7 Layers of tactical clothing

Discussion in 'Functional Gear & Equipment' started by phishi, Oct 28, 2005.

  1. phishi

    phishi Psy-Ops Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I lifted the following listing from military morons web site. It is a list of the 7 level layering system developed by USSOCOM. My thoughts are that this could be used as a starting spot for developing your own system of clothing for when the SHTF.

    Level 1
    Worn next-to-skin, a durable, silkweight Polartec Power Dry fabric worn next to the skin wicks away moisture and dries fast. It consists of a crew neck T-shirt and boxer shorts, or is available in long-sleeve top with invisible zipper and pants, built for comfort and minimal weight.
    Level 2
    A long-sleeve shirt and pants made from Polartec Power Dry fabric are worn next to the skin for extra warmth in extreme conditions, but still wicks away moisture quickly from skin and dries fast. An inserted side panel of Polartec X-Static fabric enhances fit and flexibility. The top has a front 15-inch zip for extra venting and a soft lining around the collar. Comfort features include an articulated side seam on the pants to minimize chafe on the kneecap.
    Level 3
    An insulative mid-layer jacket made from Polartec Thermal Pro fabric is water-repellent yet breathable. It is worn as an outer jacket in mild temperatures or as a heavy insulative layer in extreme cold. Seamless shoulders minimize chafe, which are then lined for extra warmth and padding for heavy pack straps.
    Level 4
    The soft windshirt is made from an encapsulated microfiber that repels water but also breathes for a variety of conditions. It's designed to pair with a next-to-skin layer for intense activity in cooler temperatures or with the Level 5 soft shell as a mid-layer. It stuffs into its own pocket for easy packing.
    Level 5
    The key to the entire system, this soft shell fabric jacket and pants are made with fibers encapsulated with silicone that are highly stretchable, windproof, water repellant and breathable. They are paired with Level 1 or 2 next-to-skin layers, ready for any cold weather aerobic activity.
    Level 6
    A lightweight waterproof and coated nylon hard shell is slightly oversized to fit easily and quickly over gear. The jacket features water-resistant zippers and armpit zips for maximum ventilation, pocket openings to quickly access inside layers and a hood that incorporates a stiff brim. The pants borrow the same design from Level 5 but provide waterproof protection.
    Level 7
    For extreme conditions, this lightweight, loft-insulated level in a jacket, vest and pants has the feel of down but retains its warmth when wet. Silicone-encapsulated fabric sheds water and is paired with Primaloft insulation for maximum warmth while the liner pulls away moisture.

    Perhaps some of those in the military could shed some light on what is good and bad with this system. Are the products of good quality, or would the average civillian be better served by going to REI? Is the system itself flawed in any way? Are there too many levels, and if so, what ones would you cut out?

    Lastly, although I did not hot link military morons site, I would recommend it to any one who has in interest in gear and weapons.

    I'm going to look around my place this afternoon and see what garments that I could plug into the different levels. I'll post what I find later.

  2. phishi

    phishi Psy-Ops Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    OK, here is what I found:

