Currently, CTA 50-900 provides adequate footwear for most operations in mountainous terrain. In temperate climates a combination of footwear is most appropriate to accomplish all tasks.

a. The hot weather boot provides an excellent all-round platform for movement and climbing techniques and should be the boot of choice when the weather permits. The intermediate cold weather boot provides an acceptable platform for operations when the weather is less than ideal. These two types of boots issued together will provide the unit with the footwear necessary to accomplish the majority of basic mountain missions.

b. Mountain operations are encumbered by extreme cold, and the extreme cold weather boot (with vapor barrier) provides an adequate platform for many basic mountain missions. However, plastic mountaineering boots should be incorporated into training as soon as possible. These boots provide a more versatile platform for any condition that would be encountered in the mountains, while keeping the foot dryer and warmer.

c. Level 2 and level 3 mountaineers will need mission-specific footwear that is not currently available in the military supply system. The two types of footwear they will need are climbing shoes and plastic mountaineering boots.

(1) Climbing shoes are made specifically for climbing vertical or near vertical rock faces. These shoes are made with a soft leather upper, a lace-up configuration, and a smooth "sticky rubber" sole (Figure 3-1). The smooth "sticky rubber" sole is the key to the climbing shoe, providing greater friction on the surface of the rock, allowing the climber access to more difficult terrain.

(2) The plastic mountaineering boot is a double boot system (Figure 3-1). The inner boot provides support, as well as insulation against the cold. The inner boot may or may not come with a breathable membrane. The outer boot is a molded plastic (usually with a lace-up configuration) with a lug sole. The welt of the boot is molded in such a way that crampons, ski bindings, and snowshoes are easily attached and detached.

Note: Maintenance of all types of footwear must closely follow the manufacturers' recommendations.

Figure 3-1. Climbing shoes and plastic mountaineering boots.


Clothing is perhaps the most underestimated and misunderstood equipment in the military inventory. The clothing system refers to every piece of clothing placed against the skin, the insulation layers, and the outer most garments, which protect the soldier from the elements. When clothing is worn properly, the soldier is better able to accomplish his tasks. When worn improperly, he is, at best, uncomfortable and, at worst, develops hypothermia or frostbite.

a. Socks. Socks are one of the most under-appreciated part of the entire clothing system. Socks are extremely valuable in many respects, if worn correctly. As a system, socks provide cushioning for the foot, remove excess moisture, and provide insulation from cold temperatures. Improper wear and excess moisture are the biggest causes of hot spots and blisters. Regardless of climatic conditions, socks should always be worn in layers.

(1) The first layer should be a hydrophobic material that moves moisture from the foot surface to the outer sock.

(2) The outer sock should also be made of hydrophobic materials, but should be complimented with materials that provide cushioning and abrasion resistance.

(3) A third layer can be added depending upon the climatic conditions.

(a) In severe wet conditions, a waterproof type sock can be added to reduce the amount of water that would saturate the foot. This layer would be worn over the first two layers if conditions were extremely wet.

(b) In extremely cold conditions a vapor barrier sock can be worn either over both of the original pairs of socks or between the hydrophobic layer and the insulating layer. If the user is wearing VB boots, the vapor barrier sock is not recommended.

b. Underwear. Underwear should also be made of materials that move moisture from the body. Many civilian companies manufacture this type of underwear. The primary material in this product is polyester, which moves moisture from the body to the outer layers keeping the user drier and more comfortable in all climatic conditions. In colder environments, several pairs of long underwear of different thickness should be made available. A lightweight set coupled with a heavyweight set will provide a multitude of layering combinations.

c. Insulating Layers. Insulating layers are those layers that are worn over the underwear and under the outer layers of clothing. Insulating layers provide additional warmth when the weather turns bad. For the most part, today's insulating layers will provide for easy moisture movement as well as trap air to increase the insulating factor. The insulating layers that are presently available are referred to as pile or fleece. The ECWCS (Figure 3-2, page 3-4) also incorporates the field jacket and field pants liner as additional insulating layers. However, these two components do not move moisture as effectively as the pile or fleece.

d. Outer Layers. The ECWCS provides a jacket and pants made of a durable waterproof fabric. Both are constructed with a nylon shell with a laminated breathable membrane attached. This membrane allows the garment to release moisture to the environment while the nylon shell provides a degree of water resistance during rain and snow. The nylon also acts as a barrier to wind, which helps the garment retain the warm air trapped by the insulating layers. Leaders at all levels must understand the importance of wearing the ECWCS correctly.

Note: Cotton layers must not be included in any layer during operations in a cold environment.

