15 Fighters: The Dry Layer(s)

Continuing the concept of “good enough but cheap enough”, what do you (or should you) carry in your ruck to keep from getting soaked and hypothermic?

As always, links are very useful.

And please, don’t exclude good-quality hunting gear from your considerations.

47 responses to “15 Fighters: The Dry Layer(s)


  2. 2gosystems.com
    Aluminized reflective ponchos and shelter systems.

  3. Old Gray Wolf

    I use a packable set of Marmot rain gear. Weighs next to nothing. Wear it under a soft shell/bdu to keep noise down.

    More important than a dry layer is proper clothing materials. If you do not plan for getting wet, you are planning to fail. Cotton kills. Wool is warm when wet, but gets heavy. I use a light wool base layer next to skin. Minus 33 brand. Use a heavier variant same brand in winter. Fleece for mid layers. Warm but light, even when when, if you keep the wind off it. Marmot shell over midlayers in wet weather, topped with ripstop bud for camo and quiet. Outer layer is light and dries quick. Everything else stays dry, and works even if wet. Everything but baselayer can open to release heat as needed. Hot weather, ditch everything but bdu and get wet dry stuff to change into, as needed.

  4. This — https://www.amazon.com/Breathable-Multi-Functional-Waterproof-Lightweight-Outdoors/dp/B07GBLTVMN/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1549983824&sr=8-5&keywords=tactical+poncho+waterproof

    It has its flaws but I find it sufficient for hunting. Add knee high gaiters and am generally dry in anything short of a monsoon.

  5. I’m still a fan of the early rubberized ponchos. They cut wind and cold, keep one dry. Couple woobies or wool makes for a toastie set up. Make sure to not sweat to much, air out often.


    • Matt Bracken

      Plus, with a poncho you can string it up as a hootch and dry out (more or less) while sitting under it.

    • Johnny Paratrooper

      The rubberize poncho is about as good as it gets.

      I have a tent that is essentially a giant poncho.

      It’s hard to beat a rubberized rain suit as well.

      Plus you can repair them with duck tape and some needle and thread 99% of the time.

      • lastmanstanding

        I have a rubberized Carhartt rain jacket/bibs that I wear in climate weather working…for about 3 minutes. If your stationary, yes it will keep you dry. If on the move, even my high tech layers are soaked. The wraps are heavy/cumbersome as well. I can even imagine putting one on over any load of kit.

        There are a hundred other great options that a guy can get for reasonable $. With the unlimited access to gear today on the web and the amount of time it takes to dig around, there are steals on high tech gear everywhere. One just needs to watch and be patient.

  6. For cold weather infantry ops…
    1. Polypropylene underwear.
    2. Fleece or wool insulation layers.
    3. Gore-tex outer layer.

    Be prepared to add or shed insulation layers as needed. Do NOT overheat or you will freeze as soon as you stop activity. Be disciplined enough change first layer if you get wet – no matter how cold it is. Only way to avoid hypothermia in the long run (without making a fire or going inside).

  7. Video about Wiggys bag in bad conditions.

    I have been using Wiggys products for 10 years.
    I have bend wearing Wiggys insulated Chukka boot every day
    Since November 2016. EVEN IN THE SUMMER! Very comfortable.

    Get it while you can.

  8. FrogTogs, USGI wool sweaters, rubberized ponchoes or rubberized nylon raincoats(long). Thin, add layers as needed. A couple smallish garbage bags for feet if you can’t find good rainboots. Lots of wool socks, even wet they keep feet warm. Located all over, especially stores like wally-world, K-mart, Cabela’s, Bass Pro…. surplus stores, ebay, garage sales, Goodwil, Salvation Army, pawn shops near bases/forts/posts/stations…

  9. https://wildernessinnovation.com
    They make some excellent, multifunctional kit. Extensive youtube tutorials.
    I have a couple items and will be picking up a couple more.

  10. Dinndoo, my experience withWiggys, is different. I found the quality to be outstanding, I found their temp claims to be bogus. If your purchasing zero degree bags, my experience was I needed to purchase their -20 bags to Just” handle zero temp.

    I still have their gear, and I wore their bag booties aswell. I also spent far more money on Wiggys then virtually every other brand.

    I’m pleased it’s working for you.


  11. Practical Man


    We use these around the homestead. Gemplers house brand is almost as durable and quite a bit cheaper.

