Sunday, 19 January 2014

Polish Army Lavvu Poncho Shelter - An Overview

One of the most popular army surplus items of kit, has recently been the Polish army lavvu, which consists of two canvas poncho's, buttoned together. Plus 2 aluminum sectional pole kits to create a tepee style shelter. I was on the lookout myself for a more substantial shelter, to protect me from the elements in the winter months.

And so I drove down to my local army surplus dealer in Lancashire, called MilitaryMart and handed over my £17.99

Very pleased with my purchase I walked out of the shop with my new shelter under my arm and straight away I was aware of the difference in weight, compared to my British army basha and walking pole setup. My current Basha setup, which consisted of the Basha itself, walking pole, pegs etc. came in at about 2.3Kg, whereas the Polish Lavvu was 3.7Kg. I did manage to reduce that a little by swapping the metal pegs for heavy duty plastic ones, but still quite a bit heavier.
So, what are my reasons for chosing this particular shelter and why do I like it so much ?
Obviously this form of protection from the adverse UK weather isn't designed or meant to be used for backpacking purposes or traveling light. I enjoy walking up hills and mountains, setting up a portable CB radio station (Or Activation) and making contact with like minded people up and down the country. And if I'm lucky and the conditions are favorable, overseas. Whilst on these activations I can be sat for hours at a time in high winds, rain, hail stone and even snow. So it is important for my own safety to be protected from these conditions. The basha is great for the warmer, drier months and is without doubt much lighter to carry in your rucksack. But for the added protection the Lavvu gives me, I am prepared to carry that extra weight.
Good Points

1. Strong & durable - Made from canvas, will withstand anything that is thrown at it and will last a lifetime if looked after. Ensure that you thoroughly dry the Lavvu after ever outing and re-proof the poncho's with Fabsil Plus UV Paint on Proofer once a year.

2. Quick and easy to erect - Due to its central pole and shape the shelter requires no guy ropes. Simply peg out on the floor then insert the pole and lift up. A quick re-adjustment of the pegs to make the shelter taught.

3. Excellent protection - Once setup, the shelter will cope with high winds from any direction and if properly waterproofed will keep out even the heaviest rain. Due to the heavy canvas, inside the shelter is also a lot quieter, which is an advantage when trying to sleep at night.

4. Great for cooking in - You can safely cook inside the Polish poncho tent, without the worry of setting fire to highly flamable materials. I have even seen people use a wood burning stove inside a Lavvu like this, using the arm hole to vent the chimney. Plus it even raises the temperature inside the shelter, when using a simple cook set, such as a Trangia or BCB Crusader cooker.

5. Price - At under £20.00 from your local army surplus dealer, you just can't complain.

6. Visibility - Due the the dark canvas, it can get quite dark inside, which is great if you are sleeping in your Lavvu. No worries about being woken early by the rising sun.

Bad Points

1. Weight - There's no getting away from this. It's canvas and weighs a lot more than modern fabrics. Something you should always bare in mind that this will feel heavy in your rucksack, but will feel even heavier if it gets wet. So make sure you account for this when planning your pack weight.

2. Size - Although not too bad (depending on what your used to), it can be on the bulky side. I like to carry mine in a British army arctic sleeping bag compression sac, which allows me to stuff it all in and compress down to a smaller size. Again be aware of the difference in weight and pack size when wet...

3. Visibility - Due the the dark canvas, it can get quite dark inside, even during the daytime. A decent head torch or tea light style lantern, such as a UCO Micro lantern works great.

I have made a couple of additions to my setup, to improve the rigidity and ease of setup. I added paracord loops to each pegging eyelet, which enables me to use heavy duty plastic pegs. Plus I included an old plastic pole support from an old tent. This just stops the pole from sinking into soft ground, which in turn would make the tent sides sag a little. You could quite easily use a jam jar lid or similar to produce the same effect.

In conclusion, this is a very affordable shelter option, that has been tried and tested by the military. If looked after it will no doubt last you a lifetime and will protect you from all forms of weather, especially in the winter months. It is on the heavy side, but for the protection the Polish army lavvu provides, I believe is well worth carrying the extra weight. I have already used this shelter on several occasions in pretty nasty conditions and it has served me well...


  1. Thanks for your video, it's the first one I've found that actually showed the set up of the tent. I know it's a simple set up but it's nice to see someone with a bit of experience put it up. Thanks again.

    1. Thanks guys for your kind comments. Glad you found the information of use...

  2. "I added paracord loops to each pegging eyelet" - Beginner's question: What knot did you use to tie these? Cheers


  3. "I added paracord loops to each pegging eyelet" - Beginner's question: What knot did you use to tie this? Cheers!

  4. Hi, I'm setting off along the gr36 in April, I normally use a bivi but my German shepherd will be joining me so I've been looking for something like this as her claws will tear straight through a groundsheet, what id like to know is as this is a two piece kit what is the individual weight of each piece and also as I intend to be using this for at least 3 month non stop how quick will this semi dry if rained on all night and how much weight gain when it's wet. Thanks for the great review

  5. Hi, I am thinking of buying a tent like this but have only used nylon tents with sewn-in groundsheets. What would your advice be regarding groundsheets?

  6. Iv just ordered one of these and was wonderingcan you fit to people inside for a nights sleep great video :)

  7. Nice video and report. They are in three sizes I-III. This one is size II which fit persons who are maximum 180 cm.

  8. Bagged one of these off eBay and just spent a one nighter in snowdonia. Took me all afternoon to set up but it's the first tent I have owned with more than 4 sides. Nice snug little tent and good value.