Uncomfortable truths about wet underwear

Martha Kold Bakkevig and Ruth Nielson performed the first good scientific analysis of wet underwear in cold weather. Their study, Impact of Wet Underwear on Thermoregulatory Responses and Thermal Comfort in the Cold, appeared in 1994 in the journal Ergonomics.

Bakkevig, at Sintef Unimed in Trondheim, Norway, and Nielson, at the Technical University of Denmark, found eight men who were willing to wear wet underwear in the cold while having their skin and rectal temperatures monitored. The experiment was carried out in a special test chamber where the temperature was kept at 10C. Some men were given wet pants, others dry ones. The materials were various – wool, cotton, polypropylene and various blends.

Before donning the sodden underclothes, each man was weighed in the nude and temperature sensors were affixed to various parts of the body. A six-inch-long rectal thermometer was inserted….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.