    Goretex doesn’t work well. Just get wet and stay wet from sweat.

    Rain gear isn’t for working or movement because sweat. It’s for halts or sedentary tasks like sitting in a hunting blind; to keep dry clothes dry.

    If you want camo, then Krylon works well when supplemented with natural materials.

    We use tarps or poncho for temp shelters.

  12. Hike cold
    You will get warm when you get active so don’t be afraid to be a bit cold at the beginning.
    Heat management is a thing as I was recently reminded of on a practice hike. Learned that lesson again so this past weekend I did the hike in a T-shirt. It was 38 and misty rain, so I got cold as the hike went on but when I knew I was close to the end I stopped and put on the light shell jacket I was carrying. Made all the difference in the world.
    Shell jacket is REI in a nice earth brown.
    Generally I carry a standard poncho and poncho liner for sitting in a specific spot. I have a couple of different Gortex jackets for moving around in different colors depending on mission. Surplus market for these as they can be expensive. Ponchos are easy to find so I will not bother with a link.
    Layers are the way to go.
    Depends on your environment but here in the south you can generally get by with three layers.
    Base: Moisture wicking with or without thermal
    Mid: insulating layer in fleece or your normal BDU top if temps allow
    Outer: Goretex or light shell in water resistant material. Maybe both if really windy.

  13. I wear what the linemen wear. Carhartt. When it gets too nasty, I go into Dunkin Donuts and wait it out. Stare at some Hindu ass. Eehaa!

    • Carhartt is good but bulky…I wear a lot of Northface and Sitka stuff and only throw on the Carhartt when it’s needed…

  14. Regarding ponchos, I was taught that ALL fighting essentials are worn on the exterior of the poncho. TA-50, your tier 1 kit, must be readily available.

    You loose seconds perhaps minutes trying to pull mags out from under your rain gear. We also rarely buckled our tA-50. If set up with pr cord, literally zero noise.

    And ponchos were only worn in mostly admin and movement to/from. You don’t wear your poncho into a fight, makes zero sense. At least that’s what I was taught.


    • Johnny Paratrooper

      Sound advice on all counts.

      Although I kept my gear and rifle out of the rain and snow whenever possible.

      In my experience, once it’s wet and then freezes, it is frozen until you get indoors and dry it out. I have never been able to dry out a pair of boots when the temp is below freezing.

  15. The Mountain Serape from Hill People Gear is expensive, but it is a truly amazing piece of gear. It works as an insulated poncho, large overcoat, or ultralight bag. I have had one for 5 yrs and it is ALWAYS with me in the colder seasons. Alright, everywhere but on my motorcycle, but it is a compact bit of emergency gear as well as versatile backcountry gear.

  16. Large garbage bags….seriously. Add duct tape and in a true emergency you’re covered. Pun intended.

  17. When it’s cold, US Army gortex. The German gortex is pretty good too; sizes run a bit small. When it’s hot, US Army poncho. Why military stuff? It’s almost always hardier than civilian stuff. Fact of the matter: if it’s raining long and hard, you’re gonna get wet … rain, sweat, or both. Really, there’s no such thing as truly waterproof.

  18. Cold-wet:
    Polypro or light silk base layer.
    Fleece or wool midlayer and Gore-Tex or old school impermeable for outer, if you’re relativelysedentary.

    If you’re going to be on the move, ditch the midlayer. Or use a shorty wetsuit (top or onesie): better than anything, and you don’t need a jacket unless it’s below freezing.
    It’ll keep your core warm and dry, except from sweat, so spare wicking layer is a must. But for a trade-off, you won’t get hypothermic, and you’ll float better if you take an inadvertent tumble into water geared up, plus you can get by with a lighter jacket, or none at all.
    With a good, warm, waterproof hat. Or two.
    Usually a wool beanie and a larger Scotch-guarded boonie hat beats the goretex stuff for 1/4 the price.
    And warm, dry gloves.

    Once it gets below freezing, you should be in cold-dry, where cold is the problem, not so much the wet.

    And three times as many (wool!) socks as you think you need. Minimum.

    And as noted, two large garbage bags, and three small ones, will keep torso, lower body head, and feet dry enough, in a pinch, for nearly zero weight penalty.

    You can also turn one 55-gal or larger can liner into an instant poncho/basha shelter, with about a foot of duct tape, and 20′ of 550 cord.
    8′ of duct tape turns two can liners into a bivy sack. Careful work makes it re-usable.

