Finding Peak Performance in Protective Clothing

Do you understand the science behind flame resistant and moisture wicking technologies? Don’t worry. If not, we have you covered. At DRIFIRE, our past experiences as oil rig workers, scientists, fabric technologists, sportsmen, and outdoor enthusiasts offer unique insights and an abundance of information. There are many reasons why you should be wearing high performance FR garments. But first, let’s take a step back.

A bit of history

High performance fabrics were originally created to boost athletes’ performance in extreme outdoor situations. The moisture wicking properties keep them drier and cooler in hot conditions and warmer in cold conditions. The physiological advantage to this is facilitating thermoregulation, your body’s cooling mechanism. On the other hand, the psychological advantage comes from the confidence in knowing the garments won’t become more uncomfortable and weighed down with excessive moisture.

When moisture wicking fabrics first appeared in the market more than 20 years ago, they were made of synthetic fibers (polyester) with a moisture wicking finish applied. Unfortunately, these chemically treated fabrics typically lost their abilities to wick moisture with each machine washing.

The next generation of fabrics combined hydrophobic (water hating) fibers and hydrophilic (water loving) fibers. Hydrophobic fibers are still synthetic, including nylon, aramids and modacrylics. Hydrophilic fibers — cotton, wool and lyocell, among others — feel good next to the skin. A proper blend of these fibers added more comfort with the feel of cotton while pulling moisture to the outside of the fabric for quick drying times.

New standardized testing began to scientifically measure the wicking time of fabrics in seconds, minutes and inches. This proved the new fabric blends actually wicked moisture. If one fabric wicks moisture a few seconds faster than another, wouldn’t you prefer the faster one?

The right blend of fibers

Fabrics that don’t wick will leave moisture trapped against the skin, retaining heat and encouraging heat rash. Fabrics that do wick but don’t dry as fast are less comfortable and may not have the ideal blend of fibers. If the hydrophilic fiber content is too high, the fabric will tend to hold more moisture and dry slower. Drying time is one of the most important attributes of performance because it’s key to effective body temperature regulation.

Scientists developing new fabric technologies have focused on achieving the optimal fiber blend by increasing the performance qualities of yarns and fabrics without sacrificing the comfort and feel of natural fibers. Today, most of the world’s top athletic brands use these fast-drying, temperature-regulating blends.

High performance FR garments offer the ultimate combination of flame resistance in addition to moisture wicking and comfort. Flame resistant garments provide a potentially lifesaving layer of protection to workers across a wide range of industries. Often, FR garments can be layered to achieve greater levels of protection without compromising performance.

Avoiding heat stress

Our bodies work to maintain a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. As we experience different levels of heat stress, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the body’s temperature can reach dangerous levels up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Lighter weight and moisture wicking are two garment characteristics recognized by OSHA in combating heat stress. It’s also your best strategy for the heat of the summer months.

All garments on a body, whether FR or not, can be a contributing factor to heat-related injuries. Moisture-soaked garments can act like an insulated barrier and cause higher body temperatures that increase the chances for heat stress. If garments dry faster, body temperature is reduced. Thankfully, DRIFIRE’s garments dry up to three times faster than cotton due to the moisture wicking properties.

All high performance garments are designed to optimize human achievement. The next time you choose an FR garment to wear, be sure it meets the standard of the hazard first, then ask how quickly it dries. Comfort is subjective; performance and protection are not.

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Have questions? Reach out to our friendly DRIFIRE experts or give us a call at 1-800-553-0672.