Summer Weight BDUs

MARPAT_comparisonWe go through a lot of BDUs — battle dress uniforms — at Uncle Sam’s. Many of our customers come in specifically for BDU pants and jackets: painters, landscapers, construction workers, service and ex-service members, and even the occasional fashionista. BDUs are functional, super durable, and affordable.

BDUs are designed to be a general-purpose uniform that can be worn in a range of climates and conditions, and for the most part that is exactly what they are. They are tough and basic. But once you get to the extreme ends of the thermometer you need more specialized clothing.

That makes sense, though; BDUs are versatile but they’re not magic. I don’t think there’s a company out there producing an article of clothing that can keep you warm in 35 degrees and cool in 95 degrees.

A common complaint about BDUs is that they don’t perform well in hot temperatures. The criticism is that BDUs are too heavy and that their heat and moisture retention is too high to be an optimal choice in toasty climates. There are reinforced areas on the uniform that add to the overall weight. This reinforcement is good for durability, but bad for breathability.

In 1987, tropical weight BDUs were introduced in response to the criticisms. These tropical weight BDUs are also referred to as summer weight or lightweight or anything with a similar implication.

The summer weight BDUs are made of 100% rip-stop cotton, which breathes better than the original temperate weight BDUs, which are made of a cotton-nylon blend. The summer weight BDUs have the advantage of being lighter and more breathable, but they are also less durable than the temperate uniforms.

Unless you are familiar with textiles, you probably can’t eyeball what a material is made from. So how can you tell tropical and temperate uniforms apart? It’s not as difficult as you might think. There are visible stripes in the rip-stop cotton used for summer weight BDUs that make it easy to distinguish between the two.

So should you buy temperate or tropical BDUs?

If you’re planning on being outside a lot during the summer months, or if you live in a climate that is warm throughout the year, summer weight BDUs would be a good investment.

If you’re the type who likes to milk every last thread out of your clothing, you would probably prefer the heavier weight temperate uniform. On average temperate BDUs last twice as long as summer BDUs. Or even better, you can get a pair of each to accommodate your season!

We carry both light and heavy weight BDUs at Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters. We have new and used BDU pants and jackets in a variety of camo patterns as well as solid colors. Stop by the store to check out our selection!


  1. Warren Sinott says:

    Please send me info on Xtra Light, Unre-inforced, Rip-Stop, Solid Kahaki BDUs. 36×32
    Florida State Fire Marshal,
    Central Region

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