Do I Need a Waterproof Poncho for my Backpacking Trip?


Why a Waterproof Poncho is an Essential Travelling Item for a Backpacker, and Why It Must Always Be Accessible
We have all had experiences of the sun shining brightly with not a cloud in the sky, and then seemingly out of nowhere you are caught in torrential rain. Frustrated and annoyed, you go home, change clothes, put your wet clothes in the washing machine, and then have a warm cuppa.
However, if you are backpacking, these unexpected rain showers can be considerably more problematic if you are not prepared for them…
A Waterproof Poncho To Keep Your Clothes Dry - and Safe
Firstly, when your clothes get wet, they stay wet. When living out of a suitcase/backpack and always on the move, it is really difficult to find the time to dry your clothes out properly. This is particularly true if you get caught out in the rain while carrying your whole suitcase/backpack – drying your entire contents of your backpack within the realms of a small, busy hostel is no easy feat. Plus, 50% of your clothes miraculously seem to go missing as soon as they are draped around the hostel to dry…
A Waterproof Poncho to keep your Electricals Dry

Secondly, electrical items can easily get damaged in the rain. In more tropical climates, sudden rain can also be a lot heavier than anything you have experienced before, putting electrical items at even greater risk. Breaking a phone travelling is a nightmare logistically, but also imagine losing all the photos and precious memories of your trip, all because you weren’t adequately prepared for some rain. 

A Waterproof Poncho helps prevents you getting ill

Thirdly, while backpacking you regularly take day long trips in which you don’t have the option to go home and change clothes if you get caught in unexpected rain. Instead, you have to mope around wet and miserable, which very quickly takes the shine off of any trip and can quite easily lead to you getting ill.

For the sake of keeping you and your backpack dry, protecting your electrical items and preventing ruining your ‘once in a lifetime’ day trips to the wonders of the world, a waterproof poncho really is an essential backpacking item.

Biodegradable Waterproof Poncho which is included in the Savvy Travel Pack

A Waterproof Poncho or a Raincoat?

So, why don’t you just take a raincoat backpacking instead?

Well yes, every backpacker definitely should travel with a raincoat, but in addition, they must always take a waterproof poncho and have it at all times accessible. This is because rain jackets can be quite big, cumbersome and not always practical to carry. However, the bigger issue, is that us backpackers get so blinded and distracted by the beaming sun (mainly because we are so used to overcast skies in the UK), we totally forget that it could in fact rain! Consequently, rain jackets regularly get left behind at hostels, or even lost.

Therefore, always having access to the waterproof poncho via the Savvy Travel Pack, which conveniently clips on to the outside of your day bag, means that when you inevitably ‘forget’ to bring your rain jacket, you still have protection from the rain. 

Some details about the waterproof poncho in the Savvy Travel Pack:

  • It is very large (comes below the knee). This is good for 2 reasons; 1) stops the majority of you getting wet, 2) if you get caught out while travelling with your large backpack, it can encompass that as well as yourself
  • Biodegradable – At Savvy Travels we are very keen to promote the reduction of one-use plastics
  • One size fits all
  • Unisex
  • Hooded

It is quite easy to see that even in the mundane, day-to-day backpacking situations, an accessible waterproof poncho is an essential travel item to make backpacking a lot more comfortable.

Why a Waterproof Poncho is Essential even for a Trip into the Desert - Founders Note, Cam Kav

To highlight just how rain really can happen even in the driest places on earth, and the negative effect it can have on an experience, is the experience I had while backpacking in the Jaisalmer desert in the North West of India.

A desert is by definition an area with very little rainfall – either in terms of total rainfall, or how many days rain actually falls, and thus a place where you would not expect a waterproof poncho is necessary. However, sods law dictates otherwise, demonstrating the importance of always having a waterproof poncho close to hand while backpacking, as even in the driest places on earth, torrential downpours can still happen.

I was in Jaisalmer, a town in North Western India, which is on the outskirts of the Jaisalmer Desert, and very close to the border of Pakistan.  A lot of backpackers use the town as a 'base' before spending a few days adventuring by camel into the sprawling desert and “sleeping under the brightest stars you will ever see.”

