Military Poncho

The Military Poncho and its Survival Uses


A military poncho is a multi-purpose piece of survival gear that all wilderness backpackers should have with them on their adventures. I started carrying a military poncho when I was in the Army, and I have carried one ever since.  A military poncho is lightweight and easy to pack. My poncho is 7 feet long by 4.4 feet wide.  I carry my poncho in my Go-Bag.

There are a variety of materials used in military ponchos.  They are made with Ripstop, Nylon, Canvas, and Rubberized fabric. Military Ponchos were designed as raincoats to protect soldiers and their gear from the elements.  Military Ponchos have evolved for many other invaluable uses.

Uses for a Military Poncho.

1.  Use it for what it was designed for and that is to keep you dry in wet weather. Ponchos are very roomy and they will cover and protect your backpack when you are wearing it during a rainstorm. Military ponchos are very easy to put on and take off especially when you are wearing your backpack.

2.  A Military Poncho can be used with other gear during cold weather to keep you warm.  A poncho can be filled with leaves or moss to act as an insulator to help retain your own body heat.

3. They can be used as ground cover for you to lay on or to put your gear on it for protection. It can also be used as a make shift cover to protect your gear if you want to keep it outside your tent.

Military Poncho
Ground cover using a military poncho

4.  They can be used to hold water temporarily depending on the material it is made from.  Rubberized type ponchos or those treated with a waterproof sealant work well for holding water.  Ponchos can assist you in retrieving water from sources difficult to access.  A Military Poncho can also capture drinking water during rainstorms.

Military Poncho holding water
Military Poncho holding water

5.  A Military Poncho can be used as a backpack in an emergency.  The poncho can be loaded with gear and cross slung around you.

6.  A Poncho can be used to carry and transport items in a wilderness area.  If you are gathering branches or wood for your fire a poncho can expedite and limit your trips, (just be careful on sharp points damaging the poncho).

7.  It can be used as a mattress to sleep on.  You can fill the poncho with leaves, moss, etc. and make a field mattress out of it.

8.  Military Poncho’s can be used as a shelter system.  There are various configurations you can use.  It can be set up in a Lean To, Canopy, or Tent style configuration.  Depending on the area you are in the best configuration is to string some 550 cord between (Two trees and drape your poncho over it.  You can also use your hiking poles (pictured below) to set up a shelter system if there are no trees around you.

Setting up a Poncho using your hiking poles:

  •  Tie off the 4 corners of your poncho with 550 cord and stake the 550 cord into the ground.  Use the grommets on your poncho to attach the 550 cord.  If you do not have grommets use a rock to tie off the 550 cord, (see picture below).  I am using some Nite Ize (cam Jams in the picture below).  You can also use a Tautline Hitch instead of the Nite Ize to keep tension on the poncho.
  • Use one of your hiking poles and put it in the center of the poncho.  Insert it into the head portion of your poncho and make sure you tie off the portion where you put your head tightly to prevent water from coming into the shelter.

9.  The Military Poncho can be used for medical emergencies.  If you sustain a broken arm you can use the poncho to make an improvised sling to put your arm in .


A Military Poncho has many uses and it easily adapts to different terrain and environments.  A poncho is lightweight and easy to pack.  In a survival situation a Military Poncho can save your life or sustain you until you reach safety.  There are various types to choose from and they also come in different configurations.  They are not expensive ranging in price from 10 to 40 dollars.  I highly recommend that any wilderness backpacker who heads into the wilderness have one.