My comment right at the beginning: I think weight is a fundamentally important variable, but one should definitely include other criteria in a final assessment in this discussion.
Weight is of course a very simple evaluation criterion. You can put your trousers, shirt or jacket etc. on the scales and read off the weight.
The lighter, the more comfortable to wear? In my experience, one should be careful with such a hasty conclusion.
Comfort is defined by the sum of a multitude of parameters, and in the end comfort is always subjective as it relates to individual experience.
Ultimately, you have to experience it in real action and decide for yourself how you feel.
What Criteria Do We Consider?
Proper Fit Of The Garment
As the very first fundamental criterion, I would like to mention the fit of the item of clothing to be assessed.
Clothing that doesn’t fit is simply not comfortable, no matter how light it may be. This is banal, but it should therefore be included in the assessment right from the start.
Very often I experience that people pick up a part and judge it spontaneously. If not explicitly with a comment like, “Oh that’s a bit heavier”, or “Wow! It’s super easy.”
Attention: You wear clothing on your body and you are usually on the move. Many a light shirt feels great in the hand, but it is still absolutely modest when put on and in action because it tightens, restricts freedom of movement or sags.
This can be due to the cut, or the mix of materials, or because the two don’t go together.
Hence rule number 1: Put it on first, do a few movements and only then assess the weight.
Because, unfortunately, the spontaneous weight assessment already involves a decision that you then unconsciously carry in the back of your mind during the further assessment, and this can falsify the judgment.
Unfortunately, this is often only discovered later, when it may be too late. So: experience weight on your body!
Air Permeability, Respectively. Air Circulation.
Very light fabrics are often found, but they are woven very densely in order to maintain the necessary material strength.
I talked a lot and intensively with soldiers who came back from the hot regions described.
The unanimous opinion was that in a hot environment, any draft felt on the skin’s surface is comfortable. Even if the air in these areas is warmer than the skin’s surface.
It is a fundamental physiological phenomenon. Our “cooling mechanism” is largely based on evaporation.
That means you sweat, the sweat evaporates and the body releases the heat energy it produces. This thermal energy is created by the muscles and organs working.
This work requires energy and heat is generated. This is known from different machines (not necessarily combustion engines, since the ignitions produce the heat there).
If the machine works for a while, then the case, for example, gets warm.
The cool draft, which is felt to be pleasant, comes from the fact that the evaporated moisture is transported away and it is easier to continue vaping.
Without this draft, the layer of air above the skin becomes enriched with moisture and a certain saturation of this layer of air occurs.
The higher the degree of saturation, the less moisture can be absorbed by the air. As a result, the evaporation of sweat no longer works as well, which means that our body’s own cooling mechanism no longer works as effectively and sweating hell-bent on to cool down.
Personally, I therefore consider air permeability and circulation to be very important for the subjectively felt wearing comfort.
BUT: If the air permeability is too high, it can happen that you let your cooling mechanism run at full speed all the time.
This means that the amount of sweat produced evaporates too quickly and you continue to perspire happily because the body gets the feedback that it is still hot. Logically at 40-50°C.
The result of this is that while you’re promoting the cooling mechanism, you’re also losing a lot of body fluids through sweating.
In principle, that would be fine if you were sitting next to a well-filled water barrel full of minerals. Normally you don’t have this luxury, because you have to carry your own water.
So you lose a lot of fluid that you have to replenish, but you don’t have enough with you. In extreme cases, this can mean up to 5 liters of “superfluous”, i.e. not absolutely necessary, loss of fluid.
This means that the fabric and construction should offer a well-balanced level of air permeability and circulation, which ideally you can even regulate yourself.
My opinion on this is that you need a fabric with reasonably good but not too high air permeability, and the clothing has ventilation openings that you can open for a short time under high loads and then close them again.
Damit versucht man für sich selbst, individuell die Balance zwischen Unterstützung des Verdunstungsmechanismus und einen zu hohen Feuchtigkeitsverlust einzustellen.
Allerdings muss man hier eine grundsätzliche Einschränkung treffen: Es ist ein sehr großer Unterschied, ob man in feucht-heißen oder trocken-heißen Regionen unterwegs ist. In trocken-heißen Regionen ist die Luftzirkulation und Ventilation als Kühlung sehr effizient.