  19. I have personally never found anything that is a “dry layer”.
    Talking an entire 60 years of being in the woods of the north east in all weather working hunting fishing etc, in thick bush/forrest. Not campsites or established trails.
    If anything, past say a brief day in inclement damp and wet weather, nothing is “waterproof” but leggings and boots. If you covered with materiel that keeps you dry out uncovered in wet precipitation, your bodies natural perspiration of water makes you damp and or wet.
    There is no remedy. In cold dry, yeah no problem.

    The way I found to remain “comfortable” in cold wet weather is to in combination cover/protect enough of my body at the high neck, shoulders, to the elbows of my arms, my feet and shin areas, from direct water or wet snow, let there be all the ventilation possible vent my bodies perspiration, and move physically enough to keep my internal heater going enough to counterbalance the heat exchange the dampness and or heavy wetness of my whole clothing ensemble.

    If you learn to recognize and pay heed to your body and this environment, you stay “dry” and warm in relative terms. You will also once out of damp chilling inclement weather like this, either because weather has subsided or your under outside overhead protective cover, by being mildly active dry out very quickly, because, and this is the secret, to be in the state of dry enough described above, you are already in a state of heat/moisture exchange, and by the absence of the precipitation, one element oil the cycle you got running is no longer keeping you damp/wet.

    One of the most difficult “wet” participations to compensate for happens in heavy brush busting. Like low evergreens packed in close where you have to push through the snow laden or rain soaked needles on the branches. Too much too fast overloads your system you run to stay “dry” enough. And this is usually hard terrain, in a spruce bog, or broken and snow covered ground. its close country, which is just rugged in every aspect.

    Maybe I’m wrong here because new super gear exists. But I know 100% what works for me. The above strategy and layers, nice very loose-loose baggy layers of, God Forbid!, natural cotton, nice well worn natural spun cotton, alternating with flannel and one light weight wool layer. With a synthetic or synthetic natural blend outer garnet, a head cover I can quickly adjust to regulate heat, and a US GI camo poncho with a wooby sewn all along, inside along outside perimeter seams and at the head opening The effect is I have to provide a steady path for the moisture to evaporate via my body heat level created by physical exertion. It works. Since I was a little brat that could hoof it behind the adults on my own. But that one guys system. I never found a magic piece of gear that kept me dry like the above.
    Now boots, thats a whole other thing. Boots make you or kill you. You need ones which keep outside source wet out. Totally. But breath enough your not swimming in foot perspiration after 12-18 hours continuously wearing them. And you have to have a way to dry them out, socks too. And extra socks, like high grade merino wool are about as good as good gets. Wet feet are such a good heat exchanger you might as well have no insulation. Seriously. Super suckers of body heat. Two of them. Eat up tons of energy.

    In real cold, talking living 24/7 out in it, bYou cant eat enough raw uncooked bacon, or bacon fat in the pan after frying. Best cold weather sustainment food group exists. Fat. Animal fat. Hog fat is the best. A couple slabs of dry cured, sugar/salt cure, from a 350lb or larger hog, talking couple inch thick by a foot and more long and wide, the finest energy/sustainment food invented. Use it in everything. It is delicious uncooked sliced thin. The colder it is the better it tastes. Shoot or trap some grouse, rabbit, squirrel, coon or beaver, fry that meat in bacon fat, its like rocket fuel for the body. And sweet brandy. Like blackberry, apricot, peach. Luscious boost of energy. If you been out for days, or weeks, in sub zero, you cant get a buzz from that shit. Your metabolism consumes and converts it so rapidly into energy you never knew you buzzed 40% booze. And its superb in hot drinks.
    No matter what else you eat, bacon and its grease. Cook and put it on everything.
    Saying this cause the best piece of dry clothing is that wonderful lard and fat from a slab of dry cure, dry cure in particular, side meat. It cranks up the old furnace like nothing you can do.

    Fat off the back, on the loins, and side meat-bacon, is second best. Real lard you rip out and or render is excellent, but there’s never enough of it on a hog. Lard only comes from inside a hog, in its organ cavity. No where else. Fat back and bacon-side meat, which comes from outside anywhere else on a pig, are totally different fats from lard. Rendered lard is great sustainment food, makes a lot of other food into sustainment grub. It melts at body temp, has a mild under powering flavor and scent. Its rather high heat limits, 375F before it starts flashing off and smoking hard. A little goes far, very clean rendered lard is a lubricator too. It does harden up like petroleum grease/oils, it still has a certain wet lubricity at low temps. Good for water proofing in a pinch.

