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Supporting Armed Forces Personnel

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It is my understanding that the purpose of the military in the U.S. is to protect the U.S. This would obviously include the citizens and their property. This being the case, why are the developers of personal equipment so reluctant to provide their protectors (military personnel) with the best that is available?

In earlier newsletters this year, I reported that 2,000 infantry troops were issued two- bag sleep systems that demonstrated in two field tests that they were incapable of keeping the soldier warm at temperatures below +15 degrees. The tests took place in Alaska during January and March 1997. The following is the "Commercial Item Description for the Modular Sleeping Bag (MSB), 29 March 1993. Sleeping Bag, Patrol: This sleeping bag will provide an average user with adequate insulation to +30 degrees F (industry standard 30 to 25 degrees F rating). Sleeping Bag, Intermediate Cold: This bag will provide an average user with adequate insulation to

-10 degrees F (industry standard -5 to -10 degrees F rating). When used together the temperature rating will be -30 degrees F.

The MSB, after 5 wash cycles will provide an average Marine user with a level of comfort necessary to allow for 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep at -30 degrees F. This is to be accomplished while the Marine is wearing the Undershirt, Extended Cold Weather, Polypropylene (Industry standard expedition weight undergarments); the Hood, Balaclava, Extended Cold Weather, and the Sock, Wool, Winter. The maximum gross weight of the system will be 7 pounds.

In addition the bag system will have at least 80 percent of its loft regained after it has been kept in its compression stuff sack for three months."

As I reported earlier, the bag system didn't keep any of the soldiers in Alaska warm. The temperatures during the four weeks of testing never got below about 0 degrees. Also, they never stripped down to the clothing configuration that is supposed to work at -30 degrees F, as stated in the requirement.

Additional fallacies in regard to this product are that if left in a compression stuff sack for three months, less than 80 percent of the loft will come back, and that it will have but one half its original loft after five wash cycles. The truth of the matter is that the fiber producer, Hoechst Celanese states in their literature that sleeping bags filled with Polar Guard, and these bags are filled with PGHV, should never be stored in a stuff sack, let alone a compression stuff sack. Why? Because it will lose its loft.

At this time their are $33 million worth of these bags either delivered or in production. A solicitation for approximately $15 million more is out for bid.

Now the same group that put the sleeping system into the military has put a second product into the system. That product is a bivi bag. It is a 100 percent Gortex bivi bag. This contract is worth $39+ million. It specifies 300,000 units.

A science officer told me that soldiers sleep in tents, therefore there is no need for bivi bags. He also told that to the people in the same group who authorized the product.

The history of the Gortex bivi bag is interesting. It was developed in about 1980 by The North Face Company. According to Gore, they delivered a quantity to Fort Drum, New York. The quantity could have been 10 or 100, I do not know. They all demonstrated seepage through the bottom of the bag. These were 100 percent Gortex. The bottom of the bivi was changed to 100 percent waterproof, 200 denier oxford nylon. This product has been used for the past 17 years. While it does not allow seepage, it does have a serious condensation problem. Moisture from the person sleeping in it never gets out. If it's warm, you get water. If it's cold, you get ice.

As I stated, the new bivi is again 100 percent Gortex. Why? I will allow you to speculate, knowing that the contract is worth $39+ million.

The organization responsible for these products is U.S. Army Natick Testing Laboratories, Natick, Massachusetts. I used to think as many others that the civilian employees of Natick had a "if we didn't invent it..." attitude. But I was wrong. The real problem with Natick is called "job security.''

Each project gets funding. If a project is completed, the funding for that project ends. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the project managers not to make the best product they can. If they place 300,000 sleeping systems in the supply system, they have bought more time and development funding.

I believe the project managers know they will get negative reports about what they have put in the field. On this project they havenever gotten a good report about either the bag system or the bivi. In addition, they have rejected the positive reports received about commercially available products that numerous Special Forces Groups have been able to buy with their own funds. This disregard of facts about what does work shows these project managers disregard for the soldiers. These soldiers are the people these project managers pay tax dollars for--for the protection they themselves are accorded as citizens of the U.S.

It seems to me that they would make a concerted effort to produce the best products, materials or finished products for the soldiers. That, I am sorry to say will never happen at Natick, as long as civilians are paid to do the development work.

The solution to what I believe is a very serious problem is easily achieved. Put military personnel in Natick. Men or women who have served in the field, and will know what it is like to suffer with bad equipment. Let them go into the marketplace and see what is available. Buy some of this and some of that and let troops use it and report back their experience. Then they can put out solicitations to bid on products they know work.

