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the most inportant article of clothing

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I wrote years ago that the most important item you take into the field is a sleeping bag. If it is a Wiggy bag all the better! You can have all the food in the world but once you are cold it is necessary to have the sleeping bag. However if you do not have the food but you do have the sleeping bag you are far better off.

With respect to clothing you can have a good parka, bib, hand wear and head wear but if you do not have good insulated foot wear all of what is above the footwear is not going to save your life. Once your feet start to get cold your problem staying out in the cold becomes extremely dangerous. As I have explained aside from the footwear that I make which is less than a drop of water in the ocean compared to what is available in stores all over the country I believe what is available is not only an accident waiting to happen but people who have gotten in trouble in cold conditions experienced foot problems to begin with.

As far as I know 5 years ago the Marines realized that the troops were experiencing foot problems that affected their performance in the field based upon wetness. These problems manifest as blisters, athlete’s foot, planta wort’s, nail fungus, itching, redness, burning sensations, rashes and all can lead to infections and even trench foot. Of course if you happen to be in sub-freezing conditions your feet will freeze before these other ailments can take hold. All of the problems are based upon the same cause, wet feet or because the materials used in the construction of the footwear do not allow the moisture out.

During the time that I was lost in the Fossil Ridge Wilderness I acquired a great deal of information via my experience that is beneficial with respect to guiding people who venture into the mountains most specifically during the winter months.

I had almost no food or water. I had available to me many streams so water wasn’t a problem. I had the best clothing available even though I did not really know that, except for the fish net underwear, until after the fact. I was perpetually warm regardless of how cold it was or would get. All of this would not have made a difference if my feet were cold. The reason for that was the Muk Luks that I was wearing. I was wearing thick wool rag socks and hiking boots that had foam which was for comfort more so than insulation. If that were all I was wearing on my feet, I would have become coyote food. Considering that the ambient temperature was below 0 degrees F all of the moisture that came out of my feet would have started to cool down very quickly signaling my brain to start reducing the blood flow to my feet to protect the rest of my body. The process of blood vessels constricting is an involuntary action taken by the body. The constriction would have moved from my feet to my ankles and so on up each leg making walking more than very difficult but ultimately impossible. The same hold true for your hands, that is why gloves are not advised by me to be worn when the temperature goes below plus 25 degrees F and lower; mittens are what is necessary.

If boot manufacturers are ignorant of what I have just said, they should not be in the business of making insulated boots, just warm weather boots. However, if they do have this knowledge then they have not acted on making boots that are suitable for cold weather use, they should do something else that does not potentially damage their customers.

The Marines apparently studied what happens to feet when they are left in a prolonged wet condition and what did they do about it; they spent probably a small fortune with a company that ultimately made a product that would absorb moisture from boots while the Marine was in the field. Unfortunately these boot driers only last 5 to 15 uses; i.e. two weeks and then they have to be replaced, whereas my boot driers will last probably for several years. That said they never have address the real cause, a material used in the manufacture of the boot termed waterproof and breathable (vapor permeability). Do they need further proof that such a material does not exist? The actual film in and of itself is vapor permeable but once you attach it to whatever the shell material or lining material is with adhesive almost every microscopic hole in the film is clogged with the adhesive making vapor permeability impossible. Do any of the Marines charged with trying to solve the problem know this, probably not. But, I believe there are people in the material command center who do, but they probably refuse to acknowledge what the problem is. There is a reason that they will not make a change; the film used and the supposed insulation used is spec materials. How do I know this, because I was told this by two of the companies that supply boots to the military; Bates and Belleville.

The Bates guy told me 600 gram Thinsulate and Gore-Tex. The guy from Belleville corroborated this statement by telling me and I quote; “All components for this boot (Intermediate Cold Wet Boot) are mil spec items and are tested accordingly by a third party certified labs”. I would like to know which lab it is so I could ask them how they can make non-vapor permeable material vapor permeable to the extent that moisture coming out of a person’s feet can escape the interior of the boot.

Several years ago I was supplying both Wellco Boot Company and Belleville Boot Company with Lamilite as they were working on a Modular Boot which ultimately was cancelled. However, the Belleville version was confirmed by the Army the following test results and I quote; “that it out performed their vapor barrier boot (existing extreme cold weather option) and could safely be worn in temperatures in excess of -50 F.” I was further told the performance level was not ours claim (Belleville), it was based on factual results provided by the Army.” The Lamilite that I provided them with was the L-15. I use the L-12 Lamilite in my Muk Luks which would have done the same thing at a lower cost. In addition I was further told the following and I quote; “The initial development goal was to provide a system that would accommodate a -20F to 120F environment. Our system exceeded these requirements.”

I told both of these companies from the very beginning of the project that the over boot I make if used over whatever boot was already being worn by the soldiers they would be good at -25F and it was insulated with L-6 Lamilite. If the wanted a colder capability they could use the Muk Luks which are good for -70F. Obviously neither company took my advice. After all what do I know I make sleeping bags and clothing for cold weather use I don’t make foot wear!

Now you might think based upon these test results that these companies might want to look at other weights of Lamilite? That is not to be because Lamilite is not spec material. I suggested to each of these companies that they use Lamilite in some of their consumer boots all to no avail. That is the same story from every boot maker in the USA. It is for this reason that I think these companies are despicable.

The only way they will start making a change in the materials they use for the boots they make is if enough of the people who buy boots and have cold feet start returning them to the retail stores from where they were purchased. The store owners will definitely put pressure on them.

You now know why I believe the most important article of clothing that you wear is your footwear!!!!

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