In the United States Marine Corps, we are referred to as “The Few, The Proud!” U.S. Marines are also known for their intestinal fortitude, toughness and all-around hard-charging attitudes. So why the hell do we all refer to our favorite piece of military issued gear as our “Woobie?!”
From my understanding, the poncho liner or “woobie” was developed during the Vietnam war. U.S. soldiers and Marines needed something to keep them dry on damp nights in the jungles of Vietnam. They also needed a solution for a bit of warmth during the cool nights in the jungle. The military poncho, as we know it today, along with the poncho liner were developed to address this need.
The woobie is constructed from 2 pieces of quilted nylon with a polyester filling. It has tie-down cords on all 4 corners so that it can be attached to the grommets on a poncho. There are various pattern choices available for the poncho liner. I own multiple versions consisting of the olive drab, ERDL and Woodland patterns. But in recent times, the MARPAT, MultiCam and other color options have been introduced into the market.
Of course… I NOW need to get my hands on a MARPAT woobie.
I have spent countless chilly nights cuddled up with my woobie while on active duty. My poncho liner travelled the world with me and was that one bit of comfort that my fellow Marines and I had access to. Even on soggy nights, the woobie would work its almost magical ability to keep me warm and dry with its water resistant construction.
While in the field… If things were to go awry, my woobie was one of the few things that I could count on to make things SUCK, just a little bit less.
Right before I left active duty, I had to return all of the gear that I was issued by the Marine Corps. The only thing that I was certain about coming home with me was my wobbie. Luckily, I had a buddy in Supply and I conveniently returned my gear while he was on duty. He inspected my poncho liner, rendered it as unserviceable; and it casually made it’s way into the trunk of my car.
At the moment, I just looked at it as a keepsake… But as I maintained my preparedness and outdoor lifestyle, my woobie continued to be part of my standard kit, whenever I was in the field.
When Marines test out a piece of gear, in countless scenarios… And it always comes out a favorite… It’s no longer just a piece of military issued gear; It literally becomes a part of us!
The nostalgia has a lot to do with our feelings for our woobies. But if it didn’t function the way that it did, at times where we really needed it… It would remain in our footlockers as just another memento.
We get issued a lot of cool gear to play with as active duty Marines. There is much of it that I still use to this day. Luckily, military surplus is easy to come by. With the convenience of various websites offering up military surplus at great deals, I was able to gather the gear that stood out to me in the Marines.
But when I put up that other equipment, against the versatility and comfort of the woobie… The woobie is in a league of it’s own. I agree that there is other more pertinent gear than a poncho liner. However, if you have the possibility of including it in your ruck… I certainly wouldn’t think twice.
I want to go over a few reasons why I feel that anyone focussed on preparedness and enjoying the outdoors, should add one of these magical blankets to their kit.
So let’s get started…
7 Reasons U.S. Marines Cannot Live Without Their “Woobie”
1. It Is Easy To Carry:
The woobie is extremely lightweight due to the materials that it is constructed from. It can be stuffed into a pack or you can roll it up like a sleeping mat and wrap your poncho around it. It can then be affixed to the top or bottom of your ruck. You can also attach it to your external molle webbing, which like the previous suggestion, alleviates the need to take up valuable interior space. The dimensions of the poncho liner are usually 62 x 82 inches. This gives you a lot of coverage without incurring much additional weight.
It doesn’t roll up to a super tight profile (12”x5”x5”) but the fact that it is so light makes it viable for any size backpack. The fact that the woobie is a bit, fluffy, is what makes it incredibly comfortable as well as its ability to protect you from the elements.
2. Used As A Sleeping Bag:
One of the intended uses for the woobie is as a lightweight, fair weather, sleeping bag. Keep in mind that It is better suited for use in temperatures above 40 °F. The ties or strings, at the corners of the poncho liner allow it to be tied to the grommets on the poncho. Surprisingly, it provides ample warmth while adding protection from the weather.
Attaching a poncho/poncho liner roll to the outside of your ruck, makes it a viable choice when humping (fast-paced hiking) for long distances. It adds much less bulk to your pack profile than a standard sleeping bag. The fact that you can get so many versatile applications from your woobie and poncho make it a considerable choice above other sleeping bag options in fair weather situations.
