Deciding how many layers you need in your racing suit presents a common misconception: That multi-layer suits are inherently safer than single-layer suits. It may seem surprising, but this is not always true.
It all comes back to what materials are being utilized in the suit. Is it Proban, Nomex, Carbon-X, etc.? Proban is commonly applied in economy suits due to its cotton base. The cotton fabric is impregnated with a chemical cocktail that initiates polymer formation that is irreversible. This polymer formation is the barrier that protects you from fire and intense heat. However, many racers and product specialists believe Proban to be lacking in longevity and prolonged protection.
Nomex, on the other hand, is the next most widely used material in fire suits. It is known for being far more consistent, durable, long-lasting, and protective. Nomex is trademarked product manufactured by DuPont. It is a meta-aramid material.
So getting back to the original question: Which is better – Single-Layer or Multi-Layer?
Well, a single layer Nomex suit would actually stand a good chance at outperforming a multi-layer Proban suit – especially if both suits had already been through some wear. Ultimately, a multi-layer suit will provide you additional layers of protection, which is why professional racers and some leading amateur racing sanctioning bodies require a multi-layer suit that meets specific SFI and FIA ratings.
But, not all of us are professional racers or even amateurs. And we all certainly cannot spend the same amount of money on racing suits that professional racers can. Most of us are just looking for what it will take to keep us safe, and the rest is simply luxury! In that case, the best thing you can do is determine your budget, and try to find the best suit for your buck. It may be a high-end single-layer suit made out of Nomex. Or maybe a multi-layer Proban suit is your best option. No matter what, keep in mind that having a suit is better than not having a suit. Even if it’s single-layer Proban, it is certainly better than absolutely nothing.