What the heck is a ‘woobie’ and why is it so damn popular? We tested one to find out.
Camp blankets have enjoyed a comeback of sorts in the last few years. Damn near any brand that makes a sleeping bag has one, but the craze has also swept up hard goods brands like YETI and Dometic. It’s even given rise to Kickstarter-born brands dedicated to the camp blanket.
While the camp blanket of old conjures up visions of heavy-duty striped wool affairs, there’s actually been a brand making weather-resistant, outdoor-focused blankets from technical synthetic materials for more than 30 years.
What’s more, it’s equipped service members and provided jobs for people who are blind and have low vision. Launched in 1991 by IFB Solutions (formerly “Industries For the Blind”) the Authentic Woobie originally served as a poncho liner for military personnel.
Now, thanks to the burgeoning blanket market, the woobie is seeing a renaissance of its own. After making more than 3 million blankets for the military since 1991, Pinnacle Mercantile made the Authentic Woobie blanket available to the public for the first time this past winter.
In short: It’s not the lightest, warmest, or most high-tech camp blanket you can buy. However, the Authentic Woobie has strong ties to American manufacturing and jobs. And while military-issue gear doesn’t always signify “the best,” the Woobie has the look, feel, and history of a camp mainstay you’ll want to take everywhere.
What Is a Woobie?
If you haven’t served, we’ll forgive you for not knowing what the woobie is. But as a piece of standard-issue kit, its history dates back to the mid-20th century and the introduction of technical poncho liners.
As for the name, there are a variety of theories — my favorite is that you “woobie” cold without it.
In any event, it’s standard issue for staying warm. It comes with a pair of tie-offs on each corner and in the center of each side. This allows the wearer to secure it to grommets on their poncho. In our use, it’s perfect for helping stake out a cozy ground cover.
With the right equipment — stakes and some trekking poles — you can even use it as a makeshift shelter in a real pinch. (The employees at Pinnacle Mercantile make tent stakes, too!)
Pinnacle Mercantile Authentic Woobie Review
Let me be clear: This is not the next big thing. Quite the opposite, the Woobie uses pretty standard, but dependable, materials and design. But it’s that classic, simple design and construction that makes it great.
The Woobie measures 91.5 inches by 65.5 inches (about 7.5 feet by 5.5 feet) and weighs about 1.5 pounds. It uses 30D nylon ripstop with DWR treatment and synthetic Climashield batting insulation. And it has a total of eight 9-inch ties to secure or configure as you need.
That’s a lot of specs to say it’s a big outdoor blanket. It resists moisture, though it isn’t waterproof. You can — and I did — drag it on the ground or along rocks, and it can withstand an errant campfire ember (so long as you catch it quickly).
The Woobie is rated to 40 degrees, and I was plenty warm at that temp. I used it exactly as it was meant to be used: I wrapped myself up in it first thing in the morning and then again when the sun went down at camp.
I also staked it out as a ground cover to play some cribbage — and it worked like a dream.
Unlike many camp blankets out there, this doesn’t have snaps and there is no hood for a proper poncho configuration. And there are no artist prints or splashy colors. And that’s the best thing it has going for it.
The tie-offs offer plenty of versatility and utility. And the standard U.S. Army Operational Camouflage Pattern (OPC) hides dirt and spills like a dream. It’s a design that’s meant to be dirty, so you won’t mind actually using it outside.
The Authentic Woobie’s Impact
In addition to the finished product, the Authentic Woobie has a stellar manufacturing story. Pinnacle Mercantile is a nonprofit under the IFB banner that offers jobs, training, education, and support for Americans who are blind.
The Authentic Woobie is made in the USA with all American-made components in Winston-Salem, N.C.