The comfort of an FR garment is a very subjective thing and there are many factors that come into play. There is raw data from a laboratory on various factors like fabric weight, air permeability, and wicking. There are also factors like how it feels to the touch both new and after washing as well as how it fits and moves during actual work activities and how it feels in your actual work environment. Here is a brief discussion about some of these various factors.
- Fabric weight – This can be one of the most important factors. If the desire is to keep cool, than a lighter woven fabric tends to be cooler. If keeping warm is the goal then typically a heavy weight fabric is warmer. You don’t normally see lightweight winter coats or heavy weight summer shirts.
- Air permeability – Having a more open weave fabric allows air to flow through the fabric better which helps to cool. This in and of itself does not assure a comfortable garment but along with other factors can help in hot conditions.
- Wicking – The ability of the fabric to draw moisture away from the body and onto the surface can help in comfort but it is not an overly scientific measurement. There can be variability in test methods, and fabric treatments that may or may not work as well after laundering.
- Touch – The actual feel of the garment to the touch gives an immediate impression but that feel will likely change after laundering and should be felt as worn in actual work conditions.
- Fit – The actual fit of the garment can also play a role in comfort. If the garment has a snug fit versus a generous fit the comfort impression of the wearer will be different. Also if the garment has features that allow for expansion while reaching or bending it can be more comfortable to wear. It is also important for the garment to be cut to match the size of not only a regular fit but also longs and shorts. If longs and shorts are not proportionally cut but simply accomplished by cutting off the legs and sleeves, then the fit and feel of the garment will not be comfortable.
To get true comfort there should be a balance of all these variables as no one FR fabric excels in all areas and the garment construction factors depend on the garment manufacturer not the fabric. In addition to these factors you also need to make sure the protection levels are appropriate for the hazard, the fabric and garment construction provide durability, and the value (price and longevity) of the garment meet the requirements of the organization.