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Keeping Dry

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For some time I have been asked: What should I wear as a rain garment, if the waterproofbreathable variety doesn't work? The answer is multifaceted. We know that the only water we are to be concerned with is that which we produce ourselves. Rain or melting snow can be kept out if you wear a seam-sealed garment that is made with waterproof fabric, such as a urethane-coated nylon. We know that all of the laminated film material wets out, and therefore lets in water when the water-repellent coating disappears.

Since we can not get rid of the moisture from the inside, which we are responsible for, the best option is to stabilize it. This would be in one of the layers of clothing we are wearing under the rain garment. Temperature conditions will determine what those layers are.

If for example the temperature is +60 degrees or higher, wear a long-sleeve cotton shirt. The cotton will absorb the moisture, which is going to keep you cool. Remember the purpose of perspiring is to keep the body cool. When the moisture coats the skin surface, it is drawing heat from the body thereby regulating the core temperature. If you wear a short-sleeve shirt, you will find that the garment wants to stick to the skin. This is an uncomfortable feeling, or so it is for me. If the rain garment is properly cut (size-wise), it will be billowy, and if you keep the neckline open, a great deal of the moisture will escape.

If the temperature is below +60 degrees, the first layer should be nylon fishnets. Now you do not want the moisture to collect on the skin surface. If it does, when you stop your activity you will most assuredly experience a chill. That is because the moisture is cooling you faster than you are producing heat. The action of body-cooling occurs regardless of the ambient air temperature. If the temperature is not lower than +32 degrees, wear a cotton sweatshirt. It can be 100 percent cotton or a cotton blend, but not less than 50 percent, if you want water-absorption capability; and, finally, your rain jacket.

The moisture from the body goes through the large holes in the fishnets and is absorbed by the cotton, where it is stabilized. Your skin surface stays dry; therefore, you stay comfortable, warm. Again, keep the collar open and a lot of the moisture as a vapor will escape.

Since I don't believe a fabric, an inanimate material will ever be manufactured with the same functioning characteristics as the human body has stabilizing perspiration is the only option.

Several years ago I started a project using input from the Navy for underwear worn under a drysuit. The main problem is what to do with the perspiration created by the diver. I learned that it is not unusual for a diver to be down as much as 12 hours. Working underwater takes considerably more effort than being on the ground. Not only is there resistance from the water, but the drysuit is also cumbersome. Therefore, you perspire a lot. Water builds up in the torso area and eventually runs down and accumulates in the foot area. Imagine all of the water buildup in the farthest extremity of the body. At this time the Navy is evaluating my booties extensively. I believe they are thus far satisfied with them.

I studied their problem, and the solution is a three-layer laminate of fishnet, Lamilite, and 100 percent cotton. The fishnet against the skin allows the vapor to go to the Lamilite. Lamilite does not inhibit the follow of moisture on its journey to the cotton exterior where it condenses and is absorbed. Now none of the moisture has opportunity the to run to the foot area of the suit. Warmer feet for the diver.

An unexpected positive is when the diver comes out of the water and deflates the suit. I was not aware that the suits were inflated to begin with. Since the surface of the underwear touching the skin is dry, the diver stays warmer out of the water as well. Keep in mind that the air temperature above water is between 35-40 degrees colder than the water, and can be as low as -30 degrees. If there is wind, well, we all know about wind chill. I have supplied divers who go into Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, Lake Erie, and the Atlantic off the coast of Maine. They have all reported staying warm.

Stabilizing, trapping, or confining the moisture is all you can do with it, just so long as it is kept away from the skin surface.


Many people ask how the Wiggy bags perform when temperatures are above 40 degrees. The biggest problem in warm weather is sweating in a sleeping bag. If you do, you will wake as easily as when you are cold. The reason is simple: you become clammy. This is a very rare occurrence with a Wiggy bag. The vapor permeability of the lining fabric that I use allows the moisture as vapor to easily escape into the fiber. The fiber has shown that it does not restrict this flow of moisture either. Therefore, you stay dry even in warm weather.

Almost all of the high-priced sleeping-bag manufacturers use very tightly woven fabric for the lining as well as the shell of their bags. This type of fabric is very necessary if the fill is down or a fine denier, silicone-treated polyester fiber. In some instances the fabric is "calendered." To calender a fabric, you squeeze it between two rollers, one hot and the other cold, or room temperature. The heated roller melts the yarns together to some degree. They are fused. This is commonly done to "down proof" fabric. It is equally necessary to inhibit fiber migration of fine denier fiber. The end result is a fabric that loses its vapor-permeability. Therefore, in warm conditions you are apt to experience clamminess in bags made with these types of fabric.


The following story came to me via e-mail. The writer is Ted. He lives in Northwest Washington State.

"A few years ago my brother and I went hiking too early in the season. We went to one of our favorite lakes in northwest Washington. Our campsite was on the opposite side of the lake. We carried high-tech 2-1/2 pound rafts for fishing and blew them up to raft across the lake. The camp is 2-1/2 miles down the lake in the rafts, and right in the middle of the lake we look towards the outfall end to see clouds piling into the lake; a freak bit of bad weather rolling in. Soon the clouds fill the lake basin and we cannot see 10 yards around us. Then it began to rain. Hard. Really Hard. Temperature dropped from 45 to 35 degrees in a matter of minutes. The wind blew so hard waves washed into the rafts who knows what the wind chill factor was. We rowed around in circles for an hour, then got out a compass and headed for our camp. Another hour goes by, we hit the beach with a few inches of water in the rafts and all gear soaked. All we had brought was hooped bivy sacks for shelter, and Wiggy bags. My brother was so cold he was shaking, borderline hypothermic, and too incoherant to untie his boots. I got his bivy out, wrung out the Wiggy bag and stuffed it into the sack. Then I helped him undress and zipped him into the bag. I got into my bivy and bag after undressing and just listened to the rain come down until I finally went to sleep. Next morning I peeked out of the bivy to see my brother's clothes covered in snow. Our Wiggy bags were dry and we were warm all night. I don't know what would have happened if those bags were down. I don't want to know. I've never used down since then. Not worth it for a few ounces."

If any one wants to contact Ted, let me know and I'll give you his e-mail address.

Did you ever hear the expression "live and learn"? When I first started making sleeping bags I only knew how to make them and what they were used for. Characteristics such as holding heat when the fiber gets wet were things I have learned about over the years. Did I know how well the Lamilite would perform in conditions such Ted describes? No. I am pleased to say I have learned a lot from my customers, whose information I have passed on to you in product improvements for your comfort in the field.


In the November newsletter I wrote about the poor performance of the sleeping bag system the military is issuing to the field troops. I have received a large number of calls and e-mail messages from members of all branches of service, non-comms as well as officers complaining about the poor quality and poor performance of the issue MSB (Modular Sleep Bag). All of these people thought they were being issued the Wiggy FTRSS. They buy them with their own funds.

One officer located in Alaska had this to say about the MSB: "The MSB is a piece of S---! The MSB we got is black outside and a thin green inside a green bag. The hood is terrible--you cannot put it over your head like the old bag. Your head sticks out and you know how you are losing heat. The major problem is, it does not breathe! I woke up with ice on the inside of my bag and it was only 20 degrees. I was freezing! It's light and it goes easily into a stuff sack. Everyone has gone back to the old bag. I use my MSB as a ground cover. They issued us a Gortex cover that helped a little--the ice problem continued. It's probably a great bag at 10 to 30 degrees."

I am sorry to say this officer's comment can be repeated over and over again. I am happy to say that there are more and more units are going outside of the system to get personal equipment for the troops.

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