Buying Guide for Rain Ponchos
Why buy a rain poncho?
Rain ponchos are a sort of middle ground between a tarp and a raincoat. They’re made of lightweight waterproof or water-resistant plastic that you drape over your body to keep you, your clothes, and your belongings from getting wet when you’re outside in rainy, misty, or other damp, inclement weather. Like raincoats, a rain poncho allows you to stay dry while keeping both hands free, unlike carrying an umbrella. Most have hoods and reach at least to your thighs, sometimes below, so they’ll keep you dry from head to knee (or lower). If you pick the right rain poncho, you may not even need rain pants when hiking or camping, just a good pair of rain boots to keep your feet and lower legs dry. Ponchos are often sold in packs, so you can easily buy spares or enough for the whole family at an affordable price. And since they’re so lightweight, they’re easy to pack, fold down compactly, and can be quickly thrown on if you get caught in an unexpected or sudden rainstorm.
What should you look for in rain ponchos?
- Protection: Obviously, you’ll want your rain poncho to be waterproof, or at the very least water repellent, so you know that water and moisture won’t be able to penetrate or leak through the poncho and soak your skin and clothes. Rain ponchos that are listed as water-resistant aren’t going to be as effective at keeping you dry. Models with fully taped seams will also provide superior protection. There are also windproof and/or heat-reflective rain ponchos that are better suited for a wider range of temperatures and inclement weather. Also consider whether you’re buying a disposable or reusable rain poncho. Disposable models are usually meant for one or two uses and are made of thinner plastic, while reusable ones are thicker and more likely to be made out of a fabric like polyester or nylon. These will be heavier and more expensive but will provide greater protection and have more bells and whistles.
- Functionality: Even though rain ponchos are quite simple, straightforward items, there are a few extra features you can look for that will make them more functional and practical. Most models will have hoods but be sure to double-check just in case; you don’t want to only find out that you can’t protect your head and hair after it’s already started raining. Some rain ponchos will also have a large front pocket or two side pockets, giving you an extra place to stash your belongings. Rain ponchos with zippers and cords are less common, but they’re worth keeping an eye out for; adjustable cords particularly allow you to tighten your hem, cuffs, waist, and hood in extra rough or windy weather to better keep you dry. Some models are even convertible into rain shelters if you get caught in an overnight downpour out on the trail.
- Quantity: How many rain ponchos are you looking to buy? Are you buying only for yourself, for you and your significant other, or the entire family or group? Do you only need to buy a replacement poncho and nothing else? There are plenty of rain ponchos sold both individually and in sets, so it helps to know ahead of time how many you’ll need. Even if you’re buying only for yourself, buying a pack of at least two or three ponchos is generally a good idea so you have a spare or two on hand, just in case. Be sure to check the sizing in packs of rain ponchos; in some cases, each poncho will be the same size, but in sets aimed at families, there may be a mix of kid and adult-sized ponchos.
What’s the difference between a rain poncho and a raincoat?
Both are wearable items designed to keep you dry in wet conditions, but there are several differences between the two. Ponchos usually pull over your head and are looser and more open around the bottom and sleeves. Raincoats often zip up and fit your body more closely; they’re more or less regular jackets that are also waterproof or water repellent. This means that rain ponchos offer greater freedom of movement and breathability than raincoats.
Ponchos also have a noticeable advantage in several other areas. They’re generally less expensive, most hang down past your hips to shield more of your body, and they can also cover up any gear slung over your shoulders or back. Since raincoats contour to the shape of your body, they won’t protect backpacks, tote bags, purses, etc., the way a poncho will. As mentioned, some rain ponchos can even be converted into shelters when hiking or camping. On average, they’ll be less bulky and heavy to wear, pack, and transport.
That being said, rain ponchos are usually made of thinner, less durable material than most raincoats—plastic rather than cloth or fabric. This means they’re more likely to get torn or ripped on a stray branch or thorn, and they won’t last as a raincoat.
Our Picks for the Most Effective Rain Ponchos
SaphiRose Rain Poncho With Pockets
This waterproof fabric poncho features a front zipper, a hood, and pockets, and it's available in multiple colors.
Pros: This one-size-fits-most, zippered poncho is a great option for adults and teenagers and will even serve as a full-body poncho for children. Even most tall and large people will be able to wear it comfortably. Unlike many ponchos, this one is made out of polyester rather than plastic, so it’s reusable and more hard-wearing than the average rain poncho. The fabric is both waterproof and windproof and is available in 43 different colors and patterns. The hood and elastic cuffs can be tightened to stay put and protect your head and arms in blustery weather. It has pockets with zipper closures to ensure your belongings don’t fall out.
Cons: The sleeves on this poncho are 3/4 rather than full-length, so they won’t fully protect your arms, especially if you’re on the taller, long-limbed side. Children and smaller teens and adults may find the hood a bit too big for them.
Bottom Line: There’s a lot to love about this rain poncho. It’s much more reusable and durable than the average model, so it’ll keep you and your belongings drier for longer.
RainCaper Women's Reversible Rain Poncho
Rain ponchos aren't often thought of as fashionable pieces of clothing, but this reversible poncho is here to challenge that notion.
