Ok, for all you who got some cozy new threads in your stocking this year. Here's a few quick tips from Josh to make sure you stay comfortable on your next mission outdoors. Look for more tech and performance tips from AOG in 2015.
We pride ourselves in providing the right equipment for the job and this time of year staying warm and dry is high on our list of priorities. Everyone, from the weekend hiker to the guy doing a recce on a ridgeline in Afghanistan, needs some kind of layering system to maintain a core temperature for survival. As a SERE Instructor we lived by the 3 W’s, Wicking, Warmth, and Weather.
A wicking layer pulls moisture away from the body and dries relatively quickly. This allows your body to sweat while exerting effort but not stay soaked and drop your body temperature when the ambient temperature drops. There are plenty of synthetic choices but I’m a fan of natural fibers like merino wool.
The warmth layer does just that, provides warmth relative to your environment. How much warmth depends on your AO, but it should be capable of keeping you alive when combined with the other layers. A 200 weight fleece might be fine for a fall overnighter in western North Carolina, but could prove deadly on a winter night in Hells Canyon.
The weather layer is typically waterproof, but at least highly water and wind resistant. The purpose is to keep rain, snow, and wind off of you. Even in relatively mild weather your body temperature can plummet to dangerously low levels while sweating and a cool breeze blowing through. I prefer a hood on a weather layer to keep rain and snow finding its way down my neck and chilling me to the bone.
There is no shortage of technological advances in outdoor wear. Synthetic wicking materials, wind proof fleeces, soft shells, hybrid insulating layers, and the list goes on and on. You can feasibly get the 3 W’s down to two, as long as they can accomplish the required tasks above, but you will lose some ability to adapt to your ever changing environment. There’s always a tradeoff.
One last thing to consider is your extremities. Good boots and socks, gloves, and something to cover your melon can make you happy in even the worst weather conditions. Careful consideration of the gear you choose can mean the difference between a good hike and a horrible weekend, mission success or mission failure. Who knows, it might even save your life.