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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > AntiGravityGear Poncho > Test Report by Andrew Mytys
I consider myself a lightweight hiker, carrying the lightest gear I can find that will provide a comfortable wilderness experience and support my goals. Although my pack weight might label me as an "Ultralight Weenie," I carry "luxury items" that hard-core ultralighters would shun; e.g. a 23 oz (652 g) sleeping pad. Depending on the level of insects present and if I'm hiking solo or not, I might pack a hammock, tent, or tarp. My base weight for three-season hiking is in the sub-8 to 10 pound (3.5 - 4.6 kg) range, unless regulations force me to carry a bear canister.
The Anti Gravity Gear (AGG) Poncho Villa Rain Poncho is a square-shaped poncho made of silicone-impregnated rip-stop nylon (SilNylon). According to the manufacturer, the poncho can be used as ultralight raingear, a solo emergency shelter, or as a vestibule to one of the tarps or tarp tents sold by Anti Gravity Gear. The poncho has Velcro strips strategically positioned around its border that, when connected, create sleeves for the wearer's arms, which allow for a tailored and controlled fit to be realized. The poncho has a spacious hood with a draw string closure and comes fully seam sealed.
As a lightweight backpacker, ponchos are nothing new to me. I've hiked with them for years, using them as a raingear solution with an integrated pack cover, as a tarp to sleep under, and as an overnight cover for my sledge when hiking in the winter.
The Anti Gravity Gear Poncho Villa is smaller than any poncho I've used before - a full 4 ounces (113 g) lighter than my current poncho. The poncho is square in shape, with a hole cut in the middle for the wearer's head. There is an amply sized hood sewn onto the poncho - the area where the hood is attached to the poncho's body represents the only stitching present across the fabric's main panel, "minimizing the need for seam sealing and the possibility of leakage." The seams of the poncho come factory sealed, so the poncho itself creates a solid barrier from the elements. Sewn along the front interior seam of the poncho's hood is a small stuff sack that can be used to store the poncho when it's not being worn. This is a smart idea, in my opinion, as the storage sack can't be lost and is always present, ready for use. The storage sack even has its own drawcord and cord lock, and it is so light in weight that I don't even notice its presence when I'm wearing the poncho.
When worn, two corners of the poncho's square shape are positioned at my fingertips, and the other two corners fall between my legs at about knee level - one corner in front of me, one behind me. The sides that run along the arm area have strips of Velcro along their edges that attach to one another along my forearms, from the elbow to the wrist, forming sleeves. Using these sleeves, I can obtain a pretty secure fit on my body and can already see their benefit in keeping the poncho from blowing all over the place during periods of strong winds. The remaining two corners that fall between my legs are free to fly though, so I plan to secure them using a short section of shock-cord, attaching them together using their respective tie-outs.
The corners found at each hand also have tie-out loops, meant to act as finger-loops. As seen in the photo in the Product Information section of this report, the sleeves are rather long and I find that the loops will only stay attached to my hands if I wrap them around the three center fingers of each hand, making for a fit that limits the movement of my fingers. The sleeves drape fine without the use of the loops, however. If I find the loops to be of little value on my fingers, I will reserve their use for attachment/guy-out points during those times when the poncho is used as a tarp or vestibule. In terms of coverage, the poncho provides complete protection down to about my waist, with a little extra at the front and rear due to the corners of the poncho hanging between my legs.
The Poncho Villa can be used by backpackers as a standalone piece of equipment but it is also designed to mate with AGG tarps and tarp tents, turning the poncho into a spacious vestibule. I am testing the AGG Poncho Villa in conjunction with the AGG Tarp Tent - readers are encouraged to review my Tarp Tent report for information on how the poncho works as part of a complete shelter system.
The Poncho Villa has a total of nine guy-out points - eight along its edge and one on its surface. While it could be used as a stand-alone tarp, its small footprint means that coverage would be rather limited.
Construction/Fit and Finish:
The construction and finish of the Anti Gravity Gear Poncho Villa is first rate! There are no loose seams or threads and pullouts are reinforced in high stress areas.
Over the course of the next four months, I will be using the Poncho Villa as raingear, expecting it to provide effective coverage from the waist up for myself and my small pack (3000 cu in or 45 L). I will also be using the poncho as a vestibule for the Anti Gravity Gear Tarp Tent, and as a stand-alone tarp (perhaps as a block when cooking in areas of high winds).
Field Locations and Conditions:
Outside of "Hey, it's raining outside, let's go for a walk around the neighborhood," I've only had a few hours of experience wearing the Poncho Villa in the rain while backpacking. Sorry folks, sometimes Mother Nature just doesn't cooperate and decides to deliver nothing but perfect hiking weather.
