Sea to Summit Poncho (Hiking Review)

  I have been using the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Poncho Tarp for over a year.  The Poncho Tarp has been my go-to tool for a variety of conditions-- heavy rainforest downpour, snow, slush, and thick frosts.  At 12 ounces (update: new version not tested is lighter) it is certainly not ultralight, but very durable.  And because of this I can shave a lot off my total pack weight by using it as rain protection and a shelter for backpacking in the Olympic National Park.

Using the Poncho as a Tent (Flat Tarp)

For set-up efficiency I precut guyline cord to the appropriate lengths for my shelter setup.  At the end of the guyline I put simple glove clips and aluminum guyline runners.  This system works well; especially while setting up at night.

Sea to Summit Poncho Review
A driftwood wall was build to help break the high coastal winds. 

What I Needed as a User

  • Stop using a tent
  • Sleep in fresh air
  • Small pack size
  • Fastpacking multi-use shelter
  • Pack cover replacement
  • Trail running emergency option
  • Stay dry in the rainy Pacific Northwest

  Would definitely say that this meets the needs listed above.  Even though I would not consider the material an ultralight option, this tool still packs down way lighter/smaller than almost every traditional tent on the market.   

sea to summit poncho
Wet winter conditions in the Hoh Rainforest 

pitch poncho tarp
20 degree night in the Elwha Valley.  Using a Camera Tripod to Pitch 

poncho tarp
Fogged in at Seven Lakes Basin 

  Like any single wall shelter; condensation is an issue.  Proper air flow is important.  The more times I pitch, the more tricks I learn.

Things to Consider Before Making a Campsite

  • Wind direction
  • Incoming weather patterns
  • Pitch on higher ground (away from water, convex ground, etc.) 
  • Style of pitch (based on your body type and incoming weather)

  Air flow is king when trying to fight condensation.  However in the Pacific Northwest 8 times out of 10; have the windward side all the way to the ground.

  I once pitched super low to the floor on the snow.  Woke up to it literally raining inside the tarp; having to fix it during the night and that wasn't fun.  Learned the importance of leaving space for proper airflow for the outside air and your breath.


  • Packs small
  • Waterproof (even in heavy rains)
  • Sturdy pitch
  • Durable
  • Brim in hood
  • Draw string in hood
  • Multiple pitch configurations


  • Narrow Footprint when Pitched (limited coverage when stormy)
  • Buttons unsnap too easy (which keeps it in poncho mode)

When the Forecast Calls for Rain

  I've suggested Sea to Summit Poncho Tarp  to others and months later; they have personally mentioned still being happy with the tool.  
  I also would like to see the retail price come down to $50.  I think it's a bit pricey considering the simple design and materials used.  You are mostly just paying for the name here.

  This tool will still be used mainly during the wet season, until something lighter comes along.

Related: Sea to Summit Mosquito Solo Pyramid Shelter

Last updated in March 2017 by Barefoot Jake

Disclaimer:  Barefoot Jake purchased this piece of gear with his own money. This article contains ads in the form of affiliate links.