This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you.*
We all know ponchos are a great way to stay dry in the rain, but did you know there are also many prepper uses for ponchos? A poncho can be a prepper’s best friend, especially if you’re bugging out. If you haven’t yet, you should add a poncho to your bug out bag.
When I say “poncho” I’m not talking about those flimsy little ones you see at the entrances of grocery stores on a rainy days. Although a standard poncho would work for some of the uses listed below, for most of them you’ll need a heavy-duty, multi-functional, military poncho.
A good poncho should be made from ripstop nylon, it should have grommets so you can tie it to other things, it should have double-sided snaps so you can close it or attach it to other ponchos, and it should have a drawstring hood so you can pull it tight around your head.
The following ponchos have all of these features and are large enough to keep a full grown man dry from head to toe:
- Helikon Waterproof Hooded Ripstop Poncho in Camogrom
- Mil-Tec Waterproof Hooded Ripstop Poncho in AT-Digital
- Mil-Tec Waterproof Poncho Ripstop Poncho in French CCE
Now that you know what I mean by “poncho,” let’s get onto the list. Here are 42 survival uses for ponchos.
1. As Cordage. Since quality ponchos are made from rip-resistant nylon, they are strong enough to turn into cords you can use for anything that needs to be tied. Just use scissors to cut them into long strips.
2. Keep Supplies Dry. If it’s raining and you have firewood, gear, a bag, or other things that won’t fit in your shelter with you, cover them with a poncho and use the snaps and grommets to fasten it in place.
3. Hide Your Supplies. If you have a camouflage poncho, you could wrap your supplies in one of them and cover it with leaves or shrubs. Just don’t forget where your hiding spot is.
4. Block The Wind. A poncho will keep you dry in a storm, but it will also protect you from the wind. This is very important in cold weather. Wind chill is often 20-30 degrees less than the actually temperature.
5. Block The Sun. If you’re on foot and there isn’t any shade, you can use your poncho to make a lean-to. This will make a nice patch of shade for you to rest in.
6. Build a Shelter. As long as you also have some stakes and paracord, you can make a great shelter with ponchos. Willow Haven Outdoor made a post with 9 shelter configurations.
7. As a Ground Cloth. Just lay it down with the outside against the ground. This is great for when you’re sleeping, eating, or doing anything else that requires you to sit on the ground.
8. Make a Mattress. Fill a poncho with leaves and pine needles and snap it shut for a nice, makeshift mattress.
9. Make a Hammock. A high-quality poncho should be able to support your weight. Tie it between two trees for a comfortable place to relax or sleep.
10. As a Blanket. If you don’t have any other options, ponchos can help you stay warm at night. Make sure you and the poncho are completely dry first. For extra insulation, make a bed of leaves and cover the poncho with leaves and shrubbery.
11. As a Pillow. Sure, you could use rolled up clothes as a pillow, but you don’t want to get them wet or dirty. Roll up a poncho and use it instead.
12. Curtain or Screen. Ponchos are great for keeping light and/or bugs out of your shelter. Just hang it from the entrance way. If it’s windy out, put stakes through the grommets at the bottom.
13. Blackout Windows. If the power is out and you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you still have light and/or power in your home, you can blackout your windows.
14. Stop Leaks. If your shelter has a leaky roof, you can lay a poncho over the leaky area and fasten it in place.
15. Collect Rainwater. Since it’s waterproof, you can collect water with a poncho. Just lay it over a hole or low spot in the ground. If you can’t find a good spot, dig your own basin.
16. Collect Water from Trees. Ponchos can also be used as transpiration bags. Here’s how.
17. Make a Solar Still. Ponchos are perfect for making solar stills. If you don’t know how to make one, check out this guide.
18. Boil Water. A good way to boil water is to dig a hole, fill it with water, and put hot rocks from a fire into the water. This will make the water boil. But before you fill your hole with water, you need to line it with something. Ponchos are great for this.
