One of the most common questions that I get when I’m trooping in Stormtrooper armor (after “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”) is “Are you hot under there?” Usually, the answer is yes.
With the coming summer, trooping is no joke. Wrapping yourself in a black undersuit, plastic armor, and an enclosed helmet can trap quite a bit of heat, and for some characters, such as Darth Vader, it’s even worse. When you’re out in costume, whether it’s a 90 degree day or in the midst of a crowded convention hall, you should take some basic precautions to stay safe.
Know Your Limits
The foremost piece of advice here is to take it easy, and not to do anything that’s going to work up a sweat. This includes things like running, going up and down stairs (which are already difficult to do), or taking on long distances (like a mile or so). Physical activity will raise your body temperature, and that heat and sweat has nowhere to go.
Knowing your limits is also helpful. If you’re in a building with the air conditioning going at full blast, you’ll likely be able to last longer than if you’re standing out in direct sunlight. If you’re outside, you’ll probably want to be out for short periods of time, rather than trying to do one long marathon of activity.
You can take precautions before you suit up, however. Most 501st units will work with an event coordinator to make sure that there’s a secure room in which to change and store their gear. Changing rooms can also serve as a good place to retreat, pull your helmet off, and take a breather.
Finally, having a wrangler, handler, or squire (the terminology changes depending on the garrison) keep their eyes on the troopers is helpful. They can keep track of everyone, make sure that they’re okay and be on the look out for any signs of someone in trouble. Making a plan and chatting with your fellow troopers is key.
Another simple, but vital thing to pack along for trooping? Water. While buying bottled water is its own can of worms, I try and make it a habit to pick up a rack of bottled water that I’ll toss in my car for the entire group, then leave it out in the middle of the room for anyone who needs it. Taking regular pit stops to get something to drink is a safe bet. (Taking your armor off to use the bathroom is more convenient than passing out kitted up.)
Acute problems such as dehydration or heat stroke are serious problems that anyone in this hobby has to contend with. There’s numerous stories of where people have passed out while trooping. Here’s one example from the 2007 Rose Bowl Parade:
For long troops, some people will take along a CamelBack or similar wearable water bottle that they can drink from. Bendy straws are also helpful, especially if you’re on a convention floor and can’t take your bucket off.
There’s some things you can do with your armor to help with the heat. I have a couple of sets of Under Armour-type clothes to wear under my armor: one set for cold weather use, and another, thinner set for summertime use. (Don’t mix them up - you’ll regret it). Having something that can whisk away some sweat can be really helpful, while allowing heat to escape through the exposed joints.
On a stormtrooper helmet, the frown is covered with mesh, which allows for some air movement. Some troopers will assemble a basic system using small computer fans hooked up to batteries, which they then mount in their helmets.
If you really want to get crazy, and have a costume with a backpack (like a Republic Commando or Sand Trooper), you could look into constructing a cooling suit that circulates water through a liquid cooled shirt, much like Adam Savage and Chris Hadfield did at ComicCon last year.
At the end of the day, it’s best to keep your health and safety in mind. Sometimes, that means drinking some extra water. Others times, it means ending early. One thing is for sure: after a long stint in armor, getting your bucket off can be the most gratifying thing at the end of a troop.