How Do Soldiers Not Overheat? 

 The weight of full military gear is approximately 100 pounds, including body armor, weapons, ammunition, and batteries. As a result, an average male soldier, who weighs 169 pounds, carries 59% of his body weight in equipment. For female soldiers being in full military gear is more of a struggle. The average female soldier weighs 130 pounds, meaning that she is carrying 76% of her body weight in equipment.  

How Do Soldiers Not Overheat? 

Hence, a simple question comes to mind. How do soldiers not overheat in 80°F weather? —which happens to be the average annual daytime temperature in the Middle East. The short answer is they do! Although there has been considerable innovation in the field, the military is still struggling to prevent U.S. troops from falling to heatstroke.  

According to recent military data, in 2008, 1,766 cases of heatstroke or heat exhaustion were diagnosed among active-duty service members. And by 2018, that figure had climbed to 2,792 (an increase of almost 60%.) This radical increase had a lot to do with the warming planet and the climate change crisis.  

How to Keep Soldiers Cool  

Even though heat is a real threat to soldiers fighting in extreme weather conditions, there are ways to prevent them from overheating. Below we will go over some of the most effective methods: 

  • Hydration

In hot, humid conditions, soldiers tend to sweat a lot, which in turn can disturb their body’s sodium-water balance. As you might know, sodium is an electrolyte that affects the amount of water in the body, the acidity of the blood, muscle function, and other essential human processes.  

Without the right amount of sodium, our bodies cannot absorb enough water. Hence, to prevent dehydration, the average person must drink 2lts of water before daily. For soldiers who are actively serving in extreme weather conditions, the daily intake should be considerably higher.  

According to military physicians, the average soldier must drink 50-75% of their body weight each day. Thus, for a 150 lbs. soldier, that means 4.2 liters of water a day.  

Nonetheless, many electrolyte-rich drinks and beverages can replenish the body faster. The most popular are sports beverages, Pedialyte, coconut water, watermelon juice, and more.  

  • Appropriate Diet 

Diet is another significant factor in the prevention of heat-related illnesses. Eating foods that are rich in sodium can help endure hot climates. Some of the most common sodium enhanced foods include: 

  • Avocado 
  • Bacon 
  • Bananas 
  • Beans 
  • Beets 
  • Carrots 
  • Celery 
  • Chard 
  • Cottage cheese 
  • Dried 
  • Ham 
  • meats 
  • Pickles 
  • Shrimp 
  • Spinach 
  • Sweet potatoes 
  • Tomatoes 
How Do Soldiers Not Overheat? 

Additionally, it is essential to know that if soldiers have a high-protein diet, they should drink more water to counter-balance their meat intake. 

Overall, military men should also limit their soda, coffee, and tea intake. Drinks that contain caffeine increase urine output and can dehydrate us faster. 

  • Layering

As explained before, full military gear weighs roughly 100 pounds. Thus, soldiers who are not actively in a mission must wear appropriate clothing. In hot weather, knowing how and when to ‘layer’ is crucial.  

Hence, soldiers should wear only one layer of lightweight, light-colored clothing when at base camp. And if they choose to work out or partake in any physical activity, they must change into dry clothing as soon as possible. 

  • Training & Preparation

Being prepared is probably the best way to fight the heat! In other words, all military members should train in similar conditions to those they would face when deployed. By doing so, they are preparing their bodies for what is coming.  

During training, soldiers are asked to work in their gear, march in their gear, run in their gear, and do virtually everything while wearing full military gear. The reason behind this is that, when their body gets used to carrying the gear, it takes less effort, less energy, and less water to carry the load.  

Lastly, keep in mind that soldiers tend to be in excellent physical shape and must successfully pass a physical exam that is administered periodically.  

  • Knowing when to stop

Most ex-military members say that keeping hydrated, dressing appropriately, eating healthy, and being prepared helps beat the heat while in full military gear. But, they all have also stated that soldiers need to know when to stop. In other words, they must accept their limits.  

After all, if someone faints because he/she overheated during a mission, you are getting in the way of everyone’s safety. Thus, your troop, prefers that only those soldiers who feel up to the task “actively” join missions.  

Of course, certain circumstances might not allow for an army member to decide whether or not he/she leaves the camp. But, whenever possible, it is always wise to stay if the heat is affecting your endurance.  

Keep in mind that these techniques help soldiers keep cool (or cooler). But, this does not mean it will save them from heatstroke. After all, no human can endure patrolling in 100-pound military gear that represents more than half your body weight at 104°F.  

Furthermore, the U.S. Armed Forces have stated on various occasions that they are working to reduce heat illnesses and deaths by: 

  • Updating guidelines for assessing heat risks
  • Optimizing prevention measures
  • Refining treatment protocols 
  • Developing new gear and technology 

Cooling Technologies for Soldiers 

As mentioned before, soldiers’ uniforms do not ensure an optimal thermal balance that could avert overheating. The main issue is finding a cooling system that is light and is practical to carry in the field. However, in the last decade, there has been a lot of progress in optimizing military gear to endure high temperatures (especially when used with other layers of clothing.)  

According to a report released by the U.S. Defense Department, one of the most significant advantages is a hydrogel cooling technology developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory. And based on the latest studies, this unique hydrogel can keep military personnel more comfortable without adding too much excess weight.  

There is little information available to the public. But, the new technology appears to include a cooling sleeve or wrap and cooling inserts for military undershirts.  

