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Emergency Cold Weather gear is issued to participants in the USAP who are deploying to Antarctica as grantees to the National Science Foundation. ECWs are also issued to VIPs, called Distinguished Visitors, and any other guest of the National Science Foundation heading to the ice. ECWs cannot be purchased by participants, and must be returned to the CDC upon arrival in New Zealand from the ice.

ECWs are issued at the Antarctic Clothing Distribution Center to program participants upon arrival at the USAP facilities in Christchurch, New Zealand. The CDC is located adjacent to the Christchurch airport. It's a supply depot in the military vein, containing a vast array of clothing and cold-weather outdoors equipment for distribution to USAP program participants.

When wearing so-called "full ECWs" the participant has on: down parka, bunny boots, gloves, fur backed mittens, glove liners, thermax underwear, woolen socks, fleece jacket and pants, expedition wind pants, balaclava, and goggles.

Full ECWs must be worn during transport to and from the ice on military transport, during helicopter travel in and around McMurdo station, and during Condition Two or Condition One weather alerts.

Full ECW gear is also required during mandatory survival training (happy camper school) for any personnel deploying to the field.

ECWs are not required and generally make you look like a dweeb if worn in any of the bars in MacTown, during rave parties, or while strolling around during Condition Three.

An interesting aspect of ECWs is that they are all available commercially in the U.S. Most of the gear is supplied by an outdoor/camping supplier called REI, and the same gear issued to USAP participants is available there, including: tents, stoves, sleeping bags and all clothing.

List of ECWs for grantees taken from the USAP's 2000-2002 Participant Guide

  • Bag, Clothing, Orange................2ea
  • Balaclava, Polar Fleece..............1ea
  • Boot, Rubber, Thermax................1pr
  • Bottle, Water........................1ea
  • Cap, Yazoo...........................1ea
  • Gaiter, Neck, Pile...................1ea
  • Glove, Insulated.....................1pr
  • Glove, Leather, w/Thinsulate Lining..2pr
  • Goggles, Snow, Smith.................1pr
  • Hat, Pile, Knit......................1ea
  • Jacket, Polar Fleece.................1ea
  • Jacket, Expedition...................1ea
  • Liner; Glove, Polypro................2pr
  • Mitten, Furback, Gauntlet............1pr
  • Mitten, Kodalite.....................1pr
  • Mitten, Leather......................1pr
  • Pants, Polar Fleece, Bibbed..........1pr
  • Pants, Wind, 95......................1pr
  • Parka, Red...........................1ea
  • Sock, Tube, Wool.....................6pr
  • Underdrawers, Expedition.............1pr
  • Underdrawers, Thermax................1pr
  • Undershirts, Expedition..............1ea
  • Undershirts, Thermax.................1ea

The list of ECWs differs slightly depending on one's job and deployment location, but this core list remains fairly consistant. Options available to everyone is to take so called blue FDX boots instead of the white, inflatable bunny boots. FDX boots are not entirely water proof, but are very sturdy mountaineering boots with articulating ankles. One may also opt for field trousers instead of wind pants. Field trousers are camo-olive lined pants with lots of pockets. Wind pants are bibbed, overdrawers like one would wear while skiing--generally only worn while outdoors--while field trousers are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

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