“Hey Sar’nt, why they call this blanket a woobie?”
Me: “Cuz you woobie cold without it”
Every meat eating trigger puller remembers the woobie fondly. Its one of those ‘don’t leave home without’ items, whether you were only carrying an assault pack for a two or three day recce mission or packed a full ruck for a longer stay in the field. Formally known as the poncho liner, the lightweight blanket would be carried in one of the outside pockets of the ruck to be quickly accessed to put over yourself at a longer halt. You’ll sweat a lot under your gear, and at night even in the summer you’ll lose body heat in a hurry. While pulling out a full sleeping bag is rarely practical on an actual patrol, having that woobie along is a critical item.
But with that said the classic poncho liner is not without its faults. It might knock the chill off but in colder months its anything but warm. And when it gets wet it turns into a miserable experience. Just as there’s always a better mousetrap, there’s several so-called improvements to the old woobie that can be found in the shops around any military post, some good, some worse. Years ago I discovered SnugPak’s Jungle Blanket, and even though I was initially kinda skeptical, for the cost I figured I couldn’t go wrong and at worst I’d be a little miserable for a couple nights in the field. What I found was that not only was it a better product in a number of areas, but the blanket bridged the gap between the old woobie and the well-known lightweight green sleeping bag from the US issue modular sleep system (MSS), sometimes known as the ‘jungle bag’ or the ‘patrol bag’.
SnugPak is a British owned company that makes military products similar to Blackhawk, 5.11, and other companies but with more of a focus on improved traditional field gear for troops facing variety of environments beyond the contemporary deserts we’ve been fighting in for the past 18 years. They draw on the British Army experiences during the Malaya Emergency and beyond with the unique equipment considerations of fighting in a jungle or subtropical woodland environment. A simple, weather resistant blanket is a critical piece of gear for any soldier or guerrilla operating here. That’s important because the last time I checked, my operating environment is a heavy deciduous and coniferous woodland, not a desert. Cold months, warm months, having a decent blanket in the field is a must have item whether you’re laying in a hide site for three day recon and surveillance (R&S) mission or building a month long hooch for extended operations out of a guerrilla base.
The blanket itself comes in two sizes, the standard (76x64in) and a large (90x72in). It has one side that is soft and provides a nice feel to it, with the other side being a water resistant material. The material is very insulative, being much warmer than the older poncho liner. I’ve had my old one for a nearly a decade now and have since purchased a second one for use in the field, because two is one and one is none, especially when you find a piece of kit that works. Having that water resistant side is especially nice if you’re using it inside the gore-tex bivy sack of the MSS, as it won’t get wet in case you sweat in your sleep. Even if you’re not it works fine for keeping off the dew, or in the case of my last Recon and Surveillance Class, the late spring frost.
The whole thing packs up nicely in its own provided stuff sack, cinching down to a tiny size and fitting in nearly anywhere. It takes up nearly no room in a ruck, so I’ve still got plenty of space for mission essential equipment such as radio gear, medical equipment, extra ammo or anything else that might be called for on the patrol. Since the patrol pack I favor, an older Becker-type, is somewhat limited on space anyway, that’s important. But there’s a reason I use it even though I’ve got a dozen other rucks, both newer and older designs, laying around. Its easy to work out of and keeps a low profile when moving through tight vegetation. So if space is a premium, keeping things light and tight is a must.
But wait, pack light, freeze at night, right? Right?? Maybe. Not always. But as I told my last class in the field, you’re not on patrol to get the best night’s sleep in the dirt as it is, and if you’re too comfy in the fart sack you might not want to get out of it when its your turn to pull security in the patrol base. Carrying stuff simply for the sake of comfort is a common misconception a lot of civilians have when coming to class and you’ll end up with a needlessly heavy ruck full of junk before you factor in your mission critical team equipment. Obviously if the temps are dipping south of freezing additional considerations need to be made, but anything typically in the 40 degree and above range, the jungle blanket will do fine when used with other lightweight items.
Obviously I’m a fan. For what it costs (~$35 or so as of this writing) its a solid addition to anyone’s loadout, especially if you’re trying to shave that pack weight for humping it around in the woods. While the thing ain’t complicated, its plenty durable for anything you’ll throw at it. My original has served me well over the years and the second I picked up gives me no indication to the contrary. Pick one up, you won’t regret it.