Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The USGI Poncho and Poncho Liner

We carry a lot of military surplus items, many of which are overlooked or not properly understood, but which can be enormously useful. Our USGI poncho and poncho liners are some of those items. These ponchos are significantly larger than their civilian counterparts and are designed to fit over a person and their gear, including a backpack or ruck sack and a rifle. The poncho liner is well insulated and specifically designed to be used in tandem with the poncho.

Both of these items are incredibly useful in temperate environments, and have a variety of uses. In addition to being used as rain wear, the poncho can double as a waterproof ground cloth. The insulated liner, also referred to affectionately as a “woobie” can also be used as an improvised sleeping bag. According to the US Army field manual FM21-15, the combination of the poncho and liner work as an improvised (and water resistant) sleeping bag at temperatures down to 50F. US Military SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) instructors also refer to the insulated poncho liner as a “Wilbe” when they warn students, “If you don’t use it, you will becold!”

These military surplus ponchos and liners are most commonly found in olive drab green, although some are available in woodland camouflage, or black. Newer surplus ponchos are available in the more modern ACU pattern. Poncho liners feature ties that are used to attach the liner to the poncho using grommets that are found all along the edges of the waterproof poncho. While the poncho liners are heavily insulated with double layers of quilted nylon surrounding a polyfill insulator, if additional warmth is needed the easiest solution is to simply double up the liners. Layering two poncho liners in this “double-woobie” manner can keep you surprisingly warm, even when the mercury dips below freezing.

Construction of the actual poncho can vary, as these are usually farmed out by the US Military to various contractors. Most are made from rip-stop nylon, though a few manufacturers make the ponchos from PVC as well. If you’re in a rainy, temperate environment, it’s a good investment to pick up a poncho and matching liner to keep you dry and warm when out among the elements.

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