In 1996, the U.S. Navy ended a decades-long requirement for all sailors to wear flame-resistant uniforms. Then, in a May 30th announcement this year, the Navy reversed this: “Testing last year by the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility in Natick, Massachusetts…revealed that the camouflage working uniforms most sailors wear at sea are flammable. The nylon and cotton blend uniforms worn by most sailors aboard ships will burn and melt until they’re completely consumed.” This follows a decision by the U.S. Marine Corps in 2006 to outlaw the wearing of synthetic under gear in theaters of combat. The reason: the substantial burn risk associated with wearing that type of clothing. Navy Captain Lynn Welling, then the First Marine Logistics head surgeon, said, “When exposed to extreme heat or flame, clothing containing some synthetics materials like polyester will melt and can fuse to the skin, creating a ‘second skin’ and horrific, disfiguring burns.”

The USDA Forest Service, which houses the National Fire Service, made the same findings in a burn test conducted in 2008. During that test, it found that every standard synthetic material tested caught fire and completely burned in a conflagration of flames—a result most firemen probably want to avoid. When they tested natural fibers, wool didn’t catch fire or burn. With a box of matches they probably could have figured this out.

Back To Basics
Extreme weather is the enemy of performance. If it’s too hot or too cold, an operator’s skills deteriorate rapidly, meaning bad things could potentially occur in the fight. These days many companies producing under gear promise that it will “keep you super warm” or “wicks away moisture to keep you cool.” On both counts, the usual solution for “keeping you warm” is bulk or a non-performing piece of gear. To “keep you cool and wick moisture,” the payoff often seems to be more perspiring and heat generation, resulting in a sweat puddle in your drawers. In both cases, this is not what is promised on the label…

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In 1996, the U.S. Navy ended a decades-long requirement for all sailors to wear…