One of my favorite pieces of survival gear is the poncho liner. It gives warmth, comfort, and a sense of peace whenever I’m wrapped in it. I’m not alone in that assessment. It is beloved by soldiers, vets, spouses, kids, dogs, cats, and others the world over.
The Poncho Liner: An American Classic
The poncho liner is one of the most highly regarded pieces of gear among American soldiers. It is highly coveted, and many soldiers (Army and Marines) through the years kept theirs when they ETS’d (End of Time in Service) out of the Military. Many still have theirs even decades later and won’t go anywhere without it. With good reason…
Originally designed for the highlands of Vietnam, the poncho liner was first fielded in Vietnam by Special Forces for evaluation in 1962. Well, they loved it, and the 7th SFG was issued them in 1963. Since that time, it has become the favorite piece of gear for thousands of troops.
Poncho liners are great for retaining body heat. Many times while in a fighting position I have found comfort and warmth by wrapping just my poncho liner around me. It won’t warm you up enough if the temperatures are getting really cold (that’s freezing for this Texan), but it does well when the temperature is above 40℉.
Poncho Liner Description
The poncho liner is a lightweight padded panel made of 2 layers of quilted rip-stop nylon stitched over a layer of polyester batting. It is about the same size and shape as the Army issue poncho, with ties that are intended to tie to the inside of the poncho via the poncho’s grommets. It was designed to be used in conjunction with the poncho as a lightweight alternative to a sleeping bag.
Some Other Uses for a Poncho Liner
- The poncho liner can also be used as a blanket, giving warmth, cushion, and comfort.
- When used in conjunction with a sleeping bag as a liner it adds extra warmth and comfort. It can take a 20℉ bag down to 0℉ easily.
- It also works well as a pillow: no matter how you use it you will get an improved nights sleep.
- It can be used as an effective ground cover. It is water resistant and will provide some much welcomed protection from the cold, damp ground.
- It make a nice quick cover that gets you out of the hot sun.
- Poncho liners compress very well. You can roll it up very tightly or just stuff it into your bag. When I was in the Army one of the things that always amazed me was that no matter how stuffed my rucksack was, I could always find room for my poncho liner.
- The material it is made from allows it to dry quickly.
- Poncho liners are soft and comfy.
- It won’t retain odors.
- It weighs a lot less than other sleep systems. It is much lighter and more compact than a wool blanket.
- It is machine washable.
- A poncho liner won’t do much good all by itself if the temperature is below freezing.
- Military poncho liners are not waterproof. Water will get through the stitching.
Woobie or Poncho Liner?
The poncho liner is often affectionately called a Woobie. The term comes from the 1983 movie Mr. Mom in which the lead character Jack Butler (played by Michael Keaton) is trying to get his younger son, Kenny, to give up his security blanket (named Woobie). Sometime in the late 1980′s or early 1990′s the term started to be used for the poncho liner…and it spread. Today’s soldier is more likely to call it a Woobie rather than a poncho liner. Old timers like myself think the nickname sounds sissy.
Modern Variations of the Poncho Liner
It is not surprising that the poncho liner has been an inspiration to several manufacturers. Several different materials, designs and improvements have been introduced by various companies over the last 50 years. Here are a few of the notable ones that are still around:
The poncho liner is one of those very rare pieces of field gear that is versatile enough to be used at home, in the field, at the football game…the possibilities are numerous. I suggest that you get several, because everyone in your family will want one of their own.