This review originally appeared on The Key to Area J. Why are we sharing it, despite it being two years old? Because we fucking hated ponchos too, until we saw this. Anyway, the article appears here in its entirety and with permission of our boy Mike Durand. Who ought to write more. You know, if he wanted to. And if he was reading this, and was the sorta guy to take a hint. Just sayin’. Mad Duo
Hazard 4 Poncho Villa Review
As seen on The Key to Area J. By Mike Durand.
Consider the poncho. Quite possibly one of the world’s oldest articles of clothing, and why not? It’s a simple garment to make. Find some material , preferably waterproof, or at least resistant, generally rectangular in shape, make a cut in the middle, poke your head though, and you now have something that’ll keep you dry-ish and warm-ish, prevent the sun from turning your skin into beef jerky, and can be used as blanket, ground sheet, or shelter. The poncho really is a wonderful piece of equipment when you think about it.
And it’s enduring. Over the centuries it’s remained basically the same. Sure, things have been added here and there: a hood, draw strings, snaps, and grommets. It’s no longer made of hide, but for all intents and purposes, the poncho is an evolutionary dead end.
Until now. Hazard 4, out of Long Beach, California, has made the next great leap forward in poncho technology. They manufacture what I think may very well be the greatest poncho in the world.
Say hello to the Poncho Villa. This is not your issue poncho. It’s 15 x 13 x 2 inches of water resistant/breathable soft-shell fabric, and 100% (we’ll get back to that) waterproof fully-taped seams. Large hook and loop panels are located on the front and back, with additional panels on the shoulders. But that’s not all.
From the top down, this is an all new take on an old concept. The hood is roomy enough to be pulled over a helmet, features a playing card-sized hook and loop panel on the back of the hood. The opening is controlled via shock cord secured by a cordloc. The throat of the hood rises to chin height and can be opened and closed using a zipper, all covered by a covenant storm flap that sports hook and loop secured seams. Oh, and get this: the hood is lined. Fancy.
But that’s nothing compared to the main body, where the magic is happening. I’m not talking about the snaps or grommets; though very nice, they’re not where the Poncho Villa makes its money. That’s found in the pocket on the chest, a pocket so large you can put the poncho inside it. Just think about that. Once you’ve stuffed the poncho into its own pocket (and, believe me, there’s no finesse in this operation) you can zipper the whole thing shut with a double-sided zipper that also serves the pocket while in poncho mode.
Once it’s all squared away the Poncho Villa is roughly the size of an iPad with the thickness of an MRE. It’s nice and soft and has the looks of an excellent field pillow. One side has a large label with specs and a graphic nicely reminiscent of military labels. On top are a small plastic D-ring and a metal grommet to allow air in or water to drain out. In poncho mode the huge pocket is covered by an equally huge hook-and-loop secured flap.
Did I mention that the pocket is huge? Because it is. You can put four complete MREs in there and still have room for your cell phone, two packs of smokes, extra pair of gloves, couple of packs of beef jerky, paperback, and maybe some mission-essential items. And remember that D ring on the outside? Well, now it’s inside. The people at Hazard 4 really thought of everything.
A pocket on a poncho. It’s really such a simple idea and it totally sold me on this product. And I have a confession to make: I hate ponchos. I mean that. For twenty years in the infantry I humped around this nearly useless, half-assed, somewhat-water-resistant sheet that I only used once as its makers intended it to be used. Hot and wet is nice when you’re with a lady, it ain’t so good when you’re on a road march in Basic Training. Consequentially, my criteria when it comes to ponchos are pretty low and simple: how else can it be useful to me?
- Can it be used as a shelter?
- Can it be used to protect/conceal my gear?
- Can it be used as a groundsheet so I can clean my weapon?
And that’s about it. A poncho being used as an actual poncho? That never enters my mind.
That brings us back to the lined-out 100% waterproofed fully-taped seams. The thing is, they aren’t. Within thirty minutes of getting the poncho I was outside and standing in the very convenient rain we were having. After about 45 minutes, or long enough to start wondering what the neighbors were thinking, I went inside to see how the poncho villa had held up. Well, overall it did fine, except were the stitching for the shoulder hook and loop panels were.
However, I also tested the non stitched material by lining my sink with the poncho and filling it with water. An hour later when I looked it over the inside of the poncho was dry except for some damp spots where the material had rested on the drain. That’s pretty good for anything other than a sheet of plastic.
This article made possible in part by B5 Systems (@b5systems), a member of JTF Awesome.
So, the questions remains: Do I like it, and would I recommend the Poncho Villa to people I know?
Yes, I would. It’s now part of my basic packing list because it’s such a versatile piece of gear. The $129.99 price tag is something to consider, but if you can afford one get yourself a Poncho Villa. You won’t regret it.
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Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
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Mike Durand is a US Army infantry combat veteran of Iraq who was probably wearing a smoking jacket, fuzzy slippers, and a Browning Hi-Power in a battered old leather holster while writing this. He has been featured before on other blogs and publications, including Military.com, Under the Radar, Tactical Fanboy and of course Breach-Bang-Clear. A history aficionado with a strange Winchester lever gun fetish, Mike recently underwent laser hair removal so he could stop shaving his knuckles. We’re glad his muse is back and proud to feature him here.