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Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The ALTUS Poncho

If you hang around Camino forums for very long, 
you'll hear people talking about the ALTUS poncho. 

What the heck IS an ALTUS poncho?

The ALTUS poncho is a rain poncho
but better.

The ALTUS has a large "hump" on the back 
that completely covers your backpack.
When you're not using that "hump,"
it snaps neatly down to the poncho,
making the back flat.

The ALTUS also has sleeves,
unlike other ponchos,
and the sleeves have elasticized cuffs,
so your arms stay completely dry.

Here you can see the coverage with Linda and Patty's ALTUS
The ALTUS both zips up the front,
and snaps up the front,
so a strong wind won't blow it up or off of you.
In fact, it makes a very good windbreaker
for those cold, windy days.

The ALTUS has a large hood,
which fits comfortably over your hat,
whether it is a baseball cap style,
or a Tilley hat with a larger brim.
In fact, though the ALTUS hood has a brim,
I find it better to wear it over my hat,
for stability and better vision.
In other words,
the hat keep the brim of the ALTUS 
from flapping around in the wind,
and keeps it stabilized.
It also keeps the hood up in a way 
that keeps the rain from hitting your face and neck.

The ALTUS is so good at keeping your warm
that I've literally used it
as a blanket at Roncesvalles,
when one of the pilgrims in my group 
didn't bring a sleeping bag, 
and I gave her my own.
I simply put on my longjohns 
and slept with the ALTUS over me
and it kept me toasty warm.

People have asked if it keeps you dry?
It keeps me dry as a bone.
like any other gear, 
you must learn to use it.

You must vent the Altus properly.
in order to stay dry.
Because you are walking and sweating,
the ALTUS will collect condensation,
like any other rain gear,
and you will get soaked by your own sweat.

To keep that from happening,
I always leave the top several inches of the ALTUS open
when I'm walking in rain,
so the heat can escape.
And though you can't help but get a little damp
from condensation of your own body heat,
you do not get soaked if it's vented properly,
and you do stay warm.

If I'm walking on a day where it rains, then stops,
then rains, the stops,
between rains I simply unzip the poncho
take my arms out of the sleeves,
and let it hang loose from my pack.
It stays (unless of course it's  too windy,
in which case I'd wear it to block the wind).
It doesn't come off because of the neck of the poncho.
And then when the rain starts again,
I slip my arms in, zip it up, and off I go!

At the time of this writing (Feb 2016)
the  ALTUS cannot yet be purchased in the United States.
There are several places you can purchase it
at the beginning of your Camino.

In St. Jean Pied de Port, 
Boutique du Pelerin carries the ALTUS poncho
as well as other pilgrim needs.
If you email Pierre, and ask nicely,
he will hold a poncho for you.
You can pick it up and pay for it on the day you arrive.
Just be sure to give him your name, size, color, and date of arrival.
Here is his website link:

In Zubiri, there is a sports shop called Planeta Agua.
It is on the main street of the village.
Here is their website link:
In the past, they have carried the ALTUS,
and I see they take Paypal.
So you may be able to order ahead, pay,
and pick up your poncho when you reach Zubiri.
This might be your best bet if you are 
starting out in Roncesvalles
and did not get your poncho in Pamplona

In Pamplona, Caminoteca is the place to go.
Located in Old Town, they also carry the ALTUS poncho
as well as other pilgrim gear.
The last time I checked, 
the prices for the ALTUS were less here,
so if you're starting by flying into Pamplona
it would be worth a stop to get your poncho.
I'm not sure if they'll hold one for you.
I'm emailing them today to ask if they take Paypal
or if they'll hold a poncho (or sticks)
so come back in a day or two and I will post their answer.

Of course, you can take regular rain gear.
On my first Camino I wore a rain jacket and rain pants.
But the weight put me off and I needed something more lightweight
that would cover my legs and hips.

The ALTUS keeps my feet dry.
I am 5'3" and usually start the Camino weighing around 155.
So I should by most calculations wear a SMALL.
However, I buy a large,
because I like the way the large covers me 
halfway down my legs, 
keeping the rain off my feet.

Also, if you were to be injured or get lost,
the ALTUS can make a very good shelter,
using your walking sticks.
You could cover up with it 
to shelter you from the elements.