The poncho itself provides reliable coverage from the waist up, while at the same time protecting my 3000 cu. in. (45 L) pack from the elements (see photo, above). When wearing the poncho, I connected its two corners that fell between my legs using a short section of shock-cord - this allowed the poncho to stay centered in position over my body and kept high winds from lifting the back corner of the poncho, exposing the pack underneath.
I did find that the hip pockets of my pants soon became wet from rain while wearing the poncho, forcing me to find a Zip-loc bag to act as insurance for the cell-phone I was carrying. I don't see this as a major issue, as I could always pack along rain pants, chaps, or just allow my pants to get wet - thanks to their lightweight polyester construction, they typically dry within an hour or so given air temperatures of 50 F (10 C) or higher.
I found the sleeves of the poncho to be awkwardly long, and I had a hard time keeping the finger loops at the end of each sleeve secured to my hand. I had to keep my fingers slightly bent in order for the loops to stay attached to my fingers, even when I had three fingers in the loops. The finger loops worked much better when I was wearing gloves, thanks to the added the bulk my fingers took on. Being able to use the finger loops reliably gave the sleeves a more "fitted" feel without any of the issues I experienced while using the sleeves bare-handed. Overall, the length of the sleeves is long, as can be seen in the image, above. Note how the sleeves completely cover my hands.
The hood is also an awkward fit - it is deep and, even while wearing a ball-cap underneath, the side walls of the hood fell into my peripheral vision, creating an annoying "tunnel" affect in my vision. I found it best to wear hats on the outside of the hood - this allowed me to realize my full range of vision while keeping my head dry, even when the hat on the outside was saturated.
I was surprised to find that the poncho made for a very comfortable windshirt. When the rain subsided on my hike, temperatures were still on the cool side (mid 60's, < 20 C) and, given the breathable nature of the shirt I had on, it was downright cold. I found that the poncho kept me warm and comfortable, without my feeling sweaty underneath. This surprised me, given the non-breathable nature of the Sil-Nylon material that the poncho is constructed from. I attribute the comfort level I experienced to the fact that the poncho only covered me down to about my waist, and that I had a pack on underneath that lifted the back panel of the poncho away from my body. The level of airflow that occurred as a result was just enough to keep conditions inside the poncho from becoming "clammy."
On the other hand, I did get that "clammy" feeling, even on the cool side of my field conditions, when wearing the poncho without my pack on underneath. Again, it all comes down to airflow - when the poncho is allowed to drape down next to my skin/clothes, the level of airflow is diminished and the poncho quickly takes on the characteristics of a vapor barrier. I definitely recommend using the poncho while wearing a pack on underneath.
While my use of the poncho as raingear has been pretty limited, I have been able to get quite a bit of field experience in using the poncho as a vestibule for the Anti Gravity Gear Tarp Tent. Readers are encouraged to read my report for further details.
Unfortunately, during the long-term period of this test, conditions have been unusually dry and, as a result, I didn't get to experience using the Poncho Villa in the rain while on any backpacking trips.
Late August did bring a period of heavy rain, as did late September, and I took advantage of these opportunities to wear the Poncho Villa while taking my dogs for a walk in my suburban neighborhood. This testing actually proved beneficial, as I didn't experience any shielding effect from the rain by the forest canopy like I did during my field-testing. I wore the poncho with a wide-brimmed hat on the outside (see photo in Field Report, above), with a baseball cap on the inside (depicted in photo at the top of this page), and with no hat at all.
While wearing the poncho without a hat, I found the cavernous hood to be just too cumbersome to adjust - the result was a total loss of peripheral vision. I found myself moving my head awkwardly about, as if I were looking around a large object that was obstructing my vision. I had almost identical results when wearing a baseball cap underneath the hood, with the exception that the brim of the hat kept the hood from falling over my eyes. In both cases, I found that, during extended periods of heavy rain, the seams that attach the hood to the main body of the poncho would eventually leak.
When wearing the poncho with a wide-brimmed hat, performance improved greatly. The crown of my hat kept the excess fabric of the poncho's hood from falling onto my forehead, and the brim provided some protection to the seams around my neck - I had no obstructions to my vision and leakage through the hoods seams was eliminated.
During periods of high wind the poncho would flail about, but tying the tie-out loops of the poncho's two corners that fell between my legs together all but eliminated this effect.
From a durability perspective, the only negatives I have to report have to do with the nylon cord and barrel lock system used to cinch down the hood and to close the poncho's integrated storage sack. The spring on the cord-lock that's connected to the cinch cord on the poncho's stuff sack has never worked, so there's no "lock" that occurs. In general, the material used in the cinch cords is delicate, and the cord-lock that does function properly - the one that's used in adjusting the size of the hood opening - has torn into the cinch cord. The hood can still be sized - the issue is purely cosmetic and adjustment is not affected in the least.
On the Fence -
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