Plastic Poncho - A survival multi-tool!

That's right, I said plastic poncho. One of the most important items I carry in my survival kits is a disposable plastic poncho. This poncho can serve a variety of survival purposes. The first being its intended purpose, shelter from precipitation (rain, snow etc…) Keeping dry can be of the utmost importance in many survival situations. If you get wet, hypothermia can set in very rapidly even if the weather is comfortable. A disposable poncho is a great lightweight way to provide shelter from the storm.

Plastic Poncho - A survival multi-tool

Disposable ponchos can also be used for covers for gear. I have used mine for pack covers. Keeping a pack full of food, clothing, matches, and medical supplies is imperative. I have wrapped fanny packs in my poncho before. The poncho is very adaptive to the needs of a single survivalist. They can also cover wound dressings, such as splints or arm bandages. They can be cut to make waterproof foot wraps for when in snow with regular shoes. Ponchos can cover almost any piece of personal gear you carry.

When in need of stationary shelter, a poncho can provide waterproof roofing for any lean-to, A-frame, or any other constructed shelter. They can also be used for cover over and under a sleeping bag to repel moisture. Even though they aren't as reflective as foil blankets, they can provide shelter from the wind. I have used one as a handy ground cloth under sleeping beds made of vegetation. By far the best use I have seen for a poncho in a shelter is spread underneath vegetation covering or roofing on a manmade shelter.

Poncho - desert thirst quencher! That's right, you can employ a poncho to accumulate, acquire, carry, and sterilize water for drinking. In all survival situations, arid climates especially, water is the most imperative resource to survival. An adult can require a gallon a day or more, and few have lived beyond 3 days without water, in harsh climates. A poncho can be a lifesaver. Ponchos can be turned into bags for carrying water, when water is available. Chances are you will need to create water out of thin air. This is where a plastic poncho becomes a hardcore survival tool.

A solar-still, deriving water from the air and earth is rather simple in concept. Soil, plants, even flesh contain water, even if the amount is hard to see. Water can be obtained in most areas. The method I am going to describe is called a solar-still. First you need to have plastic sheet, wow, good thing I have this poncho!

First you need to dig a cone shaped hole, some say 20 -18 inches deep and 3 feet across, but it depends on how large your plastic is and how easy the digging is. You do not want to over exert yourself when water is at a premium. The hole needs to be in direct sunlight the whole day. Next, place a container at the bottom of the hole. Surround the container and sides of hole with the freshest green Vegetation you can find, even desert plants contain water. If they are alive they contain water. You may need to shred or crush the vegetation to break the wax like covering on leaves or stems to allow the water to escape. If you have a length of tube you should place it in the container (this allows for drinking, without dismantling the still). Now cover the hole with the plastic sheet or poncho. Make sure that the sheet used has no holes in it where it covers the hole. Make sure that the plastic hangs down in the middle, directly over the container. Seal the edges of the plastic with soil and stones. Now place a stone heavy enough to depress the plastic to just above the container and take up the slack. Make sure the stone brings the plastic to a point, not sharp enough to penetrate the plastic but enough to allow water to drip off.

There you go! You now have a solar still. What you have effectively created is a greenhouse that condenses water on the under side of the plastic, that then drips into the container. A still can yield up to 2 pints a day with good vegetation and sunlight. Maintain a still with fresh vegetation on a regular basis. This method can also be used to get fresh water from salty or brackish water, and even urine or polluted water in extreme cases. Just place the water in another container in the hole and let it evaporate leaving contaminates behind.

The plastic poncho is an indispensable part of my survival kit. They are small, light, and can save your life. I strongly recommend having at least two per person. Make the poncho a priority on your list!

-Randel P.

[Webmaster Note: for more information about a solar still and other water procurement techniques, Chapter 6 of the US army field manual, FM-21-76 is provided.]


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