Hundreds of soldiers will test a new lightweight shift designed to keep soldiers dry and warm as the service looks for lighter, better-fitting cold-weather gear.
Polartek, a fabric technology company, has created a new shirt soldiers can wear as a layer in cold-weather environments. The olive shirt features a zip collar and a "no-melt, no drip" design that, if it catches fire, will not stick to soldiers' skin.
What makes the shirt unique though, David Karstad, Polartec's vice president of marketing and creative, said, is how they laid a synthetic material over that so it's not wool on the outside. The company had the item on display at this week's annual Association of the U.S. Army meeting.
"It's literally two pieces as one so you get the full benefit of wool -- the comfort, the stink-reduction, [antimicrobial properties]," Karstad said. "But then on the outside, it's flame-resistant, it's durable, it's going to last a lot longer and it's not going to pick and snag."
Adding the wool on the inside of the shirt a big upgrade from some of the full polyester cold-weather uniform items soldiers have now, he added.
Will Tagye, the U.S. military sales manager with Polartec, said some members of U.S. Special Operations Command have worn the shirt.
"But this is the first Army large study where they're looking at that for a base layer for the next-generation Cold-Weather Clothing System," Tagye said.
The shirt is designed to be one of several layers soldiers might wear in frigid climates. In the coldest places, Tagye said it would probably be the first or second layer a soldier puts on.
But it could also be worn by itself, Karstad said, and keep a soldier comfortable in 50- or 60-degree weather.
"That's really the idea of the versatility of layers," he said. "That's really the core of what we're going for. It gives you versatility, cost savings, weight savings -- that's the whole thing."
The Army's current Extended Cold-Weather Clothing System is effective at up to about minus-40 degrees. They want the next-generation system to keep soldiers warm in temperatures up to minus-65 degrees.