"It's too hot," is the most common refrain associated with Nomex underwear that I've heard in my years of serving the auto racing industry. As they say, "The devil is in the details," and the truth is that Nomex underwear will actually keep you coolerwhen wearing it. This holds true for Nomex balaclavas, shirts, pants and socks.
The road racing wearable products industry, as you will no doubt be shocked to learn, revolves around keeping professional drivers safe and comfortable. As a result, manufacturers are always scrambling to find the next big breakthrough that will bring more drivers, and thus more brand awareness, to their company. It really is as simple as economics. Any driver who finds their gear uncomfortable isn't likely to wear it for long, as they weigh every detail of their performance with laser-like precision. They know that distraction creates inefficiency, and inefficiency can be the difference between a clean lap and a trip back to the paddock on a pit bike with the car on a hook following behind.
Ask yourself, “Why do all professional drivers wear Nomex underwear?” You may be surprised to know that it’s not simply because it’s a requirement.
The answer is that tech layers are made to wick moisture away from the skin which in turn cools the driver. The inner liner of a Nomex fire suit isn’t intended for this and doesn’t function in the same way because a racing fire suit is intended to be worn with Nomex underwear beneath it. It may seem counter-intuitive but we promise it’sSCIENCE!
Finally, and this cannot be overstated, wearing an additional layer of Nomex underwear provides the driver precious seconds for egress when things go terribly wrong. A great many racers, some of whom we know personally, fell into the trap of thinking, "That will never happen to me," right up until it did. Auto racing comes with inherent risks, but outfitting yourself properly can help to mitigate many of those risks significantly.
With that in mind, below are a few different lines of Nomex Underwear we carry here at CMS, along with our thoughts on each, in no particular order:
What sets the Walero lineup of Nomextech layers apart from others isn’t simply the thickness of the material but rather the material itself. Walero uses a literal space-age material developed by NASA foroff-world applications to regulate body temperature based on the environment (i.e. ambient temperature). It’s called Outlast® technology and it really is the stuff of science-fiction books written in the not-so-distant past. Garments made with Outlast® technology use thermo-regulation to both keep you cool when the temperature rises and keep you warm when the temperature drops. This reduces perspiration by up to 33% and, as most racers already know, perspiration leads to dehydration and dehydration has all sorts of nasty side-effects that reduce reaction times and prevent you from putting down your best lap times and increase the odds of making a mistake.
Another benefit of Walero Nomex® is their anti-microbial Envirotex treatment. This hospital-grade treatment is 99.99% effective against most common bacteria, eliminating a portion of the bacterial odors we’ve all become so accustomed to when opening our gear bag. In other words: less funk in your junk!
Also, as has become the norm for high-end tech layers these days, Walero uses flat-lock seams and super-soft fabric to maximize overall fit and comfort.
Alpinestars Race V3 and ZX EVO V2 Series:
Both of these series are an update to a previous generation of products and both saw marked improvements over their respective predecessors. The Race V3 is less expensive than the ZX EVO V2 series while still providing exceptional breathability and overall comfort. The ZX EVO V2 series has a ton of stretch panels and, while one of the more expensive lines of Nomex underwear, feels like wearing a stretchy tissue (really, it’s that soft). The styling also makes the ZX EVO V2 series really stand out in a positive way, but your mileage may vary.
Alpinestars also has both basic and advanced socks which are worth a look.
Sparco's Prime+ Nomex underwear is the latest and greatest, offering unparalleled comfort and protection worn by professional racing drivers the world over. Sparco offers the Delta and Shield series in both a long- and short-sleeved version. Note that the short-sleeved versions are not rated for either FIA or SFI, so if your series requires it you’ll want to skip the short-sleeved shirts. While the Delta carries a slightly higher price point than the AStars Race V2, these 2 series share a lot of similarities including comfort, thickness and softness. The Shield series from Sparco is incredibly soft and breathable and has no visible graphics like the AStars ZX EVO but it’s no less comfortable, feeling like an ultra-soft chamois cloth. We highly recommend it.
And don't forget Sparco's amazing assortment of socks!
Maelstrom @ CMS