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The Freezing Hunter

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The freezing hunter that I am referring to is not one who is lost, but is the average hunter who is dressed wrong, for the weather. Why is he dressed wrong? Because the so-called outfitters to the mass hunting market are offering clothing items that promote the retention of moisture.

As many of you know I have written extensively about the danger of moisture on the skin surface in a cold environment. I have explained what should be worn that will allow moisture to escape so you stay dry and warm.

I recently received a copy of the Cabela's catalog, dated fall '98. They consider themselves the "world's foremost outfitter of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear." I disagree. They may be the largest single retailer, but they certainly do not sell the best available. As a point of fact, I believe that most of the outerwear garments they sell promotes being cold. They are not alone, the products they buy and put in their catalog are also available from other retailers, although, they are sold under different labels.

After reading the limited information about the materials used, I called Cabela's. I inquired about the composition of the shell materials used. All of the shell fabrics are made with some cotton content such as 70 percent polyester and 30 percent cotton. The cotton is used in the fabric blend to make the fabric soft. The fabric is then brushed or napped. This process is actually detrimental, since it weakens the fabric. The primary reason to
create a brushed surface is to make the fabric quiet. Hunters want the shell fabrics of their jackets and bibs to be as noiseless as possible. However, if you are in a situation where snow is falling, as it melts, the fabric is going to absorb the water. The brushed surface holds the snow much more efficiently than does a smooth-surface fabric. As the heat rises from your body and causes the snow to melt, the cotton content of the material absorbs the water.

The garment now gains weight from the water it has absorbed, and the wet part of the garment absorbs heat-from guess who-you! Not an efficient garment, but that doesn't stop them. Let's examine what they are advising you to wear under this outer garment.

The first layer they recommend in their advertisement is some long underwear that is of an extremely dense knit. Some are either all silk or silk and wool. Each of these materials is guaranteed to absorb themoisture you release. The rest are polyester which don't absorb moisture; however, the knit is so dense that moisture hasn't much chance getting through it. Although they state that moisture will be wicked away from your body, how that is accomplished is a mystery. I do not believe anyone at the company can explain it. So, now you have a wet jacket and wet skin surface. Starting to feel chilled? If you were in the woods with these garments on, you would. And it doesn't end here either.

Let's check what type of insulation goes into these garments. How about Liteloft; I have written extensively about this product. Again I will say that it is unfit for use as an insulation in anything. All manufacturers of sleeping bags in the U.S., to the best of my knowledge, have learned how bad a product it is, and no longer use it. Sooner or later the outerwear manufacturers will learn the same thing.

Is it any wonder that I get more and more calls for my products from hunters? Each year I hunt the third season here in Colorado. Most of the hunters who come to the outfitter I hunt with come from eastern states. They generally have Cabela's products and they are always uncomfortably cold. Some ask me get products shipped to camp for them, which is gratifying. Others call me a year later, before the new season.

So, if any of you can identify with the above senario, give me a call and I'll be happy to share with you what I have learned while hunting at altitude, the first week of November here in Colorado.

EXPOSE

During the past year people who have surfed the Internet for information about camping equipment have probably logged on to the Backpacker Web site at one time or another and possibly noted the "flame war" created whenever the Wiggy brand or my name appeared. There have also been individuals who have taken direct aim at me personally. When this situation got out of hand, I appealed to the Backpacker site managers to remove every post regardless of the nature of the comment. That would include the most glowing of comments too. They have cooperated to a point, but refuse to remove everything including references to me, even though my name is not mentioned. Since the management of the Backpacker magazine has had a bone of contention with me for some years, it is possible they are allowing one fellow the leeway to say what he wants, for them. Therefore, I am going to present all of the facts, which I have documented to prove beyond question that they the management of Backpacker would very much like it if Wiggy's Inc. did not exist.

Now the facts:

David Getchell, the equipment editor wanted to get a bag for review and called me in June 1988. "He said he wanted to get a bag." I told him I would sell him a bag, not give him a bag. He agreed to purchase an Ultra Light, and it was shipped June 6, 1988, Wiggy invoice #9922. The bag was never paid for.

Some weeks later I received a call from Larry Amkraut. Larry told me he had received the bag from David to review for the magazine. I did not know Larry prior to that call. Larry happens to have walked across the U.S. in the early 1980s and wrote a book about it, so this qualified him to test products. In all fairness to Larry, he is the best product- tester I've ever dealt with. He walked from the New Mexico-Mexico border to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Most of his trip was with a Wiggy bag. Although he did receive bags from other manufacturers, I'm happy to say he always came back to Wiggy's.

In any event, Larry submitted his review, as far as I can tell, in November 1988. The review was not published. I inquired as to why it wasn't. Tom Shealy, one of the editors, told me, and I quote, "Larry wrote verbatim what was written in your catalog."

Shortly after the conversation I received my complimentary issue of Backpacker. In it appeared an article by Cindy Ross reviewing a Kelty bag. (I wonder what happened to her, she is not listed in the current Backpacker credits.) She incorrectly stated in the article that the bag was somehow constructed using a lamination process.

David Getchell also reviewed a bag from Gold-Eck, an Austrian company.

