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The 7 Layers of Army Clothing that Changed the Cold Weather Survival Game for Good

Army ECWCS GEN III System

Since time immemorial soldiers have been braving the worst climates imaginable. Over these many years, governments across the globe have had to balance the lives of these soldiers with the price of their equipment.

Thus, the greatest military the earth has ever seen crafted the ECWCS (Extended Cold Weather Clothing System), and it’s third generation has been a real game changer for the boots on the ground.

The Generation III Extended Cold Weather System will keep the wind out, your skin dry, and your ass warm. This system is also referred to as the ECWCS GEN III, and its materials offer superior breathability without sacrificing insulation.

By utilizing this system, you are going to carry 33% less bulk and 25% less weight than your grandfather. Lucky us. Each piece can be used either individually, or as a part of the system.

The system can be broken into 7 layers, consisting of 12 components. These pieces work in conjunction to provide insulation, and wick moisture from the body.

The system is good within the range of -60° F to 40° F, and will keep your skin DRY.

Here’s what the ECWCS Gen III System Consists of:

Level 1 – Lightweight Undershirt and Drawers

The level 1 base layer is worn next to the skin and provides basic insulation and moisture wicking.

This layer is highly breathable and is constructed with Polartec technology. Designed to wick away moisture, this layer is also highly breathable and the pieces dry very fast.


Level 2 – Midweight Shirt and Drawers

The mid-weight shirt and drawers provide basic insulation in mild climates, and serve as one of the base layers in cold climates.

Also constructed with Polartec technology, this layer can be worn against the skin or with the Level 1 layer.


Level 3 – Fleece Cold Weather Jacket

The fleece acts as the primary insulation layer for cold climates, and the outer garment for mild climates.

The Polartec materials provide superior insulation, and trap pockets of air to retain body heat. This layer also features great breathability.


Level 4 – Wind Cold Weather Jacket

The wind jacket is designed to be a shell layer that keeps you dry, and optimizes the insulation of the first three layers.

Its strechable nylon construction keeps you dry, and prevents wind from cutting through your base layers.


Level 5 – Soft Shell Jacket and Trousers

The Soft Shell garments are designed for use in moderate to cold weather. These keep you dry, and enhance the insulation further.


Level 6 – Extreme Cold/Wet Weather Jacket and Trousers

The sixth layer is the hard-shell layer for moderate to cold wet conditions.

The double-layer GORE-TEX Jacket and Trousers are extremely light weight, waterproof, windproof and breathable. They also cut the bulk of the Gen II by 50%. This layer also incorporates IR signature reduction technology, enhancing the user’s survivability.


Level 7 – Extreme Cold Weather Parka and Trousers

The Parka and Trousers are designed for use in extreme cold, and dry conditions.

The water resistant finish and thermal insulation make for a highly durable and warm solution to the extreme cold. This layer maintains warmth even in wetter conditions.


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