Military Rain Poncho
The military rain poncho (USGI) refers to specific ponchos that have been built for military use. These have changed and evolved over the years but are known for being very high quality. These are much, much better than your standard reusable rain poncho. They are meant to last a very long time. These are an extremely versatile piece of standard gear that soldiers carry. You should too. It makes an excellent addition to a survival kit. Even if you don’t need it most of the time, it is great to have when you do need it.
Authentic USGI ponchos are kind of getting hard to find. There are a lot of knockoffs. There are many ponchos that are labeled as “military style” or “made to spec”. Some of these are actually pretty good but just aren’t quite as good as the real USGI ponchos. If you can’t get a hold of a real USGI poncho, getting one of these higher quality ponchos would be a good idea. Just make sure that you get a good one. Get something that is better than the one of the standard reusable rain ponchos.
Description and Features
The USGI poncho features 8 grommet holes. These can be used to stake it down or connect a cord. It features 16 heavy duty male/female snaps. The snapps can be used to hold it together while you are wearing it or snap two together to form a bigger tent.
Multiple USGI ponchos can be connected together easily. They are designed to snap together. This works out great if you happen to have more than one in your pack or if each person in a group is carrying one. They are generally great for building tents. You can hang them over a line, branch, or bent over tree.
If you are sticking with something authentic, the size is standard. They all come the same size. It is a 66’ * 78’ rectangle. This is measured stretched out like a tarp.
If you are buying a higher quality, ‘military style’ poncho the sizes will vary. Bigger is generally better but look at all of the features. I’ve seen them go up to 65’ * 90’ or more.
How do you measure a rain poncho? This actually makes a huge difference. Many times rain ponchos are measured based on how they would be worn as a piece of clothing. When you stretch a poncho out like a tarp, the length is about double the height. When you are looking at the specs, make sure you know which way a poncho is being measured before you buy it.
A large military poncho is going to take up more space than a small disposable poncho. That is made up for because one is worth about 2 or 3 of the cheap disposable ponchos. This is just in terms of coverage though. Really it is worth more because it will last longer and just be much better.
The USGI military poncho is apparently designed to be IR Resistant. Being built to be thermal signature resistant" can be really handy.
WARNING - Never wash a USGI poncho with detergents that contain "Brighteners and Whiteners". These can ruin the thermal resistance. This can result in it actually having somewhat of a glow when viewed through a thermal imaging device. That is obviously the opposite of what you want. I would actually avoid using any detergent at all. Just wash it with water if you do need to wash it.
Durability is a big advantage to a military poncho. If you have an authentic USGI poncho, you should be all set. If you have an imitation, you are going to want to make sure you consider durability. Get something that won’t rip easily.
Besides being great for alternative uses like building shelters, these ponchos are excellent for their primary purpose. They are excellent rain gear. They are a really flexible pieces of clothing that will keep most of your body dry. Being able to hold things underneath your poncho is always nice. IR resistance doesn’t hurt either.
A major advantage to a large military rain poncho is that it can fit over a backpack. Yes, your backpack should be waterproof but if it isn’t this will help out a lot. Even if your pack is completely waterproof, it still doesn’t hurt to keep the outside dry. You never know if you are going to carry that inside your tent with you and there is a good chance you will be dripping a ton of water all over your dry cloths when you pull them out of your pack. Having a dry backpack is a good thing.
Better for Poncho Tents and Emergency Shelter Building
The idea of using a poncho as both a garment and as part of a tent is nothing new. People have been doing this for a long time. Many are designed with this in mind. Rather than carry two separate pieces of gear, it is easier to carry one dual purpose piece of gear.
The sides on these are generally not going to be stuck together. Many types of ponchos just have holes for your arms with the sides connected together. This would force you to break them apart before using them as a component of a tent. On the other hand, a poncho that is intended to also be used as a tent will generally just have open sides. This makes it way easier to stretch it out and hang it over a line.
USGI ponchos are designed to be used both as rain gear and as a tent. The sides can snap together or be pulled apart easily. These are a standard piece of equipment carried by soldiers. It is especially meant to be versatile and to reduce redundant equipment. This is a major concern when traveling light and there is a need to reduce weight. The fewer things that need to be carried, the better.
A shelter isn’t just a place to sleep. It can also be used as just a temporary dry place to get out of the rain for a bit. For example, it can serve as rain cover while building a fire. It is extra hard to get a fire started in the rain and having a temporary dry place can be a huge help. If you are careful, you can actually build and keep a fire going inside a poncho tent. This might seem crazy but with a big enough poncho and a small enough fire, this works. You can use the hood as a vent, just be careful.
A good poncho will tend to cost a bit more. Disposable ponchos generally go for a few dollars. Cheap reusable ponchos can be about $10-$15. Some of the better ponchos will be around $15-$30. I have seen them go up to around $74 USD. I wouldn’t pay that much myself and I can’t imagine what extra value the could possibly provide.
Here are a couple of great sources of rain poncho information: