The next time you’re working near lava at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit — or, more likely, when you’re arranging an adventure that demands expedition-level clothing — try FirstSpear tactical gear. It plans to produce a new lightweight, comfortable lava suit created by a University of Missouri (MU) graduate student.
“My designs are based on functional, expressive, and aesthetic elements,” said Abby Romine, a student in the MU Department of Textile and Apparel Management. “For my first prototype, I gathered ideas from students in geological sciences and wanted to make something that was not only functional in all types of environments, but aesthetically pleasing as well.”
Using fabric donated from Mizzou alumna Kathryn Knight at FirstSpear in St. Louis, Romine created four custom suits featuring lightweight fabric — for breathability and movement — interwoven with large strips of Kevlar for abrasion and flame resistance.
“We tested [the suits] on a week-long field trip in Colorado, and they were the most comfortable field pants I’ve ever worn,” said Alan Whittington, MU chair of geological sciences. “I’ve been into outdoor gear since the 1980s. People want to buy gear that is expedition-level engineered, so I can see this as a good marketing opportunity beyond just volcanologists.
“If I had to choose between a commercial brand of work pants and these pants, I would pick these every time,” added Whittington.