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"Poofies": The M65 Liner, and How To Improve It

Updated: Jan 18

Military surplus has a funny way of breaking the normal rules of economics. If I were to, say, manufacture and sell an exact copy of a USGI ALICE Large bag to the same quality of materials and worksmanship, it would cost hundreds of dollars. Yet they're $30-50 in any surplus store. Rest assured, the government paid a pretty penny per unit for each of those ALICE rucks, but since they were unneeded or outlived their usefulness, and since the government doesn't care about throwing money away, they release them onto the market at a huge loss, allowing you and I to buy a decent quality, made-in-USA item for a mere fraction of what it would cost on the normal market.

As civilians with large gear demands and a limited budget, this can be very useful to us. Most of you already know that. One of those items that's great to leverage is the "Liner, Cold Weather, Coat" and the matching "Liner, Cold Weather, Trousers," colloquially known as the "smoking jacket" or "poofies."


Commonly referred to as "M65 Liners" because they can be buttoned into an M65 jacket and trousers, but can be used under (or over) any piece of clothing. They're a roughly 70D/1oz pure nylon shell fabric wrapped around an unknown type of 100% polyester batting and stitched through with "dumbell" style stitching. If it reminds you of a poncho liner/woobie it should, because it's basically the same materials and construction, just in apparel form. Variants include pants that open on the outseam via buttons (with the exact same nomenclature as far as I can tell), a jacket with a longer hem meant to go with the desert night parka, and some weird color variants like grey and snow overwhite.


First, the bad news: you've maybe heard me shit on woobies before and here I go again. To the army's credit, when the woobie was first issued in the early 1960s it was absolutely space age. That was sixty years ago. Since then, insulation materials have improved wildly, and a civilian equivalent woobie with modern insulation will weigh less, pack smaller, yet be more warm than a woobie. And it will have ergonomic improvements. So the weight/warmth ratio of poofies will be worse than that of a modern civilian lofty garment.


The good news? Price. As of March 2023, the pants go for $15-20 and the jackets go for $30-35. Compare that with Patagonia down puffer jackets which go for about $80 and you'll understand my little rant about surplus economics.


Poofies are a great lightweight insulating layer. They are cut large, so they won't fit under slim shirts and pants but will fit under baggier military clothing, and will also fit great OVER your regular clothing. Their shell is thin and could get ripped, but its certainly more durable than most civilian lofty shell fabrics. Their quilted construction gives them a higher warmth/weight ratio of any fleece, or any solid wool/cotton/polyester layer, though lower ratio than down or even any modern civvie synthetic lofty insulation, as I said. My personal use case for them is usually to put them over my nominal clothing layers.


Think of them as:

  • a lighter weight alternative to fleece

  • a cheaper alternative to a down jacket/pants

  • a poncho liner that you can wear

  • a cheaper, slightly less warm, less durable alternative to the ECWCS Level 7 suit


The problem is, they don't like to stay in place. Designed to button into a jacket and pants, they lack the closure and adjustment systems to hold them against your body. Luckily, this can easily be fixed. These are the areas to be addressed:


CRITICAL:

OPTIONAL:


CENTER FRONT CLOSURE ON JACKET


The easiest mod. Simply get three toggles or buttons, and machine or hand sew them to the front opening of the jacket opposite the corresponding buttonholes that already come on the poofie jacket. I used toggles from RBTR paired with 550 paracord, backtacked in place with #69 nylon thread. You can use any toggle or button of the right size, including old buttons off of BDU uniforms. This mod allows you to close the front of the poofie jacket.


WAIST CINCH ON PANTS

Poofie pants actually come with a button and corresponding button hole, but when using them as standalone pants they'll always fall down without some sort of mod. You can chop that button off, though I was too lazy to do so for these pictures. There's many ways to replace it, but you want something that can cinch down, and this is the best method I know of. On one side, tack on a 12" length of 1" nylon webbing with a G-hook on it. On the other side, mark 1" increments along another length of 1" webbing and tack them on spaced 0.5" apart so that they form a row of loops, like shotgun shell loops. Now you can hook the G-hook into the loop of your choice and tug at the end of the 12" webbing piece to cinch tight. It cinches, it detaches quickly, and it lays flat under your LBE or pack belt.


CUFF CINCH ON JACKET SLEEVES AND PANT LEGS

These I did with KAM plastic snaps, because they're cheap, light, and easy to install. But if you don't have a workshop with a snap press, I'd recommend you instead tack on a cuff of 1" elastic webbing.


POCKET ACCESS ON PANTS



This is pretty easy to do on any home sewing machine. Along the outseam of your pants, make marks 2" from the top and 10" from the top. Sew a stitch parallel to the outseam between your two marks, spaced about 0.5" from the outseam itself. Then carefully cut a slit between the outseam and your stitch, that runs between your two marks.


Take a roughly 18" length of 1" nylon grosgrain ribbon and use it to bind all the way around the slit you just made, tucking the end of the grosgrain under itself neatly at the end.


Pinch your grosgrain binded opening into a flat slit and arrange it to lay flatly against the surface of the pants. Finally, put twpo hefty backtacks over the top of it, one about 0.5" from each end of the slit. Now you have a pocket passthrough.


Like I said, with a couple easy mods, these cheap surplus items can make a pretty decent insulating layer, even in this day and age. As always if you have any questions feel free to DM me at instagram.com/nixieworks or email me at support@nixieworks.com . Thanks and good luck out there!

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4 Comments


Mike E
Mike E
Nov 29, 2023

Same with our ECWCS gear. Wore it maybe 3 times in as many years, but it was always in my ruck...Normally, I did the field jacket liner trick or polypropylene shirt. With the collar unzipped and tucked away so as to look hard.

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Journeyman 71
Journeyman 71
Apr 16, 2023

Excellent instructions. I've got an insulated poncho from Wiggy's I was going to try and make some pants from but this would be so much easier.

Thanks

Nate

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Had elastic cuffs and a zipper added to the "smoking jacket" years ago. Wore it under the BDU/DCU's and tucked into my trousers. As I recall we bought the coat liners one size smaller so they would fit better. Wore the trouser liners actually buttoned into the old field trousers. Very warm. Interesting that you wrote this article as i've been thinking about getting a field coat liner and modifying it again.

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We used to call the tops, "smoking jackets". We would normally wear them under our BDU blouse. as we were never, ever allowed to wear our field jackets (even though they were on EVERY GOD DAMNED PACKING LIST). I actually still use one of these, as a lightweight jacket when hiking.

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