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8/12/12

Hill People Gear Mountain Serape

The HPG Mountain Serape in poncho mode. And no, the
Serape does not provide a black vortex of identity
 concealment - that's just Photoshop. 
"This is what a poncho liner should be!" was the first thing I thought of when I came across the  Hill People Gear Mountain Serape, and in many ways, that's what it is. Soldiers have been modifying poncho liners into similar forms by cutting holes in the middle, adding sleeping bag zippers and what not for years. While there are many upgraded versions of the classic poncho liner on the market, HPG was the first to truly step back and redesign the thing from scratch. The end product is an exceptional upgrade, adding dramatic increases in functionality and capability.

What's the big deal? The Mountain Serape does a solid job of serving multiple roles--it's not just a blanket--it switches from poncho to great coat to blanket to sleeping bag. It's no gimmick, either--the design is well thought out and transitions easily into different modes.

The Serape is one of my favorite pieces of gear that I've bought in a long while. In the time I've had with it, the Serape has become one of my go-to pieces of kit, whether for travelling, hiking or camping. It's mountain man meets modern materials and smart design--a great piece of multipurpose kit, well suited for the back country or hunkering down in a more urban environment.

The Serape has been out of stock at HPG for several months while they've relocated production to the States, but I was lucky enough to snag one of the last generation in the spring. HPG is just getting the new, made in the U.S.A. model in stock, and so I thought it was about time to give the heads up.

Full review and pictures after the jump!

The Serape is substantially warmer than the traditional army poncho liner--wrap yourself in it and you can quickly feel the insulation start to work. It uses 2.4 ounce Primaloft Fusion insulation, cutting edge, domestically produced stuff used in high-end outdoor gear. As an example, the military is using this same insulation in their latest cold weather uniforms. It works very, very well, providing a great warmth-to-weight ratio.

It doesn't come with an advertised sleep rating, but the general consensus seems to be on par with a warm 40 degree bag. As a standalone, it's a good warm-weather sleeping bag. As a part of a system, it can be used to add a warmth boost to another bag. For example, the MSS Patrol Bag and the Serape should be good to down any temperatures I'm going to face in the areas I operate in. And, of course, the Serape can act as an outer layer to supplement your cold weather gear.

Sleeping bag mode. The zipper goes up about halfway. And yes, that's snow in the background - these
pictures are from earlier this year.
The Serape weighs in at 34 ounces--at just over two pounds, it is very light for its size. The Serape does not ship with a stuff sack, and you'll probably want to pick one up. Uncompressed, the Serape takes up quite a bit of space in the pack. It compresses down to around a 2L soda bottle size, which is a bit bigger than I'd like, but it it is what it is. Size-wise, it's on par with a 40 degree bag that I have, but noticeably warmer.

It's generously sized, one-size fits all--in blanket mode, its more than capable of covering two adults, and you can easily wear a reasonable size pack underneath the Serape while in poncho mode. In sleeping bag mode, you have plenty of space to move around, and there's enough material to completely climb under the Serape and pull it over your head, cocoon-style.

The shell is made of DWR coated mini-ripstop material; it's silky smooth yet durable. The shell is very comfortable--so much so that I've started using it as a blanket for Walking Dead watching or Sunday afternoon naps. At the same time, it is robust enough to hold up to outdoor use. I had some initial concerns about using the Serape for sitting around the fire, but the guys at Hill People Gear have been using theirs around campfires and wood stoves for 3+ years. It's not a wool blanket, but if you pay attention you'll be fine.

To test water resistance, I wore the Serape out into a rainstorm--torrential downpour--and was toasty warm and dry. It took it a step further and stood underneath a rain gutter--basically a small waterfall at that point-- for a good three or four minutes. Still good and dry afterwards, though with a poncho your legs get wet while the rest of you stays dry. The Serape is technically water resistant, and water will eventually start to leak through at the quilting and hood zipper--by the end of my 15-20 minutes under hellish rain, it was just starting to get damp on the other side. For light rain or a short trip out into a storm, you'll be good. If you need to be out for a long time in bad rain, add an army style poncho and some rain boots.

They have changed the quilting a bit on the newer model, from what I understand, which should help increase water resistance, too.

The Serape in great code mode, with a pack. Very warm.
The ability to transform into a great coat is another big advantage of the Serape. Ponchos are great, but they can easily get in the way when you're trying to do anything that involves your hands. Putting the Serape in great code mode frees your hand and arms to do work, eat lunch, carry a rifle or whatever. It also allows you to wear a pack over the Serape, as pictured above. To me, the Serape also insulates better in this mode, pulling the garment closer in around your body--the difference is especially apparent in windy conditions. Converting to great code mode is fairly simple - HPG has a solid how-to on YouTube.

The Serape pictured is in Foliage green, which is out for the new generation. In is a greener Ranger Green, as well as an all Multicam serape. Ranger Green is an upgrade from Foliage Green, and an all Multicam Serape would be an excellent foundation for camouflage. 

Yep, if you compare it to a $25 Chinese-made cheap-o poncho liner, the Serape is more expensive--but the two products aren't remotely in the same class. The Serape is an excellent design made of the best materials, by a quality manufacturer in small production batches. Look at the products of other high-quality, low-volume makers and you'll see that, for the materials and quality, the Serape is priced quite competitively. It's still a rather pricey item, but for the weight-to-capability provided, it's a solid purchase.

Overall, the Mountain Serape is a superb piece of gear with some unique capabilities. Excellent for a lightweight kit, day bag, bug out bag, or hunting bag. My wife has made it clear that a second Serape--for her--must be high on our prepping list.

The Serape comes along on every trip beyond simple everyday carry--it goes in my EDC bag for travelling and road trips, and it goes in my pack for camping and hiking.

Head on over to the Hill People Gear website to order a Mountain Serape for yourself. It looks like the first run of U.S. ponchos is already out, but they'll be getting in a steady stream on a weekly basis. More info on the Serape can be found on the HPG forums.

4 comments :

  1. Great review of a great product, Alex. I learned about HPG from reading your blog and got a Kit Bag and a Mountain Serape from them. Great people making great gear.

    Thanks for doing such a great job with your blog, too, dude. Really great work. You're one of my few "must-reads' in the field.

    cheers, m

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    Replies
    1. Big thanks, Marcus! Glad T-Blog is a help to you.

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  2. I agree with Marcus, there is only two places I check multiple times a day the apartment prepper and you, but I come here more lol. I just live the way you lay it all down. Makes it easier to digest. Great review, great product... Will definitely add this to my future purchases list.

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  3. The kit bag and Mountain Serape are both on my list. As soon as I get through some more needed stuff to relatively discretionary nicer gear they will be snapped up for sure.

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