The person who is assigned to the job will only be at it for the normal time-span that anyone is assigned a job in the military. The records would carry from one person to the next. If a company comes up with a better mouse trap, give the military samples to test. If the product works better, and more is needed, every company that so desires will be able to get all the necessary information to bid.

I, for one, value the information I have received from the military about my products--information I could never have gotten from the civilian market. And who is the beneficiary of all of this knowledge?-- me and my civilian customers.


In an earlier newsletter, I commented that many people ask if my bag will fit so-

and-so's backpack. I answered that I truly didn't know, because none of the pack makers had ever visited me to see what bag fitted what pack. Now I have definite information. It is good news for owners of Osprey packs.

A couple came into Wiggy's to purchase some sleeping bags. The Osprey packs they had were the Zenith Pro and Amelia.

We placed an Antarctic bag (rated to

-60 degrees) in the Zenith Pro. The Antarctic model is 90 inches long, with a 68 inch girth and a total weight of 7 pounds. In the Amelia we placed an Ultima Thule bag (rated to -20 degrees). It is also 90 inches long, with a 62 inch girth and has a total weight of 5.5 pounds.

I still have no knowledge of how my bags will fit the other pack brands' sleeping bag compartments, but I'm sure they can't be much different in size than the Osprey. Since the heaviest weight bags fit these packs, I can only imagine that any Wiggy bag will fit almost any pack's sleeping bag compartment.


The September 22, 1997, issue of Sporting Goods Business contains an article titled "Get Smart." It is a review of information supplied by three companies: Marmot Mt., Frisby Technologies, and Outlast Technologies.

The term "Smart Fabric" was coined by Marmot. They brought to market a fabric trade marked "MemBrain," a waterproof laminate which, they claim, changes shape to become more breathable as the temperature inside your clothing rises.

Greg Frisby, CEO Frisby Technologies, states "My parochial perspective--given that we offer a (smart) insulating foam--is that the industry has been waiting for the right delivery system to come along for thermal management."

Outlast Technologies of Boulder, Colorado, states "its technology is no less revolutionary, and could eventually supplant more standardized thermal management systems."

MemBrain is a monolithic film. Marmot claims that their product, when heated, will allow vapor to go through it more quickly than when it is cold. This, I guess, is why they claim it is "smart." When I spoke to a Marmot representative he told me that their film, when heated, gets thinner and actually elongates. This allows vapor to move more rapidly through the film, thus

creating less resistance. When it cools, it thickens and this slows vapor movement, which I suspect, since it wasn't discussed, also holds in heat.

If the film is attached to the fabric via a lamination process, which includes an adhesive to hold the two materials together, how can one of the fabrics increase in size and not the other? Even if what they state is true about the film's ability to get thinner and have less resistance to vapor movement through it, wouldn't the adhesive holding the materials together also keep the film from getting thinner in the spots where it is attached. And where the film is attached, wouldn't the adhesive block that spot, totally inhibiting vapor movement in that area. If the MemBrain film is laminated with the same type of adhesive applicator that Gore uses, 144 dots per square inch, wouldn't MemBrain be just as clogged as the Gore product? YES.

The other two companies' products are "microthermal" materials, first developed for NASA and the Air Force, or so they state stated in their advertising as well as in various articles. I have yet to find a person in the Air Force or NASA who has ever heard of this technology.

These are the paraffin bead products that give the heat they absorb from you back to you when you start getting cold. They are referred to as "phase change materials." This is why, I guess, they claim their products are "smart."

I spoke with a representative of Frisby, who told me that the "phase change took place when the temperature was +83 degrees." When the material reaches +83 degrees it softens, signifying that it is absorbing the heat from your body. This person also said that it kept on absorbing since body temperature was +98 degrees. She obviously doesn't know that +98 degrees is internal not external body temperature.

The Frisby company also doesn't know that the polyurethane foam, which the paraffin beads are placed on, is an excellent absorber of moisture, and therefore not a good material for use as insulation.

As for Outlast, I tried it, and it doesn't work. I also spoke to one of their representatives and I now believe that they are only interested in an advertising campaign.

Pity the poor consumer. Every consumer is interested in getting a jacket that utilizes a fabric that works like the human body. Every manufacturer would like to have such a fabric. It doesn't exist.

`'A sucker is born every day," is attributed to P.T. Barnum. He was right. I have been reading articles about these "smart fabrics" before they were even referred to as "smart fabrics." These articles have been appearing in industry publications for

KNOWLEDGE: "Knowledge" is a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation.
Ayn Rand, "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" (1979)

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