(Non-review guest article: Great intel on the basics of FR clothing)
Flame Resistance and Moisture Management in Comfortable FR Wear
Resisting flames and managing moisture – these are two capabilities at which your military wear should excel, so you can focus on the challenges in front of you without worrying about the clothes on your back. The fibers and fabrics that make up flame resistant (FR) T-shirts, undergarments, pants and head protection worn day in and day out aren’t like your normal cotton garments. The right, comfortable FR wear is specially designed, engineered and tested to withstand the everyday rigors of training and combat in any condition, whether you’re running through the heat of the desert or crawling through the mud with a load of armor on your shoulders.
Traditionally, fabrics like cotton and polyester have been used in base layers. These untreated, non-FR fabrics can be very dangerous in the event of a fire. Untreated cotton is flammable, and can result in severe burns on your body. Polyester melts when exposed to flame, degrading into a freaky, magma-like substance that can stick to your body as it continues to melt, drip and burn. If you’re wearing polyester as a base layer under your combat ensemble and you are exposed to open flames, you can easily become “shrink-wrapped” in your base layer, making it nearly impossible to treat your burn injuries. To see how cotton, polyester, and flame resistant fabrics perform under fire, check out this video:
Notice how the flames spread quickly across the cotton and polyester T-shirts, burning through the cotton until it crumbles, and shriveling up the polyester into a melting, dripping mess. Instead, the DRIFIRE® shirt, which features inherently flame resistant, no-melt, no-drip fabrics, self extinguishes as soon as the ignition source is removed. The garment keeps its shape, with just a minimal amount of the fabric burnt to a solid char rather than melting or dripping onto the skin. Quality flame resistant garments like this one can mean the difference between safety and severe injury.
Flame resistant fabrics help keep you safe should you find yourself near an unexpected explosion or open flames, while moisture management keeps you from sweating the small stuff. Read on to learn what to look for when you’re choosing your military wear to make sure you are wearing safe, comfortable garments that can improve your performance on the field and, more importantly, help keep you alive.
The Basics of Flame Resistance
There are a lot of garments and gear on the market that claim to be flame resistant, and a lot of varying degrees of protection available for the industries that use FR wear. Depending on your application, a high degree of flame resistance might be required to even show up at a job site. But even if you’re not encountering open flames on a regular basis, FR clothing provides an added layer of protection that can literally mean the difference between life and death.
There are primarily two different ways to make a fabric fire resistant. The first is by treating a non-FR fabric with chemicals that give it the ability to resist flames. Military clothing that has been treated with fire retardant chemicals might offer some protection throughout several wears, but the chemicals may eventually fade away or wash out over time. This can leave you with a garment that is no longer as protective, and create a need to continually purchase more garments to ensure optimal protection day in and day out.
The other alternative is to find FR clothing with flame resistance inherent to the garments’ fabrics. In other words, the fabric is flame resistant without having to be topically treated because the fibers used to make the fabric are already flame resistant. This means that the protective properties of these fabrics are permanent and cannot be washed or worn away (of course, if you’re prone to wearing your gear even after it’s achieved its literal, “hole-y” status, nothing will protect you there…). FR clothing made of permanent flame resistant fabrics help provide you with reliable, long lasting protection that will keep you safe day after day.
Basics of Moisture Management
No matter how complex the design or how protective the fabric, the bottom line is simple: military clothing must be comfortable in order to be truly effective. You can’t afford to be distracted or slowed down by soggy, sweaty T-shirts, especially in the middle of heated combat situations. Selecting gear that incorporates effective moisture management technology is crucial to keeping you cool and dry no matter where you’re deployed and what mission you’re trying to accomplish.
Moisture wicking is a common term used when discussing the moisture management properties of any performance garment, including commercial FR wear, sports apparel and military clothing. To wick is to absorb or drain a fluid or moisture, so wicking fabrics essentially remove moisture from the skin by absorbing it into their fibers. To be truly comfortable, however, a garment needs to be able to absorb the sweat from your skin and be able to dry quickly, helping your body to remain within a comfortable temperature range. Advanced moisture wicking garments use a blend of hydrophilic and hydrophobic fibers to provide optimum moisture absorption AND outstanding drying capabilities. Hydrophilic (water-loving) fibers absorb moisture quickly once it comes into contact with the fabric and help to spread it over a large surface area. Hydrophobic fibers (water-hating) help to shed that moisture, so the garment can dry fast, keeping you cool and comfortable.
Regular cotton T-shirts can absorb moisture like a sponge and are slow to dry, leaving warfighters with wet garments that can bunch, chafe and irritate underneath heavy armor. Extreme temperature and activity changes can also affect comfort levels – a sweaty T-shirt quickly turns into a cold garment when moving from extreme heat to extreme cold, causing chills and discomfort.
If your moisture wicking garments are truly working to keep you comfortable, you should actually stay cooler wearing the garment than keeping it off, as it regulates your skin temperature by keeping you drier. Keeping moisture away from your body is also integral to keeping you warm when it’s cold out. With that kind of comfort, you can train harder and stay focused longer.
Combine permanent flame resistant technology with permanent moisture wicking and fast-drying capabilities, in addition to seamless designs, soft-to-touch fabrics and a complete layering system, and you’ve got FR military clothing that will keep you ready to tackle any situation, any time, anywhere. Always remember that comfort and safety go hand in hand out on the combat field, and the right military wear will help you achieve both.
About the Author: Jacqui MacKenzie is a writer for Straight North, a premier Chicago marketing agency that works with DRIFIRE®, a leader in comfortable FR military apparel. Check out DRIFIRE’s Facebook page for product photos and reviews, and see more DRIFIRE videos on the DRIFIRE YouTube Channel.