19. Take a Solar Shower. Tie the four corners together, fill it with water, and hang it in the sun for a few hours. When the water is ready, poke a hole in the poncho and have a warm shower. If you don’t want to poke a hole in it, you can at least pour the warm water in a basin and wash up.
20. As a Basket. If you pull the four corners together you can use it as a makeshift basket for carrying water, food, rocks, supplies, or anything else you need to carry.
21. Drag Heavy Things. If the thing you’re moving is too heavy to carry (such as a dead animal, firewood, or a piece of equipment), you can tie it to a poncho and drag it. The poncho’s smooth surface will make it move across the ground more easily.
22. As a Mask. Pull it up and tie it over your mouth and nose to help keep out dust and smoke.
23. Make a Quarantine. If someone is sick and contagious, you may need to seal them in a room away from everyone else. You can use ponchos and duct tape to seal the doors and windows. Learn more.
24. Make a Cold Compress. Make a basin with your poncho, fill it with ice or snow, and wrap it up to make a cold compress. This is great for people with fevers, sprains, and painful injuries.
25. Tourniquet. Cut a strip of poncho about the same width as a belt and use it as a tourniquet.
26. Keep Bandages Dry. If you have a wound wrapped in gauze or bandages, it’s important to keep it completely dry. To do this, wrap part of a poncho around the area and tape it down.
27. Tie a Splint. Cut your poncho into long strips and use them to tie a splint in place.
28. Make a Sling. Cut out a square that is 40 inches on each side and use it to make a sling. Here are step by step instructions.
29. As a Stretcher. If someone is wounded and unable to walk, fold a poncho in half and attach it to two strong sticks. Then use it to drag or carry the invalid.
30. For Smoke Signals. Get two sticks long enough to reach from one corner of the poncho to another, and tie them to the poncho in an X shape. With this large flat surface you can now quickly cover and uncover a fire. Three quick bursts of smoke means S.O.S.
31. Signal Aircraft. If you have a brightly colored poncho, you can lay it flat on the ground and hold it in place with heavy rocks. This will help aircraft to spot you.
32. Make a Flag. Another way to signal for help is to attach a brightly colored poncho to the end of a long pole and stand it up in an open area.
33. Mark a Trail. If you have a colorful poncho, cut it into strips and tie them to trees or bushes within view of each other. This is important if you’re hunting or exploring so you can find your way back.
34. Hunting. Since military ponchos are camouflage, you can use them to make a hunting blind, or you can just wear one while tracking animals.
35. Fishing. Poke small holes all over a poncho to create a makeshift net. This isn’t the easiest way to fish, but it’s worth a try if you don’t have any other options.
36. Prepare Food. If you have some game meat to butcher or are working on something with several ingredients, use a poncho to make a smooth clean surface on the ground.
37. Protect Food. As I mentioned in my article on uses for trash bags, you can wrap up your food and hang it high in a tree to keep bears and other wild animals from getting to it.
38. Bucket Liner. If for whatever reason you don’t want to get a bucket dirty or wet, push a poncho into a bucket and wrap it around the edges.
39. Fix Your Shoes. If you have a hole in the bottom of your shoe and moisture is getting in, try lining the bottom of your shoe with a piece of material cut from a poncho. Since its waterproof, it should keep your feet dry.
40. Waterproof Your Feet. If the problem is worse than that, you can either step into a section of poncho and tie it around your leg before putting your shoes on, or you can put your shoes on first and then tie a section of poncho around your foot and leg. Either way, this will keep your feet and legs dry when you’re traveling through wet and/or marshy areas.
41. Make a Decoy . If you think you’re being followed, you could stuff a poncho with shrubs and set it up to look like someone is sitting there. While you’re follower is busy watching the poncho, you’ll have time to slip away. (As long as they don’t see you making the decoy.)
42. Make a Sail. Good quality ponchos are more than strong enough to be used as a sail for a small boat or raft.