Disclaimer: the answers to these questions are provided as a public service for informational purposes only, and are not to be deemed as a legal source of official policy of Cibola Search and Rescue, Inc.
This FAQ list is written by Tom Russo and is maintained by the CSAR WebMaster.
A three-tiered layering system is required for inclement weather. In short, the layering system involves:
- wicking inner layer
- insulating middle layer
- waterproof, windproof, breathable outer layer
Yes. And even in the summer here in the desert it gets cold after the sun stops baking you. As a member of a SAR team you need to be prepared for whatever circumstances might arise during the course of a mission. If you're sent out on a tough search and find yourself having to stay overnight in the field, you'll quickly find that having this sort of clothing available in your pack is a Very Good Idea, even in the middle of the summer. Getting up close and personal with hypothermia is a very, very, very bad way to spend a night in the mountains.
The purpose of the wicking inner layer is to keep perspiration moisture away from your skin; if your skin is wet then you lose heat as the water evaporates. The purpose of the insulating middle layer is to trap pockets of warm air and keep them close to your body. And of course the outer layer serves to keep rain out and protect you from wind chill; it needs to be breathable to let water vapor from evaporated perspiration out, otherwise that moisture will condense inside and saturate your inner layers.
By far the most widely recommended inner garments are polypropylene longjohns. These have excellent wicking properties and are good insulators. Silk is also a popular choice, but not as good an insulator. Silk layers are excellent for keeping wool layers off your skin, though.
Anything made of cotton. Cotton is a decent enough insulator when bone dry, but the fibers can become saturated with water very quickly. Cotton underwear will trap your perspiration against your body and provide a quick and easy escape route for most of the body heat you need to keep. Cotton Kills.
Not a good plan. You've gone through all that trouble to put a wicking layer close to your skin, don't stick a highly absorbant thermal conducting layer in between you and that great wicking stuff.
Quick, somebody say "Amen."
Again, you want this stuff to trap pockets of warm air and not saturate with water when you perspire. The inner layers will be wicking the moisture from your skin to the outer limits of the inner layer. You want the middle layer to continue wicking it away and to provide little or no conduction of heat while doing that. Wool is a great choice for this layer, as are synthetics such as Polarfleece. Down vests are very good as long as you keep them from getting soaked, and compress down to almost nothing when you need to store them in your pack.
Cotton things. Like bluejeans, cotton shirts, and so on. Cotton Kills.
A breathable, waterproof, windproof material such as Gore-Tex is highly recommended, but is expensive and requires special care to maintain its waterproofing. But by all means do *not* get yourself outer layers made of urethanized nylon or rubberized materials --- this stuff will trap all the moisture from your perspiration and bead it up on the inside. It's easy to become wetter on the inside of these garments than on the outside in a driving rain. And getting wet in a cold climate is deadly.
I thought we went through that already. Bluejeans are made of cotton, do not wick moisture, and become ineffective insulators when wet. We don't wear cotton clothing when we anticipate being out in the cold. And it gets cold here when the sun goes down, so we just don't wear cotton at all. Cotton Kills.
Yes, a few things. Cotton is Bad. Getting Wet is Bad. Staying Dry is Good. Cotton Kills. Oh yeah, and bluejeans aren't appropriate.
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