Army Extreme Cold Weather Gear
Figure 3-2. Extreme cold weather clothing system.

e. Gaiters. Gaiters are used to protect the lower leg from snow and ice, as well as mud, twigs, and stones. The use of waterproof fabrics or other breathable materials laminated to the nylon makes the gaiter an integral component of the cold weather clothing system. Gaiters are not presently fielded in the standard ECWCS and, in most cases, will need to be locally purchased. Gaiters are available in three styles (Figure 3-3).

(1) The most common style of gaiter is the open-toed variety, which is a nylon shell that may or may not have a breathable material laminated to it. The open front allows the boot to slip easily into it and is closed with a combination of zipper, hook-pile tape, and snaps. It will have an adjustable neoprene strap that goes under the boot to keep it snug to the boot. The length should reach to just below the knee and will be kept snug with a drawstring and cord lock.

(2) The second type of gaiter is referred to as a full or randed gaiter. This gaiter completely covers the boot down to the welt. It can be laminated with a breathable material and can also be insulated if necessary. This gaiter is used with plastic mountaineering boots and should be glued in place and not removed.

(3) The third type of gaiter is specific to high-altitude mountaineering or extremely cold temperatures and is referred to as an overboot. It is worn completely over the boot and must be worn with crampons because it has no traction sole.

Men Champion Snap Leg Pants



Figure 3-3. Three types of gaiters.



Figure 3-3. Three types of gaiters.

f. Hand Wear. During operations in mountainous terrain the use of hand wear is extremely important. Even during the best climatic conditions, temperatures in the mountains will dip below the freezing point. While mittens are always warmer than gloves, the finger dexterity needed to do most tasks makes gloves the primary cold weather hand wear (Figure 3-4, page 3-6).

(1) The principals that apply to clothing also apply to gloves and mittens. They should provide moisture transfer from the skin to the outer layers—the insulating layer must insulate the hand from the cold and move moisture to the outer layer. The outer layer must be weather resistant and breathable. Both gloves and mittens should be required for all soldiers during mountain operations, as well as replacement liners for both. This will provide enough flexibility to accomplish all tasks and keep the users' hands warm and dry.

(2) Just as the clothing system is worn in layers, gloves and mittens work best using the same principle. Retention cords that loop over the wrist work extremely well when the wearer needs to remove the outer layer to accomplish a task that requires fine finger dexterity. Leaving the glove or mitten dangling from the wrist ensures the wearer knows where it is at all times.

Figure 3-4. Hand wear.

g. Headwear. A large majority of heat loss (25 percent) occurs through the head and neck area. The most effective way to counter heat loss is to wear a hat. The best hat available to the individual soldier through the military supply system is the black watch cap. Natural fibers, predominately wool, are acceptable but can be bulky and difficult to fit under a helmet. As with clothes and hand wear, man-made fibers are preferred. For colder climates a neck gaiter can be added. The neck gaiter is a tube of man-made material that fits around the neck and can reach up over the ears and nose (Figure 3-5). For extreme cold, a balaclava can be added. This covers the head, neck, and face leaving only a slot for the eyes (Figure 3-5). Worn together the combination is warm and provides for moisture movement, keeping the wearer drier and warmer.

Figure 3-5. Neck gaiter and balaclava.

h. Helmets. The Kevlar ballistic helmet can be used for most basic mountaineering tasks. It must be fitted with parachute retention straps and the foam impact pad (Figure 3-6). The level 2 and 3 mountaineer will need a lighter weight helmet for specific climbing scenerios. Several civilian manufacturers produce an effective helmet. Whichever helmet is selected, it should be designed specifically for mountaineering and adjustable so the user can add a hat under it when needed.

Figure 3-6. Helmets.

i. Eyewear. The military supply system does not currently provide adequate eyewear for mountaineering. Eyewear is divided into two catagories: glacier glasses and goggles (Figure 3-7). Glacier glasses are sunglasses that cover the entire eye socket. Many operations in the mountains occur above the tree line or on ice and snow surfaces where the harmful UV rays of the sun can bombard the eyes from every angle increasing the likelihood of snowblindness. Goggles for mountain operations should be antifogging. Double or triple lenses work best. UV rays penetrate clouds so the goggles should be UV protected. Both glacier glasses and goggles are required equipment in the mountains. The lack of either one can lead to severe eye injury or blindness.

Figure 3-7. Glacier glasses and goggles.

j. Maintenance of Clothing. Clothing and equipment manufacturers provide specific instructions for proper care. Following these instructions is necessary to ensure the equipment works as intended.

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