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U.S. GI Poncho + poncho liner

Discussion in 'ESEE KNIVES' started by kgd, Aug 10, 2009.

  1. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    I've got another thread going in W&SS, but thought I'd post one here as well. I just bought a military spec U.S. GI poncho and the standard issue poncho liner. I've been reading about this combo for quite a while and find pulled for a set after trying a little tarp camping myself using the footprint of my one of my tents and AMK heatsheets ground cloth.

    The U.S. poncho is standard at 56" x 86" (some show specs of 56 x 90") and consists of ripstop nylon. The poncho is fully rectangular with a face hood added to the centre. It has a set of snaps that allow you to snap the poncho into shapes that allow arms and an internal string system to cynch the poncho close to the body. The tarp also has grommets spaced throughout the edges to afford different tie down options. It can be used as a poncho as rain gear, used as a tarp, or paired with the poncho liner as a sleeping bag/bivy sac. As a tarp I can see its use with a hammock.

    The poncho liner is a quilted blanket, kind of like the 1970's nylon/synthetic vests, that is sized the same as the poncho with shoelace style ties that are matched with the poncho grommets. The synthetic insulation doesn't compress as well as down, nor is it as warm, but it retains high insulation value when wet and dries out quickly. In its standard configuration, the poncho liner is just a rectangular blanket. So when tied to the poncho, you can't use the poncho as a poncho. I'm told of various mods where people cut a hole and add a zipper or velcro at the hood area so you can where the liner as a true poncho liner under rain conditions.

    I'd like to explore the different uses above but simply haven't done this yet. I'm intrigued with the idea of using the poncho+liner as a bivy sac, but acknowledge this requires at least another tarp set up to keep the head area dry. What appeals to me about this configuration is the ability of the poncho to act as a vapor barrier increasing the overall warmth of the bivy-blanket combination. Clearly a foam or thermarest pad will help maximize the warmth.

    How cool you comfortably sleep in one with a pad, poncho/liner bivy and closely tied tarp? I don't know, but I'd like to find out and you experiences would be useful.

    So how many other rats use this combination for tarp camping? What are your carry methods for this gear? For those who have the high tech silnylon ponchos, how do they rate against the standard issue ripstop nylon?

  2. PayetteRucker


    Aug 4, 2009
    You can do a hundred different things with a poncho. A water catch, a teepee style meat smoker for preserving large amounts of meat/fish, obviously waterproof shelter, condensation traps for piss/rain holes, bear bag for suspending the meat you smoked in your poncho earlier that day... if you add ductape to that combination you can rule the world with a GI poncho. If you're looking for a nice compact and cheap tarp, pick up a 1 mil thick plastic 12x9 foot painting dropcloth, they run about 5 bucks and are super sturdy. Keep rain off your head, your bivy off wet ground, there's so much you can do with a tarp that compresses into a 3x5 inch ziploc bag.
  3. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    Great tips PayeetteRucker. Condensation trap and rain catcher are two things I completely missed in my other thread! Never though to the smoker either.
  4. Rotte


    Aug 30, 2008
    I confess to failing Vapor Barrier 101. The cople of time I wrapped up in a poncho to sleep, I woke up with more condensation on the inside than there was on the outside.

    Having said that, I've used the poncho and liner as a shelter and blanket several times. I always have a poncho with me in the back country or on fishing trips. Too useful to leave at home, fits easily in a side pocket of a daypack.
  5. xxo33


    Jan 17, 2002
    I have an old GI poncho, I think it is just heavy rubberized material and not rip stop, I havn't slept in one for a long time but you do need to keep it open to breath out or else water vapor will build up fast, pretty warm in mild weather even without the liner. Not the most comfortable sleeping arangement but it will do fine if you are tired enough.
  6. PayetteRucker


    Aug 4, 2009
    I never slept in the pancho itself, I always used it for shelter building instead. It doesn't breathe at all. by the time you pack up the poncho a ultralight sleeping bag takes up the same amount of space...
  7. razorsdescent


    Jan 16, 2005
    Building a hootch out of the poncho is the way to go spent man a night in one :thumbup: . Also the accepted vernacular for a "Liner, Wet Weather Poncho" is "Woobie" i dont know why but some guys will know what your talking about when you say woobie and give you a blank stare when you mention a poncho liner. just thought id throw that out there for peoples edification :D
  8. oruacat2


    Jul 30, 2009
    That poncho/liner combo is great for cold, rainy weather - but the poncho, any poncho, sucks during the warmer months IMO. No breathability = drenched inside/out from sweating to death. lol I used that liner for YEARS as a lightweight camping blanket until it was ruined in a catastrophic kerosene spill in the mid 1990s that also claimed my old GI-issue field jacket that had my nametag, Screamin' Eagle patch, rank, etc, but that's another story.

