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Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 2:36 pm
by oldranger
I'm a comfirmed poncho user because they result in less condensation on my clothes and by keeping my hands inside I can keep them dry and out of the wind even when using my hiking poles. My wife however can't (or won't????) make the adjustments necessary so her hands get wet.

She is planning on doing part of the Wonderland Trail (Mt. Rainier)with a friend next summer (I'm not interested because I can't see the sense of a week on the trail with no good fishing opportunities). Anyhow she is considering using a breathable rain jacket. I can't for the life of me figure out how that would work without getting soaking wet on the inside (despite being breathable) and how to keep ones hands warm and dry. I suspect temps will be in the low to mid 50s when hiking in the rain. Help me out on this! I want her to enjoy herself while I am wandering off trail in the Sawtooths, White Clouds, or Sierra (if there is decent snow this winter).


Re: Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:03 pm
by freestone
I think it's pretty hard not to get some body part wet when it rains while trekking, either from the sky above or from sweat within.
I use a trekking umbrella and manage to stay dry from about the knees up. This works quite well in the Sierra when rain tends to come in showers with breaks in between, so you can stand or sit and wait it out. If I were not into the umbrella concept, it would be a poncho because they seem to allow perspiration to escape better and you can layer up if it's cold. I have always been suspect of "breathable" rain coats.

Re: Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:25 pm
by dave54
Personal preference. I have used both in all conditions from light drizzle to heavy horizontal monsoon-like deluge. Although I stayed relatively dry in each, (or at least equal wet spots) I never was comfortable in a poncho. I prefer a rain shell. With proper layering and ventilation zippers sweat is not a problem for me.
Your Results May Vary.

Re: Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:33 pm
by Wandering Daisy
I have been disappointed in all of my waterproof-breathable jackets. The best one so far is a Montbelle. The worst one was a Marmot Precip. They all tend to leak over time. Definitely use a new jacket. Get it sufficiently large to have some ventilation and leave room for layering. I use a woman's large, even though I am a medium to small. In a steady rain she will also need rain pants. I have heard good things regarding a rain skirt. Seems a good idea if you also wear waterproof high gaiters and stay on trails.

I have never used a poncho, but have used a cagoul (oversized coated nylon jacket not breathable that goes down to knees). It worked well, but when not in use, it is a lot heavier.

If the Wonderland Trail is does not include steep ups and downs, I would seriously think about not using trekking poles. That would eliminate the wet hand problem. I am more inclined to use my trekking poles off-trail. If a route is entirely on trail, I often just leave the trekking poles home.

Re: Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 6:47 pm
by Hobbes
My routine has always been to bring a poncho (Frog Toggs) for shorter trips where there might be unexpected weather and/or I can bail. However, if the trip is longer and/or has very specific way points, I now bring a rain jacket (Pat Rainshadow) regardless if the forecast is good at the start. You'd think as you get older that one would have this stuff figured out, but there's always variables to learn from.

When I did a 110 mile PCT section hike (with Jim) last April, I learned a very important lesson: thru-hikers are stuck outside just like homeless people. There's no escape, other than hitting a hotel room - if you just happen to be around civilization, or there's a road crossing where you can hitch to civilization. But since they have to make miles, they have to stick to their schedule if they want to finish. That means hiking all day in cold, wet crappy weather - there's no re-scheduling or pushing a trip back by a week, no looping back to get to your car early, no ability to split, dry off and get cleaned up. So, you need gear that can handle that kind of environment, which means a "real" good quality rain jacket. When I hiked all day in cold freezing rain, my poncho was good for about an hour, then I was a cold, wet rat.

A perfect example of having a choice was this year's HST meet-up, where due to poor weather at the beginning, everyone's plans changed ie almost everyone delayed by a day or so. With that option, you can gauge the weather and bring the appropriate gear for the 4-5 days you'll be in the back country. So, in this case I once again brought my poncho in the off-chance, but I never needed to use it.

Jim & I have talked about hiking in the Cascades, and if I ever did that, my #1 priority would be to have both my rain jacket and some rain pants. There's a huge difference in being wet/sweaty inside a soft shell vs being soaked to the skin and exposed with a poncho.

Re: Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 7:13 pm
by Jimr
I learned the same lesson. I always brought a poncho in the Sierra, but rarely had to use it. I can only remember about 4 times where I needed it for a bit. I was glad I had it because you just don't know how long the rain will last. Once, I pulled up short and threw the tent out cutting my day short because once camp is up, it's up. Only twice did I have to hike for hours in the rain. This year's meetup trip, I had rain pants and poncho. The poncho was on it's way to failure when the rain stopped. I was lucky instead of miserable. I now have a good rain jacket so I have options. Also, I hiked in with my friend John who is from Mt. Shasta. He was fully prepared and has logged many miles in the rain, so it was of no concern to him, even when we were being poured on at the trail head. Now that I am considering earlier and later season trips, I think full on rain gear becomes essential. I've even gone to gloves for warmth, a pair of blue sanitation gloves to keep them dry and a pair of hardware gloves for punishment. I can wear all three of them at once if I desire.

Re: Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 7:34 pm
by maverick
If she is flexible and can around for the optimal week, sometime in mid August is prime, then you can avoid storms by following the weather patterns Mike, and a pancho would be suffice. On the other hand, if she does not have the flexibility to make a decision within a week, then you should have her take rain gear (jacket & pants), because some storms can last 3 days of more, dumping several inches in a few hours accompanied by high winds, which make panchos less then optimal.

The steepest sections are Maple Creek to Indian Bar average of 339ft per mile, and South Mowich River to Klapatche Park average of 330ft per mile, compared that to an average of 416ft per mile on the South Lake to Bishop Pass Trail. Though this is a little deceiving, because the first section of the South Mowich section is a 2000 ft climb in 4.5 mile, which is 444ft per mile, but then flattens out.

Re: Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 8:01 pm
by gabe&mel

Outdoor Research has rain jackets with huge pit zips that run from arm pit all the way down side of jacket allowing hip belt to run underneath front half of jacket, kinda like a poncho. Can be completely zipped up if windy/horizontal rain. Mens is called foray, womens is called aspire. Like you, I don't believe the hype that waterproof breathable jackets are very breathable, but the huge pit zips on the foray does increase ventilation significantly.

Pics can be seen at: ... ographers/

When I did wonderland, I used rain skirt but wished I had rain pants to help retain body heat, hiking for hours in sustained rain with + temps in the 50s chilled me pretty bad. Also used MLD rain mitts which were more useful for warmth than keeping hands dry.

Best of luck.


Re: Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 10:48 pm
by oldranger
Thanks all!

Daisy, no poles is not an option, which also rules out an umbrella. Mav. there is no flexibility as there are airline reservations involved. Time will be roughly first week in August. Gabe and Mel, for what little my pms to you were worth your reply was repayment in spades!


Re: Questions about Jackets vs. Poncho

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:03 am
by AlmostThere
I use a Snugpak patrol poncho, which differs from other ponchos in that it has sleeves and a partial zipper at the neck. It's made to fit over a backpack. I get the ability to vent (roll up the front) or not, with the dry arms (sleeves) unless I let the water wet the cuffs of whatever shirt I am wearing. Wicking materials do wick. I'll bring rain pants to avoid the wet wicking up from below, or at least to keep my legs warm.

I have tried too many WPB jackets to ever invest in another -- they all either fail and soak through, or I sweat out my clothes from the inside. Totally done with Goretex unless it's winter. The Snugpak is forty bucks -- if I manage to destroy it or the PU peels, it's easy to replace from amazon. Weighs about the same or less than the jackets do.