While not a big fan of ponchos, I am beginning to change my perspective on them as they relate to stage racing. I guess my opinion was originally forged during dreary Boy Scout hikes with a plastic smelling, tarp like object covering my already soaked frame. Typically heavy, large and easily ripped I found this piece of equipment practically useless in my younger days. Now however like headlamps, the technology has evolved and so has my position.
Most events that anticipate wet weather conditions will require a set of waterproofs (top and bottom) with taped seams. Of course this provides the best possible protection for you but your gear is riding outside of this protective envelope. Dry bags are in order for your critical kit you wish to keep dry.
But what of the events that do not require a rain coat/pants? If there is little to no possibility of rain why carry rain gear? It is possible for rain to occur in these races and looking at the weather forecasts before departing can give you an indication. If there is a fair probability of rain you may be at a critical decision junction. You can bringing some sort or rain gear and be comfortable at the expense of additional weight or do nothing and most likely be wet, cold, miserable and perhaps DNF. During the 2016 G2G Ultra race, significant rain was encountered on two of the six stages so you can say, rain happens. Some competitors were left shivering, wrapped in their survival blankets at the end of the stage trying to regain body heat. My experience in Iceland of a couple of months ago saw cold and wet conditions with the same results for some and all competitors had waterproofs!
Then besides a set of waterproofs what are my options? Here is what I see.
- Be wet and cold and suck it up
- Wrap your emergency blanket around you and look like a refugee
- Use an inexpensive, disposable plastic poncho
- Use a high tech survival poncho
I believe you the reader understand options 1 and 2 so lets focus on options 3 and 4.
Option 3: The inexpensive, disposable plastic poncho is probably more at home in your car glove compartment for a one time use when you left your umbrella at home. They typically weigh in at 1.5 oz (42 grams) and take up very little volume. These ponchos are constructed of a very thin polyethylene film and tear easily. However, if it looks like a very low probability of rain or perhaps for a single day/stage they may be the way to go. You would have to take great care to get more than a day use out of one of these.
Option 4: The high tech survival poncho may also be a viable option. These are made of a reflective type material similar to your emergency blanket but are typically more heavy duty and do not shred like Mylar does. They resist tears well and can be refolded somewhat for later reuse. They also are reflective on the inside and help with maintaining body heat and include an integral hood. The high tech, survival poncho weighs in at about 2.8 oz (79 grams) but this is still lower than a 7-10 oz (200-284 grams) rain coat. They will also keep your pack fairly dry. Since these are not cut too long they are also good for running. These may be an option when the threat of rain is higher and there may be rain on more than one stage.
There may also be some benefits to using the survival poncho if your race will allow for it to replace your emergency blanket. The typical emergency blanket comes in at about 1.8 oz (50 oz) and so if allowed, you can gain a piece of rain gear for only 1 oz (28 grams) more! The down side to this is that the survival poncho is only a little larger than half the size of a typical emergency blanket.
While not a cut and “dry” decision, you may want to consider the use of a poncho during a stage race when rain is threatening.