Buying a high quality inner layer of clothing to wick away moisture and retain heat is cheaper than you think. This article discusses one of the more mainstream and available cold weather and survival clothing that’s made entirely of polypropylene. A full inner layer comprised of polypropylene will cost approximately $100 for all the individual components. We paid $103 (including shipping and taxes) for 6 pieces of polypropylene which provides the user with full coverage.
Before we discuss the various attributes of polypropylene, let’s first take a look at how widely utilized it is. A high level overview of polypropylene would reveal the global market for polypropylene in excess of 45 million tons annually. Polypropylene has many diverse applications ranging from textiles and packing, to car parts, banknotes and clothing. This article will focus solely on the use of the use of polypropylene used in textiles.
Polypropylene is a great choice for cold and damp weather clothing because of its light weight and hydrophobic properties. When worn as the inner base layer in a 3 layer clothing system, it can help its user can stay warm in below 0 degree temperatures. Polypropylene is sometimes mixed with other synthetic materials such as Gore-Tex or polyester. In fact, until recently, the US Military used polypropylene in the Extended Cold Weather System (ECWS) that is deployed in arctic and extremely cold theaters. The third generation (not an affiliate or endorsement, just a good page to learn more about the 3rd generation of the ECWS) of the ECWS has replaced polypropylene with polyester components. You can ensure an article of clothing is 100% polypropylene by looking at the tag. If it’s 100% polypropylene, you should find the resin identification code which looks like this:
Despite the excellent protection from cold and wet climates, there are some negative attributes associated with polypropylene. The most common complaint is that polypropylene retains its user’s body odor after several uses. This is more prevalent in older clothing made of polypropylene. New articles of clothing shouldn’t experience this problem as long as proper maintenance is followed, we’ll cover how to care for polypropylene clothing at the end of this article. The second main drawback is that polypropylene can melt at high temperatures which can leave serious burns on the user. The melting point is approximately 320 degrees Fahrenheit so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue for most individual scenarios. Sure there’s always the risk of fire or some other emergency, but the point of wearing polypropylene is generally reserved for cold or wet weather conditions in which open flames probably aren’t as likely of a threat.
When we ordered our polypropylene, we wanted a complete layer so we obtained the following pieces:
Socks – The polypropylene socks go over any wool or cotton socks you would put on first. We’ve found that the polypropylene socks do an excellent job of wicking away any sweat or other moisture away from your feet and to your boot or shoe.
Pant Bottoms – The pant bottoms we ordered have done so well, we’ve found it unnecessary to wear thermal underwear along with the polypropylene bottoms. They’re form fitting and also do an amazing job of wicking away any sweat or moisture keeping your legs dry and warm. Because they’re form fitting, you don’t have to worry about any uncomfortable bulk underneath your pants.
Crew Neck – There’s several different types of polypropylene tops available for use today. We opted for the crew version which zips up keeping your neck nice and warm. Again, the fit is snug and comfortable, no unnecessary bulk or bunching up.
Balaclava Hood – For those unfamiliar with this item, a balaclava hood is simply a hood that covers your entire face except your eyes. This is a must in extreme cold weather. We’ve found the hood to do an efficient job of providing protection for the user’s face. When combined with a hat or additional face/head protection, it ensures the head will stay warm under virtually any cold climate conditions.
Ear Band – We also opted for additional ear protection in extremely cold weather. Because it’s so lightweight and can be easily stored when not in use, it’s a great backup to be worn either in addition to the balaclava hood or in warmer weather, by itself.
Glove Liners – After wearing gloves with the polypropylene liners inside, it’s hard to wear anything else. Especially when the user is being physically active (for us it was hiking), the liners did a great job of wicking away the sweat from our hands to the outer layer of our gloves.
Polypropylene Care & Maintenance
Polypropylene is an extremely durable material and will last you indefinitely if cared for properly on a regular basis. Ideally, it should be hand washed in cold water or machine washed in cold water on the delicate cycle with the polypropylene item turned inside out. Because of the melting factor, it’s recommended to air dry polypropylene. This won’t take too long because of polypropylene resistance to water. If you must use a dryer, ensure the dryer is set to its lowest heat setting and not for more than a few minutes. Polypropylene is color fast so if you get it in some color other than black, it won’t fade. Most manufactures treat their polypropylene with an anti-microbial agent which helps the material resist mildew, stains, and soils. Make sure you take the few minutes it requires to regularly clean your polypropylene gear and it’ll be available to you for years to come!
There are several types of materials that work well in a survival situation involving extreme cold or damp climates. Polypropylene is a time-tested synthetic material that when combined with additional layers of clothing, can easily keep the user warm in sub-zero temperatures for extended periods of time. It’s easy to care for and the individual components are inexpensive to acquire. The two main drawbacks is the potential for the material to retain odors (easily prevented with proper care) and the possibility of melting under high heat. In our opinion, polypropylene is an ideal material to use as the inner layer in a 3 layer clothing system.