A person in a yellow rain poncho sitting on a dock at a lake.

An often overlooked but necessary survival item is the emergency rain poncho.

While it’s primarily used to keep you dry when it pours, these inexpensive and lightweight ponchos can be used in many different emergency situations.

Read on and discover 20 unique ways to use your emergency rain poncho as survival gear.

1. Waterproof Shelter

One of the best uses for an emergency rain poncho is to create a waterproof shelter. Similar to keeping your body dry, you can manufacture a shelter using a plastic poncho, rope, and stakes to protect your gear.

2. Carrying Bag

In emergencies, you typically have little time. You need to run and take only what you can carry. However, you can carry more if you use your emergency rain poncho as a carrying bag.

Simply place the items you need to carry in the center of the poncho, then pull up the sides to form a makeshift carrying bag.

3. Water Collection

Water is essential for survival, and in some emergencies, it may not be easy to find. (And even harder to store.)

Not to worry! You can use a rain poncho to collect rainwater. Dig a hole and place your poncho inside, lining the hole. Be sure to tie off the neck and arm holes.

As it rains, the rainwater will collect in your impromptu poncho rain catcher. Similarly, you can use a poncho to capture and carry water from other natural bodies of water back to your hideout or campsite.

[RELATED READ: Why and How Water Scarcity Affects You]

A woman in a red coat whose face is covered by her wind-blown hair.

4. Wind Protection

If you find yourself stuck outdoors in windy conditions, a rain poncho can work to protect you against the elements. By blocking the wind, you can better regulate your body’s temperature.

[Related Read: When Power Fails: How to Stay Warm Without Electricity]

5. Ground Tarp

No one wants to sleep on cold, wet ground. If you have an emergency rain poncho in your go-bag, you can use it as a ground tarp. It’ll keep you dry if you need to sit or sleep outdoors.

6. Cold Compress

If you or someone suffers an injury, use your rain poncho to make a cold compress.

Similar to putting ice or cold water in a resealable plastic bag, you can put cold water or snow in a portion of the poncho and wrap the edges. Place the compress on the aching body part for quick relief.

7. Wound Wrap

You can use pieces of a rain poncho to wrap up a wound! Dress the wound using your first aid supplies, then secure the dressing in place using the poncho.

Not only will this create additional protection, but it will also keep the wound from getting wet or dirty. This is crucial to preventing infection.

8. Trail Marker

If you have a brightly colored emergency rain poncho, you can use it to make trail markers. Rip off strips that are long enough to tie around tree branches.

These trail markers will help you find your way if you get lost, or help others to find you.

9. Gear Protection

In addition to using a rain poncho to keep yourself dry, you can also use a rain poncho to keep the rest of your gear dry.

For example, ponchos are designed to be worn over backpacks. This keeps you and your backpack dry.

Additionally, you can place your poncho over any gear placed outside your shelter when you're not using it.

10. Rope or Cord

You never know when you might need a rope. If you have a rain poncho, you can make one!

To make the plastic poncho stronger and sturdier, rip it into strips and braid the strips together.

A yellow poncho lining a garbage can that people are throwing plastic bottles into.

11. Garbage Bag

We should all strive to leave no trace, even in emergencies.

In a pinch, throw your poncho on the ground and toss all your garbage in the center of it. Gather the sides, tie it up, and you’ve got a garbage bag.

12. Sun Protection

As long as your rain poncho is not completely see-through, you can use it as sun protection. While it won’t provide as much sun protection as true UPF gear, it will create enough shade to cool off and keep painful burns at bay.

13. SOS Signal

Use a colored emergency rain poncho to signal for help. You can use it to create a signal flag in multiple different situations.

14. Game Processing

If you have to hunt or fish for food in the wild, you can use your rain poncho as a clean surface for processing game.

If you have kept your poncho clean, simply spread it on the ground to create a makeshift processing “table.”

A tattooed man taking an outdoor shower with a rain poncho in the wilderness.

15. Solar Shower

Use the water you’ve collected in your poncho as a solar shower.

First, collect water with your rain poncho using the methods listed above. Then, using the excess material, hang your poncho from a tree branch. Allow it to stay in the sun for a few hours.

When you're ready to shower, puncture the poncho from the bottom several times to enjoy a warm outdoor shower!

16. Hanging Food Basket

It’s critical to keep food away from hungry predators.

If you don’t have baskets or rope to hang food high, you can use your rain poncho as a substitute to keep your food off the ground.

17. Waterproof Shoes

It’s very important to keep your feet dry when hiking. But you may encounter water along the trail, especially in mountainous areas.

You can use your poncho to cover your shoes and socks to keep your feet warm and dry.

18. First Aid Sling

Use a rain poncho as a sling if you or someone in your group has an arm injury.

[RELATED READ: The 5 Emergency Meds You Cannot Live Without]

19. Dragging Heavy Items

While a rain poncho may not be strong enough to lift heavy items, you can use it to drag items.

If you need to move larger branches, such as for building shelter, lay them on the poncho and pull them to your base.

20. Curtains

If you need a curtain to create a boundary or add an extra layer of protection against bugs from getting into your shelter, utilize a rain poncho. Hang it over a rope!

One of the most vital emergency preparedness skills is finding versatile uses for single items. Be sure to bookmark this blog post for future reference!

Emergency preparednessEmergency waterExtreme weatherPreparedness skills

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