Energized fabrics are another “cooling system” that has been in the works for some time now. To keep military members more comfortable and battle-ready in hot climates, U.S. scientists are currently conducting research aimed at creating high-tech fabrics. These fabrics are engineered to “cool” when powered, and that capture sweat.  

Symptoms of Dehydration 

How Do Soldiers Not Overheat? 

Having enough water in your system is vital not only in the military but in life in general. Mild dehydration can cause lethargy, sleepiness, dry skin, constipation, dizziness, muscle cramps, and headaches. But, a severe case of dehydration can be lethal. In other words, as dehydration worsens, you could advance into more dangerous symptoms such as: 

  • Excessive sweating                         
  • Higher heart and breathing rate 
  • Fever                                                      
  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Heatstroke 
  • Altered mental state  
  • Changes in behavior 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Disorientation 

Therefore, whether you are performing high-activity sports, enduring hot environments, or getting over an illness, you should always stay hydrated. 


Returning to Duty After A Heat Illness  

Given the rising numbers of heat strokes in the military, the U.S. Army has been very proactive about the guidelines to follow when a soldier has been affected by a heat-related illness. But, before we explain the protocol, there are some basic military principles worth mentioning.  

The U.S. Army uses a system of regulations to determine the suitability of military members. As a result, army physicians must refer to medical fitness standards provided in Army Regulation (AR) 40-501.3. This regulation outlines several medical conditions and physical defects that may render a soldier “unfit.” Thus, before a soldier can return to duty after a heat-related illness, he/she must undergo a physical profile.  

Generally, the physical profile assesses a soldier’s condition based on six different categories known as “P-U-L-H-E-S:”  

P = physical capacity 

U = upper extremities 

L = lower extremities 

H = hearing and ears 

E = eyes 

S = psychiatric functioning 

So, after any heat-related episode, all soldiers must be referred to a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). Here, a thorough examination (including the physical profile) takes place to determine when and if a soldier can return to duty.  

If the soldier fully recovers clinically, the MEB usually recommends a “trial of duty”— which restricts the military member from performing vigorous physical exercises for a specific period. If, after the test period, no further heat intolerance is manifest, the soldier may resume normal activities. 

However, if there is any significant evidence of heat intolerance during the “trial of duty” (or after the resumption of normal duty) the army member must be referred to a Physical Evaluation Board (PEB.)  

Note that this the standard procedure for return to duty after a heat-related injury within the military. Still, some units may have their specific guidelines. 

 How do soldiers avoid going deaf? Learn more here:

Other Consequences of Heavy Military Gear 

Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are not the only consequences of carrying heavy military gear for prolonged periods. Many different injuries and conditions might arise.  

Recent studies have shown that many soldiers suffer from musculoskeletal conditions. And as of 2018, more than 50% of veterans receiving care at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities are affected by chronic pain— making it the most common complaint amongst ex-military members.   

Consequently, the VHA offers different ways to help veterans address their pain, including: 

  • Traditional Options

Traditional options include treatment through medications (i.e., Opioids), injections, interventions (i.e., surgery and implantable devices), and rehabilitation.  

  • Psychological Interventions

Usually, psychological interventions for pain management include hypnosis, biofeedback therapy, and conventional therapy.  

  • Alternative Medicine

When it comes to chronic muscle pain, there are plenty of complementary medical practices that can help ease the pain. Some of the most common are acupuncture, spinal manipulation, massage therapy, and healing touch. 

How Do Soldiers Not Overheat? 

Dehydration in Cold Weathers 

Many people think that dehydration can happen only in hot weather conditions. But, the truth is in cold weather, dehydration can also be a significant health risk. 

In cold temperatures and dry air, sweat tends to evaporate more rapidly, causing dehydration. Without profuse sweating, people might be tricked into thinking that they are not losing fluids. As a result, soldiers tend to push their limits further when engaging in missions set out in cold weather conditions.  

Furthermore, colder temperatures can also reduce the body’s thirst response. In turn, the body people are less likely to drink water voluntarily. And to top it off, people lose more fluids through respiratory water loss on cold days. For instance, when you can see your breath when breathing or taking in the cold air, that is water vapor that your body is losing.  

As a result, soldiers who serve in places with below-freezing temperatures also need to keep an eye for symptoms of dehydration that could compromise their tasks and endanger their well-being.  


Related Questions

What causes a heat stroke?

Heatstroke is a severe condition caused by your body overheating. It is generally a result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures or physical effort. It is considered lethal and can occur if your body temperature exceeds 104°F  (40°C.)  

Someone suffering from heatstroke requires emergency treatment, as it can quickly damage vital organs such as your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. The longer the treatment is delayed, the worst the symptoms are— increasing the chances of serious complications or death.  

 Do female soldiers carry the same gear as male soldiers?

Women represent about 16.3% of active-duty troops in the United States. But, this does not mean that there is “specialty” military gear for female soldiers. In other words, all military gear is standard! As a result, female soldiers are obliged to carry the same equipment as their male colleagues, even if they are anatomically less fit to do so.   

However, certain pieces of equipment may be adapted to fit female soldiers better, allowing for added comfort. Some of the latest changes in female military equipment include:  

– “H-Back” apparatus (as opposed to the regular “X-Back”) that includes an opening for a bun 

– Smaller armor plates 

– Adjustable frame backpacks. 


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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.