Gear review: LWCWUS Thermals (MilSurplus)

I tend to suggest military surplus clothing for certain items.

The clothing is not glamorous or trendy. But it tends to work, be durable, functional, and inexpensive.  And in the case of the newest generation of clothing, the Polartec and Primaloft clothing and other layers is similar to what is found at REI but in shades of brown instead and found at surplus stores such as on eBay.

I rock their wool gloves, think the older Gen I “puffy pants” are a great price-to-performance ratio item for winter backpacking, and swear by my Bunny Boots for the ultimate in cold weather warmth.  And I haul the gear in my trusty Flyers Kit Bag.

And another item I suggest, esp in on a budget? The Light Weight Cold Weather Underwear Set (LWCWUS).  As the name suggests, the LWCWUS base layers are for cold weather use and is the lightest cold weather layer of the current military issue  Extended Weather Cold Weather Clothing System. (ECWCS) .

The seven layer ECWCS via Quora.

What do all these acronyms mean for the average hiker, skier, camper, or backpacker? Some functional clothing can be bought dirt cheap that is partially subsidized by your tax dollars!

Pictured: American Taxpayer.

The zip top shirt and bottoms are a mere $11 ea. on eBay. Including shipping!

Though I still prefer my Paradox brand layers overall, I find the military surplus layers to be a good secondary pair for day hikes, day-long ski tours, or even camping. The layers have proven to be warm, comfortable, and durable. And a good bargain at just over  $20 for something very functional.

In Behind The Rocks WSA, December 2018. PCO Joan W.

The bottoms weigh at 6.75 oz for a men’s large, and the top weighs at 9.75 oz. Comparable to mid-weight layers from other manufacturers but not as light as a true lightweight layer. And also why I personally tend to use these layers more in later fall or winter as opposed to cooler temps.  Then again, the military did spec these layers out for cold weather! Note that the “mid-weight Layer II” is essentially a grid fleece pull-over and is an effective adjunct to a cold-weather clothing system overall.

The downsides of these surplus layers? They do not breathe quite as well lightweight layers or even the Paradox layers. The fit is baggy. I wear a medium or large depending on the cut of the clothing.  Even prior to quitting my corporate job, the men’s large layers ran a little big on me. When in doubt, get a smaller size.

Additionally, though not a major concern for me, the tan color scheme is not the most stylish for some.

Overall though? You can’t beat the price and performance if you are looking for something that will last and work well.   If you tend to be on the highly aerobic side with such activities as trail running or skate skiing,  or need something for cooler but not cold weather, another option might be better.  However, about $20 for something that will keep you warm and function well is a bargain indeed. Grab a pair if on a budget, if you need something more for cold weather, or as a backup for day-use activities.  Again, only $11 ea, shipping included, on eBay for a  zip-top shirt and bottoms.   Great deal!

And if you do want a very light layer comparable to more expensive layers? The silk weight layers are made with Polartec Powerdry fabric with comparable specs to something such as Patagonia Capilene.  About $30 total for separate MilSurplus Polartec top and Polartec bottom layers on Amazon, a very good bargain, too.

Disclosure: I purchased these layers with my funds.

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Stephen Ryan
Stephen Ryan
1 year ago

Extra military supplies that are no longer required are referred to as military surplus. They are deactivated and resold at civilian-accessible surplus outlets. They are also frequently known as Army Navy Surplus Stores or Surplus Stores. Embroidered patches, coats, helmets, spare parts, weapons, even automobiles like trucks and jeeps can all be considered “goods.” Boots and lights are two more products that are very popular.