It’s undisputed that if a soldier would go in the wilderness for an extended period of time, one of the few things he’d take along would be the woobie. The beautiful polyester camo encased in two layers of joyous quilted nylon is a universal staple for the infantryman.

If you search online for the term woobie, you’ll get various results, from poncho liner to sleeping bags, to blankets, to baby blankets, and yes, even hoodies now.

Woobie is also used as a term of great affection. Calling someone a “woobie” is basically the same as calling them “love” or “sweaty.”

But when it comes to the military, the woobie is the nickname given to the poncho liner issued to all soldiers. The woobie is not a new thing with the first used in the jungles of Vietnam.


A Term of Uncertain Origins

My Woobie, My Best Friend
A Marine private holds up a sleeping system and poncho liner “woobie” during a gear issue return at the SOI Supply Warehouse on Camp Pendleton, CA, September 26, 2017. (Photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck/Marine Corps)

How the term “woobie” came to be applied to the poncho liner remains a mystery. Some claim that it started as the phrase, “Because you would be cold without it” and “would be” evolved into “woobie.” Or that it was called a “willbie” from the phrase, “It will be what keeps you from freezing.”

Now anyone has access to woobies. They are sold online and now come in various fabrics, prints, colors, prices, and qualities. Woobies have been widely advertised to civilians. Hunters and campers use them during cold and wet weather. Picnickers and stadium goers use them as blankets. People even use them as comforters and couch blankets at home.

I use mine as a pillow on a hot summer afternoon and always place it inside my ruck frame to give me a little padding on my back and allow me to quickly access it.

Some soldiers have altered their woobie to have a zipper. When lined inside their poncho, they now have a lightweight waterproof sleeping bag. The woobie has several anchor points with ties to fix to the poncho.

Operation Regular Flint
U.S. Army Capt. Kevin Wiley from 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, covers himself with a poncho liner in a break during Operation Regular Flint at Shele Kalay, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, January 16, 2012.

It can also be used as an overhead shade. In the desert, we would use two woobies or ponchos, one about a foot over the other. This created a buffer for the heat and kept us significantly cooler underneath.


Can the Woobie Keep You Warm?

Matched with its poncho counterpart, the woobie can be very warm. Even if you are wet, it will help trap your body heat. If you have never experienced the joyous hug from a woobie, I highly suggest you get yourself one and take it on your next hiking adventure. Or better yet, put it in your living room for watching movies.


This article was originally published in July 2021.