By Wes Doss, PhD, Khyber Interactive Associates, LLC

BA SoftshellObviously, our range gear is vital to training, just as our clothing and footwear are for all our functions, but what if our gear is not really getting the job done, leaving us cold, wet, or uncomfortable?

When I was still traveling the world for Uncle Sam, enduring the exhausting 34-hour trips to the Middle East or other faraway lands and in climates ranging from arid deserts to snow-covered mountain passes, we were busy, moving around, occupied with the tasks at hand tougher than now (at least in our minds). Weather-protective garments made of permeable fabrics or comfortably insulated garments were often referred to as “snivel gear,” and most of us ran around wet and cold, uncomfortable, but apparently tough or at least upholding the image of tough.

QuotesThe reality is the right shell, the right pair of pants, the right pair of boots, the right pair of socks, or the right fabric can greatly enhance performance and safety in both the training and operational environments.

Protecting the wearer from cold or heat weather injuries, helping to sustain readiness in harsh environments, supporting muscles and joints under stress, and just generally contribute to a better quality of life in some pretty messy places.

Kinetic CloseupI’ve had the privilege (and I do mean privilege) of working all over the world with some amazing people and under some challenging conditions. High altitudes, extreme cold weather, uneven terrain, high temps, and yes, as a police officer, accident scenes on hot liquefied asphalt (you know, the kind where you leave foot prints). Early in my career, the technology in fabrics and support material was minimal.

In fact, in 1984, when I enlisted in the US Army and went active duty, we were still wearing a combination of Korean War and Vietnam War technology clothing. Lots of heavy cottons, minimally effective insulation, thin wool socks, negligible arch support in footwear, and many of us became a product of the gear we used, carrying the results of injuries to this day. As a teen, I had backpacked, climbed, and skied across the southwest and knew from experience there was something better, but just not available to us in uniform. Then along came the first generation Extended Cold Weather Clothing Systems (ECWCS). The military and other uniformed entities began to recognize the protection offered by permeable fabrics, the value of lighter, more efficient insulation, and the dynamics of synthetic fabrics over cotton.

Series 300The new gear and clothing was a game changer. It allowed us to work harder and sustain longer under adverse conditions. Imagine if the troops in the Battle of the Bulge or the Chosin Reservoir had had such things.

QuotesThe fact is, the right gear and clothing are far from “snivel gear.” It’s mission-and safety-enhancing, but it requires the end user to make informed decisions about what gear and clothing to use and under what conditions.

Understanding your needs is crucial; otherwise, you could be moving to the other end of the comfort and protection spectrum, ultimately missing what you’re trying to accomplish. Remember, clothing and gear is not solely a comfort issue, but a safety and protection issue that can mitigate repetitive use injuries, sprains, pulls/tears. So be informed, make good decisions, make sure everything fit appropriately and it addresses the demands you’re under. My final message as always: train hard, train right, train to win!

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