Ralph and Toni Marie, from Las Vegas, spent the night on the mountain!
I did meet one couple in 2014
who got stuck all night
on the pass between Orisson and Roncesvalles
because they started too late in the day
and were caught in the dark in a snowstorm.
They snuggled under a bush
praying the Rosary to stay awake,
until it was light enough to see the trail and walk down.
They were lucky they didn't freeze to death!
I've kept in touch with them,
and they did make it to Santiago.
If they'd had an ALTUS poncho,
or two,
they would have had a much more comfortable night!


I have tried the Sea to Summit
and the Bluefield Poncho,
both of which can be purchased on Amazon.
I hated both.
The reason was because they did not zip up the front,
and I about had a heat stroke 
just sitting in my living room with the danged things on.
See my review of the Bluefield here:

And remember,
if you wear rain pants and rain jacket,
you'll need a pack cover,
which you do NOT need if you're using an ALTUS.

those are all the reasons I love the ALTUS poncho.
If you have any questions, please list them below.

Buen Camino!

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  1. Does Pierre in SJPP understand emails in English? And how far in advance would you email him? Thank you for your posts, they are very interesting and most informative. Cheers, Kerrie in Sydney.

    1. Hi Kerrie. Yes, he speaks English, though I often use Google Translate (cut and paste) to email him. I"m so glad you like the blog! Let me know if there's something you would like me to cover. Buen Camino!

  2. Longer arms of the Altus will make them sweaty easily.
    Which is also the problem with the Altus competitor Ferrino (aluminised inside).
    Very good ponchos are also the Wafo and Vaude, both from Germany.
    New is a very light Exped poncho. A silnylon poncho.
    All three are longer then usual american poncho's, all three have longer fully covering arms (but wider than Altus sweaties).
    Also, I think that Altus switches styles and material regular.
    Read on fora that quality also changes.

    1. I haven't had that experience with my ALTUS and I wear it each year. I leave the front open about 10 inches and have never had a problem with the arms. I love my arms being covered so they don't get wet and cold. I know the Ferrino with the aluminised inside gets VERY hot. I haven't seen the Exped. I do like the older ALTUS better than the new version, but you have to pay attention. ALTUS makes both a raincoat and a poncho. They are of different fabrics.

  3. Dear Annie, Thank you for this wonderful information about the Camino. WHile I've gleaned much from the Camino blog, your website has become the 'concrete' source for packing and 'finding' items on-line. My 20 year old son is joining me in a Camino walk this April and May of 2017. Does it get any better than that??? :-) I will be emailing Pierre and asking very nicely if he'd hold two large ponchos for us! Thanks so much for your work - it's very much appreciated!
    Jean from Wausau, Wisconsin

    1. You are very welcome :)
      Have a Buen Camino!

  4. Hi Annie. I bought an Altus poncho from Amazon U.K. and had it shipped to Sacramento California where I live. It arrived in four days because my friend and I opted for the fast shipping. He got one too. I am 6' 1" 195 lb and I got the XL/2XL size which is the largest size they have and I believe one size larger than yours. It comes about halfway down my shins, which is what I wanted. The sleeves are a little long for me but manageable. I got it partially based on your recommendation and I like it. It is very well made and your description is very accurate. My friend and I are planning to do the Camino in Spring of 2018 God willing.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I hope you will love your Altus. Who did you order it from? Was shipping costly? Have a Buen Camino!

  5. Hi Annie, I ordered the Altus from Amazon U.K. in England. The priority shipping was about $15A and the standard shipping would have been $12.60A. The prices on Amazon U.K. are listed in English pounds and have to be converted to American dollars. I considered getting the American Packa jacket but it was more expensive and not as long as the Altus. Thanks for your great blog, I have been reading about equipment, Spanish food and bedbugs with great interest.

  6. Hi there I was just reading about your blog on your homepage. Did you ever walk the Ruta de la Plata? It's a truly amazing experience much different from the one you will have on the camino Frances. When we walked the Ruta de la Plata in July and August 2011 we had virtually all the albergues to ourselves. It was really tranquil with great time for reflection

    1. Yes I have. There are photos of the route on this blog. 😋

  7. I live in Canada . Where can I buy the Altus?

    1. You can email the sporting shop in SJPP and ask them to hold one for you. You should give them your size.

      You also might be able to do this at the pilgrim shop, Caminoteca, in Pamplona.

      You will pay about €8 more in SJPP (France is more expensive); however, I feel more sure he will save an ALTUS for you as I've done it every year for years.

    2. I know of no place you can order it online.


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