A while back I reviewed the Golite Poncho Tarp which you can read here. At the time I had only used it as a waterproof but hadn’t used as a tarp.
I’ve now used it 3 times as a tarp. Not much I admit but the weather in the UK has been foul most of the summer. Rain followed by more rain sums it up. In really foul weather I prefer the all-round coverage of a proper tent.
Anyhow, the poncho turns into a 8×5 ft tarp in a flash. It is really easy to erect in the standard tarp configurations of lean-to, A-frame and flying V. My favourite is the lean-to with the last 18 inches turned at 90 degrees to form a wind break. In my earlier blog I posted video links to show how to do this. I found that getting a good, roomy pitch entailed lowering the walking poles a little more than I though and tying the hood out to lift the side. Once those steps are taken you have a large space to shelter and cook in. Even in high winds the pitch is stable.
I don’t like the A-frame configuration because I don’t find it to be especially good for shelter from draughts but I gave it a try. Again, a nice stable pitch can be obtained easily. I admit that I changed it back to a lean-to after a while. Personal preference rather than the tarp’s fault.
The Flying V configuration is really easy to erect and offers good protection from the elements if the sharp end is pitched into the wind. It helps if you can use the hood tie-out but it’s not a necessity. Once pitched, the tarp is stable and has enough room for me an my kit. Shoving a rucksack down to the sharp end creates more foot room.
The Golite web page shows the tarp pitched with a walking pole in the centre to form a teepee. It is certainly a good weatherproof set-up and very stable but I found it extremely cramped and I was in constant danger of touching the sides. I would only use this set-up in a very foul weather where a bit of condensation was not a problem. By the way I am five feet ten inches in height – I think a six-footer would be very uncomfortable.
To conclude, I think the poncho-tarp is a very good piece of kit for ultralight backpackers. As a waterproof, it does suffer from flapiness in high winds but a piece of cord around the waist helps to control this to a fair amount. Some velcro tabs on the bottom almost eliminate this in normal weather. As a tarp it is large enough to provide more than adequate shelter which is robust and stable in winds. Thoroughly recommended.
A couple of tips. Firstly, v-shapeed tent pegs give great grip which is important as most configurations only need four to six pegs. Next, a cheap poncho made from thin plastic is is useful to keep the rain off while you are erecting the tarp. Thirdly, a space blanket makes a good, lightweight groundsheet.