Typical Combat Uniform Fabrics: A Flammability Test

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about a smock I have been using. Of course there are always “nay sayers” that poo poo anything written, and are the obvious “Subject Matter Experts”. One SME made this statement on WRSA, “Just like An M65 field jacket, but thinner , lighter and with goofy, impossible to find or replace buttons and made of a “melt for certain” nylon blend and no way to add a liner. What’s not to love?”

Now when I got to my first unit of assignment, I thought I was on the cutting edge, because we had just gotten issued the heavy weight poly pro long johns, and the Gore Tex Jacket and pants (ahhh, so misguided). One of the first things to happen was we received a brief rundown on the benefits and detriments of both types of clothing from one of our Captains (He’d just come to us from Ft Devens, and had used this type of clothing for a bit).

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I loved the Gore Tex when we first were issued them, but I always had to have the “pitzips” unzipped since I usually run “hot”.

The key points were 1) Wear light summer weight cotton ripstop BDU’s under the Gore tex, because the heavyweight BDU’s take longer to dry out. 2) Gore tex and Poly pro are very flammable, so stay away from open flame or really hot equipment. 3) Do not wear Gore tex on a road march unless it’s “Witches Tit” cold AND precipitating. 4) Do not wear Poly pros on a road march (keep in mind, these were the heavyweight versions, the lightweights had not come out for issue yet). 5) The Gore tex and Poly pro are VERY FLAMMABLE! You seeing a theme yet?

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Interceptor Body Armor with lightweight goretex jacket over top. This jacket will roll up and fit in a cargo pocket if needed.

If I use the Mil issue Gore Tex these days, it’s usually not something in the field, unless it’s my lightweight packable jacket.  I use Cabela’s Gore Tex Paclite rain suit in the field. Since I use a smock, I wear the Paclite jacket under the smock. This keeps me and my gear quiet (gore Tex type clothing is famous for being noisy, especially when it’s cold). It also lets me continue to use my smock as the outer garment, and I don’t have to fish around under my rain gear to find something in a pocket. And finally, it keeps my Gore Tex AWAY FROM ANY FLAME I MIGHT ENCOUNTER!

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Cabela’s Gore Tex Paclite rain jacket.

Honestly, even though we all had issued Poly pros, most of us used the old school “wooly pully” sweater. The only problem I had with that was the “I run hot” thing I mentioned earlier, but they are the best thing going, and they are wool, so flame is not an issue.

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The “Wooly Pully” sweater is one of the best cold weather field garments made. I get mine from LL Bean . Mine are one OD Green one that I’ve had for about 29 years (and it’s still going strong), and this one which is brown but they call it “Deep woods green heather”. The LL Bean versions are heavier and more durable than a lot of copies out there, and are worth the money.

So the point of this post was testing a couple fabrics and checking out their flame resistance, or penchant for combustibility. I tested three pieces of fabric. one piece was from a used pair of 100%  cotton ripstop tigerstripe BDU’s. The second was from a used pair of 65/35% Poly/Cotton ripstop woodland BDU’s, and the third was from the smock that is in this article, which is a heavier weight of the 65/35 ripstop. I did not test Gore Tex, fleece, or Poly pro fabric, since I already know they are highly flammable. On a side note, while in Iraq, we were told we could not use our Fleece or poly pro while in the field, due to it’s flammability, and the high incidence of IED encounters at that time. Of course we completely ignored this (and did as we pleased to stay warm), and noted the foolishness of an entity that would only give you one type of clothing for cold weather, but then tell you you can’t use it, due to an issue with that clothing’s safety in certain environments.

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100% Cotton ripstop

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65/35% Poly/Cotton ripstop

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65/35% Poly/Cotton ripstop

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They way I decided to do the test was to first light each piece on fire, and see if it immediately went up in flames. Since none of them had the “Magic Immediate Flammability” talked about in the earlier quote, I then decided to put them out and let them smolder for a minute to see if they reignited on their own. That didn’t happen, so then I just lit them all and decided to see if the burn rate appeared quicker in any particular one. If you’ll note, none of them were a “melt for certain” proposition…..go figure LOL.

So what does this tell us? For me, my take away is that although 65/35 Poly/Co has a downside, and that is having a bit of a shine (best word to describe it, but it doesn’t really shine) in direct sunlight, as compared to the duller finish of 100% cotton. This shows that PolyCo is completely acceptable and safe to wear in the field, even around flame or really hot equipment. BTW, a downside to 100% cotton BDU’s is that it does wear out a lot faster than PolyCo through normal use, especially around the collar. Hope this was helpful.

JCD

American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

Update: For those that want to debate the “To Goretex”, or “Not to Goretex”, you’ll have to wait for the actual upcoming article on “Cold Weather/Wet Weather Clothing”. This post was not about the benefits of Goretex, it was about the flammability of common combat uniform fabrics (BDU’s).

