While everyone else is focusing on the latest “breathable waterproof” technology, a company called ZPacks has taken a traditional approach that has worked for thousands of years – waterproof and non-breathable. Their product is the aptly named Groundsheet-Poncho, which offers a common-sense solution to wet weather that also manages to combinine two items that are already in your pack into one.
It seems that the dream of finding 100% waterproof layers has become lost in the sea of waterproof-breathable (WB) options that have saturated the market. Admittedly, there is no perfect solution, as WB fabrics soak through in a fine mist, or succumb to moisture after many hours of being doused by deluge. Don’t let those in-store demonstrations of water glancing off of the fabric fool you; just spend a couple hours with a heavy pack in pouring rain to get a better sense of the limitations of waterproof fabrics. On the other hand, non-breathable layers repel water better, but have the drawback of trapping perspiration on the inside, soaking the wearer with sweat instead.
The Groundsheet-Poncho is a viable – and surprisingly obvious – solution with several useful functions. Derived from the successful Cuben Fiber Groundsheet, ZPacks added a hood and zippers to turn this into a 3-in-1 piece of gea that not only serves as a poncho, but a pack cover, and ground sheet as well. It is constructed from black 1.0 oz/yd2 Cuben Fiber that holds up to punctures, tears, and abrasions, and weighs in at an insanely light 6.1 oz / 173 g. Try to find a jacket/groundsheet combo that can beat that.
The Groundsheet-Poncho is designed for utility and comfort. It comes in two sizes; the Solo-Plus at 38”x52”x94” and the Twin at 48”x60”x100” with a 5” deep bathtub shape to wrap around you better. In Poncho mode, the product has a fitted hood with visor, waterproof zippers at the neck and sides, and bonded hood and neck seams. The zippers on each side ensure that the sides don’t blow open and an elastic belt at the waist keeps the poncho snug against the body. However, in cold weather, it is recommended against as the only piece of rain gear as it
As this is a minimalist solution, there are a few compromises to consider. For instance, the Twin model is designed to work specifically with the ZPacks Hexamid Tent, which throws the size off a bit, causing it to hang lower on one side than the other. Also, as this is a waterproof material, it is important to maintain proper ventilation on both models with ample air flow at the neck, sides, and waist. Failure to do so could easily result in the wearer getting overheated. On top of that, the Groundsheet-Poncho isn’t a great solution for use in cold weather since it does not fully cover the arms and legs, falling at about mid-thigh on a 5’9” person with a small backpack.
The Groundsheet-Poncho sells for $155 and can be purahcsed directly from ZPacks website. But because each one is made to order, it can take up to two weeks to take delivery. However, the website claims to accommodate short deadlines and the founder Joe Valesko is available personally to answer all your questions.