Tactical Poncho review: Hazard 4’s Poncho Villa!

Tactical poncho by Hazard 4
May 29, 2023  
|  2 Comments
Categories: Gear Curious

Consider the poncho. Quite possibly one of the world’s oldest articles of clothing, maybe the very first piece of snivel gear even, 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, groundsheet, or shelter. The poncho (any poncho, mind you, not just the Hazard 4 Poncho or other “tactical 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, drawstrings, snaps, and metal grommets. It’s no longer made of hide or homespun cloth, but for all intents and purposes, the poncho is an evolutionary dead end.

Or it was Hazard 4, out of Long Beach, California, has made the next great leap forward in easy-to-deploy rain protection 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 issued poncho. Nor is it some cheap-ass gas station rain poncho with plastic press studs or poorly placed buttons. 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 and rugged edges. Large hook and loop panels are located on the front and back, with additional panels on the shoulders. But that’s not all.

Hazard 4 Poncho Villa

It’s more than a little moto, but I love this poncho, so I’m including the Hazard 4 imagery. This article originally ran in October of 2017.

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 and features a playing card-sized hook and loop panel on the back of the hood. The opening is controlled via a 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 a hook and loop-secured seams. Oh, and get this: the hood is lined. 

Fancy!

Hazard 4 Poncho Villa Tactical Poncho in use as a tent.

Hazard 4 Poncho Villa Tactical Poncho used as a tent; it can easily employed as an emergency shelter or an environment-resistant wrap if you don’t have a sleeping bag. This an excellent addition to your tactical gear loadout, or survival bugout bag, or whatever the hell you call the stuff you use to shoot, scoot, or survive without being miserable. Our Pancho Villa user, the fella writing this review, doesn’t actually use it much as actual rain poncho. 

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, a couple of packs of beef jerky, a 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?

  1. Can it be used as a shelter?

Hazard 4 Poncho Villa

Yes.

  1. Can it be used to protect/conceal my gear?

Hazard 4 poncho in the field used to conceal gear.

Yes.

  1. Can it be used as a groundsheet so I can clean my weapon?

Hazard4 poncho

Yes.

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 where 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.

So, the questions remain: Do I like it, and would I recommend the Poncho Villa to people I know?

Yes. Yes, I would. It’s now part of my basic packing list because it’s such a versatile piece of gear.

This is damn sure no bad-smelling military surplus poncho you’ll find in the corner behind the battered nylon TA-50.

Go get ya one. 

Hazard 4 Tactical Poncho for Sale

Buy it and back the bang

Where to Find It

 

And now, video evidence from people I’ve never met and don’t know.

 

 

Hazard 4 Poncho: Updated for the 2020 Version

As they explain the Poncho Villa poncho. 

Our thoroughly modernized version of the classic military poncho has more in common with technical sports jackets than the old vinyl camping stand-by that usually comes to mind. An industry first, it should reintroduce a generation to the functional benefits that having no sleeves affords. The poncho can be stuffed into its own front pocket for storage – no need for a stuff sack or compression bag. It even has a vent for drying!

Differences between Original vs MK2. (2020) PonchoVilla

  1. Attachment loops and snaps added on V. 2020 to allow for coupling of Fleece Poncho Liner (so they don’t separate in windy conditions.)
  2. Lasercut MOLLE added on the loop fastener on the pocket flap.
  3. Same-color seam tape on the inside (already implemented on some of the later batches of the original design.)

 

MTAC military poncho

If you read some comparisons online, you’ll see other brands like 5ive Star Gear and MTAC (like this one) listed. They may be decent ponchos, but they’re still basically the same thing you’d get with a military surplus piece. Like combat shirts vs regular old t-shirts, each has a place, but one is going to be far superior to the other in its intended conditions. The Snugpak Enhanced Patrol Poncho (find those here) is a little closer, but still not in the Pancho Villa’s league. 

Advantages of Poncho vs. Jacket

  • fully covers the torso and most of legs
  • fully covers backpack, bags, chest rigs, plate carriers, or other equipment
  • allows rain-free access to pockets, utility pouches, etc.
  • dry equipment or weapon manipulation
  • can become a small make-shift tent
  • two ponchos combine for a larger tent
  • can be used as a seating/work surface
  • quick on and off over base layers

 

 

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Mike Durand

Mike Durand

About the Author

Mike Durand is a US Army infantry combat veteran of Iraq who was probably wearing a smoking jacket and fuzzy slippers 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. An avid outdoorsman and history aficionado, 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.

2 Comments

  1. Roc

    Excellent piece of kit. I own two plus a liner. I live in the PNW and this is a must have if you are in the rain/cold weather.

    I always keep one attached to my go bag.

  2. Val

    This poncho looks great and I’m considering buying but can you tell me if there are grommets on the shoulders like the USGI poncho? I saw that Hazard4 is also selling a poncho liner specific for the Villa and I was wondering if they made it versatile enough for other kind of liners

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