Saturday, 27 September 2008

Sil Tarps and Ponchos

B bought an Integral Designs Sil Poncho about 3 years ago, in Copenhagen. Since that time she has used the poncho in Norway, Denmark, the UK, USA and Australia. I have been so impressed by the multiplicity of uses of the Poncho that I also purchased one for use when we travel together.

Poncho Mode
There are many poncho available on the market and but what has attracted us to the Integral Designs poncho is the quality of the manufacture, the robustness of the press studs when used in poncho mode and the elasticised draw cord which allows the wearer to pull the poncho tight around the waste thereby reducing the flapping in windy conditions and providing a pack cover. The hood on the poncho is roomy and provides ample space to wear hats or caps underneath the poncho.

Shelter Mode
The ID Sil Poncho has dimensions of 1.5 m x 2.4 m which enables it to be used as a minimalist shelter, the simplest structure us the lean to which provides a shelter length sufficient to protect the users sleeping bag and bivy, personally I would use a lightweight bivy such as that provided by MLD, BPL or RAB to ensure that the sleeping bags do not get damp from wind blown rain. However, if you have a more weather resistant bivy such as the ID Micro Bivy then other shelter arrangements are possible, my preferred arrangement is shown in the accompanying picture, this modified lean to shape provides shelter from 2 sides and allows the user to have a semi enclosed area that can be used for eating, cooking (with care) and other relaxation.
The disadvantage with this arrangement is that it requires some of the bivy to be exposed to the weather and as a consequence the increased weight of the bivy makes it a heavier proposition than the simple lean to or the A frame shelter.

For 2 persons, an alternative shelter is to connect the tarps together using the press studs, this provides shelter which is 3 m x 2.4 m albeit with a gap down the centre where the join is, however it provides considerable space for 2 persons in inclement weather.

Day shelter, perhaps one of the greatest advantages of poncho and small tarps is the capability to set them up as a lunch or rest stop shelter in bad weather allowing more than one person to be protected from the elements for a short time at least.

The poncho tarp serves a number of important roles in a hikers kit and even if you use a tent normally at night is multiple uses of rain protection and shelter make it one of the first pieces of gear that goes into my pack at all times.

And if the poncho is not your preferred option then the Integral Designs Siltarp is another option, weighing just 200 gm, it will provide shelter and some space for cooking etc.

Nowadays I prefer to use the Integral Designs Sil Cape and the Integral Designs Siltarp as my rain gear and shelter, the total weight for this combination is about 350 gms.