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Cold-Weather/Foul-Weather Wear

Here's New Foul-Weather Gear

You'll be warmer and drier on that spray-lashed topside watch station when new glass-insulated clothing developed by the Navy reaches the Fleet. But you may have to wait until the winter after next before you get it.

The Navy figures it really has "something" in this new foul-weather gear, but there still are some questions of minor design that have to be ironed out. Moreover, the new gear is going to be put through some rigorous tests, which will not be completed until late fall. It probably will take at least six to eight months more before the new gear is produced in quantities.

The new clothing consists of a helmet, one-piece coverall suit, mittens, and boots. Research projects leading to development of the new gear were instituted at the request of submarine forces. It was designed primarily for the protection of submarine crews and topside personnel on other ships.

The new gear is lined with quilted, spun-glass batting made of thousands of glass fibres, each with a diameter of about four microns or a fraction of a human hair. Laboratory and field tests revealed that the glass fibre lining, covered with rubber-coated nylon, retains more body heat and yet is 25 per cent lighter than present regular issue gear.

The new coverall suit is made of neoprene-coated nylon outer fabric, with a glass fibre batting interlining. The interlining is quilted to the cotton-twill, water-repellent lining of the suit. A skirted hood, interlined in the same manner, is attached to the coverall at the back of the neck.

Source: "Here's New Foul-Weather Gear." All Hands. 354 (August 1946): 71.


How to Beat Old Man Winter: Tips for Sailors in Cold Climates … How to Avoid Colds, Thaw Out Frozen Fingers

Howling wind, driving rain and sleet, mountainous waves of icy salt water - "pity the poor sailor on a night like this!" Yet, you can beat old man winter at his own game. What it takes is knowledge about what kind of clothing to wear, how to act under varying weather conditions, what first-aid may be necessary.

You know from personal experience that sometimes, even when you get all bundled up from red flannels to peajacket, you still can't keep the upper hand over winter cold. Maybe you've been on watch, heavily clothed, and step inside to warm up a bit. You don't take off your outfit, or even open it up - because you're cold and you want to warm up fast before going back.

Well, you warm up fine, even begin to perspire. Then you step out again and find you get cold very quickly. You feel chilled to the bone, commence to shiver, and you're much more uncomfortable than before having gone indoors.

This is what happened: You got cold while you were on the first part of your watch because your body was losing heat. Your body stores heat inside and also produces heat as the result of digestion of food and physical activity. However, the low temperature and wind had taken away much of this heat and had caused the blood vessels supplying the skin (particularly in the fingers and feet) to contract. Much less blood was flowing to the parts and thus they got less heat.

When you came inside, the clothing began to absorb heat while the body gradually began to warm up. The body had filled itself with heat and was again ready to begin giving off extra heat. The blood vessels had opened up and circulation increased. Since you did not take off your heavy clothing this extra heat could not get away and soon the skin temperature rose so high that sweating began.

Doctors who have studied these matters know that when this happens the body gives off heat about four times faster than usual. Your clothing got damp from perspiration and began to take away heat at a faster rate than normally. So when you went out-of-doors again the more exposed parts of the body lost a great deal of heat into the atmosphere, and your damp clothes took away a lot more heat. These losses were so rapid and so great that they immediately caused pain. As a matter of fact, in a short time you lost more heat than you lost during the whole time of your early watch.

Another angle is that when you were first outside you had been exercising somewhat and your body was producing extra heat. When you came inside your activities stopped and your body also stopped producing extra heat and instead soon began to lose heat. When you went outside again, therefore, your body was not producing heat to help keep you warm, but rather was working the other way.

Now if you can take the pain which comes along with this reaction until the body readjusts itself, you'll be fairly comfortable. However, your clothing is going to be rather damp and the whole discomfort is unnecessary if you follow a few reasonable rules based on the scientific facts of what the doctors called "body heat balance." These rules are:

1. Immediately upon coming indoors, shed your outer heavy clothing and gloves. Avoid yielding to the temptation of warming up rapidly by retaining all of your clothing protection, especially if additional outdoor work is scheduled.

2. Avoid sweating. It will dampen clothing and start heat loss when you go out again.

3. Stay indoors only long enough to get reasonably comfortable. If you get too warm you will upset your body heat balance when you go outside again.

4. If your hands and feet are cold, a change to dry gear will afford relief.

Putting on lots of clothing doesn't mean you're going to keep warm. There's a right way and wrong way to keep warm, based on scientific fact.

There are three layers of clothing involved in protecting yourself from winter cold. These are the underwear layer, the insulation layer, and the wind-and-water-resistant layer.

Underwear is one of the most important elements of cold-weather clothing. It serves as sort of a heat filter to slow down body heat loss and at the same time to take excess moisture away from the body. Underwear should be form fitting, moderately dense, lightweight, soft but with sufficient body to withstand compression. One-piece woolen underwear is preferred since it absorbs a large amount of perspiration, keeps the body relatively dry, eliminates double insulation around the trunk and, in general, is more comfortable.

