Having just received my Gen 3 ECWCS pants, and awaiting the coat, I can say that they are thoroughly taped inside the garment. However, there are [I]still some sew-throughs, mostly covered by the coat, that can use some user-applied seam-sealer. Most users will find this procedure unnecessary, at least on the pants. We'll see how things work out with the coat.
As suspected, the Gen 3 ECWCS is a [I]very[/I] dumbed-down garment, compared with the Gen 1 ECWCS; a simple rain/wind shell. It is a LOT lighter than the Gen 1 garment; but I reckon the Gen 1 garment is a lot more durable.
In either case, GI-type suspenders are [b]HIGHLY[/b] recommended for all these type garments. The reason for this is that the pants can be worn with a fairly loose waistband when using appropriate suspenders, and so the moisture/heat can vent from the pants into the jacket, which has better provision for venting than do the pants.
An added comment from the field, and Gore concerning Gen 1 ECWCS, part 1 of 2:
LTC Jack H. Cage, in his article “Light Infantry in Cold-Wet Conditions” (INFANTRY, November 1993, page 11-12), raises serious concerns about the performance of the extended cold weather clothing system (ECWCS) parka in wet weather. He and his soldiers went to the field believing their Gore-Tex parkas would provide protection. Instead, they encountered the unusually severe weather and the Garment failed to keep them dry.
Essentially, LTC Cage was right in trying to find out why this happened and how light infantry or dismounted infantry soldiers could be protected in cold and wet weather.
Since my company, W.L. Gore & Associates. INC., manufactured the fabric used in all the parkas worn during this exercise. I was concerned with determining what has caused this situation. After reading LTC Cage’s detailed description of what happened and the reports of the personnel form the Army’s Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center who investigated the situation, I believe the following observations are relevant:
Natick’s positions that the ECWCS is designed for use only in “cold” conditions is debatable; it certainly doesn’t reflect the original intent of the program under which the requirement documents of both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps mandated that the ECWCS be functional in the temperature range of 40 to -25 degree Fahrenheit and that the shell garment (the parka and the trousers) be constructed of water resistant (Army) or waterproof (Marines) and moisture vapor permeable. The reason for this is that the primary function for the parka and trousers is to provide a windproof barrier and keep the clothing worn under them dry. As LTC Cage and his soldiers can testify, he weather can become dangerously cold at 40 degrees.
While I may disagree with Natick personnel concerning the intent of ECWCS design, they are accurate in saying that the current parka design will not provide waterproof protection. But this doesn’t mean waterproof garments cannot be constructed using Gore-Tex fabric. The material itself is absolutely waterproof and has been used successfully in both commercial and military wet-weather garments in some of the world’s worst climates. If this is the case, then why didn’t these garments provide the protection that soldiers expected?
First the ECWCS parka was designed more than ten years ago and used than state of the art features to make it as waterproof as possible. Unfortunately, at that time, we didn’t realize the importance of sealing all the seams in a garment. Therefore, the seams attaching the zippers in front and under the arms are not sealed and allow water to enter through the stitch holes to cause significant problems, we learned over time that they do contribute to leakage in a garment.
During the past decade, we also learned to appreciate the effects of wicking on garment designs. This term is used to describe the tendency of a material to transfer moisture from one location to another. In the case of the ECWCS parka, the lining material wick moisture from any point that gets wet to area that are well removed from that point. This means moisture on the hood lining wicks down the back of the garment, unless the hood is raised as soon as it begins to rain. Water entering the stitch hole along the zippers can migrate to areas around the chest and back; and if the soldier is not wearing waterproof trousers, the trouser material becomes saturated and where the trousers contact the lower liner of the parka, it will wick moisture up into the body of the garment. In this situation, the solider can become soaked even if the garment doesn’t “leak.”
The statement that “the PFTE suit’s water resistant capability might be degraded after repeated wear and laundering” should not come as a surprise. Natick personnel who investigated this situation determined that about half of the garment worn by LTC Cage’s soldiers had been manufactured in 1985 and under average wear conditions, should have reached the end of their service life in 1989. We recommend that the command have the soldiers inspect the garments periodically for excessive wear, paying particular attention to garments with a contract date more than four years old. But even if LTC Cage had done this, half of the unit would still have garments well with their service life.