Extreme Cold Weather Clothing Systems have been around in use because of the military for longer than twenty years. The first generation system, GEN I, contains tactical clothing for cold and wet or dry conditions. A hard shell jacket and trousers that has a semi-permeable membrane were the beds base garments because of this cold weather clothing system and kept wind and moisture out while letting perspiration escape. The jacket and trousers were combined with light and medium weight polypropylene undergarments, a whopping fleece jacket, and bib overalls. For extreme cold temperatures, a quilted nylon jacket and pants stuffed with polyester batting may be worn under the camp outer shell.
The initial couple of generations of Extreme Cold Weather Tactical Clothing could just be used in a small range of climates and temperatures and involved placing additional garments beneath the jacket and trouser base. The most recent system, GEN III, however, can be a radical redesign incorporating the best of the quicker systems and expanding the choice of climates and temperatures covered from the tactical clothing system.
An Extended Climate Warfighter Clothing System, GEN III was developed with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center after soldiers reported the bulkiness of GEN II. Using seven numbers of protection, GEN III includes various base, insulation, and shell garments created to keep soldiers comfortable in temperatures between -40°F to 60°F. Compared to GEN II, GEN III is 33 percent less bulky which is 25 percent lighter and uses moisture management principles to wick moisture out of the skin.
GEN III base garments, Levels I and II, sit next to the skin and therefore are made out of PolarTec® Power Dry® Silkweight, a breathable material that wicks perspiration out from the skin. Insulation layer Level III is worn on top of the beds base garments. Level III can be a fleece jacket constructed from PolarTec® Thermal Pro®, a breathable material that traps body heat.
Levels IV through VII are shell garments, all of these provide wind protection which enables it to be employed in wet or dry conditions. A wind jacket, Level IV is often a low-volume shell layer created from nylon using a water resistant finish and may be worn under body armor. Level V is made for moderate cold conditions, and Level VI, created from GORE-TEX®, really should be worn in cold and wet conditions. Made out of Primaloft® SPORT, the Level VII is meant to be worn in static operations in extreme cold and dry conditions.
A system of fire-retardant cold temperatures tactical clothing, New Balance System 7 (NBS7) uses similar concepts since the GEN III system. With full environmental and flame protection, NBS7 is made of seven numbers of breathable and water-repellant garments which can be lightweight and integrate with standard uniforms.
The Protective Combat Uniform (PCU) also relies on a similar seven-level system but is ideal for colder climates. PCU was developed because of the Special Projects Team, who consulted with extreme alpinists and outdoor apparel companies to make a tactical clothing system for extreme cold conditions. A 15-piece system replacing Lightweight Environmental Protection (LEP), PCU protects soldiers in temperatures starting from -50°F to 45°F. Much like GEN III’s base and insulation garments, PCU’s lower and mid-level layers wick away moisture and keep heat near the body. Upper shell layers, however, are stretchable, windproof, water-repellant, and breathable garments crafted from silicon-encapsulated fibers by Nextec Applications.