The Most Innovative Military
Product In The Last 2 Decades
By: William McKinney
President, Bradley’s Military Enterprises
In my first 4 articles I have praised the military's polypropylene, grid fleece, silk weight and polar fleece products. Since 3 of the 4 articles I have written about are parts of the Extended Climate Warfighter Clothing System I will continue to evaluate the other ECWCS garments. In this article I will discuss the Army's most innovative wet weather product known as Gore-Tex, and how it is superior to vinyl, PVC, rubberized nylon and nylon rip stop.
When I joined the Army in 1982 I was issued OD green wet weather jackets, trousers, and ponchos. These products were made of vinyl or rubberized nylon. I was also issued black rubber goulashes. These products were very effective at repelling water, but they also cause soldiers to overheat when active. The problem with overheating was so serious that most soldiers wouldn't wear these wet weather products while road marching or when it was hot. Basically we used our wet weather gear while we were in garrison, pulling guard duty or holding down a parameter. Once we got busy we took off our wet weather gear and allowed ourselves to get wet. It was better to be wet that to overheat.
Two years later I was issued a nylon rip stop poncho that was made from woodland camouflage material. It was lighter and more breathable that the older vinyl poncho, but the rip stop poncho didn't repel rain very well. Shortly after a heavy down pour the rain would penetrate my poncho, and I was soaked. To be honest, I preferred the older vinyl or rubberized poncho. Soldiers nick named this wet weather item the "bullet proof poncho" because it would keep you dry in a typhoon. I can remember buying an older poncho for field use because it was better at repelling water than the nylon rip stop poncho.
I was also issue a pair of OD green rubberized boots when I was issued my rip stop poncho. I liked this product, because it was significantly easier to get on and off when compared to the older goulashes. The goulashes had an awkward metal buckling system that could be frustrating to open and close. The rubber band fastening system that is built into the over boots was much easier. The over boot was lighter and had a better fit. Bottom line, the wet weather gear we used in the 80's had many draw backs that included water repellency, overheating and poor comfort.
When I rejoined the Army in 1990 I was introduced to the generation I Gore-Tex parka. I immediately fell in love with this garment. It was like a field jacket and wet weather parka all rolled into one product. It kept me warm in the cold, and it repelled rain very well. This product has pores that would allow heat vapor to escape while preventing water molecules from penetrating the Gore-Tex membrane. It also had zippers under the arms that could be opened to reduce overheating. In my opinion it is too warm to be used in weather conditions that exceed 50 to 60 degrees, so it has its draw backs. Under these conditions basic wet weather gear or ponchos are better, but Gore-Tex is outstanding in cold damp settings. Shortly after the Gore-Tex parka & trousers were introduced many other Gore-Tex products emerged. These products include:
Genuine Military Issue:
G.I. Gore-Tex Gloves:
Purchase Gloves Here - $59.95
G.I. Gore-Tex Sleeping Bag Bivy Cover:
Purchase Bivy Cover - $99.95
G.I. Gore-Tex Eco-Tat Bivy Shelters:
G.I. Gore-Tex Ponchos:
After Market Products:
Gore-Tex Lined Watch Caps
Purchase Caps Here - $15.95
Gore-Tex Socks (campmor.com)
...And Much More.
As you can see Gore-Tex is a versatile cold & wet weather product that is widely used in many military garments. The reason it has became so popular is due to the material's breathable nature. A typical piece of Gore-Tex has 9 billion pores. These pores are 20,000 smaller than a drop of water. It is also 700 times larger than heat vapor. Therefore, water is repelled while heat vapor escapes. Gore-Tex is enhanced when it is combined with Thinsulate. Thinsulate is the thinnest and warmest form of insulation today. The material is a synthetic fabric similar to Gore-Tex that is comprised of 65% Olelin and 35% Polyester. It has 1.5 times more warmth than down with a fraction of the thickness. This Gore-Tex and Thinsulate combination is commonly found in many military gloves and boots.
Generation I Gore-Tex Parka:
Purchase Jacket Here - $49.95
• MIL-P-44188: 100% Nylon (Microporus polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), Gore-Tex)
• Wind and waterproof
• Integral hood
• Two breast inside map pockets (which can be opened without unzipping the parka)
• Two large lower cargo pockets
• Two-way, full-front zipper to provide full face protection
• Elastic draw cord at the hem
• Velcro closures at the wrist tabs
• Underarm ventilation
• Rank tab at center chest
The Army Issued Gore-Tex parka had 3 phases of evolution up to date. The first generation was more of a "true" parka with a fixed hood. It had a thicker more durable construction than today's generation III model. When the Generation I parka & trousers was first introduced it was a revolutionary product that took the Army by storm. As mentioned above, these Gore-Tex products gave birth to many other ideas and concepts.