    This is my system. Works for me. Hope something in it helps you.

    • Name (required)

      I definitely concur on the bacon! You can’t eat enough fat in the cold.

      • U know it man! It really revs up your furnace. I heard once it is the insulin your body readily makes with the fat in relatively colder than normal environment. Fuel for heat.

        Got caught in a Yankee clipper up along the Canadien border in November. Another time over from NH up at the crook into Maine in a nor-easter, inch an hour white out stuff. Both times temps dropped from normal low 30’s down to 15 to zero. The world freezes quiet. Both times I had couple sides of my own dry cured bacon, cut a big ole slab off, thread a green oak or maple stick thru it and get it nice and hot over a fire so its just getting some liquid fat dripping, it tastes like heaven. Your body knows its the right gut lumber. Even cold, sliced thin, gourmet buddy. Up in maine that time, had a home made pecan pie in my pack, held off for two days, but when we started chomping on that you felt you could eat two of those pies and ask for seconds. Home made lard crust, heavy butter and brown sugar butterscotch filling, one of the best tasting things I ever ate. Something happens to your metabolism, it goes into another state.
        I wieghed 180lbs when I made it to the logging road where my truck was. Went in at 235lbs. 3 days hoofing it thru waste deep snow up and down those corduroy 20-30 ft high washboard ridges. Last day I took my pack off I fell over, I couldnt keep my balance from bending over busting thru the snow. You got to carry about 80 lbs of gear alone, so you can stay just warm enough at night not to get frost bite, never mind sleep.
        Be different if I planned on staying. Build a snow lodge, set up a camp, but we only had so much food, and in that snow and cold, the deer go way down in the spruce swamps bed up, and the little game hunkers down tight.
        So you got to walk out.
        Amazing how much calories you need to not freeze to death.

  20. Layers. Remove and add as needed. Your hat is not a hat it’s a heat release valve.

  21. Garry F. Owen, Trooper

    Looking for answers : what about the sunny, humid lower right quadrant of FUSA? My overall area is 100 miles inland from the coast, to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

  22. If the 15 people are to be outfitted for general purpose rain gear for both stationary and mobile tasks, I’d recommend a light rain suit (sized up one size for layered clothing) such as this USGI Woodland surplus model: https://www.ebay.com/itm/NWOT-ORC-USGI-Improved-Rainsuit-Trousers-Pants-Woodland-Camo-Medium-Waterproof/264168202960?hash=item3d81a6e2d0:g:pXQAAOSw-QxcT1DO:rk:33:pf:0 15X$20 = $300 for pants Rain Jackets are a ‘hunt & peck’ resource, at about $40 shipped, so that’s $600. That doesn’t include any overboots, but with goretex lined boots these days, rain boots are pretty much obsolete.

    So, you’re under a grand, and your folks will be kept out of the rain, cold or warm precip, all things being equal.

    One thing I learned a loooooong time ago about rain gear, no matter if it’s a poncho (worst piece of rain gear in the world, bar none IMHO) or a rain suit, if it’s over 45 degrees and you’re moving, you’re going to get soaked from sweat. Rain gear, unless one buys very expensive goretex, does not really breathe well.

    My .02. Others may vary in experience or opinion…

    • Johnny Paratrooper

      I recommend one size large.

    • Would be helpful to know if you’re talking about winter vice the other 3 seasons for avoiding getting soaked or hypothermic. Majority of comments focus on winter variations (arctic to temperate) but don’t address the two categories of personal gear to overcome both dry and wet cold. Additionally, stationary vice mobile tasks added to projected time in performance balanced against fitness level is a significant equation that impacts choice of gear.


      • Probably worth answers to all, but my original plan here was “keep water off you in temperate climes”, with “15 Fighters: The Warm Layer(s)” being next week’s installment.

  23. Dom Giampietro

    Working wet and sleeping dry.

    The MOST DIFFICULT thing to do in the Light Infantry (for me) was to get out of my dry sleeping gear, and put on my wet working gear.

    Oh, the chill; soaking to my spine when that wet T shirt made contact with my skin… it makes a guy want to move out asap. No bull shit.

    I too have an appreciation for breathable gear. Many-many dry-cold and wet-cold nights spent in my bivi sack with only a cho-liner, bayo, and my M4.

