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Insulated Flotation Garments

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As you know, I have been testing Therma-Float flotation foam with the Lamilite insulation in garments for several months. In all conditions the insulated flotation products have performed extremely well. I have just finished testing a Therma-Float slicker and bib.

For those who don't know what a slicker is, it is normally made of vinyl fabric. It is a jacket, and, as a rule, heavy and restricting of movement. Boaters, professional fisherman and recreational sailors use them. Of course, if you ever fell into the water with one of these outfits on you would sink like a rock. The Wiggy Therma-Float slicker and bib are made from ripstop nylon laminated to the Therma-Float foam, and fully lined with nylon. Mesh is at the base of the slicker and at the base of each leg of the bib. The purpose of the mesh is to allow the water that gets into the garment to empty out easily when you are pulled out of the water. The garment has a lining to trap the water. Once water gets in, it does not get out-wet suit effect. The water warms, and once again you are in a pool of warm water created by the heat the water has absorbed from you.

The more testing I do, the more convinced I become that standard water-tight immersion suits are not necessarily the best protection when you fall into cold water.

I have placed a zipper in the slicker to accommodate the L-6 liner. There is also an L-6 insulated liner that snaps into the bib. The base of each of these items has mesh to allow the water to flow out.

When you are on a boat, whether it is a pleasure craft or working boat, you are going to get wet. (Except maybe if you are on the QE2.) Therefore, you should wear clothing that is unaffected by the water. Believe it or not the fishnets are by far the best first layer. For starters, they will allow your perspiration to get away from you. You certainly do not want to have a layer of clothing against your skin that holds water. If you have ever sailed in a summer squall, even though the air temperature is warm, you know that when you get wet, you get cold. Any item of clothing worn over the fishnets should be synthetic. Synthetic fabric will not absorb water. It should be loose fitting so, it is easy to move in. There is another reason for wearing synthetics rather than cotton or wool when boating: the natural fiber garments absorb water and become heavy as a result. If you should fall into the water, the less that you are wearing that absorbs water the greater your buoyancy.

I have also tested the Lamilite liner, top and bottom to measure how buoyant they are. They were almost as good as the foam-lined garments. However, "almost" means that the Lamilite part of the suit is a complement, to the overall garments.

For maximum flotation one should wear the jacket and bib. If the area that you are sailing in has very cold water, such as the New England coast or Oregon north to the Alaskan waters, then the fishnets and Lamilite liners should be worn.

The jacket and bib are $266.00. Color available is high visibility Yellow.
The insulated liners are $240.00.
For duck hunters these garments are available in woodland camouflage, cost $300.00.

See photograph on back page.


In August the Outdoor Retailer trade show takes place. Prior to the show the Outdoor Retailer magazine reports what is new for the buyers. The comment about sleeping bags was limited to "Polarguard 3-D, it is still being used for insulation." I was happy to see that the Liteloft product from 3-M and Primaloft from Albany International are no longer being used. There was no mention of either product in the article.

The only reason the manufacturers are sticking with the Polarguard 3-D is because they have nothing left to turn to. Trust me, it is no better than the previously mentioned products.

That, of course, leaves these companies with one option to promote as sleeping bag insulation, and that is down. I have said it before and I'm saying it again, Lamilite is far and away the finest insulating material in the world. Lamilite has all of the good qualities of down: it is very light and compactible, and extremely warm, retaining your body heat, which is what keeps you warm in a sleeping bag better than any insulating material that has preceded it. There is nothing on the horizon that is going to change that fact for a very long time, if ever. Lamilite also has the advantages of being a silicone coated polyester fiber, which means it is unaffected by water, either in a vapor or liquid state.

I was told by one of the reporters, who has attended the show since its inception, that the sales of the higher price sleeping bag manufacturers was off considerably. This comment did not surprise me. I believe those people interested in purchasing a costly sleeping bag are doing the necessary research these days, having been burned by the purchase of a product that did not do what it was advertised to do, i.e. keep them warm.

That may be another reason that sales at Wiggy's hasn't slowed for five or six years. We have been at full production for as far back as I can remember.

Therefore, many thanks to all of the so-called competition who turned me away when I wanted to sell them the Lamilite. Yes, I didn't want to become a manufacturer of sleeping bags, but a supplier to all of the existing manufacturers as early as 1968, when I developed the idea of laminating fiberfill rather than quilting it to eliminate the cold spots. Their reason they wouldn't buy my idea was "consumers won't buy non-quilted sleeping bags because they don't look like down bags." Therefore, if I wanted to sell the Lamilite I had to become the manufacturer. I guess we've showed them-intelligence always wins.


In an earlier newsletter I noted three companies who have copied Wiggy's in some manner. Recently the first company settled with me out of court. I'll have more about this at a later date.

The other two actions are still in progress. I fully expect to prevail. Both are "trade dress", which is copying the appearance of my bags both inside and outside.


I recently received a catalog from a company called "Cheaper Than Dirt". I had been told that they were selling a sleeping bag that looked exactly like mine. It turns out they are selling the bag being purchased by the military, a bastardization of the Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System, created by me. They are advertising it as having a special high loft filling "that will never lose its loft".

I called to inquire what the fill was. The answer I got was "I do not know," from a representative named Mark. I told him it is Polarguard HV to the best of my knowledge a product no longer used by any of the manufacturers. I further inquired as to why this statement appeared in the ad if no one had knowledge of the fill; he didn't know the answer to that question either. He did tell me the name of the contractor, which I knew anyway. The bag system was further described as having a low temperature rating of -20 degrees F.

I have reported several times in the past that field-testing in Alaska, by 2,000 soldiers, showed +15 degrees F as the best you can expect from that system.

To those who know the company, if they promote one product erroneously they may very well promote all of their products that way.

Just an observation: of all the products that we carry into the field, a sleeping bag is the most important. It is also the product most often misrepresented by the seller, be it the marketer of the insulation, maker of the bag or retailer. I have never understood why they would choose to potentially hurt the consumer, the person who keeps them in business.


Dear Wiggy, 15 AUGUST 1998
I will tell you a short story of an experience that happened to me and a couple of buddies last February. We traveled thirty miles out the Copper River highway, then headed east across the Copper River Delta to our camp. The weather was about ten degrees and hardly a gust of wind. The next two days we spent traveling around exploring the Delta, hunting Ptarmigan, and checking our traps.
At night we had great accommodations that included a big wall tent and a small cook stove. Sleeping conditions were great.
The day we decided to leave it really started to snow, but still not much wind. As we traveled the 20 miles west back to the snow covered Copper River highway, the wind became greater every mile. By the time we made it to the highway it was blowing well over 100 miles an hour and snowing so hard we could not see the tail light of the snow machine in front of ourselves at two feet.
We made the decision to grab our survival gear and hold out for better weather. We dug out the snow around the base of a spruce tree, set up our tent and the three of us sat and waited for better conditions. For two days and nights the storm blew and the temperature dropped; not knowing for sure, but I would guess it was around 30 to 40 below zero with the wind chill.
As you can guess, the condensation generated from three men in a small tent for a couple of nights were tremendous. Both of my buddies were chilled even in their bags, but I was the proud owner of a Wiggy's Ultima Thule. I was warm, the bag breathed exactly the way it was supposed to, and the situation that could have ended up with tragedy, ended with a return to town and some great stories to tell about how important it is to have good gear, especially a Wiggy's Bag.

Tom Carpenter
Vice President
Whiskey Ridge Trading Company
P.O. Box 900
Cordova, Alaska 99574

Ed Note: They are an outfitter, for those interested in going to Alaska.

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