Gen II ECWCS Gore-Tex® Parka & Trousers
Purchase Jacket Here - $69.95 | Purchase Trousers Here - $49.95
• Sewn to Military Specifications MIL-DLT-32184
• New 3-Layer Waterproof, Windproof, and breathable GORE-TEX® Laminate
• New GORE-TEX® Fabric, Softer and Quieter than First Generation Design
• Durable Taped Seams with Gore-Seam® Tape>
• Moisture Wicking Barriers at Cuffs and Hemmed Bottom
• Heavy-Duty 330-Denier Cordura® Nylon Elbow Reinforcements
• Cargo Pockets with Hand Warmers
• Roll-n-Stow Hood
• Near Infrared (NIR) Compliant
• Made in Dominican Republic
• Non Berry Compliant
• NOTE TO MILITARY PERSONNEL: THIS GARMENT HAS NIR TECHNOLOGY AND IS APPROVED FOR MILITARY OPERATIONS
The major difference between the Generation I & II parkas was the hood system. Instead of being a fixed hood, the generation II model had the ability to tuck in the hood into the collar similar as a field jacket. This second generation was also quite thick and durable. It had all of the wind proof, water proof and breathable qualities of the first generation. Once again, the construction of the hood system was the major change of the Generation II parka.
ECWCS Generation III Gore-Tex Jacket & Trousers:
Purchase Jacket Here - $89.95 | Purchase Trousers Here - $69.95
• Constructed with 2-layer GORE-TEX® fabric based on GORE-TEX® Paclite® technology
• Completely waterproof, windproof and breathable
• Light-Weight: 50% less bulk than previous systems
• Near Infrared Textile Technology (NIR)
• Color: Universal Camouflage
• Center-front zipper with protective flap
• Pass through pockets
• Hideaway collar with a storable visor hood
• Elastic cuffed sleeves with Velcro adjusters
The Generation III Gore-Tex parka has a similar design as the generation II model in the respect that it has a hideaway hood that can be tucked into the collar. The major difference with this parka is its light weight material. It is significantly thinner and lighter than previous models. Many soldiers are confused by the changes in this parka, and think it's a wet weather jacket. In some cases, I have to point out the Gore-Tex trade mark on the zipper's pull tab to prove my point. Although the parka is light it is durable. Obviously not as durable as the generation I & II models, but it holds up very well to the challenges of military service. In my opinion it also is inferior to the earlier models in terms of wind & cold blocking ability, but it has pluses. First, it is made of Gore-Tex, and it has all of the breathable water repellent properties. Second, it's much lighter than its predecessors, and it is better suited for layering. When combined with the other ECWCS clothing items such as silk weights, grid fleece and polar fleece it provides more warmth and comfort. Third, its use of layering does a better job at preventing soldiers from overheating. Finally, the generation III parka lends itself better in warmer weather due to its light thin construction. For these reason I feel the generation III Gore-Tex parka & trousers are superior to the earlier generations. It has all of the water repellent ability of older models, and you can add or subtract under garments and liners as needed for warmth or coolness.
Many of my customers think Gore-Tex is 100% waterproof at all times or under any conditions. This is true for the most part, but with age, wear & tear Gore-Tex can leak. This problem is easily correctable. The Gore company has polishes and silicone sprays that can restore waterproofing. These products are made, authorized or promoted for use by Gore. Furthermore, on many occasions I have witnessed customers use products such as Scotch Guard on parkas and trousers. Soldiers also use Sno-Seal's bees wax on Gore-Tex boots. I don't know if this is good for the product or not, but soldiers profess it works very effectively. Contact the Gore company for information if you experience any leaking associated with their products.
In summary, Gore-Tex is perhaps the best product every used in military clothing. It is highly popular or even loved by soldiers. As soldiers leave the Army they often sell their used products at Bradley's. As they sell their excess gear it is not uncommon for customers to say "Wait a second, I'll keep my Gore-Tex jacket. I can use this when I go hunting." The fact that soldiers hold on to their Gore-Tex products speaks volumes in itself.
For further information about Gore-Tex there's a nice article on eHow(click here)
regarding this amazing fabric, and another on Thinsulate
as well. Both of these products are commonly used together, especially with gloves & boots.
William G. McKinney
Bradley's Military Enterprise