US soldiers conduct an exercise of cold weather exposure training

Through wind, rain, sleet, snow, sweltering deserts and tropical humidity soldiers must be fashion chameleons when deciding what to wear in these sometimes-unpredictable conditions. In the present, soldiers meet these challenges by wearing layered clothing and subtracting layers as the temperature allows.
Though effective against the vast variety of conditions soldiers face this method poses a problem. Layered clothing is heavy and difficult to carry with limited space. Additionally, when soldiers move though different altitudes in mountainous regions the amount of thermal insulation needed can vary greatly. Frostbite and hypothermia may be the result of improper insulation though such conditions. On the other hand if there is too much insulation present the result could be unnecessary sweating, dehydration or even heatstroke.
The United States Army is now on the hunt for a better way to combat Mother Nature. In a paper titled Temperature Adaptive “Smart” Thermal Insulation published by the U. S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, a environmentally responsive “smart” material is introduced that can self-adapt to the appropriate thermal balance.
The concept behind the “smart” material is the same as a bimetallic thermostat. The idea is to utilize a bimetallic spring inside fibers. The fibers have two bonded metals that have different coefficients of thermal expansion. With changes in temperature one of the metals changes in length more than the other which bends the spring in the fiber in a way that results in a curl. When applied on a grand scale, materials made from these fibers would thicken in colder temperatures thus providing more insulation.
If this technology is further developed it may have a variety of commercial applications. Perhaps hikers, mountain climbers and emergency response team members alike will soon be lining up for this miracle garb.