When it comes to travel apparel, a poncho typically means those horrible plastic bag affairs, the ones with a loose-fitting hood cut into a sheet of plastic that drapes over you like a cheap blanket and breathes worse than a three-packs-a-day smoker. The kind you see tourists wearing in an unexpected downpour while wandering from museum to museum in Washington, DC, or sheltering themselves from the spray at Niagara Falls. But—as witnessed at this year’s Winter Outdoor Retailer—ponchos are making a comeback as a stylish, fashion-forward alternative to the traditional jacket. Capes and shawls, too. Here are few to consider.
1. Therm-a-Rest Honcho Poncho, $130; 2. Woolrich X Westerlind Poncho, $250; 3. Nau Poncho Via, $275; 4. Nau Synner Cape, $290; 5. Columbia Abbey Falls Hybrid Cape, $240; 6. Pendleton Glacier Park Blanket Wrap, $299; 7. Fjallraven Luhkka Down, $500.
Photo: Claudio Olivares Medina, CC-BY
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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Part of their Camp and Comfort Series, this poncho from Therm-a-Rest feels like your sleeping bag transformed into a jacket, with 37.5 "active particle" polyester insulation, a waterproof-breathable ripstop outer, and a synch-able hood. At one pound and 12 ounces, it won't be part of your deep backcountry kit, but it's great for base camp, with a kangaroo hand-warmer pocket and a nifty zip pocket to stow campfire-side essentials.
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Made in partnership with Westerlind, a boutique outdoor apparel retailer, the Poncho lends Woolrich's rich history with wool to an overall aesthetic that's both classic and modern. Made of a 20-ounce 85/15 wool/poly blend with open-shawl styling, just wrap it around your shoulders for instant warmth.
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This poncho employs full sleeves in its pull-over design, with a draped cowl-neck hood, recycled poly treated with DWR water repellency, snap cuffs, and sealed seams to protect you from foul weather. But little details, like high back pleats and an adjustable belted waist that can synch
tight or attach on the insight to extend the jacket's pleats, make it one of the more tech-centric fashion-forward ponchos on the market.
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Nau has taken another stab at the classic poncho silhouette with this synthetic-fill insulated cape. The exterior is made of weather-resistant recycled poly, with a front zip and a wind flap to help combat the elements. A high collar adds a bit of flair, as well as additional weather protection, with two front hand zip pockets and a right security pocket. The Synner plays in same family as Nau's other down poncho-inspired products like the Allee Down Pullover ($295).
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Columbia calls this a cape, but by most standards it's a poncho—and a crazy-warm one at that. It uses their Omni-Heat inner layer, which bounces and reflects your own body heat to help keep you warm, partnered with 60 grams of thermal insulation encased in waterproof canvas, all
sealed down by their new "heat seal," which really traps in the heat and prevents down migration in the baffles. The removable faux fur on the hood lends some style points, and a big snap pocket on the chest keeps the must-haves within easy reach.
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Made from Pendleton's first national park-themed blanket (apt, given the 100th anniversary of the National Park System hits this year), the Blanket Wrap is made of a warm wool/cotton blend, with an open-front wrap and felt binding.
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The Luhkka Down is made from Fjallraven's bomb-proof G1000 fabric, a burly mixture of poly and cotton treated with Greenland Wax. Inside you get 700 cubic inches of goose down and feather insulation, and an interior lined with Pertex for a blush, delicate feel. The fur-lined hood is three-point adjustable, the front pocket is fleece-lined, and the bottom hem has press buttons for easy adjustment. The Luhkka Down is the mid-priced poncho in the line; you can get a lighter-weight synthetic version for $350, and the Luhkka No 3, lined with Shetland wool, for $800.