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Rain Gear: Poncho or "waterproof breathable" shell

Camino T-shirt

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Last year i faced constant rain/wind in the Galicia region for few days. I had my eVent breathable rain shell that performed well for isolated showers but failed during extended rain. So, i picked up an Atlus poncho that covered my whole body including my packs. While this poncho kept most of the water out, condensation soaked my inside. So, i have been hunting for a better rain gear system for my upcoming El Norte where more rain is expected. I came across this review of "rain gear" by an experienced hiker (Nick Gatel). I could not believe how accurate and timely this post is. Trust be, if you are planning a camino and wondering about serious rain gear, you will be surprised how simple the solution is... http://popupbackpacker.com/the-search-for-the-holy-grail-waterproof-breathable-rain-gear/
 

Alyssa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2014)
Norte, Finisterre, Salvador, Primitivo (2015)
So did you get the zPacks poncho and kilt?
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
So did you get the zPacks poncho and kilt?
I wanted to, but they are back order and will not be able to receive one for my walk in few weeks time. I am going with the second choice; Golite poncho/Tarp, it is on sale for $60 now.
 

Alyssa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2014)
Norte, Finisterre, Salvador, Primitivo (2015)
He didn't seem to be very impressed with the new version of the GoLite: "buyer beware" and all. Be sure to post your thoughts when you receive it.
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
I agree with the main premise of the article, although I would offer a slightly different perspective not well addressed by the article.

Because a cool wind on sweat is often a chilling factor, a very lightweight windjacket (4 oz or less) with durable water repellent treatment is highly breathable (I generally won't sweat it out until under significant exertion AND temps in the low 70s or higher). Even after sweating it out, the wind protection is still good at blunting the worst effects. Coupled with that, I add in a backpacking umbrella (my favorite is the GoLite Chrome Dome), which does just fine even in strong and gusty winds if I'm willing to stow my walking sticks.

This system worked without an insulation layer (I just used a merino wool/poly tee shirt and a standard Columbia synthetic backpacking shirt plus my wind jacket and umbrella) on my 2013 camino. For roughly 10 days, I walked in almost constant rain and the temp never got above 40 F (4-5 C) the entire day. I handled reasonably gusty winds w/o issue. I never needed to put on actual insulation, and I stayed comfortably dry the entire time. It's not perfect and is vulnerable to very heavy winds with heavy rain, but by that point I'm either going to ground or staying inside.
 

tploomis

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sept. to Nov., 2013
When I look at the Altus poncho, I'm scared away by the weight. The Zpack poncho, made of cuben fiber, addresses the weight issue admirably, and if it can do double duty as a flooring for a cuben fiber tarp tent (for camping situations not on the Camino), it is even more of a lightweight solution. The article correctly states that there is no waterproof/breathable rain gear, despite manufacturing claims to the contrary, and that has been my experience as well. I do think that being wet is not so bad if the waterproof/breathable gear is at least keeping the wind off. My Patagonia rain jacket, while not waterproof in the downpours of Galicia, did keep me comfortable, though wet. I do like the Patagonia Nanopuff jacket as a mid-layer, rather than polar fleece. The Nanopuff is very lightweight, it compacts to a small size, and even when wet it keeps me warm (the fill is synthetic).
 

newfydog

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona-Santiago, Le Puy- Santiago, Prague- LePuy, Menton- Toulouse, Menton- Rome, Canterbury- Lausanne, Chemin Stevenson, Voie de Vezelay
Sea to summit has a new silicone nylon Nano poncho. Much lighter and more compact that the original (which some places send you when ordering the new one....be sure it is the nano)

Not breathable but well ventalated.
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
I agree with all your thoughts. One key factor is how much you sweat. The amount of breathability in the material would not help someone who sweats a lot under constant rain.

Two companies make cuben fiber based ponchos; zpacks and MLD (Mountain laurel design). Both have an 8-10 weeks waiting period. My pick between the two would be MLD. Has great reviews (backpackinglight.com).

Given i cannot wait that long, the best alternatives, in the lightweight and durable category, include Golite or Integral designs or Equinox (campmor). Of these golite has the best reviews when used as a poncho. As one reviewer put it; "golite is a poncho rigged for tarp" whereas the "MLD is a tarp with a great hood". Golite is on its way!

Yes Alyssa, Nick didn't favour the new golite model. I think he dislikes their marketing claims "breathable/waterproofness"... I think all of these "non cuben fiber" models use "silicone impregnated ripstop nylon" material. The difference would be in construction/cut/seam seal etc. And golite seems to have good field use. Cannot go wrong with golite price tag of $60, as opposed to $160 for cuben fiber models.

