Genuine Issue

Base Layer Clothing

Part II: Grid Fleece

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By: William G. McKinney

President, Bradley’s Military Enterprises

In my last article I spoke about the Army's cold weather clothing in the early 80's and how I disliked the older wool shirts, field Jackets, and field pants. I especially disliked the mohair liners that were used in conjunction with field clothing. Wool clothing and mohair liners were itchy, bulky and very heavy if they got wet. I also expressed how much I appreciated polypropylene and Gore-Tex when it was first introduced. In this base layer clothing article I will discuss my opinions about grid fleece. GRID FLEECE: • Constructed with Polartec® Power Dry® Grid material that consists of 98%polyester and 2% spandex. • Provides extra warmth and stays dry in cool weather. • Highly breathable, fast drying next-to-skin layer. • Moisture wicking for evaporative cooling in mild climates. • Significantly lighter with less bulk than previous ECWCS. • Thumb holes aid in donning multiple layers. • Mid-chest zipper converts to a mock turtleneck with throat protection. • Contoured long tail for additional protection from the elements. • The Army issues this product in desert sand, but it is available in black as well. The first time I was introduced to grid fleece was late in 2006 or the beginning of 2007. It was an experimental product being tested at Ft. Drum New York. This base layer clothing item was a part of a larger package known as the Generation III Extended Climate Warfighter Clothing System or ECWCS. This ECWCS cold weather clothing system consisted of 7 levels and the following items:
• Level I: "Silk Weight" Tops & Bottoms (Light-Weight Undershirt & Drawers) • Level II: "Grid fleece" Tops & Bottoms (Mid-Weight Shirts & Drawers) • Level III: "Wind Shirt" (Wind Jacket) • Level IV: "Polar Fleece Jacket" (High-Loft Fleece Jacket) • Level V: "Soft Shell Jacket & Trousers" (Soft Shell Cold Weather Jacket & Trousers) • Level VI: "Gore-Tex Jacket & Trousers" (Extreme Wet / Cold Weather Jacket & Trousers) • Level VII: "Loft Jacket & Trousers" (Extreme Cold Weather Parka & Trousers)

* Note: In quotations I use the terminology commonly used by soldiers. In brackets I use the official titles given to the clothing items.

* Note: The silk weight and grid fleece items are desert tan and the remaining products are in Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), although soldiers commonly refer to this as "ACU pattern." ACU is associated with the Advanced Camouflage Uniform.

When I first saw the ECWCS I was totally impressed. All I could say was "Wow! I wish I had this stuff when I was in the Army!" All of these clothing items are absolutely amazing. They are made with state of the art materials that provided moisture wicking and breathable waterproof properties. They are light, and you can tell they're comfortable from a mere glance. It was unlike any military clothing I have ever witnessed before. In future articles I will go into further detail about the ECWCS items, but for now I want to get back to grid fleece products. My Opinion: Grid Fleece is an outstanding product. It is light and incredibly comfortable. I love the feel of the interior of the garment. It's soft and gentle against your skin. Silk weights are designed to be worn underneath grid fleece, but I prefer wearing the Level II product by itself. From a casual glance you can see little squares in the material that make up a grid, thus creating its name. As mentioned earlier grid fleece has moisture wicking properties that draws sweat to the outside of the material. The outer garments then absorbs this moisture creating a dry barrier against your skin. In return, this dryness keeps you warmer than cotton or wool products. Overall, I highly recommend using this product when it's cold, especially when it is both wet and cold. How Does Grid Fleece Compare With Polypropylene?
• They are both light weight products. • They both wick moisture away from the skin. • Grid fleece is not as heat sensitive as polypropylene, and it doesn't shirk as much. • Grid fleece is more comfortable than polypropylene. The fleece interior is softer on your skin. • Grid fleece doesn't cling as tightly as polypropylene. • Grid fleece is more stylish and appealing to the eye. • Based on customer feedback, the average soldier likes grid fleece better than polypropylene. • Polypropylene is a warmer product. • Polypropylene is less expensive than grid fleece. • I like polypropylene better than grid fleece.
Northern New York is bitterly cold and wet. Temperatures can fall as low as - 30F, and we regularly receive lake effect snow. Since I hate being cold and I'm frugal by nature, I prefer polypropylene over grid fleece. I feel polypropylene keeps you warmer than grid fleece, and it cost half as much. Although Grid Fleece is significantly more comfortable than polypro, I wouldn't put down polypropylene's comfort level. I would suggest that polypro feels nice, but grid fleece feels better. Due to issues associated with warmth and cost I prefer polypropylene products over grid fleece, but I will confess my opinion on grid fleece is not widely supported. Most people would prefer grid fleece. With this in mind, I recommend grid fleece in temperatures that are 20F and above. I also recommend grid fleece if you want to be warm, comfortable and money is not an issue. If the temperature falls below 20F; or if you are counting your pennies, I recommend polypropylene. Overall, Grid fleece is an outstanding form of thermal underwear, and it's a part of the Army's most exciting new cold weather product line. I wholehearted recommend this product. I encourage you to check out Bradley's grid fleece products that consist of tops, bottoms and hoods. * Note: For more information about grid fleece and ECWCS items please read THIS related article from Wikipedia. And be sure to stay tuned for my next article on ECWCS where I will be discussing Level III of the Extended Cold Weather System! Sincerely; William G. McKinney Bradley's Military Enterprises President Here's a glance at what Grid Fleece looks like.  We have a variety of brands to choose from including Peckham, Atlanco, and Rothco.  To check out them out, as well as our other ECWCS gear, simply click HERE.