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Poncho vs Rain Jacket: Which One is Right For You?

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There’s not much worse than planning on taking a relaxing hike and getting rained on. Whether you’re just beginning a hike or halfway through, getting rained on sucks. A rain jacket and a poncho are two items that you can easily take on any hike and both do a good job of keeping you dry in reasonable rain, heavy rain is a different story.

A rain jacket is comfortable to wear and chances are you already have one at home. A poncho is a loose fitting option and generally covers more of your body. Both are good to have but you really only need one of the two, the question is: poncho vs rain jacket, which one is right for you?

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, the best one for you ultimately depends on your own needs and lifestyle. To figure out which one is right for you, read on!

Rain Jacket vs Poncho

The question you’ve been seeking an answer to your entire life… Ok, not really.

Either way, we’re going to lay out the case for each and you can make the best decision to this age-old conundrum.

Why You Need a Rain Jacket

If you plan on doing any kind of outdoor activity where the weather could turn, you’re going to need a rain jacket. The style of rain jacket depends on the amount of rain you’re expecting, but you definitely need some sort of coverage.

Whether you’re taking a fall hike where rain is expected or a long distance trek where the weather changes constantly, having a rain jacket is super important. Spending five minutes in the rain or cold weather without proper protection can wreak havoc on your immune system (source).

Your body temperature will range throughout the day, but it should be on average around 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the human body is extremely susceptible to temperature change, which is why it’s so important to make sure that you take a rain jacket with you in cold and rainy weather.

Benefits of a Rain Jacket

Rain jackets are the most common way to stay dry. They can be found at all price points, from as low as $5 to as high as hundreds of dollars. Chances are, there’s a rain jacket out there that fits your budget.

They can also be found in a variety of styles, making them the go-to for just about any situation you find yourself in. From hiking in the mountains during a torrential downpour to walking the city streets on a cool autumn morning, there’s a rain jacket for every occasion.

Another nice thing with rain jackets is that you have full mobility when wearing them. As long as you’re wearing a jacket that isn’t too large or small, you’ll be able to move freely while still having full coverage, a distinct advantage the rain jacket has over the poncho.

Advantages of using a rain jacket

  • Good quality rain jackets can be found at just about every price point
  • Tons of styles of rain jackets available
  • Rain jackets can often be folded into small spaces
  • You can freely move around while wearing a rain jacket

The downside of Rain Jackets

Although rain jackets have numerous advantages over ponchos, they also have several disadvantages. Rain jackets typically only cover the wearer from the waist up, leaving you exposed from the waist down.

This means that if you are out in the rain for an extended period of time, you’ll need to arrange some kind of separate coverage from the waist down. This can negate the jacket’s portability because it means that you’ll have to pack extra gear.

When compared to the poncho they can’t be used to cover your pack or additional gear, they only fit over your body. Instead, you’ll have to bring extra water-proof covering for your gear.

Disadvantages of using a rain jacket:

  • Rain jackets are limited in what they can cover
  • If you want to protect your legs or gear, you’ll need to bring an extra water-proof covering
  • All this extra gear might negate the size advantage of the rain jacket

Why You Need a Poncho

Ponchos are a great choice for the traveler who finds themselves exploring hot, wet climates. While a rain jacket will help keep you warm and regulate your body temperature, the poncho is perfect for allowing better ventilation which is important when you’re doing strenuous exercise that makes you sweat, such as hiking.

More ventilation means your body will not sweat as much and is able to cool itself down more efficiently. In a warmer climate you’ll have to take more breaks, hydrate more often (even in the rain), and keep a closer eye on your body temperature.

Benefits of a poncho

Ponchos are a popular option among hikers. The flowing, loose-fitting garment allows you to ventilate more effectively than a jacket and can be taken off easily if you start to overheat.

Ponchos are also at an advantage over rain jackets due to their length. While a rain jacket will only cover you from the waist up, a poncho can be used to shield your torso, arms, and legs. Often, ponchos will include a hood with a drawstring which can be used to protect your head as well.

Due to its loose form and length, ponchos can also be worn over your backpack and any extra gear you’re carrying. This can help keep your overall pack weight down because then you won’t need to bring along water-proof covering.

Advantages of a poncho

  • The loose fit allows for better ventilation which will keep you cool
  • Ponchos can be easily put on or taken off
  • The length will allow you to shield your legs and gear in addition to your torso
  • You can cut down on pack weight because you won’t have to pack extra covers

The downside of using ponchos

While ponchos have several advantages over rain jackets, they also have several distinct disadvantages. The loose, flowing form that makes ponchos a great choice for hot, wet climates makes it unsuitable if you live in colder climates.

Ponchos are great for keeping the rain off of you but they won’t keep the cold out. It can be dangerous to wear a poncho in weather below 60 degrees because you won’t be able to retain any heat with just the poncho alone. You can wear layers underneath, but that means that you’ll be carrying extra weight with you on your trip.

Ponchos are also less functional overall than a rain jacket. Where a rain jacket will probably have multiple pockets, ponchos typically only have one main pocket and chances are it won’t zip. In addition, your arms will get wet if you need to use them in the rain, whereas a rain jacket will keep your arms covered regardless of what you’re doing.

Ponchos can also be a hindrance if you encounter strong winds. The loose fit can catch the wind and turn you into a human sail if you’re not careful!

Disadvantages of using a poncho:

  • Ponchos don’t retain heat very well
  • Fewer pockets than a rain jacket
  • Loose form means it can catch wind and flap
  • Arms aren’t covered if you’re using them


When it comes to whether a rain jacket or poncho is better, the answer really depends on several factors. What kind of weather conditions are you expecting? Do you need the extra coverage offered by the poncho? Do you prefer to more pockets?

If you find yourself hiking in humid, wet areas and are short on money, we recommend the poncho. You’ll be able to find one that’s cheap and you won’t have to spend money buying extra coverage for your gear. The loose form will make sure you stay cool and you’ll be able to take it off easily when it’s not raining.

Rain jackets are made of breathable material that will keep you ventilated and dry. They are form fitting and if you live in an area where cold weather is a problem, a rain jacket is the way to go.

Although the poncho has its uses, the rain jacket is a more versatile piece of gear and the many different varieties of it you can find make it more useful overall. Our vote would have to go with the rain jacket!

Which do you prefer, a rain jacket or a poncho? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

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