The Poncho for Cycle Touring
Cycling in the rain is never fun. Clothes become damp, water sprays up from the tarmac and more often than not restrictive rain gear is needed to keep you dry. But being wrapped up in synthetic material and rustling like a packet of crisps is tedious, especially when humidity is high and inside your Gortex weather-proof gear you are sweating like Meat Loaf on a tread mill.
Having just come back from cycle touring in Taiwan where biblical rain could fall at at any moment and sweaty cycling in raging humidity was teh norm, my Gore bike wear jacket simply wasn’t good enough. Although it may have kept the rain from entering in, inside I was left airless and sweaty. So what is a cyclist to do?
On the 1st October I will be heading to Vietnam for a pedal powered food quest up the Mekong River and as I fly into Saigon the end of the rainy season I am in no doubt the climate will be hot and sticky. With this in mind I popped in to my local army surplus store, always a fine place for advice, and had a chat with the tattooed- decorated ex- military manager behind the counter who pointed me in the direction of a military poncho.
Having cycled in Mexico, I was suddenly filled with visions of cycling in tropical heat wrapped in a multicolored woolen blanket, all Clint Eastwood. But handing me a small dark green bag, I was soon unwrapping a popper-sealed green sheet with a hood that made me look more Col Kurtz than Clint.
After parading around the house, muttering such rubbish as ‘You weren’t there man’ and feeling very ‘Nam’ I am finding that this versatile piece of kit more than makes up for its space in the cyclist panniers. As well as tying up into a lightweight waterproof jacket, that allows air to pass easily a poncho easily covers a back pack while hiking. A camera can easily hang underneath for that quick shot. It makes a great waterproof cover for the bike when camping. It doubles as a ground sheet and not to mention a tarp for when sleeping in my hammock.
(spoon not included)
This week I will be taking my poncho on a three day self supported canoe trip with Nick Weston of the Treehouse Diaries and if this short river trip is a success I will head to the Mekong full of confidence. I am fast discovering that the military Poncho is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment ever invented and it’s good enough for the army, it’s good enough for my camping/cycling needs.