    Wearing visible rain gear and winter boots was much-more acceptible in leg units (like in Germany), than it was in ABN, RGR, and AASLT units….but that was the mundane Cold War era, right?. But we would jam whatever we wanted under your BDU tops……lol.

    Poly-pro is nice except during a water xing.

    Hunting gear is the same these years; still a Large ALICE pack, an old field jacket liner is my “bubble jacket”, I use an extremely light rain coat, and WP gaiters. I’ve slacked off a bit and wear WP boots.

    $1.00 camo tarp from Harbor Freight is my emerg. sheltar, and a fitted-Lg black garbage bag is my emerg. poncho.

    Bottom line in a Post ROL environment; eating good and sleeping good at night is the last-f-ing thing that should be worried about.

  24. Dom Giampietro

    Sleep dry, work cold/wet.

    The toughest thing for me to do in the army was putting those wet clothes back on before moving out…oh, the chill-hitting like a hammer!

    An old field jacket liner is my “$80.00 bubble jacket”, and I use a light rain top and gaiters in the woods now days. A $3.00 camo tarp and a modified black garbage bag for emerg.

    The Gortex bivi-sack and a cho-liner was my sleeping gear for many years….

    Bottom line in a PROL situation; eating good and sleeping good at night are the last things that should be worried about.

  25. Dom, I completely forgot about gaiters. Fantastic tools, wet and snow, mud. Got a drawer full of Oregon Research, gaiters, extra tall. I have Haley Hanson North Face, Mountain hardwear and a few other gortex.

    I favor mountain hardwear stuff, use to be north face was the shit, so many companies now, all produce outstanding kit. .

    HH, isn’t actually vortex, they make their own water proff other then brand name vortex.

    Frankly I question the ability of some of this stuff, holding up under combat conditions.

    Good to be learning what others are doing.


  26. Johnny Paratrooper

    A full blown pair of waders makes sense if you are living in a glades, or a high water table area.

    Perhaps around irrigation.

    Camo Hunting Waders. Name brand is probably the way to go.

    Summer and winter camo if available.

    Wet gear freezes. And I cannot explain how much of a pain in the ass it is.

  27. Stopped by Menards today and bought 5 pairs of Wigwam wool socks for 8 bucks a pair . $16 anywhere else . I wear them for two weeks before the squaw hand washes them for me and they never smell bad . They will last for 4 or 5 years normal wear and are very warm and comfortable . Plus they are made in America . Wisconsin I believe . I spend every day outside all year long and my feet are as wide as they are long damn near . I know good socks .

  28. 12″s of new snow expected thru the night, a mild 11 degrees right now with wind gusts from the north at 30 mph… did i mention i’m on an island surrounded by the waters of Lake Superior? it doesn’t get much more brutal and unforgiving than this place. seriously, you won’t be doing much in the way of combat in the winter up here as the snow is pretty deep- but neither will OPFOR troops…

    bunny boots, wool socks, carhartt arctic-quilt bibs, carhartt arctic-quilt jacket, face mask, wool hat, water proof lightweight snow-camo outer pants and jacket, black diamond mercury mitts.

    kitted with this gear, you can sleep in a snowbank and be warm as toast.

  29. Alfred E. Neuman

    Reblogged this on FOR GOD AND COUNTRY.

  30. Name (required)

    Polypro and fleece is as good as everyone is saying, but don’t let it catch on fire! I have some nomex fleece; it’s plenty warm but it’s scary expensive.

    I grew up in rubber boots: Xtratuffs for warm and wet, bunny boots for cold.

    The worst possible conditions are near freezing temps with rain and snow. That’s Southeast Alaska for more than half the year. Polypro or wool layers, with rain pants to keep the slush from sticking to your pants legs and some kind of top that you won’t button unless you stop. You WILL get wet , but it’s warm sweat instead of debilitating, icy rain and slush. Unzip everything while you’re moving, to minimize the sweat.

    If you have to outfit 15 unprepared strangers, cheap fleece jackets and pants from the second hand stores and an assortment of garbage bags is the way to go. Put small garbage bags on your feet over dry socks, then stick them into your boots. Now you have warm, dry feet, until you sweat.

    Use plenty of snow seal on leather. Don’t let your boots freeze! They won’t go back on. Xtratuffs stiffen a bit, but they don’t freeze like wet leather.