    Level 1
    I view this as summer weight base layer. For T shirts I have some Duofold Technical 18 Series Performance Crew that I bought from Campmor. They are 15% cotton, 85% poly, and they seem to be holding up rather well. They feel like cotton, wick as well as any synthetics that I have tried, and are available in brown and sand. At $12.00 a pop they are not cheap, but its less than Underarmour.
    For boxers I am under prepared. Currently I own only one pair of Underarmour boxer briefs. Other than the price I really have no complaint with them. I also have nothing really good to say about them. For $30.00 you would think that would be different. Needless to say, I am actively searching for a couple pairs of boxer briefs that are less than $20.00, will keep me dry, and have a waistband that will not chafe under the belt of a pack. Anyone got any ideas here?
    Level 2
    This is winter weight base layer. I own some Eastern Mountain Sports Midweight Bergelene long underwear. Tops currently retail for $20.00, bottoms $24.00. These have held up under a few bad winters (Chicago & Detroit), and a couple of late fall/early spring camping trips. They wick fairly well, work well with my layering system, and IMO feel good against the skin. The best part of the top is thumb holes at the wrist that keep the sleeves from rolling up when putting on another top. Also doubles as wrist warmers when your gloves are off. Currently I'm looking for a second pair of long underwear made of wool. I'll let you know if I find anything.
    Level 3
    This is a mid layer between Level 2 and Level 4 or 5 in the winter, and outer layer over Level 1 in the summer. For a top, I have a Patagonia Regulator shirt with a 1/2 zip that I bought for running. It is light weight, compresses well in a pack, and is pretty warm and breathable. For bottoms, I found some Patagonia running tights that I believe could be pressed into service. They are loose in fit and can accommodate a pair of long underwear underneath them, as well as being breathable and easy to pack.
    I got both of these on sale at an outlet center in Freeport, Maine, making their cost a lot lower than what is listed on their site ($60-80.00 is current going rate). Places like Campmor, Sierra Trading Post, REI, EMS, and even Dick's will often have sales. Anything that you think you could run in and be comfortable would probably work.
    Level 4
    I do not own a wind shirt. I used to think that they were an unnecessary piece of gear, but I'm slowly coming around. They are typically light weight, and offer protection from a stiff breeze or a little drizzle. You could put one in your bag, forget about it, and pull it out when you find it getting a little cool. Options besides the military model are wind breakers, biking jackets, or golf shirts. Hoods are optional, just try and avoid the bright colors unless that's your thing.
    Level 5
    This is meant to be an outer layer while you are on the move, working up a sweat. The only thing that I have in this category is a North Face Denali fleece jacket. It is not water resistant, and it doesn't block the wind much either. (Part of my interest in wind shirts is to counter this. It would be cheaper to buy a wind shirt to put underneath, than to by a new soft shell jacket.) This is not a cheap piece of gear, but at the time of purchase, it was and still is to some degree, one of the best around.
    If I was looking to purchase today I would be looking for the following: Windstopper technology incorporated into the jacket which might eliminate the need for a wind shirt. Earth tone for a color choice. Water resistant finish on the top layer. Pit zips because I can sweat like the pig who knows he's dinner. Abrasion resistant patches on the shoulders and elbows. Finally, if I had to cut corners on purchasing any of these Levels, I would not do it here.
    I do not currently own any Level 5 pants, and they are low on my list for purchase. I feel that even in the winters that we have around here, I would be fine with Level 2 and 3. I would possibly even be too warm when moving.
    Level 6
    This is your rain jacket and pants. Currently I have a North Face Mountain Guide Goretex Jacket, and a ECWS Woodland camo parka. The military lists this level as non breathable rain gear, to be used when on duty as a sentry who has pulled guard detail in the monsoon of the century. I don't plan on having to do this anytime soon, and as such I would like my rain gear to be breathable. (I know that some are thinking that Goretex doesn't work, we'll just have to agree to disagree on this). Both of these are good choices, as are some of the other models out there. Currently I'm eying a Patagonia Rain Shadow Jacket as I believe it is lighter and will pack down smaller than the two I currently own.
    For pants I have some Helly Hansen rain pants. I'm sure that some of you are thinking that you don't need rain pants. I said the same thing until I realized that they double as wind/snow protection also. I guess I figured that if I'm only going to protect my top from getting wet, then I'm really only doing a half a job. Go out and get a pair of rain pants, they are worth it.
    Level 7
    I own nothing that fits this Level which I designate for extreme winter conditions. It could be argued that where I live it does get cold enough to warrant this Level of gear. The problem is that it only happens for a limited amount of time. I can't rationalize spending the money or the energy needed to haul this stuff.
    However, for those of you north of the Ohio river, I would urge you to rethink this. In places were winter is really a cold, cruel beast, this stuff could help save your life.

    What I listed above is what I found around my place. I'm sure that some of you have similar gear. Go look at what you own, make a list of what you have and what you think you might need. Post it here, I'm always interested in what others are using. I'm sure that some of you have stuff that works great, let me know about it.

  3. sniper-66

    sniper-66 Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    This is a good system to go by, the only caution is that if there is a chance in hell that you have a chance of being in a fire, I suggest that you don't use this unless you like being shrink wrapped. It works great, but as an aviator, I can't wear any of it.
  4. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    I must be a bit more warm blooded I guess. My "extreme" starts at around level 4. I just never get cold enough for all those layers myself. Unless maybe in a hunting blind where I sit still for 6 hours.

    I do believe in layering... Mine usually consists of a Base layer, Technical fabric Long Underwear, SOme type of pants, Normally Jeans or other for work. A fleece top of some sort. That usually ends it for me and if it's really cold, (IN in Feb during a windstorm), I'll add a coat of some sort.

    I can't work while so bundled up myself. Same goes for gloves, If I'm using my hands, they come off. I'd like to hear some other thoughts on this as well.
  5. phishi

    phishi Psy-Ops Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Level 8

    Looking over my previous posts, I noticed that there is no spot for regular pants and a shirt. Face it, summer or winter, you are likely to want a set of jeans and a shirt to walk around in so that you aren't showing off your skivies. Level 8 would be your BDU top & bottoms, or what ever it is you choose to wear when the SHTF.