In feucht-heißen Regionen, verliert sie allerdings an Effizienz. Bei einer Luftfeuchtigkeit von über 90% bin ich der Meinung, dass sie in Bezug auf Kühlungseffekt fast schon zu vernachlässigen ist.
Ein moderater Baumwollanteil ist hier sicher gut, da das Gewebe feuchte aufnehmen kann und nicht so schnell an einem runter läuft. Zu viel Baumwolle ist dagegen fatal, da man die Klamotten einfach nicht mehr trocken bekommt.
Was mich zum nächsten Punkt bringt.
Everyone knows from personal experience that a quick-drying garment is worth its weight in gold.
There is a rule of thumb for this: the more synthetic fibers there are in the textile, the faster it dries.
This is not so important in hot, dry regions, because even 100% cotton dries very quickly there. However, the more tropical it gets, the worse a 100% cotton fabric dries, since the cotton absorbs a lot of moisture and is reluctant to release it again.
Cotton likes moisture. In this respect, 100% cotton in tropical clothing is generally rather bad.
100% synthetic is probably not that comfortable either, because although you are always wet in really tropical regions anyway, a freshly put on cotton or synthetic blend fabric feels more comfortable, at least for the first few minutes.
Hot-dry is actually predestined for 100% cotton. However, the huge disadvantage is: the lighter the cotton fabric, the more susceptible it is to mechanical damage.
That means you have to use a fairly heavy cotton fabric to get the strength so that your clothes don’t rip through the bushes on the first march. Which brings us to the weight discussed above. But a few comments on that below.
I’ve seen so-called tropical clothing a few times that was almost skeletonized.
In other words, they have been reduced to a no longer functional (weight) minimum so that the part feels good in the hand and delivers an impressive result on the scales.
The approach is not necessarily reprehensible in principle, but it requires very careful consideration of what you can really do without in any case.
I would like to put the emphasis here on the last part of the sentence, “.. can definitely do without.”
It’s fatal when I find somewhere beyond Africa that I can no longer safely stow Mission Critical Equipment in the side pocket just to make the trousers lighter, or only to be able to wear the classic buckled knee protection, which is hot and after 1 hour march chafes the skin.
With all the weight reduction, there are still clear basic requirements for the functional elements that characterize combat clothing even in the desert or the tropics.
The basic principle of all our developments should also apply here: the tactics define the clothing and not the other way around.
Let’s get back to our initial question: Does weight equal comfort. Of course not. Linked to this, however, is a further question that is much more complicated: How much does weight influence my reaction times, my speed in action?
I had a very interesting conversation with an acquaintance, a former commando soldier.
He is of the opinion that every gram of weight saved can shave off just that critical tenth of a second that decides whether the opponent or I prevail.
While I don’t fundamentally disagree with this thesis, I do believe that both weight and wearability (comfort and functionality) can deliver that tenth of a second.
Saving weight at the expense of mobility and functionality is at best a zero-sum game, and in some cases even counterproductive.
In conversation, we came to an example, namely a mountain bike. A bike with a super light frame does not automatically mean that I will perform better and use less energy for riding.
There are many other elements of the bike that are crucial for me to really be able to perform better and be faster.
If, for example, the bottom bracket is stiff, then the whole weight saving is of no use to me at all, because the poor bottom bracket means I have to expend more strength and energy to achieve the same riding performance as with a comparatively heavier frame and a better-moving bottom bracket.
So a lot more elements of the bike and in our case the clothing have to be optimally coordinated in order to ultimately achieve a better performance due to the clothing.
The difficulty lies in the complexity of the factors that are responsible for calling up a service. This ranges from purely physical to psychological factors, which in combination can influence performance.
Weight is just one influencing factor that, viewed alone and optimized, does not automatically lead to better performance.
Of course, this is especially true when we are talking about weights in the gram range. Whether that is now 1 gram or 100 or 200 grams remains to be seen.
My personal opinion is, and this brings me to my conclusion, that an additional weight of 200 grams can easily be compensated by optimized wearing comfort.
Clothing that follows my movements smoothly and that I don’t have to fight against with every movement enables me to move more safely and efficiently than the classic bags with which I run the risk of getting caught, which stretch with every step and which disturb my concentration because after a while chafing forms in neuralgic areas.