Amazing as it seems, woolen underwear actually produces heat. You may not realize it but your body is always giving off an amount of water so small that you don't notice it. This is in addition to sweating. This unseen water contains heat which the woolen underwear traps, thus increasing your warmth. Of course this process stops as soon as the vapor concentration reaches 100% and water forms.

The real trick is to keep your underclothing and socks dry. Change them as frequently as possible. And always try to dry the underwear which you wore during the day while you are asleep.

Insulation usually includes normal clothing plus special outer wear. You insulate yourself just like you insulate a house or other structures, that is, by providing some kind of material which will hold dead air. Wool is probably the most economical and efficient cold-climate clothing insulator. Loosely woven garments, however, are less durable, more shrinkable and tend to let air pass through them. So it is that winter clothing usually consists of some kind of rather tightly woven material on the outside to prevent air from getting through, and on the inside a soft, relatively thick fabric which will hold air. In other words, just because a piece of clothing is heavy doesn't mean it's warm. Thickness has more to do with insulation and warmth than does weight. Did you ever sleep under a feather quilt? You know it's light and fluffy but extremely warm.

If you have worn it - properly, that is - you know that the Navy's present winter outfit is pretty good. It starts off with a special wool undergarment. Over this you wear your regular clothing. Then there is a blue, jungle-cloth, wool-lined, overall-type trouser which fits over your regular clothing. A similarly constructed zippered jacket is kept tight at wrist and neck by a knitted band. The feet are protected by heavy knee-length socks and arctics. Hands are covered by leather one-finger gloves which should be supplemented by a wool inner-glove in very cold weather. The head is covered by a fleece-lined jungle-cloth helmet which fastens under the chin and has a neck guard.

It is important that you do not overdress. Remember, body heat production increases with activity. Perspiration should always be avoided because if the body gets too warm it cannot stop the flow of water to the skin surface. This moisture damps the clothing and adds to the cooling effect. This cooling, incidentally, will continue even after the need for sweating has stopped.

If you are exposed to cold conditions you should learn to estimate your clothing needs in terms of the temperature, the wind velocity and what you expect to do. As a general rule, attempt to under-dress rather than over-dress for quiet conditions. Be prepared to take immediate steps to help your body cool by increasing ventilation, when body needs rise above a comfort level and you begin to sweat. You can do this by removing your gloves. Your hands then act much like an automobile radiator in cooling the body.

Wind and water resistance is the function of the third layer of clothing. Scientific studies show that about three-fourths of body heat loss is due to increases in air movement. The most successful way of reducing the loss is by creating a shell around the body which keeps out the wind. It also should help to keep out the water, but if it is entirely waterproof, you'll find that you will get wet from the inside just about as badly as from the outside. This is because a certain amount of body moisture and perspiration must be carried away or the clothing will become damp and you will chill. Clothing and fabric which permit this are said to "breathe". So unless you are working under conditions where you will be exposed to a great deal of water it's a smart idea to wear water-resistant and not water-proof outer clothing.

The Navy's wind-and-water-repellent gear, you will find, works out rather well. It consists of trousers of the overall type and a parka-type jacket which are made of very tightly woven material. Both are water repellent. They break the force of the wind and prevent water from saturating the insulative garment layer. Naturally, they are worn over the regular winter clothing issue unless conditions do not require such protection. Of course, if you're going to have to work in heavy seas where you're subject to repeated dousings, you will wear oilskins and boots. But make every effort to get dry clothing on as soon as possible.

Below are a few general tips which you should keep in mind to make life much more comfortable even under the most difficult conditions:

Keep dry: Change to dry clothing as frequently as possible. Don't sleep in the underwear you wore during the day, but let it dry overnight.

Don't overdress: Especially if you will be active, don't wear too much because your body will produce a considerable amount of heat and you will be soon perspiring, then chilling.

Keep your gear clean: Like any equipment, clothes have to be kept in good order if they are to give you the best service.

Follow the "rule of three": (1) well-fitted woolen underwear; (2) clean, well-constructed insulative clothing; (3) wind and water protection when required.

Protection of the hands and feet is more difficult than protection of other parts of the body, yet adequate provision must be made for them if your body is to be kept comfortable and if you are to carry out your duties. Here are some practical tips that Arctic explorers have found helpful:


1. Keep the feet dry. Foot coverings for use in temperatures above 0o F and under wet conditions should be snug-fitting and waterproof. One or more pairs of woolen socks, preferably ribbed for greater elasticity, will take care of the little bit of perspiration that will come. Socks should be thoroughly dry before they are put on. As an outer foot cover the standard Navy arctic is satisfactory.