A friend and I booked a guide, a couple of camels, and some beds, for a single night trip into the desert. As we would be travelling by camel and carrying the sleeping equipment, we were considerably restricted in the amount of extra clothing/equipment we could take. As we were in one of the driest places on earth, all waterproof clothing was left behind. After a short car journey out of town, we picked up our camels and rode into the desert. For hours on end we journeyed through a series of undulating sand dunes, before deciding to set up camp for the night when all we could see in every direction was the seemingly boundless desert.

Backpacking into the Jaisailmer Desert without a waterproof poncho which we could quickly regret

We made our beds, which was essentially a thin mat on a raised, foldable bed frame, (the bed had to be raised because of the snakes and spiders that were in the desert...) and had dinner. The guides could not read or write, and spoke very little English, but they had always lived in the desert, and so knew the desert, and its behaviour, like the back of their hand. Therefore, when we were tucking into yet another Indian Masala curry and one of the guide’s smiles broke to say in his broken English “rain coming”, we knew we were in trouble.

Eating a curry in Jaisalmer Desert before it started raining

The sky turned ominously grey and you could sense in the humid air that the guide was right. Stranded for miles in the desert with no shelter from the rain, we didn’t have much choice but to hope that the experienced guide was wrong.

Trepidation built as intermittent spitting got more and more frequent, heavier and heavier. The guides hurriedly clumped all the 4 beds together, and then put all cooking equipment underneath the raised beds. With the rain becoming increasingly heavy, we were quickly told to lie down on the 2 beds in the middle, before the guides ‘miraculously’ produced a giant, black, tarpaulin. Initially, a huge sense of relief washed over us; the tarpaulin could act as a makeshift shelter and stop us getting totally soaked. However, this was short-lived, as the guides draped the huge tarpaulin directly over us, before weighing down the sides with large rocks and sand, before coming under the tarpaulin themselves and laying down on their beds.

I have never had such a greater feeling of claustrophobia. Pitch black, in the middle of the desert, with a huge black tarpaulin covering the whole of your body and face, hearing rain fall upon the thin cover preventing you from getting soaked. Every time I drew a breath, I felt the tarpaulin ever so slightly raise, and then fall back onto my face. There was no escape; it felt like I was alive in my own coffin. Everyone was very quiet, and very uncomfortable. It was going to be an incredibly long night, sleeping under the tarpaulin in the rainy desert. To make matters worse, it was about 7.30pm and so I wasn't even tired. Instead, we all laid there, praying for the rain to pass.

As the situation got increasingly unbearable, I imagined how this situation could be made more manageable. Apart from the obvious (like a house with high ceilings and a roof!), having a waterproof poncho would enable me to have a makeshift waterproof 'sleeping bag' that would vitally allow me to escape the black tarpaulin that encompassed me. It still wouldn't have been a great nights sleep, but I would have been able to breathe fresh air and not feel like I am suffocating - a feeling I do not recommend to anyone. 

Instead, I was left trapped under a never ending, black sheet, praying for the rain to stop…

(The picture below is from the following morning when it had eventually stopped raining. You can see at the end of the bed the black tarpaulin that was draped over us through the night.)

Because we had no waterproof poncho we had to sleep under a huge tarpaulin in the desert

As this experience in the Jaisalmer Desert highlights, even in the driest places on earth, it can rain and ruin the experience. Most backpackers heading into a desert, for obvious reasons, would not pack a rain jacket. As the Savvy Travel Pack is small, compact and can be clipped onto the outside of your day bag, it is always with you and therefore the waterproof poncho is always with you. Consequently, Cam could have made this incredibly uncomfortable situation significantly better, if Cam  was armed with a Savvy Travel Pack.

Get your Waterproof Poncho now as a part of the Savvy Travel Pack

Waterproof Poncho is included in the Savvy Travel Pack

For more details on the Waterproof Poncho, click here.
For more details on the Savvy Travel Pack, click here.
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