterproof poncho to pack in your carry on.

While there are more effective ponchos on the market I found the Charles River Pacific was the best travel poncho for carry on guys like me.

It won because:

  • It's just the right weight
  • It keeps you and your backpack dry
  • It's available in colors other than green!

Much of the poncho market is dominated by survivalists and military types which is a pity because they are a great item to include in your carry on packing list. I wish more travel companies made ponchos.

Versatility is the key to great travel clothes and a poncho is a very useful and versatile item to have in your bag.

Read on to find out more about why ponchos are awesome and why the Charles River won the top pick award.

Charles River Pacific

Introduction: What's So Good About A Travel Poncho?

Smart carry on travelers are always trying to shave weight off their bag and a waterproof rain poncho is one way to do that.

A sweater + rain proof poncho is more versatile than a bulky rain jacket because you can wear the sweater or the poncho separately.

Versatility and layers are the key to reducing the weight of your bag.

Clint used a wool poncho in the desert but always kept a waterproof poncho handy for the rainy season...

I like ponchos even compared to sleeved lightweight windbreakers (or cagoules as the British call them) because a poncho is easy to get on in a hurry.

If you get caught in a rain shower it's easy to whip a poncho out of your day pack and be protected from the rain in just seconds.

Likewise, a woolen poncho (like Clint might wear) is also a very versatile item to pack.

If you are a poncho fan i'd recommend packing both a woolen poncho and a waterproof poncho in your carry on.

A good rain poncho can offer some protection to your lower half as well as keeping your top half dry...

And the best rain ponchos will even cover a backpack ​so your things don't get wet.

Some Ponchos can come down below the knee so you can even sit down on a wet bench if you want.

All in all... a rain poncho is a really handy thing for a traveler, hiker or backpacker to carry.

Large waterproof rain ponchos:

  • Won't break like an umbrella
  • Can keep you dry below the waist too
  • Can keep your backpack dry
  • You might become too hot in hot climates



Charles River Apparel Pacific Poncho Review

The Charles River Pacific Poncho is a hugely popular waterproof poncho and with good reason.

It comes in 14 different colors and with a great little storage pouch. The pouch is roughly 12 x 9.5 x 0.5 inches, it weighs about 1 lb and the whole thing takes up less than a liter of space in your bag.

It's long enough to cover your knees when seated even if you are tall. You could easily stuff this poncho into your handbag in case of emergencies.

If your have a backpack and it's not too big this poncho will also cover your backpack to protect your things and keep them dry.

It comes with a hood with drawstrings for keeping your head dry.​

The Charles River is lightweight but it's not so lightweight that it's like those disposable plastic ponchos. It's designed to last for a long time.​

90 %
Satisfaction Rating
  • 14.5 oz
  • Passable but not great for hot weather
  • You still get rain in your face

Frogg Toggs Outer Ware Poncho Review

The Frogg Toggs poncho is a lighter option than the Charles River but again it's not meant to be disposable.

The Frogg Toggs is modestly priced but it's a step up from disposable ponchos.

For carry on travelers the fact that it's very lightweight is an added bonus. It's only going to add 8.8 oz to your carry on weight.

If you are going to a mild climate you can skip taking a jacket altogether but keep a lightweight poncho handy just in case of any sudden downpours.​

88 %
Satisfaction Rating
  • Only 8.8 oz
  • Material is thin and could be pierced easily

Snugpak Patrol Poncho Review

The Snugpak Patrol Poncho is a great option for larger guys and even fits guys up to 300 lbs.

The truth is though... this isn't really a poncho because it's got sleeves. It's more like a big cagoule but that's no bad thing.

The main negative is that it's a little overpriced for what it is. The Charles River is better value at a better price.​

86 %
Satisfaction Rating
  • Can be compressed really small
  • 13.33 oz
  • No waist cord
  • Can't be opened up and used like a sheet
  • Short in the arms for tall people

Mil Tec Poncho Review

The Mil-Tec is made in Germany and made to a higher standard than Chinese ponchos.

It's a Military style poncho and Military grade.

What this means for the casual carry on traveler is that it's not very stylish but it really gets the job done!

If you travel with expensive laptops or camera gear then this will slip over your backpack and keep your gear safe.

It ships from Ireland so it's going to take some time to get to you but it will probably be worth the wait.​

The reasons this poncho didn't win my top pick was because it only comes in military green and for a carry on traveler obsessed with weight it's 7.5 oz heavier than the Charles River Pacific.

But if that doesn't bother you this might be the one to get.​

For "best poncho" it's the winner but for "best travel poncho" it runs second place.

92 %
Satisfaction Rating
  • 22 oz
  • Takes a long time to ship to usa
  • Green or green

JTENG Poncho Review

The ghostly looking JTENG Poncho is another military style poncho available in camouflage or green.

Sadly this is probably too heavy to be a useful carry on poncho. It's 1.8 lbs and for me that's getting to the stage where the fantastic benefits of a travel poncho are out weighed by the negative effects of the weight.

The JTENG is a great poncho and highly rated but for carry on travelers isn't not the one to go for.

That and the fact that their marketing might give me nightmares!​

96 %
Satisfaction Rating
  • 100% waterproof
  • 30 oz

Do You Agree That Ponchos Rock For Travelers?

That's it for our take on the best rain ponchos with our usual carry on twist.

Don't be put off by the military styling and marketing and survivalist vibe.

Ponchos are really awesome for travelers too I promise.

The reality is that you probably won't need to wear these very often and if you do you will be so glad to have it you won't care about how it looks!

I believe a rain poncho is one of the best things a traveler can add to their packing list, especially if you do a bit of hiking, but what do you think? Let me know in the comments )

Only With A Poncho Can You Be This Guy...

Leave a Comment:

Paul wilson says

Hi I agree, nothing keeps you dry like a Poncho, used one for years, no seams, no washing, on and off in seconds, covers everything, it’s such a shame there not fashionable, it needs somebody like David Beckam to be seen in one, then everybody would start wearing them

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