The Marine Corps' new Three-Season Sleeping System sleeping bag. (Rob Curtis / Staff)
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Grunts in Afghanistan soon will have a smaller, lighter sleeping bag.
Four thousand of the new bags, known as the Three-Season Sleeping System, are in theater, and an additional 15,000 are expected to arrive in December, said Lt. Col. A.J. Pasagian, head of the Corps' infantry combat equipment systems.
A contract for about 200,000 more bags, enough for every Marine, should be awarded in January, he said. It is not clear when those bags will be fielded.
The new system provides virtually the same protection as the Corps' current sleeping bag, which most Marines still use, but it is lighter and not as bulky. The single three-season bag will replace the black intermediate and green patrol sleeping bags, combining to form the modular sleep system.
It comes in two sizes, one that fits Marines up to 6 feet tall and another for taller Marines. The top of the new bag can be pulled tight around your face and features two snaps that cover your chin for better protection against the cold and wind. The waterproof bivy can be pulled over your head for added warmth and is designed with a flexible wire to keep the bag off of your face.
The sleeping bag weighs only 2.4 pounds, slightly lighter than the patrol bag. It also packs tighter than the modular sleep system, down to about 1,100 cubic inches (or roughly the size of a watermelon), and offers protection down to 10 degrees provided Marines layer their clothes properly, Pasagian said.
The new three season bag is not considered an extreme cold-weather bag, however. The black intermediate bag, currently issued to every Marine as part of the modular sleep system, provides protection down to minus-12 degrees.
Officials are reviewing options for a new extreme cold-weather bag, and a decision is expected sometime in fiscal 2010. But whatever that bag ultimately looks like, not everyone will get one. It will be reserved for Marines deploying to extremely cold places, such as the mountains of Afghanistan, Pasagian said.
"We are developing that strategy with [Marine Corps Combat Development Command] and developers. Today, we'd probably use elements of the modular sleep system along with the same cold-weather components to get us below [10 degrees]," he said.