During Exercise Arctic Forge 2023 alongside allies Norway and Finland, soldiers with the U.S. Army wore what appeared to be, at least when compared to their counterparts, white garbage bags over their uniforms designed to blend in with the wintry environment.

While the style choice, at least on the surface, appeared inferior to that of the Norwegians and Fins, it remains quite practical, an official from the Program Executive Office Soldier noted.

“Soldiers operating in cold weather environments are currently issued cold weather gear in Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP),” Alton Stewart, a PEO Soldier public affairs officer, told Military Times. “The Army issues an Overwhite Parka, Trouser and Pack Cover in Snow Camouflage Pattern for use as the operation or environment dictates. Overwhites provide maximum flexibility for concealment while also facilitating agility in the industrial base.”

These bag-looking “overwhites” provide camouflage options in a number of winter terrains, not just in snow, Stewart added.

“For instance, a soldier traversing along a wooded backdrop may elect to only wear the overwhite trousers,” he said. “Given the varying terrain, OCP augmented by overwhites as necessary is a more effective combination of concealment than an arctic pattern.”

There is currently a cold-weather uniform being tested by the 11th Airborne Division, which will continue to utilize the same camouflage pattern.

“The Cold Temperature and Arctic Protection System (CTAPS) is a prototype cold weather clothing ensemble that is being evaluated to inform the next generation cold weather materiel solution. CTAPS is currently being fielded in OCP to the 11th Airborne Division for evaluation,” Stewart noted. “Arctic and subarctic environments are comprised of more than just snow. These environments include boreal forest, rocky mountain terrain and urban areas, among others.”

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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