2. Under extremely cold, dry conditions (below 0o F with a slight breeze) the job is not to keep moisture from entering the footgear but is rather to conduct moisture outside or facilitate the absorption of perspiration inside. Polar explorers and the Russians, Canadians, Eskimos and other northern peoples use dry-tanned leather, felt, burlap and similar materials. Most successful is the Eskimo mukluk. The sole and toe of the mukluk are made of a dry-tanned leather which remains flexible in the coldest weather; the upper, about twelve inches long, is of burlap. This is worn over two or more pairs of woolen socks, and between each pair is a felt inner-sole. You can get about the same results with G.I. high shoes and several pairs of woolen socks with felt inner soles.

3. Footwear should be large and roomy. Any tightness will cause a decrease in the blood circulation, and circulation , of course, is the principal means of maintaining body heat in the feet.

4. Feet freeze easily. As long as they can be moved easily and the sensation of cold is acute, freezing has not set in. If cramping prevents moving the toes, and if pain of great intensity lets up without good reason, the feet should be examined at once. Blood circulation can be restored by placing the frost-bitten or frozen parts next to warm flesh. Never treat by rapidly heating near a stove, by placing in cold water, rubbing with snow, or any brisk, abrasive rubbing. Such treatment tends to aggravate the condition and to injure the skin, thereby making it very easy for infection to set in. Frozen toes should be cupped in warm hands, and alternating gentle pressure and release of pressure should be applied after normal circulation has been restored.


Hands and fingers are sometimes more difficult to protect than any other parts of the body. Airplane pilots and gunners, for example, must have a high degree of flexibility in their fingers. A few minutes of exposure while taking an astral sight of -20o F is sufficient to cause frostbite. Basic principles for protecting the hands are similar to those for the feet:

1. Avoid long exposure. Do not touch metal, snow or ice. Keep the wrists, palms and backs of the hands covered as much as possible.

2. Wear loose-fitting woolen mittens, with separate windproof coverings. Do not wear gloves that separate the fingers because radiation between the fingers is an important source of heat.

3. Chilled hands often are the result of overheating the rest of the body, or they may be caused by constriction which prevents proper circulation of the blood. Avoid garments that fit tightly around the upper arms or under the armpits where large blood vessels come near the surface.

4. Treat frostbitten or frozen hands as prescribed for the feet - that is, gently massage with warm hands to stimulate circulation, or place the hands on warm flesh under the armpits, between the thighs or on the abdomen.

5. Keep the hands and mittens as dry as possible because moisture increases heat loss. Changing to dry mittens when hands are wet and cold will immediately produce a feeling of warmth.


1. Ears freeze quickly. Even in moderately cold weather, ear muffs should be worn even though the rest of head may be uncovered.

2. The back of the neck should be protected because of the vital sensory nerve cords and tendons which lie close to the surface. The temples, forehead and throat also must be protected.

3. The top of the head, when a normal amount of hair is present, will be safe without covering in temperatures as low as 0o F, provided wind is not blowing. A light head covering, however, is always a good idea.

4. The chin will withstand a considerable range of temperatures, but if the wind is strong the chin requires protection just as do the nose and cheeks. The mouth and eyes are more difficult to protect. A complete face mask should be used in severe weather. The Navy winter helmet will protect practically all parts of the head.

5. You've got only one set of eyes, so treat them kindly. No matter how strong you think your eyes are, they are subject to snow blindness and perhaps permanent injuries unless you take care. Snow blindness is caused by glare on snow and ice, not only from light reflected directly by the sun but also from the diffused light when the sky is dark and overcast. Though actual blindness does not result, the condition is painful and very serious. Rubbing the eyes will increase the burning and stinging sensation. The only treatment is complete rest by wearing dark glasses, or, in severe cases, by bandaging the eyes.

To prevent snow blindness, dark glasses should be worn at all times. They should have shields to prevent glare from entering at the sides. The rims should not be made of metal as they might stick to the skin. Polaroid glass does not help because light is reflected from many different planes. The goggles that are issued with Navy winter clothing will do very well. If goggles or dark glasses are not at hand, you can make goggles of pieces of canvas or other heavy cloth, cardboard or even pieces of wood, with narrow slits for the eyes. Blackening the cheeks and nose with soot is helpful.

6. Freezing of the flesh about the face or head may happen so quickly that you won't notice it. At the moment of freezing a sharp pain shoots through the affected part and it suddenly turns white. There is an unwritten law in cold countries that each man will call attention to his companion's face whenever he sees these characteristic white areas.

Old Man Winter - with salt in his hair from the high seas or with snow in his beard from the Russian steppes - either can be your enemy or your ally. It's very much up to you.

Source: "How to Beat Old Man Winter: Tips for Sailors in Cold Climates … How to Avoid Colds, Thaw Out Frozen Fingers." All Hands. 322 (January 1944): 29-30, 52.

Published: Thu Jan 12 06:41:34 EST 2017