Wednesday, August 9 , 1995

The Ponch-Tent or Hooch

At 20 ounces, the issue poncho is the most affordable (it's free) and lightweight sun, wind and rain break. It has grommets on its outer edges which short lengths of (550 pound test strength parachute cord)Type III "550" parachute cord can be tied to for tent stake loops. It makes a single-man tent like depicted in the picture from FM 90-5 Jungle Operations, but I suggest staking its edges down directly into the ground and not have it in the air as shown in the illustration. It stores easily in the buttpack or any pouch or pocket available in the BDUs or rucksack.

Tie two 24" long lengths on the centerline grommets so the poncho can be tied to two trees length-wise, using the girth-hitch knot. Made of rubber-coated ripstop nylon fabric, in woodland green camouflage, the poncho is water-repellent not water-proof; it'll have water leak through if the Soldier touches it from inside when acting as a shelter.

If worn as a rain garment, it'll stick to you and you'll be wet. The new ponchos are this way in order to be "breathable" so Soldier sweat vapor can escape. For the poncho to work better, it needs some "help" and careful usage primarily as a shelter.

Want Pvt Murphy in your pocket?

Spray the entire poncho on the hood outside with two or three coats of Kiwi's Camp Dry(c) silicone coating ($2.35 in the AAFES post Military Clothing Sales Stores) to improve rain protection to where water beads up and runs off the poncho instead of being soaked into the material. Tie off the hood with its own draw cord to prevent water entry.

The poncho will stick out like a "sore thumb" in the desert; in my former life in the marines, we'd erect sun shades at 29 Palms during live-fire exercises only to have "friendly" F-4 Phantoms, A-4 Skyhawks buzz us in the morning at less than 100 feet and have re-supply helicopters chose to off-load M149 water buffalos (trailer with 400 gallon tank of water for drinking) nearby so they could see our ponchos take flight in a sea of dust. If it had been real, our entire company would have been set ablaze by napalm.

Take a large piece of camouflage netting (NSN 1080-00-103-1246) and cut out poncho-sized rectangles for your men's ponchos. Tie them to each grommet of the poncho to improve your camouflage in wooded areas by a non-linear outline, and to gain desert camouflage capability (reverse the netting) in case the 18-hour call goes out to return to the Middle East. The poncho also has an important job of covering charcoal-treated MOPP gear from rain as a needed "MOPP 6" level.

U.S. Army Natick Laboratories has a process to coat two sides of fabric with different camouflage patterns. A BDU and a poncho with reversible green woodland/desert camouflage should be top priority for outfitting the 82d Airborne Division; write to them urging them to make this gear a reality;

Reversible BDU/Poncho Developer,
Soldier Systems Command,
Att: STRNC: Ms. Barbara Fossey,
U.S. Army Natick RD & E Center,
1600 Kansas Street,
Natick, MA 01760.
e-mail THEM! (Natick LABS)
e-mail THEM! (Mobility Staff)

Issue metal stakes and poles will be needed in desert regions to erect sun shelters due to loose sand and lack of trees for expedient stakes. To deflect water in wooded areas, the poncho-tent must be stretched tight between two trees using the long lengths of "550" cord tied on the centerline grommets. Tie the hood draw cord to a tree branch to suspend the poncho center for better headroom inside. Now lay-out your ground cover (closed-cell sleeping mat, space blanket etc. and/or clear the ground of pine cones, rocks, etc.) and your sleeping gear (poncholiner or U.S. Army aircrew lightweight sleeping bag, NSN 8405-01-H77-9567;

Eco-Tat Systems Company,
2200 Commerce Parkway,
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23454
(804) 340-0866

Stretch out the corners of the poncho away into a tight triangle shape using stakes cut from nearby branches, leave one corner free to enter the tent. Enter the tent and close the last corner from inside. Air ventilates through both foot/head ends of tthe poncho-tent and somewhat through the material itself.

If there is an abundance of branches, bushes, saplings, etc., another technique is to use the poncho's outer edge snaps to wrap around this vegetation to stretch the poncho into irregular, but tight angles to deflect water away from the Paratrooper. Be creative, several ponchos can be snapped together to form fireteam and even squad shelters; hold competitions.

A 30-minute gap in the daily schedule can easily be filled by practice making poncho-tents, to enhance Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) skills. The poncho-tent is a key step in the solution to the Soldier's load; it gives every Soldier shelter capability without need of a partner so the 4.45 pound shelter-half monstrosity of poles, pin, stakes, guy lines etc. can stay back in the barracks and not clutter/load down the Airborne Soldier.

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