A few months ago, I bought a couple Mil-Spec ponchos for my BOB's. Growing up, I had always used vinyl ponchos, but everything I read said that the military-style ponchos were great due to their durability and the ability to use them as an improvised shelter. I heard great things about the poncho liner, too. When I was ordering them, the sales rep at the company said, "Just so you know, these liners don't have an opening for your head". I asked him what he meant, and he said, "Well, the liners are just meant to turn your poncho into a blanket. A lot of people want to wear the liner and the poncho at the same time during winter, so they buy them from us, and when they're out in the field they go to put them on and there's no opening for their head. They usually wind up cutting one themselves, but sometimes we get phone calls about it, so I like to warn people ahead of time". I told him that was fine and to go ahead and send 'em out, I'd think of something.
I looked around online and found out that lots of people think cutting an opening in your poncho liner is a terrible idea, while others think it's dumb that they didn't come with an opening in the first place. Personally, I don't plan
on going camping without a dedicated sleeping bag, but I can see the logic behind not cutting a hole in your liner in case you have to make a "Ranger roll" in an emergency. I found that some places make a conversion kit
with a zipper, but as my past posts have shown, I'm too cheap for that
I showed the poncho liner to my fiancee since she's pretty handy with a sewing machine, but she wasn't confident about her sewing machine's ability to handle it (thicker synthetics often give non-commercial sewing machines fits). Looks like I was on my own...
After a bit of searching, I found a place that sells ripstop nylon repair tape
. This is heavy duty stuff - it's what those guys who fly those giant stunt-kites use for repairs. I ordered a few yards of it. So, to start the project, here's the ponchos & liners:
(I wanted OD, but they were sold out.
I bought multicam for me and black for my fiancee, since she wouldn't be caught dead in camo).
The other parts of the project are some outdoor rated nylon UV Resistant thread (should be available at any better camping/outdoor store), some velcro tabs (I got mine at the grocery store), and the aforementioned tape.
To start out, I laid out the poncho and liner, making sure they were lined up/correct sides facing each other,
and tied them together at the corners.
Next, I located the head opening of the poncho, spread it open, and marked a short line with a ruler and a permanent marker:
At this point I removed the poncho, since it would just be in the way. I took a razor blade and a ruler and made a cut approx. 15 inches wide in the liner:
I measured the tape and cut a length equal to length of the cut:
...then I folded the tape over the cut:
I also added some tape athe ends of the cut to prevent fraying:
I will take an iron set on low and make a few passes over the tape to really set the adhesive.
To close the opening, I was going to use the velcro tabs. I didn't have faith in the adhesive backing on the velcro to stand up in the long-term, so I decided to sew it on. I peeled the adhesive backing off the velcro and peeled the adhesive backing off of a length of the nylon tape and stuck them them together:
...I then trimmed the excess tape off the edges with a razor blade.
I lined up the first tab where I wanted it (make sure you put the stiff side of the velcro facing up so it doesn't scratch you when you're wearing the poncho).
I threaded up the needle...
(the outdoor-rated rated thread is pretty stout, but not much thicker than regular thread. Good stuff) and stitched 'em on:
(Sorry for the crappy pic - my camera doesn't like to do close-ups). Basically I made a "box" with the stitches, then made an "X" through the center of the box. The poncho liner + velcro is kinda thick, so you might want to have a thimble handy. I used a combination of my thumbnails & my Leatherman to pull the needle through.
The needle will probably get kinda gummy from going through the adhesive backing and will get dull fast, so you might want to have a couple fresh ones handy.
Here's how it came out:
Obviously it would still be potentially drafty as a blanket, but I didn't want to put velcro along the entire seam for reasons of comfort (and laziness when it comes to sewing). Of course, the black tape looks better on the black poncho liner, but the kite people don't make camo tape, and I photographed the camo one so you could see what I was doing in the pictures... anyways, I can't imagine I'll ever be wearing just the liner by itself, so the poncho will cover up the tape.
Edit to add: I finished the other poncho, and setting the adhesive tape with an iron came out GREAT - it's really, really on there good, and the ironing flattened it out and makes it look much cleaner.