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20 thoughts on “Typical Combat Uniform Fabrics: A Flammability Test

  1. Very informative article. I have a question about the DCU lightweight goretex jacket you are wearing over the Interceptor Body Armor, is that a USGI Improved Rainsuit parka? I’ve recently picked up an unissued version and find it to be more versatile than the ECWCS gortex parkas

    • Mine is a DCU to Woodland reversible I got from BQ a good while back. I was issued one of the rain suits in ICU, and it was more versatile than the heavier ECWCS parka, due to more wear temp range, less bulk, and lighter weight to carry.

  2. If you are going to be in country and face RPG or IED with lots of flame, wear 100% cotton or wool, as if you survive and have rayon, nylon and any other artificial or petroleum based product clothing, you will live out the rest of your life in a pain amplifier. Skin grafts from hell. Does not matter how cool the ‘high speed’ clothing is, wear 100% natural cotton or wool … or wear nothing at all. GRIN

  3. Pingback: Two From MDT | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  4. “”” I use Cabela’s Gore Tex Paclite rain suit in the field”””

    WTF over ….

    Do are dumb as a bag of rocks ….FOR GOD”S SAKE GORETEX..???

    BUY A CLUE , overpriced ” S” capitalized with a “hit” !
    Better to use a plastic bag…spend the saved money on a real whore instead of of Al gore-TEX

    Clue for 500
    look up MARINES in the age of GORETEX , OUTSIDER magazine , early 1980’s ….How efffing stupid are you people ???

    • Obviously, opinions vary, but even though yours doesn’t stand up to the fact that if goretex is used correctly, it does the job well, I’ll still post it, simply because you are a good example of “Imbecilic Subjectivism”. I very rarely use goretex, but it can and.has been a life saver for some. “Do are dumb, as a bag of rocks. ” I guess that’s a question, but I’d think that if you’re calling someone stupid, you’d at least spell the accusation correctly, and make clear who is being accused of the stupidity. Now go.put on your pickle suit.

    • Sure I can, but I usually only apply it to those whose only purpose for gear is to look cool, and are clueless in its actual application. Something else I can say is Pretard”. This applies to guys like you who have opinions that eventually will cause them to do something retarded at a later date. Hence my designation of you as a “Pretard”.

  5. I lived out my military career in those days before the widespread availability of Gortex.
    I learned to be wet, cold and miserable wearing cotton uniforms with or without rubberized rain suits or ponchos. (A poly sleep shirt was considered high speed.) My issue boots ensured that my feet were always wet therefore cold. Immersion foot was a constant threat.

    Then came Gortex. It was like a gift from God. So it’s flammable and you can’t stalk Bambi while wearing it. I’ll accept those negative attributes to stay warmer and dryer than ever before. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water here.

  6. DEAR gr(l)amer girl police , oh so splendidly eloquent retort
    You be worried ‘B’out Grammer , Me try to put fourth GOOD science so you dont friezeith todeathish or burn like agh roman candle ….and all you effffin worrie bout is spelling ,

    Brilliant- my dear boy, effin Brilliant ….. no wounder the country has gone to SHIT , …………….go figure .

    What next , ya gona fart check my education background credentials…
    THERE ain’t none .

    MY question to you is; cui’ bono ?…
    LOOK IT UP IGNORANT FOOL !

    I find pseudo intellectuals, such as yourself, simply ill mannered snobbish Boer’s ….
    Who’ers over in-felatio’d ego is more concerned about the grammer construction of what is written rather than the importance of said contents contents .
    I sure you thoroughly enjoy this mindless mental masturbation Let me know how it works out in REAL LIFE.
    H’-armchair and keyboard commandos —— carry on !
    ——-Viva la fashionista !!!

    • (“Do are dumb, as a bag of rocks. ” I guess that’s a question, but I’d think that if you’re calling someone stupid, you’d at least spell the accusation correctly, and make clear who is being accused of the stupidity) first, if you are gonna personally attack someone, don’t leave chinks in the armor during the attack, Second. This was a question, because even though I assume you meant to say “You”, or “Dude”, I don’t know, and it just sounds stupid. There is no “worry” about your grammar or spelling (everybody screws up jack wagon). There also is no “frenzy” associated with this post. I simply showed the facts with proof. If you want to sit in the peanut gallery with a bag of cheetos and an orange dick, be my guest, but don’t waste my muthafuckin time with ridiculous attacks because your opinion differs from mine. Concerning the “Who benefits” question, what the fuck is that supposed to mean? I do this on my own with no compensation because I’m trying to help. Hopefully it benefits those who read it. You’re starting to sound a lot like Scammy Kerodin of the Montgomery County.”Hymans”. Get your med dose checked, I think it’s a little low.

    • To Stone Gravelman Nonya-x gravelman2626@yahoo.com 67.167.181.202
      Obviously there is a disconnect in your reading comprehension, but making comments like the last few you left only get’s them put on the burn pile. The update on the 14th was for you, because no one else was stupid enough to keep beating the “Goretex” horse on a post that was not about goretex. Grow up and maybe your post about goretex will be posted when I do a post on goretex and other wet weather, cold weather gear.

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