The Kifaru Woobie: A Poncho Liner Redefined
I loved my USGI poncho liner. Most soldiers and Marines develop an affinity for this inexpensive piece of kit, and mine was perhaps stronger than most. I brought a poncho liner with me to the military, an old German-camo model that I bought at a gun show at 16 years old. I carried that thing in my rucksack and slept under it all over the world, from the Philippines to Iraq, from a ship in the middle of the ocean to the Hindu Kush. It wasn't without its shortcomings, however.
The poncho liner is a lightweight, quilted, Nylon blanket. The name originates from the blanket's original intended purpose: to be tied to the grommets of a issued poncho to make a water-resistant, lightweight sleeping system. If you've every seen one there are pairs of strings up and down the poncho liner's sides. I only rarely added the poncho to the poncho liner, and mostly just used it as a standalone blanket.
The insulation in the regular poncho liner isn't anything to write home about. You'll be good down to maybe 50 degrees, and you could probably survive in climes a bit cooler, but you won't enjoy it. The quilting makes matters worse. Quilting involves sewing the liner in, and creates thousands of tiny holes in the shell of the blanket. The purpose of a blanket is to trap air near your body, Your body heat warms this air, and you get warm. With tens of thousands of holes letting warm air out, it's no wonder the affectionately named "woobie" wasn't good for cold weather.
Replacing the Original "woobie"
My poncho liner finally bit the dust (at least for outdoor use) a several months ago. Much of the quilting had come undone, and the insulation had started to bunch up. Rather than throw this piece of personal history away, I retired her to couch duty and set off looking for something else. And I found it: The Kifaru Woobie.
The Kifaru Woobie is similar in purpose to the original poncho liner, but aside from that it is an entirely different animal. First, there is no quilting and no air-loss holes in the Kifaru Woobie. This is because of the use of a single-filament insulation that is strong enough to retain its shape after being sewn only around edges. Not only is this insulation stronger, it is also definitely warmer. I wish I had a better way to quantify that...but trust me, it's warmer.
The outer shell of the Kifaru Woobie is different, too. Though I've only ever used my personal poncho liner, I've been issued a number of GI liners. The shells on them range from soft to scratchy, depending (mostly likely) on how old they are and how often they've been laundered. The smooth shell on the Woobie is both slick and soft, and is made of Kifaru's "RhinoSkin". The RhinoSkin shell is supposed to shed some water, though I admit I've yet to test this.
The Kifaru Woobie is slightly narrower but a little longer than the GI poncho liner, measuring 60"x93" instead of the standard 62" x 82". If you fit under a USGI poncho liner, you'll fit under this. There is also a warmer version of the Woobie called the "Doobie" (which is a play on "Double Woobie"). Though part of me wants a Doobie, I doubt I'd use it very much because if the temp drops lower than the Woobie can handle, I'm pulling out a sleeping bag.
Perhaps my favorite feature of the Woobie has nothing to do with its sleeping qualities. I like self-contained systems, and I love that Kifaru chose to equip this blanket with its own, attached stuff sack.
Because the Woobie is thicker and warmer, it doesn't stuff down quite as small as the GI version. You can still get it down to a manageable size, however.
The Woobie comes in three color schemes. All of them are reversible, and all are Coyote Brown on one side. The other side is either OD green, Multi-Cam, or Highlander. I own two, an OD and a Multi-Cam, and I have to admit, I prefer the multi-cam. Not because of its appearance, but because the Multi-Cam side of the blanket seems thicker and more water resistant. I called Kifaru and was assured that the fabric is the same throughout the product line, but I will still recommend the Multi-Cam over the OD version. Though I doubt I'll ever use them, the Woobie also comes with attachments for lining a poncho or erecting a shelter.
Sleeping Under the Kifaru Woobie
In six months I have gained a ton of experience with the Woobie. In fact, I have slept under it every single night that I have owned it. That's right - I have spent the past six months sleeping under a Woobie, whether in camp, in a hotel, at home, or at my girlfriend's house. I know it's a little weird, but I love this thing!
I have laundered my Woobie(s) several times in the past months. Because of the silkiness of the fabric I was a little worried about doing so. Washing on a delicate cycle and drying with low heat, I've had no problems. Without fail the Woobie comes out of the dryer feeling fluffier and warmer than when it went in.
There is a bit of technique to using the Woobie in cold weather. I've found that the following will keep you warm in some pretty chilly temperatures. First, tuck the Woobie in under your feet and around your body to keep air from escaping. Though you might be inclined to pull it tightly to you, don't. Fluff it up around you to create some air space. In no time that air will be warm, and so will you.
If you're looking for an objectively better poncho liner, look at the Kifaru Woobie. At $154 it's not cheap. In fact, you could buy four USGI poncho liners for the cost of one. And you know what? You'll probably need it. Sleep is 1/3 of your life. Make it count.
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