3. Used As A Pillow:
While out in the field… Working on whatever the mission of the day may be, it’s nice to have a bit of comfort when it’s time to relax. In an emergency scenario, things are going to be extremely challenging. Rest and conserving calories are certain focal points. Something as simple as a pillow can aid you in some much needed R&R.
I own various pillows that are designed for field use. Some work great and others are just a rectangular version of an uncomfortable beach ball! But when I roll up my woobie, mimicking the shape of a rolled up sleeping pad, the comfort provided by my woobie far supersedes anything my other pillows could provide.
Since my woobie is already slated to come with me wherever I go, there is no need to add excess gear to fill the void of a comfortable pillow.
After a long day in the field… Lay under the stars while using your woobie as a pillow and I challenge you to stay awake!
4. Used In Shelter Building:
I prefer to have my woobie attached to me when I am inside my field-expedient shelter. But in a pinch, my poncho liner can be affixed as part of my shelter. Because of the poncho liner’s construction, it can protect me from damp weather and windy conditions; especially when coupled with my poncho.
The fact that the woobie has a couple of ties (strings) attached on all 4 corners, make it easier to work with when using it as an interior shelter wall. This adds extra flexibility by saving you time and effort when conditions and lighting are far from ideal.
When rain is not an issue, the poncho liner makes a great tarp or fly which can shield you from the sun. Not to mention debris and critters falling from trees.
5. Used As A Field Expedient Stretcher:
We all know that anything can happen while we are in the field. When we add in a SHTF scenario, that uncertainty compounds. When we are operating deep in the bush, calling 911 for a medical emergency may not be an option. Even if you do have access to first responders, it may take them quite a while to find and get to your location. In the meantime, you may need to move an injured person to safety, getting them out of further harms way.
A poncho liner can easily be fashioned into a stretcher. It’s just a matter of finding a couple of poles and folding your woobie around those 2 poles. Due to the poncho liner’s nylon and polyester materials, it can handle some serious weight.
Just like any other emergency scenario… The more skills that we possess, the more options that we have at our disposal. A stretcher is quite simple to make but you need to get some practice in now! Having your woobie with you will provide comfort, having your woobie and skills can save your loved-one’s life!
6. Can Provide Concealment:
After all, this is a military issued piece of gear… Designed for military use. Due to the woobie’s various OD and camouflage patterns, it can be integrated into the environment to provide concealment when needed. You can wrap it around you and wear it like a garment or it can be used to cover exposed areas that need not be exposed.
This concealment option pairs well with another previously mentioned purpose; using a woobie for shelter. If you do not want to easily be noticed while at your basecamp, adding camouflage is certainly a valid option to achieve that goal.
Using your poncho liner to conceal your gear, from overhead views, is also a task that the poncho liner can handle. Think about it… It’s a large camouflaged blanket. If you are in need of concealment, you are only limited by your imagination if you have access to a woobie.
7. It’s A Family Favorite:
I’m married and have 3 dogs and one cat. My wife knows how prized my wobbie is to me. After countless times of catching her and our pets cuddled up with my woobie… Let’s just say that we currently have 4 poncho liners in our home. My initial woobie remains in my go bag while the other 3 have become “family possessions.”
It truly amazes me how my pets gravitate towards the woobie. We have thick quilts, goose down comforters and a plethora of the comfy pet beds that belong to them… But if my wife happens to leave a woobie on the couch… You can bet that our furry friends will claim it in a heartbeat!
On road trips, the woobie lines the back of my Jeep where the pets hangout while we head to our destination. The poncho liner not only protects my jeep from my dogs but also enable my dogs to remain comfortable. This adds peace of mind to my road trip which vastly increases the chances for a positive experience.
If you have yet to use a poncho liner, especially as active-duty Infantryman, this article may sound a bit exaggerated to you. But for those of us with plenty of woobie experience… We would probably agree that I’m still understating the power of this practically magical blanket.
If you want to add a multi-purpose piece of gear, that will give you years of comfort and use, pick up a poncho liner and see what the coveted “Wobbie Society” has been bragging about all these years.
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