I switched to using a poncho as my primary piece of wet weather gear in 2020. I sweat easily and after doing a lot of research I figured that the poncho was the best option for me to keep dry when hiking. I had read some reviews from poncho users who just loved them. One user even called the poncho their “hardest working piece of gear”. I liked the idea of the poncho as it had multiple uses. Firstly a poncho is the main piece of gear keeping the upper half of your body dry. As a poncho goes over the backpack it also acts as a pack cover. The Zpacks poncho I purchased is made from the same material as my tent so it is absolutely waterproof. You could hide inside your poncho on the trail and wait out a strong storm while be assured of staying dry.
After wearing the poncho a few times a couple a major drawbacks became apparent mostly due to the lack of sleeves. All the ponchos I looked at purchasing were short sleeves. The question that came into my mind was how to keep my arms dry while hiking and around camp. Another challenge presented by using a poncho as pack cover is that the pack can get wet when you are not wearing it such as when you are in camp and setting up the tent or stopping for a break on the trail.
When rechecking the hikers who had loved the poncho. I noticed pictures during rainstorms they often had waterproof sleeves on coming out from under the poncho. I thought it was redundant to get a waterproof jacket and wear it under the poncho. So I purchased what I thought was a cheap used waterproof jacket, cut off the sleeves and attached them to my poncho.
I attached the sleeves using Velcro and now I had a poncho that would keep my arms dry both on the trail and in camp. Unfortunately the sleeves would turn out to be not waterproof. Wearing my poncho in the rain on the Aborted Section D hike my arms got wet. When I resumed hiking for Section E I returned to using my North Face Hyvent rain jacket. The Hyvent is a cheaper rain jacket and as a consequence is quite a heavy jacket but with the inclement weather on parts of the hike it really was one of my most used pieces of gear and it worked great both on the trail and in camp.
For now my poncho experiment is a fail. Over the winter I may purchase some Dynema and sew it into sleeves and take another shot at using the poncho. With Dyneema sleeves the poncho will be quite a bit lighter than just about any rain jacket and does also replace a pack cover.