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Cheapie Rain Ponchos

I learned a wet lesson today. I didn't take my rain coat and got caught in a cool rain. I think I am going to carry $1 cheapie Wal-Mart ponchos for my family and me from now on, in situations when I don't want to lug around rainwear. Or, perhaps a vinyl table cloth from the dollar store to use as a tarp. I need something compact, light weight and cheap for "just in case situations." Here I was proud of myself for carrying extra toilet paper and duct tape that we used. The quest for perfect packing continues...

Posted by
5837 posts

... $1 cheapie Wal-Mart ponchos....

I you really want to cheap out, just bring along a heavy duty 30 gallon garbage bag. Rip or cut out a head hole (bottom center of bag) and arm holes at the bottom corners of bag).

Ponchos in general are better than umbrellas in high wind conditions, but not better. Rain drives in through the sides (garbage bag does not have a side seam. If you do depend on a poncho in wind conditions, use a belt to help keep the flapping down.

Posted by
76 posts

I recently observed folks using the cheapie ponchos in Wales (sudden downpour) and France, and I can't tell you how ridiculous and awkward they looked. The wind was whipping the flimsy ponchos around and the hoods kept flying off. They were scrambling to keep the ponchos on and kept rearranging all the bags and coats underneath. There's no way they were enjoying themselves. Meanwhile, we were dry and comfortable under our compact umbrellas.

As for garbage bags, IMO the only acceptable time to use that method is before the start of a race if it's raining. And even in that situation, the bag comes off as soon as the runner starts.

If you really think you need "just in case" rainwear, I think the best solution is a lightweight jacket with hood that fits into its own pocket/pouch.

Posted by
32245 posts

I doubt that the cheapie Wal-Mart Ponchos would last through more than one good storm. For longer term use, you could also consider something like this.....,3649&T1=MRG747+MERL

They pack into their own pouch so are very easy to pack along on day trips if rain is expected. I find these a better option when carrying camera gear as Umbrellas don't always work when rain is combined with a strong wind.

RS used to sell a similar product, but it no longer appears to be on the website.

Posted by
439 posts

I use a thin good rain jacket from eddie baurer, hood zips out, they weigh next to nothing. I use a baseball hat to keep the rain off of my face (may not be everyone's choice). I have found I get more wet with the poncho than if I just went with an umbrella.

The jacket has also done double duty as an extra layer. We travel a lot in Oct/Nov, I can put a sweatshirt or sweater under it & stay warm.

I have used the garbage bag method in a pinch, not very attractive but kept me drier than the poncho.


Posted by
8597 posts

If you get the garbage bags with the built-in loop handles, you can put your legs through the loops and they will flap less.

Posted by
16894 posts

I treasure my childhood memories of wearing garbage bags at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in the town next door to Edgar's. We didn't own Gore-Tex or similar technology at that time.

Posted by
14175 posts

I know you stipulated something cheap but I have a Marmot Precip jacket that I fold and put in a ziplock bag in my purse. It is waterproof and will go on it's third European trip in August. It is one of those you can stuff into itself in a pocket but it is too wrinkled that way for me so I go with a flat fold and a ziplock bag. That way when it stops raining I can fold it up while it is still wet and not have to hold it.

Posted by
11613 posts

I have used the cheapie ponchos and they are pretty much single-use. I am not fond of the smurf fashion statement, either. In a light shower I would rather just get wet.

Also, when it rains for days, as it is doing now in Italy, they are useless. You could spend more and get a better quality poncho.

However, they do leave your hands free and can cover a backpack or daybag.

I prefer the lightweight rain shell.

Posted by
15649 posts

I am a poncho advocate. I had a not-so-cheap poncho that I bought in Paris (€5-6). I think I used it once there. I later took it on a trip to Germany. The first time I used it, the snaps pulled free from the plastic and it was useless. Then I had 2-3 days of rain in Berlin and couldn't find a poncho anywhere. I finally found an XL rain jacket that fit over my backpack, and kept me half-dry in the pouring rain.

It is worth spending $10-20 on a sturdy poncho. You can get them online at R.E.I. and Amazon. I have a couple I've used for years. They fold up to not much more than the cheapie ones and weigh next to nothing.

Posted by
630 posts

We usually travel in Oct/Nov and we always bring our LL Bean Raincoats with us. We buy them a bit large so we can layer underneath it. It's the perfect jacket for us to wear for rain or wind. If we aren't wearing it, it folds up pretty small into a ziploc bag in the backpacks.

If we don't need the raincoats on a particular day, we carry these windbreakers that fold up into its own pocket. We also buy these one size larger to layer underneath and it covers my crossbody purse.

This system has worked out nicely for us.

Posted by
1097 posts

Ikea sells a poncho that packs into its own little pocket. It's $7, or if you're an Ikea family member, only $6. They're selling a few neat travel items now, including bags of all sizes and all Ikea-frugal. Haven't tried any of them personally.