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Peak performance lava gear

Swatches | February 1, 2020 | By:

Protective gear made for research work at volcanoes combines movable, breathable fabric with flame-resistant Kevlar®. Photo: University of Missouri.

What does one wear when working on an active volcano near lava ranging from 1,300 to 2,000° F? It’s a real dilemma for volcanologists—geologists who study the formation and eruptive activity of volcanoes.

Alan Whittington, chair of Geological Sciences at the University of Missouri, was vexed by this dilemma for nearly a decade after he was stuck overnight on a volcano in Guatemala and longed for comfortable, durable protective clothing. 

Whittington shared his ideas with Pamela Norum, chair of the Department of Textile and Apparel Management, who shared them with her department. Abby Romine, a graduate student, took on the challenge to develop outerwear that is both practical and stylish.

Romine started by meeting with geology students to get an idea of what
was needed. She used fabric donated by FirstSpear®, a St. Louis, Mo.-based tactical gear company, to create prototype lava suits for Whittington and his graduate students. She interwove a breathable lightweight fabric with strips of Kevlar®, which offers abrasion and flame resistance.

The team field-tested the suits during a research trip to Colorado and
found them comfortable and practical. In fact, Whittington describe the
pants as the most comfortable field pants he has ever worn. Romine plans
to have her designs produced by FirstSpear. For more information, visit

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