About ECWCS Clothing – GEN III and the History of ECWCS Clothing Systems

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ECWCS – or Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System – clothing is designed for soldiers in all climate ranges. Developed at the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Massachusetts, ECWCS has been issued since the mid-1980s to soldiers in cold weather regions. Previous systems were designed for cold-wet and cold-dry conditions, and the three ECWCS systems incorporated these aspects.

All ECWCS clothing systems use moisture management principles to transfer perspiration away from the skin. Relying on layers, ECWCS clothing is divided into three groups. The base layer, also known as the inner or wicking layer, is closest to the skin. On top of that is the insulation layer, which consists of one to two intermediate layers to trap warm air. The outer shell goes on top of everything, with one to two camouflage layers that protect against wind and moisture.

GEN III is the most recent ECWCS clothing system. Considered a significant upgrade over previous systems, GEN III retains some aspects of GEN I and II. Soldiers in the Middle East complained of the bulkiness of GEN II, the ECWCS clothing system used prior to 2008, and developments for GEN III started in 2003 as a result. The clothing system was tested in 2004 with the 10th Mountain Division and the 82nd Airborne Division. Proper distribution of the GEN III ECWCS began in 2008.

GEN III uses seven levels of protection for unpredictable environmental conditions. The clothing system is designed to be used in temperatures ranging from -40°F to 60°F, and, compared to the previous ECWCS, GEN III is 25 percent lighter and 33 percent less bulky. Four additional levels were added and Near Infrared Textile Technology was incorporated. The lighter and less bulky clothing system allows for better integration with load carriage and body armor.

Seven layers make up this current GEN III ECWCS clothing system.

Level 1 consists of lightweight underwear and drawers, and Level 2, another base layer, includes mid-weight shirts and drawers. Level 3 is an insulation layer consisting of a high-loft fleece jacket. Level 4 is a wind jacket. Level 5 is the first insulation layer, made up of a soft shell cold weather jacket and trousers. Levels 6 and 7 are for extreme wet or cold weather. Level 6 consists of an extreme wet and cold weather jacket and trousers, while level 7 is an extreme cold weather parka and trousers.

write by Abner


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