Since there is no way to avoid getting soaked from inside, i also agree merino wool tshirts is the best way to go. While they are pricy, i was able to pick some smartwool microweight crew at 20% off. I feel its superior wicking/drying ability already. For insulation i also prefer Patagonia nano puff pull-over as it does not loose insulation even when wet and its lightweight.

So i plan to use my event jacket for wind/rain protection and throw the poncho when extended rain is expected.
 

ksam

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese '08, Frances '11, del Norte '14, Invierno '16, Ingles '17, Primitivo October 2018
Hey Raj! I understand about the getting hot under all those wraps! I've gotten a Packa and love it. It too was AT tested. It isn't a breathable type but the pit zips are great and allow me to maintain my cool (as much as that's possible!) and keep moving. The thing I liked was it rode on my back as a pack cover and was then teased into full "coat" mode simply by reaching back under the elastic. I could easily get covered, as the rain started, all by myself! Important when your traveling solo! Or so I felt. Anyhow...I really like mine, it works for me so I thought I'd share it! I'll be taking it w/me on the del Norte in September...hubby will probably be using my old poncho!!

http://www.thepacka.com/
 

Alyssa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2014)
Norte, Finisterre, Salvador, Primitivo (2015)
Hey Raj! I understand about the getting hot under all those wraps! I've gotten a Packa and love it. It too was AT tested. It isn't a breathable type but the pit zips are great and allow me to maintain my cool (as much as that's possible!) and keep moving. The thing I liked was it rode on my back as a pack cover and was then teased into full "coat" mode simply by reaching back under the elastic. I could easily get covered, as the rain started, all by myself! Important when your traveling solo! Or so I felt. Anyhow...I really like mine, it works for me so I thought I'd share it! I'll be taking it w/me on the del Norte in September...hubby will probably be using my old poncho!!

http://www.thepacka.com/
Thanks for mentioning this. I just stumbled across the Packa the other night while reading someone's Camino blog and have been trying to decide between it and the Altus Atmospheric, which seems to have a similar "raincoat" construction (that for me is preferable to a standard "poncho" design because of the flapping, etc.) Falcon269 has written a useful comparison of the two. The Altus appears to be the less expensive of the two although clearly not as easy to get a hold of in the U.S. A.
 
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Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Alyssa, i agree that a traditional "raincoat" style is preferable. But, i think with poncho one is compromising some flapping or rain getting in, to increased breathability. Question is what is more important to you.

ksam, i did come across the packa in my research. I can see its appeal as a two in one solution; a pack cover and a rain jacket in one. The packa might be good enough for someone who does not perspire much and does not require too much ventilation or volume.

I have been using my eVent shell (Rab) in all three seasons; fall/winter/spring. It performs flawlessly under wet snow, cold rain and isolated showers. But when i encountered constant rain in Spain, the shell became the bottleneck.

So the main criteria for replacing my breathable shell with a "non breathable" but waterproof poncho/packa would be "ventilation". Amount of venting from any jacket/packa style will not be sufficient for someone like me, who perspire a lot. I have tried a closed sleeve Atlus poncho last year, and was soaked from inside within minutes.

Although several users find the packa suitable. an independent field test confirms the breathability and volume concerns of the packa. Quote "My forearms are soaked inside within minutes of donning the Packa. I would suggest looking into a material like eVent..."
You can find the original field test report of the parka here:
http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/Rain Gear/Jackets and Pants/Cedar Tree Industries The Packa/Test Report by Ray Estrella/
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Falcon269 has written a useful comparison of the two. The Altus appears to be the less expensive of the two although clearly not as easy to get a hold of in the U.S. A.
Alyssa, Falcon269's review and comparison is spot on, and in line with the initial field test report of the packa i referred earlier.
 

Alyssa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2014)
Norte, Finisterre, Salvador, Primitivo (2015)
Ugh, every time I think I'm ready to make a decision, I read information that changes my mind. Just read some interesting experiences with the Altus on this thread.
 
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Alyssa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2014)
Norte, Finisterre, Salvador, Primitivo (2015)
Video about using the Golite poncho like a Packa:
 

Alyssa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2014)
Norte, Finisterre, Salvador, Primitivo (2015)
I wanted to, but they are back order and will not be able to receive one for my walk in few weeks time. I am going with the second choice; Golite poncho/Tarp, it is on sale for $60 now.
Ouch, +$11 shipping. Lots of great reviews all over the web though.
 

Alyssa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2014)
Norte, Finisterre, Salvador, Primitivo (2015)
Just ordered it. Nice to have that crossed off my list. This thread really helped me to finalize my decision. Thanks.
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Video about using the Golite poncho like a Packa:
Interesting video Alyssa, shows how flexible golite is.

