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Insulting The Marines

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About two years ago the US Army Natick Laboratory issued a solicitation for proposals for a new sleep system to include a sleeping bag and a bivi bag. At the time I read the specifications they wanted those making proposals to meet certain requirements, and I knew it could not be accomplished so I did not offer a product since it would have been bogus on my part. If the proposal did not have a weight requirement I would have offered a product. What was asked for was a 2 ½ pound bag good for +20 degrees F while lightly dressed and would also perform for the user when the temperature was 0 degrees F while wearing more clothing. It could not be made before the solicitation was published and isn’t being made now and will not be made in the future, and that is just the way it is.

However, with in the past year a sleeping bag and bivi bag system has been accepted by Natick and the Marines. I have personally not held one in my hands but I have seen pictures of each item and I know positively the weight is greater than 2 ½ pounds but due to its construction; i.e. quilted, it will not work. The bag is a center zip style and the zipper appears to be short possibly 50 inches long and the user has to be able to exit the bag in 10 seconds or less according to the solicitation. The bivi bag has a side zipper. When used together the user has to be able to exit both items in 20 seconds or less. I do not expect anyone will be able to accomplish such a feat with out a sharp knife.

A solicitation for 250,000 of these “systems” has been published and just recently an amendment to the solicitation has been published. The amendment requires a “user pocket guide”. Imagine giving a “user pocket guide” to a Marine “telling” him how to use a sleeping bag and bivi bag. My first though was about 10 percent of the Marines issued these “systems” will review the information making a joke of it and then throw it away. 40 percent will flip through it with out reading 10 words and then throw it away and the balance or 50 percent will simply throw it away immediately.

What is wrong with these people who are taking responsibility for these bags; 4000 are already in the field I understand and 15000 more are in production. Did the first 4000 recipients of these “systems” have a problem understanding how to use them? If they are that complicated maybe they should review the bag and bivi. The only problem Marines and soldiers have had with the old issue system is its inability to perform, but they knew how to get in and out of them. Apparently the Marines who are in fire fights need the concern if they live through the fire fight they are not going to be able to simply get into their sleeping bags without an illustrated “user pocket guide”. In addition to the “user pocket guide” they want “posters” showing the most user points possible. The poster size is to be a minimum of 29 x 17 inches.

Those who are in charge of this situation are in my opinion brain dead.


Once again climbers demonstrate an arrogance that is remarkable when it comes to their climbing knowledge. I personally am not a mountain climber but I do know about being on mountains during the winter months. As a hunter I have hunted for years the Fossil Ridge Wilderness Area located above Gunnison, Colorado with a base camp at 12,000 feet in the month of November. The temperature normally is less than 30 degrees during the day and as cold as -30 during the night. However, most days see around 0. One year I got lost and encountered a snow storm that lasted the better part of 2 days. Snow fell at the rate of 6 to 8 inches per hour. Winds were I can only guess at 30/40 miles per hour. Wind chill was well below 0. While in this state I encountered two boys who didn’t know at the time we met up that they were also lost. I was dressed with fishnets as my first layer and Lamilite Fossil Ridge parka, Lamilite insulated leg jackets and Lamilite insulate Joe Redington Muk Luk’s, as well as Lamilite insulated mittens. Throughout the entire experience I was never cold. Because I was not cold I could concentrate on the task at hand how to get out of the situation; i.e. get found.

The two boys were wearing as first layer synthetic long underwear that was supposed to “wick” away their body produced moisture; it did nothing of the sort. All the fabric did was to keep that moisture they produced against their skin. Where my fishnet underwear allowed the moisture to move away from me their close knit underwear held it in place. I had a dry skin surface so I was warm they had a wet skin surface so they were cold. All of my clothing was insulated with Lamilite none of theirs was. But as I have said they were rescued.

Several years ago I wrote that the climbers who died on Mt. Everest would have been far better off if the had been wearing fishnets and Lamilite insulated clothing. Certainly not a guarantee of survival but certainly a better chance for the reasons explained above.

Three years ago three climbers did themselves in and in my opinion had they been wearing fishnet underwear they too would have had a better chance of survival. Now we have three more deaths and these climbers again were not wearing the proper clothing for the task they embarked upon. Why because they were sold a bill of goods as to how well the clothing they were buying was “supposed” to perform in the field. They made other mistakes as well, but first their clothing.

They were probably wearing synthetic long underwear that is supposed to “wick” moisture. Well synthetic material does not “wick” moisture, never has never will. In order for a fabric to “wick” moisture it must be able to absorb the moisture. Then as the moisture moves through the fabric; that is known as “wicking action”! We know if you were to wear cotton, wool or silk long underwear these fabrics will absorb the moisture and they will wick. Unfortunately the moisture does not move as quickly as needed through the fabric. The synthetics do not absorb the moisture at all so it stays against the skin surface just like it does when it is absorbed by the absorbing fabrics. Those textile companies making synthetic fabric that they claim “wicks moisture” are making an erroneous claim. People who climb mountains from my questioning are always having a chill when they stop the activity. I always tell them fishnets will eliminate that experience. These three climbers froze from the inside out. The manufacturers who chose to use these fabrics in my opinion probably have never experimented with these materials to find out if the claims are true or not. They are more concerned about the advertising dollars available. How about the retailers who offer these products have any of them experimented to find out if the garments do as claimed, NO! The balance of the clothing they were wearing was probably also of a marginal vapor permeable nature and possibly the outer layer was made with a fabric that was suggested to be water proof and breathable. Does not exist never has never will.

The equipment they had with them was all climbing equipment and probably some food and water. However, they should have had with them a sleeping bag. My opinion the bag should have been at least a +20 degree bag. I am sure when the pictures that have been recovered will show exactly what they were carrying. Since they were intending to make the climb and decent in one day they went as light as possible. Again my opinion they unknowingly were committing suicide.

If the rangers who check people in that are making these climbs were to insist they have a sleeping bag maybe some of them will actually survive these situations. The cost involved in trying to find people would be reduced and those who are on the ground searchers would not necessarily put their own lives in danger as well.
If this one simple request is not placed on the climbers more deaths will occur.

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