Pros: This is another polyester rain poncho with a hood that you can wear over and over again rather than relying on a pack of disposable ponchos that need to be thrown out after a single use. Not only is it reusable, but the poncho is machine washable and dryer safe, so you can clean it with ease if it gets dirty. The fabric is lightweight and supple but rainproof, and the magnetic sleeve closure will help keep rain from getting in at the sides. There are also two buttons at the front, allowing you to open one or both to provide greater airflow in warm weather. A convenient traveling bag comes included with your purchase for portability and storage. Most notable about this particular poncho is how much more stylish it is than the average model. It’s available in 25 different color schemes, and each option is reversible with a tartan, paisley, or another pretty pattern. No matter which side you wear on the outer side, the inner color or pattern will be visible as a sort of lining at all times for an extra stylistic touch.
Cons: This rain poncho is much more expensive than the average model, even other reusable fabric ponchos. It can also get quite wrinkly when packed in its travel bag, and the sleeves may not fully cover you to the wrist, depending on how long your arms are.
Bottom Line: This rain poncho is more cape-like than most, providing it with a more fashionable look than pretty much any other model on the market. Yet it’ll still serve its purpose admirably, providing ample protection from the rain and other precipitation.
SaphiRose Lightweight Kids' Rain Poncho
Keep your child cozy and dry in the rain with this cute little poncho.
Pros: This child-sized rain poncho is perfectly sized to fit your little one and keep them dry in the rain. It’s made of waterproof, windproof fabric for reusability, and it’s available in five different sizes to better fit children and preteens of various ages and sizes. The 21 colors and patterns are cute and suitable for kids of all ages. It buttons up the front and at the sleeves to allow for better airflow or better secure it against wind and rain as needed. A small front zippered pocket allows your child to bring their phone or other belongings with them safely. And a matching storage bag comes included to make it easier to pack or carry along on trips.
Cons: Several users noted that this rain poncho smelled odd when opened, and it may take a few washes to get rid of the odor. Also note that the hood isn’t able to tighten or otherwise adjustable.
Bottom Line: Children benefit from wearing ponchos as much as adults do, but full-sized rain ponchos may prove too big for them; the hood may fall over their eyes, the sleeves will be too long, and the hems may trip them up. This rain poncho is designed to properly fit children of all ages so that they can stay dry in sudden inclement weather as well.
Hagon PRO Disposable Rain Ponchos
This affordable pack of rain ponchos will keep the entire family dry on camping and hiking trips.
Pros: If disposable ponchos are what you’re after, this pack of plastic rain ponchos is an excellent option. The price is low even for a single poncho, and you get a pack of five with your purchase to provide greater value for your money; there’s enough for the whole family for protection on camping outings, theme parks, and other vacations. Each poncho is large enough to fit most adults, even taller and plus-sized people, and they fold down compactly to less than 6 inches in size for easy packing. The plastic is thick enough to protect from inclement weather yet lightweight enough not to feel too heavy or burdensome in your luggage or when worn. Two larger quantity packs are also available if you’re buying for a bigger group.
Cons: Though they may be re-worn a time or two, these are meant as disposable rain ponchos so they’ll need replacing eventually and aren’t as eco-friendly. There’s also no elastic or drawstring or another way to tighten the hoods, so they are at risk of being blown off your head in windy weather.
Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for a classic disposable plastic rain poncho rather than a reusable fabric one, this five-pack is an excellent option. Not only do you get a good bang for your buck with the quantity, but the thicker plastic provides greater protection than the average disposable poncho.
Anyoo Waterproof Rain Poncho
This reusable rain poncho comes with a reflective strip that makes it safer to wear day and night.
Pros: If you’re after some added protection from your rain poncho, this reusable, waterproof model is an excellent choice. Most noteworthy is the reflective light strip on the back, which improves its nighttime visibility—a useful safety feature for camping or any other circumstances where you might need to wear one at night. It’s also extra-long, so it’ll shield more of your legs and body than the average poncho, and there’s a wider, longer brim (also with a reflective strip) to keep the rain off your face better than the hoods of most ponchos. The hood has a drawstring, and there’s Velcro plus nylon hook and loops at the sleeves to adjust both to better keep rain and wind out. There are also two very deep side pockets with flap-closure covers, allowing you to keep your phone, keys, and other belongings close and safe at hand.
Cons: Though it folds down fairly compactly, this poncho is heavier and bulkier than most. It’ll add more weight to your frame or your luggage, so it’s not the most portable or travel-friendly model. It also runs a bit on the smaller side, so larger or taller adults may not be able to wear it comfortably.
Bottom Line: Safety is always an important factor, and this poncho has several reflective strips that make you easier to spot in darker conditions. Whether you’re camping or hiking, it will help ensure your safety at night or in caves or caverns.
Whether you’re looking for a temporary, disposable rain poncho for a one-and-done adventure or a reusable one for frequent hiking or camping trips, they’re an extremely useful item to have on hand in case of a sudden rainstorm. You can put a poncho on or take it off in seconds, they’re light to carry, and they fold down compactly for greater portability than the average raincoat.