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, groundsheet, or shelter. The poncho (any poncho, mind you, not just the Hazard 4 Ponch) 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 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 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 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 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.
We did you guys a solid, gonna save you some money on some CFF stoke.
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, 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 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. The $129.99 price tag (as of this writing) is something to consider, but if you can afford one get yourself a Poncho Villa. You won’t regret it.
And now, video evidence from people I’ve never met and don’t know.
The description as Hazard 4 explains it:
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. It even has a vent for drying!
Folded Size: ~13″ L x 11.2″ W x 2.2″ D (33 x 28.5 x 5.5 cm); Front Velcro: ~14.4″ L x 3″ W (37.6 x 7.6 cm); Back Velcro: ~12.6″ L x 2.9″ W (32 x 7.5 cm)
Expanded Size: ~79.5″ L x 53.5″ W (201.9 x 135.9 cm)
_ water-resistant/breathable soft-shell fabric
(84% polyester, 16% spandex; liner is polyester)
_ 100% waterproof fully-taped seams throughout
_ generous size to fit over packs/bags/chest-packs
_ large front & back velcro panels for agency i.d.
_ velcro panels on the shoulders & head-back
_ ample hood with brim section fits over head-wear
_ hood-cinchers for front and back-of-head adjust
_ zipper front to chin for full rain-coverage of throat
_ large perimeter grommets for hanging as tent/tarp
_ side snaps for closing edges in severe weather
Advantages of Poncho vs. Jacket:
_ fully covers the torso and most of legs
_ fully covers packs, bags and equipment
_ allows rain-free access to pockets/bags
_ 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 layered clothing
Read up on everything we’ve written about Hazard 4.
This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using such a link, we will earn a small commission from that sale at no additional cost to you.
Like what you read on Breach-Bang-Clear? Consider joining our Tactical Buyers Club.