The USMC Does Something Smart | Devildogs Get A Zipper

March 30, 2015  
Categories: Gear Curious

No, you didn’t misread the title and it’s not quite April 1st yet. In a rare moment of clarity, the Marine Corps took into consideration the feedback of their warfighters. We’re still getting over the shock too. Mad Duo


The USMC did something smart…they gave our Devildogs a zipper. 

When The USMC began issuing the “Three-season sleeping system” a few years ago, a lot of dudes wearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor were more than slightly pissed. As an all-weather, all-terrain fighting force the Marines pride themselves in delivering wholesale asswhoopin’s to America’s enemies, no matter what. “Any clime and place is more than just a motto; the USMC has fought in climates from Middle Eastern deserts to humid Pacific jungles in pursuit of the GWOT. So you can imagine the poor attitude the average Lance Corporal might have when he wakes up for watch at 0300, shivering in 20˚ cold. “Thanks for the ‘three-season’ lightweight bag, Uncle Sam. You dick.” You can read more about this abortion of a sleep system here, but it suffices to say that Marines have been forced to get creative to stay warm, even on winter field ops on our own east coast. 


The most common answer to plussing up on warmth is to line your bag with the classic poncho liner. By packing the Poncho liner in your ruck, you are basically adding the bulk the three-season bag SHOULD have to give you needed warmth, but that’s beside the point. That field trick is as old as the poncho liner itself but has always presented some issues. The main problem with the poncho liner (AKA “woobie”) is that it is meant to be used as a blanket, or tied in onto the old issue poncho to form a “ranger roll”, i.e. a lightweight sleeping bag for warm/damp weather. When used inside a conventional sleeping bag, the poncho liner becomes twisted and pulled around, creating cold spots and generally not working out as well as intended. 

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Sleeping bag mode.

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Years ago, before the internet offered unlimited choices for cool-guy gear and numerous gear companies making it, you had few aftermarket options. The most commonly encountered option was a zipper added to the venerable poncho liner, effectively making it into a dual-purpose sleeping bag/blanket. Our door kickers didn’t want to sacrifice versatility of the design, so they would mail order the zipper conversion kits from military catalogs and pay out of pocket to have off-base seamstresses modify the issued woobie. These modded poncho liners rarely made their way back to supply; instead, our Marines replaced the issued liner with a threadbare DERMO’d one purchased (or stolen) before their EAS.  For reasons that baffle us these zipper kits are no longer easy to find, and the new generation of Marines hardly know of their existence. Luckily some old salt somewhere at MARCORSYSCOM must have remembered this field fix because the Corps has begun issuing a new enhanced Poncho liner, complete with built-in zipper!


Double pull tabs allow inside or outside access.

The new enhanced poncho liner features a 2 way, double sided-pull tab which allows the “sleeping bag” to be opened from the inside or out. The added zipper runs along 3/4 of the poncho liner’s edge, leaving only the top open when fully zipped. With two zipper pulls, you have the option of leaving the bottom open, forming a “tube”. This method is useful when using the liner by itself, particularly when wearing boots or sitting around in the cold. 



The zipper adds versatility.

The enhanced poncho liner retains the tie down lines, reversible MARPAT woodland/Coyote brown ripstop nylon fabric and dimensions of its predecessor. Fully open, it forms a 66” x 88” blanket, and a 32”x 88” lightweight sleeping bag.  Another interesting improvement is the way the liner is sewn, utilizing a liner quilting pattern over the older “wavy” stitching. As a result, the insulating fabric inside has a higher loft which is better at trapping warmth. Despite the fluffier feel of the enhanced poncho liner, it still compresses down to the size of the classic woobie. 


More Loft equals more warmth.

The addition of a zipper might seem like a small thing, but it actually means a lot to our Marines in the field. It provides them another way to utilize an already versatile and favorite piece of gear! the addition of the zipper will help them stay warm on cold nights, which is priceless to the young 18-year-old laying on the cold ground. We like to see progress being made in the equipment our troops are being issued, and hope the USMC continues to make progress in giving our warfighters the gear they need and want. 

Mad Duo

Mad Duo

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  1. David Vernon

    The Canadian Army-issued poncho liner has had a zipper for over 10 years.

  2. JESullivan

    The good ol’ poncho liner was GOLD down in the Mekong Delta! A 30-40 degree swing after sundown was unbearable when filthy wet and tired. Today, I go for a Wiggys bag appropriate for conditions. Add a Gortex bivy for top performance. Gotta love modern fabrics!!

  3. Adam

    Incorrect, Dean. Dirk up there is right. There is a black cold weather bag as a part of the current system. The all weather attaches inside it. I’ve had it issued twice and it is a good piece of gear.

  4. dirk diggler

    Agreed that the zipper is clutch, makes the poncho liner much more useful. I do have one quibble with the other article though, the complete sleep system also includes a black sleeping bag. Not going to dispute that the sleep system as a whole SUCKS chicken balls, but the black bag, with the tan bag, poncho liner and bivvy sack will bring you down to a reasonable temperature. But it IS heavy, bulky and definitely a shitty option. Don’t know why we don’t look to the civilian market, there’s some badass sleeping bags that are warmer and weigh much much less.

    • Dean

      They threw that out. We now have the one bag all season sleeping system. It sucks dick. Especially when your right on the cusp of 6′ so supply won’t issue you a long version so you get screwed out of decent sized on as well.

      • Seth

        It’s good to see the Marine Corps hasn’t changed. Good ‘ole green-weenie!


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