There are lot of confusing/contradicting experiences on the net. The way i break them down is as follows:
1) Ponchos/packas are made from unbreathable material. Breathable materials e.g are eVent/goretex etc.
2) Breathability in ponchos is achieved through venting. More open a poncho design is, more breathable it becomes and thus more comfortable. So, look for poncho with less closures, cuffs, draw cords, sleeves etc.
3) Best lightweight and waterproof material of choice, other than cuben fiber, is silicon impregnated nylon. Weighing around 7-9 ozes. Most people already have a breathable shell, so event or similar material ponchos are overkill.
4) Your need? If your body generate too much heat and need more venting, go for an open and more vented design than "raincoat" type.
5) Ponchos naturally breaks wind. If you want warmth add an insulating layer, don't go for heavyweight poncho. So, pick one that is lightweight and waterproof.

If price and time is not an issue, i would consider MLD or zpacks ponchos made with lightweight ripstop nylon.
Otherwise, Golite or similar poncho is a bargain at $60. Remember, waterproofing is a main design criteria when a poncho is also to be used as a shelter. This enhances its performance as a rain gear in my view.
 
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Dave2525

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014
Just ordered it. Nice to have that crossed off my list. This thread really helped me to finalize my decision. Thanks.
Alyssa. Did you choose the golite? I see that there is a packa made with eVent but weighs twice as much. I'm trying to decide as well
 

Alyssa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2014)
Norte, Finisterre, Salvador, Primitivo (2015)
I did choose the GoLite after reading multiple reviews from backpackers. I have removed my rain jacket, rain skirt, and backpack cover from my backpack and will just use the poncho and (perhaps a trash compactor bag as a rain skirt).
 

Rajy62

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2013, Norte/primitivo 2014, vdlp (2015)
Completed my Norte/Primitivo in 33 walking days. Luckily had to use the poncho only 5 days in light rain. And the Golite performed as expected. With leather boots (not goretex) and rain pants, not a drop of water entered my boots. Very happy with my rain gear system. Only improvement i would seek is a similar poncho with a better hood design to facilitate venting the neck area as well for those long rainy days...
 

obinjatoo@yahoo.com

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2012 Dieppe, FR Bici CF.
2014 Ruta Vasco/CF/Primativo
I think one very important item of the article was that, "no system is perfect for everybody". Or something to that effect. My preference these days is layering with wool as a base layer. Wool fabrics have come a loooong way. They don't smell as bad as synthetic, dry quickly and will help maintain warmth. I layer with a shell over the top. Bring a warm hat. I've tried ponchos and I just find them cumbersome and awkward.
Another key factor in the hypothermia discussion is hydration and taking in calories. Many people neglect these two facts. Carry food and eat it often in cold, wet weather. Carry food that is high in calories and fat. Cheese and nuts come to mind. If it's the front country as in NOT the backcountry, stop when you can and where there are doors to go into do it. Warm up, eat, have a hot drink, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Change into dry clothes if you can. Conversely however, once you are well hydrated you will need to pee often. DO IT! You gotta bare your butt or bollocks one way or the other. The body expends energy keeping your bladder and thus your urine warm. This is a fact! Empty it....
So, more info than anyone wanted. Pay attention to the inside of your skin as well as the outside. I worked as a guide when I was young and dumb. I've logged about 1300 field days and I can tell you all of the above is true. I have also been stupid and suffered the consequences.
If it's really crappy, a good book by a fire INDOORS is my preference. But that's another topic...
 

loumura

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portugues March 2019
Last year i faced constant rain/wind in the Galicia region for few days. I had my eVent breathable rain shell that performed well for isolated showers but failed during extended rain. So, i picked up an Atlus poncho that covered my whole body including my packs. While this poncho kept most of the water out, condensation soaked my inside. So, i have been hunting for a better rain gear system for my upcoming El Norte where more rain is expected. I came across this review of "rain gear" by an experienced hiker (Nick Gatel). I could not believe how accurate and timely this post is. Trust be, if you are planning a camino and wondering about serious rain gear, you will be surprised how simple the solution is... http://popupbackpacker.com/the-search-for-the-holy-grail-waterproof-breathable-rain-gear/
Really learned a lot from this backpacker's article! Thanks for sharing. Sadly, I already invested in a Gortex waterproof-breathable jacket and it cost an arm and a leg so disappointed I didnt read this beforehand. But I am going to invest in a poncho as well and take it with me. Even when I hiked witha cheap $5 one from REI, the rain rolled off of me for hours and since it had snaps on the sides, it breathed. So, back to the drawing board!
 

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