    Past experience that might help you : In the summer of 1985 I went through US Army basic training at Ft. Jackson, SC, where I was issued the very poncho/liner combo you have. By the time of our big field exercise towards the end of our two months, I was a squad leader - but since my squad had an odd number of soldiers, I had no "buddy". In those days each soldier packed one half of what was basically a pup-tent - each "buddy" carrying half a shelter plus one pole, which could be assembled into a spartan-but-cozy shelter. Well, having no "buddy" and thus having only half a shelter, I had a potential problem. In a fit of pure genius (for an 18-year-old kid) I figured out that the snaps on my shelter-half alligned almost perfectly with my poncho. No idea if it was intentionally designed that way, but it worked. So for that whole week I would carry my poncho in my ruck while on the move, doing tactical training, fire and maneuver, ambushes, etc, praying all the while that all the stuff back in my half-tent wouldn't get rained on in my absence. Then at night I'd snap that shelterhalf to my poncho, and using my single pole on one side and a tree for the other, I'd sleep comfortably in my makeshift tent. On the last day I'm off digging my TWO MAN fighting position by myelf (another thread), and I hear the booming voice of my DSGT bellow "damnit Private Daniels! Get your a$$ over here!" coming from our row of tents. I run over there thinking "omigod, WTF did I do?" and there's both my DSGTs standing with our company commander (a CPT), company 1SGT, and platoon commander (2LT) - all pointing and gesturing at my bare little half-tent (the poncho was with me). They lock me up at attention and I'm about to freak out when the gruff old 1SGT asks me, "son, what the hell is THIS?" - and now they're ALL staring at me, foiling my plan to fly under the radar and get through BT unscathed. lol Anyway, I explain the story to them - no "buddy", didn't want to whine and ask for another shelterhalf, didn't want to make one of "my guys" in 2nd Squad go "buddyless", had an idea about the poncho that I wanted to try and actually worked, yadda yadda yadda. The group of brass and NCOs huddles together, they're whispering, nodding, gesturing, looking at me, huddling again, and now I'm REALLY about to lose it. Finally the CO and my DSGT walk over, tell me "at ease", and say "Outstanding, Private! Very impressive, carry on!" And walk away. About 10 minutes later the OTHER DSGT shows up and helps me finish my two-man foxhole!

    Moral of the story - that poncho is versatile and you'll have no problem figuring out new uses for it.

  9. PayetteRucker


    Aug 4, 2009
    I have alot of bad memories associated with half shelters... dropped a hundred bucks on a North Face 2 man tent that weighs less than a shelter half and haven't turned back since. the -30 degree wisconsin winter temps are alot more manageable in a North Face tent than a shelter half tent.
  10. oruacat2


    Jul 30, 2009
    Amen - and the same goes for raingear. Today's Gore-Tex and similar breathable fabrics are widely available and not that expensive anymore.
    Get a lightweight jacket with underarm vents and overheating becomes a thing of the past.

    Don't misunderstand - I don't miss the old Army issue equipment at all. :D
    Today's military has it much better from an equipment standpoint.

  11. PayetteRucker


    Aug 4, 2009
    I turned my half shelter into reinforced padding for my ghillie suit and a shooting mat/bivy footprint. Treated canvas is good for lots of things.
  12. Cpl Punishment

    Cpl Punishment

    Jan 28, 2006
    Don't have much to add except to say that the most use my poncho got was as a poncho.

    Never thought of snapping it to a shelter half, that's just genius.
    Of course the only times I've actually assembled a shelter half pup tent since basic and infantry school was as a civilian. Our church takes kids out to do stuff that the Boy Scouts in our area aren't allowed to do -- like camp and survival training (another thread). To be honest, I like them. They go up quite easily with two people working, and help build teamwork. They are also surprisingly warm in winter, especially if you burn out an alcohol stove once inside for the night.

    But back (sort of) on topic -- the poncho liner was an essential piece of equipment for us in the service. As soon as the MSS came out we scrounged them up. The black bag is almost as big as the old Intermediate bag from before, so it got left behind. The patrol bag, Gore-Tex bivy sack and poncho liner rolled up quite small inside our shelter half to be put on top of our ALICE packs. The patrol bag wasn't that war m in the dead of winter, so the poncho liner ended up as a bag liner (and worn draped over us when we were just bivouacing, making coffee, eating, etc in the field), with the shelter half being a ground sheet.

    I wouldn't attach the poncho to the liner to use as a sleeping bag unless it's very cold, and you're improperly equipped for the conditions. Then it's good as a wind barrier. Otherwise, you risk sweating in it, which means a horribly uncomfortable, sleepless night in the heat, or greatly increasing your chances of hypothermia in chilly weather.

    Now it's fine to do if you're awake, cold and it's raining or misting, and you drape the two over you. But to be honest, you're better off bringing a proper jacket and using the poncho as a poncho, or wearing a rain shell over the jacket.
  13. BlairB

    BlairB Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2002
    I actually never once used my poncho as a poncho. In basic we were never allowed to wear it, and after that we were issued gore-tex. I used it as a shelter plenty of times, though.
  14. Halfneck

    Halfneck Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 30, 2005
    Used my issue Rain Poncho once as a Poncho. The rest of my 4 years I used it as a hooch to live under as a Infantry Medic.

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