Hardcore Luxury®

Trail Poncho


We have had a few requests to make our Poncho more suitable for Military and Extended-Hiking use.

Recently, we have been corresponding with Will Cooke, who has spent years on the trail, living with only a rucksack and the clothes he wore. Will's ideas for a highly utilitarian Poncho suitable for (extremely) extended wear are ultimately the inspiration for this page. We are delighted to welcome Will as the lead designer the Trail Poncho. Will also provided ideas for Trail Pants.

I am guessing the Trail Poncho would cost about $650. You can indicate interest in the Trail Poncho by backordering without obligation (price set to 0) from this page. Latest information about our production is here. Our entire inventory is here.

Here are Will's design ideas as he sent them to me [barely edited]:

A Poncho is already a great item, but with some adjustments (which I will expand on below) it could become a real multi-functional tool highly desirable to a thru-hiker as well as any outdoor enthusiast. It could serve as a summer sleeping bag, a sleeping bag liner for extra warmth and to contain smells and protect the sleeping bag from the body, a sleeping bag outer for protection for your sleeping bag if tarp camping or sleeping under the stars, protection against sparks if sleeping by a fire, a hammock underquilt, a blanket, a ground cloth, a multifaceted warm layer of clothing, a weather/water-resistant layer, and a rucksack cover as well. Providing all these as well as bringing the durable, self-cleaning, anti-odour (one gets smelly on the trail) nature of quality wool makes its extra weight seem less of an issue.   WeatherWool has long offered a Selvedge Poncho, and is developing a Trail Poncho, designed for extended wear and multiple applications, appropriate for thru-hiking. I've added a very crude picture to help with the explanation.                                                                                                 
  • To begin, changing the fabric to MidWeight will reduce the weight dramatically. From roughly 1.8kg [4 pounds] as stated on your site for your current poncho design, to I believe 1.3kg [just under 3 pounds]. That's 500g [about a pound], which is a big deal to a thru-hiker, though the design I'm presenting here will be larger and so heavier, but bringing a lot more flexibility and functionality to the table. Also with the design modifications and the way the poncho can be worn I imagine mid-weight will be ample for almost any weather. 
  • Changing the dimensions slightly from 117cm [46 inches] wide by 175cm [69 inches] long as it currently is to between 135-145cm [53-57 inches] wide by 185-200cm [73-79 inches] long.
  • Adding a drawcord along each of the two widths providing the ability to cinch each tight. When converted into the sleeping bag shape one will cinch the foot end closed, the other would cinch around the shoulder, neck, head area to trap heat. These two cinches would also tighten the bottom of the garment if desired. Also having another drawcord cinch around halfway, above the pocket on the front, and slightly lower on the back. This would enable the poncho to be adjusted when worn in some of the ways mentioned below. The end of each drawcord would also function as a toggle loop button.
  • Adding, I imagine, 4 buttons on the left side of the length and three on the right side, but alternating them as I've shown in the very crude picture attached, so on the left side there would be 3 paracord loops on the left side but 4 on the right to receive the opposite buttons. Including the drawcord ends, there would be eleven closure points. The buttons could be positioned on the inside or the outside of the garment to work. The middle few button closure points, would likely only be used when it's in its sleeping bag/liner/cover setup. This unusual button system would provide numerous adaptations.
  • Firstly it could be buttoned front to back as a traditional, all be it, slightly oversized poncho, it should be big enough to cover a rucksack in this configuration. For milder weather or slightly higher levels of activity this would allow cool air to circulate.
  • Secondly, for colder, harsher weather, the bottom 3 buttons on the left-hand side can be put in the holes of the right-hand side, creating a tube, then the garment can be put on so it wraps around the body but leaves the arms free, then using the drawcord to cinch it tight around the body, then the back can be brought around the body to the front and buttoned and cinched in the same way. The cinch will both have the garment fit better and also trap warm air. This configuration creates a double layer of fabric around the entire torso, great for both insulation and weather protection, it becomes more of a winter long coat.
  • It can also be buttoned in this fashion but the other way around, so [to?] the back and then the front. This would largely be a style choice. The main difference would be having the pocket exposed and having a seamless front or having a buttoned/seamed front and a hidden pocket. With the cinches tightened it would also create a kind of pocket/hand warmer area if one slipped their arms inside of it.
  • If this setup is too hot a fourth way of wearing it would be to fasten the front as above and either let the back hang as a cape or if wearing a rucksack use it as a rucksack cover that can be cinched using the bottom drawcord to hug around the bottom of the bag. Any of the buttons can be adjusted to provide more or less air circulation.
  • To get the sleeping bag/liner/cover functions one can button the entire left side to the right side. If it's a larger person using it, the top few buttons can be left undone, creating a V shape similar to a mummy sleeping bag.
  • Some buttons could be undone to allow an arm to come out without having to get out of the bag which is a handy feature if something needs to be done but you don't want to get out of the bag, and the bottom can be uncinched, lifted or folded and re-cinched higher up to enable the user to get their feet and legs out to potter around camp, make breakfast, tend to the fire etc, in theory, one could make breakfast in "bed". With the position of the hood hole a man could even go to the toilet without taking the bag off.
  • Which leads to the hood, making the hood removable and having a collar flap that covers the hole for when the poncho is a sleeping bag would mean the hood can be worn in the night to insulate the head, neck and even shoulder area. A normal hood would work but to increase its versatility and weather resistance it would be great to consider having a "rain" or "winter" hood which also includes a shoulder section, meaning the shoulders as well as the torso could have a double layer of warmth and protection if desired. With a shoulder hood like this there is also the option of wearing it on its own, if its warm but throwing down with rain such a hood might appeal, it would also improve the sleeping bag setup meaning no precious warm air heated by the body will escape. Having a removable hood also provides two new ways of wearing the poncho. Either as just a hood or hoodless.
  • Keeping the three buttons closure on the front, wear the collar and neck/head hole is.
  • Adding a toggle in each corner would make it a hammock underquilt, these toggles could also be hooked into the opposite drawcord end in both directions to function as an extra button for the various configurations.
  • Finally making the kangaroo style pocket bigger so it's a proper hand warmer, ideally, making it large enough to hold the removable hood.
  • Its quite hard work trying to explain in the written word all the details, hopefully, I have managed to get the design across with the small picture as an aid.
  • With this design this becomes an item that is functional across all four seasons, providing a range of uses, in my little mind it would be the ultimate garment.
  • Again forgive me for getting a little carried away here, these ideas are the product of years of living in nature and walking vast distances and during this time this mind I have is always trying to refine and perfect what is carried and lived in. If you were to make these items they would literally be lived in and used 365 days a year. 

A customer suggested a flap, maybe removable, that could be used to protect the front of the neck and perhaps buttoned back out of the way when not in use.

If you have any interest in these potential products, please let us know. Like always, ideas are very welcome ... doubly so for any Pipeline Product --- Thanks --- Ralph 

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9 May 2020