Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cold Weather Gear for the LEO

Cold Weather Gear for the LEO

It’s the season for cold weather and that means cold weather gear comes out to play. In my AO, temps can go from 110+ in the summer to less than -20 at night in the winter. The cold weather doesn’t help when you add in the fact you can be standing in the weather (with wind) and 2 minutes later be inside a house that is 80 inside.

How do you prep for that? Research of the SOCOM PCU system, speaking with others who have dealt with the cold weather, as well as hands on experience. I have found many very informative blog posts on “tactical” subjects over at Soldier Systems. In particular, this post on the topic:

I also looked up YouTube videos and researched for official explanation of what the 9 layer PCU system was:

The big takeaway from this system was the principle of Layering. This is very familiar to someone who goes backpacking or other outdoor activities. The principle is to add or remove clothing as you adjust to outside temperatures. This is also affected by your activity levels.

How do you apply this layering concept to Law Enforcement, specifically Patrol officers? With a bit of accepting you’ll just have to embrace the suck sometimes. This is mainly because of agencies uniform policies and the ensuing restrictions. Some agencies only allow issued gear, others tell you to buy yours 100% out of pocket. There are also places that allow a mix of the above.

What have I found worked?

·      Stocking cap/Watchcap: I like a windstopping model, currently a fan of the Windstopper Fleece from Gore Tex.
·      Gloves: Find a pair that allows you to shoot with them on, then buy 3 of them. I’m regretting not doing that a few years back when my favorite model was closed out and am having to try to find a new model that works. I keep a pair of leather or synthetic gloves in the car as well as a pair of the “Seal Skins” for any pre expected wet weather or wet object handling.
·      Neck Gaiter: Something fleece, ideally with Gore’s Windstopper Fleece or similar. I am running a Outdoor Research one right now and am content with it.
·      Socks: This is the subject of another blog post to elaborate on, but thick high quality socks are a must. Smartwool or Darn Tough Vermont. Really cold weather, I put a thin pair under a thick pair.
·      Boots: Some guys I know run “Cold Weather”  boots all year round.
·      Base Layers top and bottom: Starting the fourth winter of wearing the same pairs of Patagonia Capilene 2. The clothes still look in almost new condition. I like the no longer made Turtlenecks for my shirts as they provide that little bit extra skin coverage for wear in very cold weather. These also handle the sweat of being worn under body armor well. I bought a piece of the Capilene 3 system this winter to see if its enough warmer to justify purchasing more.
·      Coats. This is dictated by policy and will give specific options/limitations. I like to wear a mid weight Fleece for general wear with a rain shell if its wet out. During extremely cold times, I put a Arc’Teryx Atom LT under my duty jacket. This creates a very warm low profile base layer.

I’ve found its worth storing extra cold weather gear in your car, in case the stuff your wearing gets wet. A Jetboil is also kept on hand. This allows me to make hot refreshments if I get soaked – Tea, Instant Coffee or Camp Foods. Hand warmers are useful as well. This stuff can help you, a fellow Officer or First Responder not to mention members of the community you protect and serve.

Psychologically, It’s best to keep the temperature in your house, your car, etc. closer to the outside temperature so you don’t have as much of a “shock” to the system when you get outside.

There is a lot more to this subject, but this is at least an overview of what layers are available and more importantly what works for me. Lots more info is available, just do some research. Your local REI (or EMS for East Coasters) should have knowledgeable staff as well.

Stay warm and dry.

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