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Thread: Miitary Layering System

  1. #1
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    Default Miitary Layering System

    I thought this was an interesting explanation of the military PCU layering system. It would be expensive for most civilians to own all the pieces listed but it's a nice way to look at your clothing system. The same can be replicated with commercial clothing. The thing to remember that not all layers are really layers that are worn together. They are a system that you mix and match depending on conditions.

    Seven levels of PCU

    Wearing the PCU is a matter of mixing and matching the gray garments according to the anticipated conditions and activities of the user. Comfort levels range from -50F to 45F, and although there are seven levels of protection, clothing in each level is not progressively added or removed the colder or warmer the environment.

    Level 1

    A durable, silkweight Polartec Power Dry fabric worn next to the skin wicks away moisture and dries fast. It consists of a crew neck T-shirt and boxer shorts, or is available in long-sleeve top with invisible zipper and pants, built for comfort and minimal weight.

    Level 2

    A long-sleeve shirt and pants made from Polartec Power Dry fabric are worn next to the skin for extra warmth in extreme conditions, but still wicks away moisture quickly from skin and dries fast. An inserted side panel of Polartec X-Static fabric enhances fit and flexibility. The top has a front 15-inch zip for extra venting and a soft lining around the collar. Comfort features include an articulated side seam on the pants to minimize chafe on the kneecap.

    Level 3

    An insulative mid-layer jacket made from Polartec Thermal Pro High Loft fabric is water-repellent yet breathable. It is worn as an outer jacket in mild temperatures or as a heavy insulative layer in extreme cold. Seamless shoulders minimize chafe, which are then lined for extra warmth and padding for heavy pack straps.

    Level 4

    The soft windshirt is made from an encapsulated microfiber that repels water but also breathes for a variety of conditions. It is designed to pair with a next-to-skin layer for intense activity in cooler temperatures or with the Level 5 soft shell as a mid-layer. It stuffs into its own pocket for easy packing.

    Level 5

    The key to the entire system, this soft shell fabric jacket and pants are made with fibers encapsulated with silicone that are highly stretchable, windproof, water repellant and breathable (EPIC by Nextec). They are paired with Level 1 or 2 next-to-skin layers, ready for any cold weather aerobic activity.

    Level 6

    A lightweight waterproof and coated nylon hard shell is slightly oversized to fit easily and quickly over gear. The jacket features water-resistant zippers and armpit zips for maximum ventilation, pocket openings to quickly access inside layers and a hood that incorporates a stiff brim. The pants borrow the same design from Level 5 but provide waterproof protection.

    Level 7

    For extreme conditions, this lightweight, loft-insulated level in a jacket, vest and pants has the feel of down but retains its warmth when wet. Silicone-encapsulated fabric sheds water and is paired with Primaloft insulation for maximum warmth while the liner pulls away moisture.
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    It is sized tho so that in extremes [ say -35 / -40] you actually can wear all the layers together and survive.
    I have accumulated a combination of second hand military and civilian gear that approximates the whole system [ some of it I bought for climbing over 30 years ago, it took the army this long to catch up with state of the art mountaineering gear] the main difference between the military and Patagonia versions is the weight the military went for robustness, Patagonia and others went lightweight.
    It is basically a Patagonia climbers clothing system that has been in use for about 20 years and tweaked over that time.

    One version uses a Goretex rain suit, the other uses very light weight polyurethane coated nylon, it has been mentioned that some special forces troopers buy a Hilleberg Bivanorack to substitute for the raincoat which again s an old climbers garment

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    We are switching over to this system in the USMC and I'll tell ya, it is great in theory but what I find frustrating about the system is the amount of space this gear takes up in the pack. I had this gear when I deployed to AFG in '11 and at the time it was all new and "cool". We didn't have the 3 season sleep-system we have now which is similar to the recon3 bags in weight. For the most part I like this gear... fit, function, and durability all seem to be there from my experience with it. I'm just putt off on the amount of room it takes up. The modern day load out gets bigger and bigger each year almost to the point of being un-man-pack-able.

    just my .02
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    ECWCS Manual

    Good summary Panzer. I found this a while back. Its the army manual on the system. There are some good little pictures and layering suggestion about half way through. I have the Level V jacket and pants and also the level 7 jacket and pants. The level V jacket rocks. The Level 7 stuff is ok put does not compress well at all.

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    Have accumulated 2 'personal' sets from my last deployments (one in ACU and the other in OCP/Multicam).

    It is so much nicer than the older poly pro crud. Not really sure what you'd consider bulky or what the USMC was issuing. Unless you were talking about the Stay-puft jacket/pants... But that compresses pretty well. At least the Army variant does....Comparable to the old bear-suit.

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