The First Ascent 5-in1 Poncho is, as the name suggest, a poncho with some extra tweaks that makes it easier to use it for other purposes than just a raincoat.
It is marketed as a poncho, shelter, ground sheet, rain catcher and hammock, but you can obviously use your imagination to find even more uses for it.
Let’s start at the basics; it has a simple rectangular design with a hole for your head.
The good stuff: it is very light, waterproof and quite a bit bigger than I expected. It also has a lot of useful loops and press studs and cords in the seams of the short sides.
The hood is exceptionally well designed and the best feature to me is how small and easily it packs away. You don’t have to worry about a pouch getting lost, because the “pouch” is basically just a pocket on the chest part of the poncho.
I found it easiest to just invert it and bunch the entire poncho into it. It comes with easy instructions and an extra 2mm cord in a little pocket inside the main chest pocket. The only downside is that it doesn’t look very durable, but looks can be deceiving.
I’ve used the poncho quite a bit and was fortunate enough to spend 2 long weekends in a row at Waterval Boven in bad weather – perfect for testing a poncho. The poncho kept me dry in the light rain and I had little doubt it would keep me dry in heavier rain.
The obvious weakness is that it is open on the sides, but the press studs do a good job to minimise the problem. It is large enough to keep your backpack out of the rain too. As a poncho alone it scores high in my books.
The Ground Sheet feature obviously works, but I don’t see it keeping your mattress from puncturing on sharp sticks and thorns. Even though it will probably help you stay dry from seepage, you’ll need another one to shelter you from rain.
As a shelter it is flexible. There are a lot of loops to tie it to anchor points on all sides. It is too small to fashion it into a tipi tent, but as a wind/rain shield it works well, especially if you have a cliff face to work with. It is by no means a tent, but if you combine it with a bivi bag, you’ll be fine in the rain.
The rain catcher is in my opinion a great idea. I doubt you’ll ever really need to use it on your average climbing or hiking trip, but in the event you need something to catch rain, this will do the job very well. I think it will be very useful to collect water from a drip. I can think of quite a number of drips that are very hard to collect water from without a large catchment surface area. The hood acts as a funnel, so you can easily drain the water into pots or water bottles (wider mouths work better).
I was sceptical about the hammock feature, but I’m glad to report that it works just fine. I did tear the first one, but that was probably from me doing something wrong.
The short side on either end has a cord in the seam, tied off to a loop on the corner. To rig the hammock, you need to make sure all the load will be on the seam and not on any of the loops. The idea is to spread the load over the entire length of the seam (the loops can’t handle a concentrated load on it). I found the best way to make it work was to pull the cords on either side, tie a figure 8 knot to make an anchor point. You can un-tie the cords from the loops to make them longer and to ensure they don’t load the loops. Then I use slings and karabiners to anchor the hammock to trees or climbing gear.
If you need more from a poncho, then this is the one for you. It is light, versatile and doesn’t take up much space in your backpack.
- FABRIC > Silicone Impregnated Nylon
- WEIGHT > 308g
- SIZES: one size
- Price: R599 (recommended retail)