Chatter and Cold Weather Gear


A Marine I served with managed to track me down.  All he knew was my name and what state I was in and he found me.  So much for my personal OPSEC I suppose.  While I was talking to him on the phone I was joking that I was going to change my number as soon as we finished chatting.

So this guy has been out for about 11 years now, he got out shortly after me.  I got to listen to him talk about how we carried a real rifle (The M16A4) not like these youngins who carry a little toy and couldn’t handle the weight of a real gun.  Etc.

Maybe someday I will be able to rant about how back in my day we fired kinetic projectiles instead of super heated plasma and focused laser blasts.  I’m kinda looking forward to that, I want a ray gun.

Unrelated.  I was asked about cold weather gear.   I am from Florida, all other weather is cold weather to me.  I am about as far from an expert on this as possible.  But I shared what little I know.

It is commonly said that you should layer clothing in cold weather.  I have to agree with that as it seems to work best.  There are few things more miserable than working up a sweat when it is freezing out then having to stop and lay prone in an ambush while your sweat is freezing to your skin.   Laying helps prevent this as you can take off layers before you do strenuous activity  in the cold, and put layers back on when you know you are going to be stationary.

For example, when I had to do patrols in the winter I would wear wool socks.  Protecting  your feet is vitally important regardless of the temperature.  If it was very cold, I preferred to keep some sort of warming layer on under my pants, for example polypros.  Yes, your crotch is going to get very warm if your wearing these and running in the snow, but it often isn’t practical to drop trousers and switch warming layers on your legs.

On the other hand, it is very easy to switch clothing on your torso.  I preferred to wear an undershirt and switch layers on top.  If we were patrolling, or doing rapid movement, etc.  I wouldn’t wear a warming layer on my torso so that I wouldn’t overheat or sweat.  When we stopped and set up a position, then I was put a warming layer or layers on my torso.  Often in the snow or inclement weather I liked to wear Gortex.  Gortex also made a good windbreaker.  As a civilian I have a Gortex jacket that was designed for police officer that I like to wear when rains or gets really cold in FL (You know, like 70°).  The major downside to Gortex is that it is LOUD.  You can hear the noise the frabric makes for a long distance.  You don’t want to be wearing it on a reconnaissance patrol or ambush, etc.  Same goes for hunting, check your Gortex and make sure it won’t spook the prey.  I’ve read that newer Gortex is quieter, but I only own the one old jacket.  For example, if I was moving in the cold I might just wear a t-shirt and the BDU blouse, or the t-shirt and a Gortex top.  When we stopped moving then I would put on a wool sweater, polypros, sweats, or similar then put the BDU blouse or Gortex top back on over that.

Side note, chemical warfare cloathing such as MOPP gear can keep you dry and warm in very bad cold weather.  On the other hand it will keep you horribly miserable in any warm weather.

Don’t forget you lose a great deal of heat from your head, so it is good to have something warm to wear on your head.  For some unknown reason in the Corps we were never allowed to wear beanies under our helmets.  No one seemed to know why.  It was probably some sort of stupid tradition from 1850, I’d be that it was considered effeminate or something back then and became Marine Corps institutional inertia.  Much like how we weren’t allowed to put our hands in our pockets because back in 1900 it was considered effeminate and the Corps never forgets anything stupid.

If you have better advice for handling the cold, why don’t you post a comment and share it with us.



  1. This is all spot on. The little cold weather experiance I have ( southern California dweller) matches that. Excet being a dirty civie I do get to wear a beanie. One odd but effective combo you see a lot of active people do here in the snow is insulated pants, a beanie and just a plain long sleeve t-shirt. And usually gloves. Seems to be just right for mild cold in the 30s-40s when you’re exerting yourself.
    I tried to do just a fleece and hard shell jacket on a winter backpacking trip once but once the sun when down it wasn’t enough.

  2. It’s important to tailor your gear to local climate. What works in the dry cold of Colorado is not so good in the rainy Northwest. As a bike commuter in Portland, my main concern was staying dry so my gear was less insulated, but waterproof. As an example I typically wore a helmet cover instead of a skull cap because I got better air circulation. The same with gloves, boots etc., lighter but waterproof as opposed to more insulation but no waterproofing. This reflects typical conditions of 40 and drizzle, versus 25 and windy.

  3. Look into the Patrol Combat Uniform (PCU) and its development. It has elevated the Layering Principle for cold weather to a whole new level. The whole system came with a DVD to explain on how to use it. Yes it was that advance, down to the molecular level of sweat, body heat, wicking away moisture from body. The biggest thing people do not do is to look at their whole set of clothing and gear as a cold weather system that works together. I have slept at 11,500 ft at the USMC Mountain Warfare Center in Bridgeport California with just a light Patrol sleeping bag. Of course I used my cold weather clothing to complement the bag along with a tent and Bivy sack to sleep comfortable. I was able to cut my ruck sack weight by making all the gear to work as a system. This book will point you in the right direction. There is a fine line between patrolling light and freezing at night, remember you have to be to mentally function to carry out the mission, so some comfort is needed to be able to do The Hard Yard.

  4. Slow Joe Crow is right, locality is the deciding choice.
    Different layering for different weather and temps.
    One more thing, if it is below freezing, gloves are not the choice for keeping your hands warm. A good pair of choppers are the choice. The variation in materials that they are made from affect the ability to keep your hands warm and dry too.
    For really cold weather the Air Forces arctic mitts are excellent.

  5. I work year round in New England so have temp. changes that swing from one end to the other.I during the winter use the under garment pants and shirts made by Chilli’s,though wear very light weight and do not seem to hinder/bind under over layers have kept me very comfy in working low 20’s temps,still feel warm just having lunch ec. outside without a lot of activity.When alone wear em in home without other stuff and keeps me very warm with house staying at 50 degrees,will say according to old girlfriend in the black undergarments she says I look like a half assed ninja,fair enuff.The wool socks and light gortex lined boots keep me feet very happy.

    My only real battle is gloves that will keep me warm while allowing me to work on small stuff/digging in pouch for certain nail/give me feeling on a trigger ect.,have tried many gloves and have yet to find the right ones so any thoughts on gloves welcome.


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