    Sniper, I was on the Polartec site this morning and found that most of the items that they make are available with Nomex. Maybe you want to look into that for use when you are buzzing melbo's place. :sneaky:

  6. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    I didn't know they had nomex available. that's cool. btw, it's fine to add a hotlink to another site. some get a little upset if you hotlink their pics but a link to a topic or article is fine
  7. sniper-66

    sniper-66 Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    They do, but right now it is almost prohibitively expensive. I tried to talk a vendor out of a set, but he wasn't going to have any of that. So, I have to stick with the normal Nomex clothing. It's not bad for use. I have even used it for hunting.
  8. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    For me, down to about 50s its jeans and a T-shirt, then add a long sleve over it down to 35-40, then down to 20s replace T-shirt with a turtle neck and below that add a union" suit under it all and a jean jacket and gloves. Works for me.
  9. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    Level 7 would be a Mustang Suit on a ship next to Alaska during dec to feb
  10. phishi

    phishi Psy-Ops Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Update: My wife and I have been getting up early the past month or so to get in a walk. Typically it takes just under an hour to complete 2-3 miles, so we aren't setting any land speed records. The temperature has ranged between 30-40 degrees on average. The warmest was in the 60's, the coldest was around 20. The following is what I found works for each temperature.

    50-60 degrees: Level 1 top and bottoms, Level 3 top, and Level 8 bottoms. On really warm days, I found myself removing the Level 3 top.

    40-50 degrees: Level 1 top and bottoms, Level 3 top, and Level 8 bottoms. I found myself a little chilled when we started, but was quite comfortable when moving. Level 4 top might have worked nice here at the start, but probably would have been too hot once underway.

    30-40 degrees: Level 1 top and bottoms, Level 3 top, and Level 8 bottoms. On top I layered my Level 5 jacket. On more than one occasion I debated putting on Level 3 bottoms, feeling cold at the start. Once I got going though, I was glad I had not.

    20-30 degrees: Level 1 top and bottoms, Level 3 top, and Level 8 bottoms. On top I layered my Level 5 jacket. I also added Level 3 bottoms, and a Level 6 shell. I was very comfortable with this, YMMV.

    Accessories: For each walk I had on a good pair of hiking boots (Vasque), and a hat (baseball on warmer days, wool watch cap & hood for cold), as well a pair of gloves. Most of my jackets have a watch cap and at least a thin pair of gloves in them year round. I feel that they are worth the extra weight and space.

    Hope this helps,
  11. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    But aren't you still in a scooter phishi? :D
  12. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    The Army taught me to just KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid :p

    Layer 1: Closest to my body I wear a wicking fabric T-shirt, and it fits tightly yet it is non restrictive and very lightweight. This T also protects for warm or cold weather. I do not wear any moisture wicking boxers since I have found them to be very uncomfortable and chaffe. I only wear cotton boxer briefs.

    Layer 2: A typical cotton/poly blend T-shirt to absorb moisture.

    Layer 3: Thermal underwear for extreme weather climates. Sometimes I take off the first moisture wicking layer off and substitute the thermals in place of it because they already come with a moisture wicking material.

    Layer 4: A standard mil spec blouse, typically made of rip-stop material. This layer also includes a pair of pants made of the same material.

    Layer 4 additional: If necessary, a goretex ECWS lightweight parka that is also waterproof and windproof. Optional, but a pair of goretex ECWS pants that fit over the typical rip-stop BDU's.

    layer 5: A US mil spec rain poncho, and liner additional if needed.

    -I really do not see why it has to be more difficult than this. Of course, I am only a grunt, so I have been trained to "suck it up and drive on"...
  13. sniper-66

    sniper-66 Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Because if you grunts are given anything nicer, you just slug it off on eBay and end up in what you just described anyway! [beer]
  14. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

  15. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    that's pretty funny Sniper... [afro]

    :lol: So true...
  16. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Too true, Sniper :)
  17. Galactus

    Galactus Monkey+++ Founding Member

  18. sniper-66

    sniper-66 Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    What the hell is that! Is he taking a big duke on those poor people that had a car wreck? That's just shameful!
  19. magnus392

    magnus392 Field Marshall Mags Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    [camo] [camo] [camo] [peep]
  20. BigUglyOne

    BigUglyOne Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Grew up in Buffalo.

    Regular hanes type underware and t shirt. Thin cotton long johns or silk. Wool long johns, jeans. Down coat.
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