The Zeltbahn was a very flexible use device. Each soldier was issued one Zelt pannel, 1 Zelt rope, two Zelt stakes, and one section of the pole. The Zelt could be worn as a poncho, made into a stretcher, used as a flotation device, and many other things. One soldier's Zelt could be combined with one or more other soldiers to create tents and other shelters.
The poncho made from a zeltbahn quarter was an important aspect of a German soldier's kit. These were designed to provide both camouflage and rain protection. German army regulation Heeresdienstvorschrift HDv 205/1 issued on 20 April 1932 with an amendment in 1937 specified how the Zeltbahn 31 was to be used. The head would be pulled through the head slit and the triangle would be pointed toward the ground in the front. The sides could be buttoned up to create an envelope-shaped poncho. Bicycle, motorcycle, and mountain troops were intended to further button these around the legs. Horse-mounted troops were not intended to wrap them around the legs but butoned in a typical way but buttoned in such a way that the two lowest buttons and buttonholes of the long sides and the buttons at the tip remained undone.