Having read these reviews, I wrote to John Viehman, executive editor of Backpacker pointing out that all of the information used in each of the articles came right out of the companies' literature. And in the case of Ross's reference to lamination, it came out of the air.

At the time I wrote to Viehman, I had still not seen the review written by Larry, so I had no idea what or how much information came from my catalog. My letter was dated 28 November 1988.

I received the following response on or: dated 30 January 1989.

"Dear Mr. Wigutow:
I'm sorry to hear of your dissatisfaction with BACKPACKER. It's not our policy to share our product reviews with manufacturers in advance of publication. And ultimately what appears in the magazine is independent of the advertising side; we're primarily interested in serving our readers' interests, which in the end serves our advertisers' interests. It's unfortunate that you've decided to withdraw your advertising but I'm not clear on your rationale for doing it. If it's because we failed to run a review of your pack, then you're taking us to task for maintaining our editorial independence. That independence translates into credibility with our readers, which in turn creates a unique environment for your advertising message. In the end, that credibility spills over to the advertiser, as I'm sure you've
discovered. 

(What I specifically wrote to Viehman was:" If your underlings who are responsible for reporting to your readers about the new products, etc. were doing their jobs, they would know what over 110,000 purchasers of Wiggy's sleeping bags already know..Wiggy bags are simply the best. I then decided not to advertise in Backpacker any longer. I
relented several years later, but I recently terminated the advertising.)

Tom Shealy [one of the editors] described one part of the problem we encountered with Larry Amkraut's equipment review. It was a major item, however, enough to make us question the integrity of the entire piece. A kill fee was issued and rights to the manuscript were returned to Larry. Since technically we no longer own rights to Larry's manuscript, we had to gain his permission to photocopy it and send it to you for review. Please be aware that what you've received belongs to him, not BACKPACKER. If you want to discuss any part of it, you should call him directly and leave a message. He is currently hiking the Continental Divide Trail, which is why it has taken us this long to respond to your request. Finally, I'm compelled to add that your approach to this situation appears to be counterproductive. Your letter affords no middle ground for either party."

It was signed John Veihman, Executive Editor.

What follows is Larry's review.

What if there was a sleeping bag that had the longevity of down, and the low price and wet weather insulating abilities of a synthetic? Nice bag, wouldn't you agree? Jerry Wigutow, the founding genius of Wiggy's Bags might just have the sleeping bag. Jerry Wigutow is no newcomer to manufacturing sleeping bags. Twenty years ago he developed the technology for laminating Polarguard. He worked with the U.S. Army Testing Labs, Natick, Ma. and the Paul Petzoldt National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Lander, WY. Hedetermined that non-quilted Polarguard was the most effective way to use it. But, no one else wanted to use it non-quilted. His lamination concept allowed for a smooth outer shell (no stitch marks at the end of baffles as in quality down) and the bags do not look like all the best bags on the market. So, since others didn't want to work with him, he made his own bags and jackets using his laminated Polarguard under the name Olam Outdoor Sports Products.
His present bags are made using the same construction method. But, now he uses Lamilite T insulation. Lamilite T is an UNBONDED silicone coated continuous filament fiber. Lamilite T physically adheres to the nylon fabric, eliminating the need to quilt it (as in other synthetic bags) to prevent migration. To further stabilize the LamiliteT each component is safety stitched around the edge, then double needled together. This permanently locks the LamiliteT in place and causes it to uniformly drape around the sleeper. Unlike Polarguard it has no resin sprayed on it, it is unadulterated pure continuous filament fiber (resin can absorb water e.g. when a sleeping bag is washed. This will then destroy a bag's loft.) It stays lofty and resilient. All right, all right already, how well does the bag work? I used a Wiggy's Ultra Light for four summer nights in Tuolemme Meadows in Yosemite's high country, and many other nights along the central California coast. The temperatures never hit freezing, but I am confident that I would have slept comfortably at the bags listed +20 rating. The price, a mere $100.00 (today the bag is $146.00) for a bag that weighs less than three pounds (2 3/4) (Actually it weighed 3 1/4 pounds, I've never been comfortable putting a bag on the market lighter in weight with a +20 degree rating.) Has a draft tube set in with the zipper (no cold air enters here) and should take most sleepers comfortably below freezing. Sure, Lamilite stays lofty and resilient, but for how long? What is its durability? Will it go flat as some synthetics do after just a few seasons use? We at Backpacker cannot answer that, the bags too new; they just haven't been around long enough yet. But, Jerry Wigutow feels so strongly that continuous filament fiber when used properly is the most efficient insulation in the world that he guarantees the loft of his sleeping bags for life. That's right, for life! So, if you want a bag that will take you below freezing, weighs under 3 lbs., can be easily maintained (machine washed) and has its loft guaranteed for life, drop a line to:

(He gave my old address in South Carolina.)

Having now read the review I wrote to Viehman stating that I still didn't understand why it was rejected.

I pointed out that at Backpacker's request Larry used the bag. Having found the bag a good bag, Larry researched the manufacturer and designer, as he had no previous knowledge of either.

After which he wrote the article.

I further noted that I had read articles on the subject of insulation since the mid' 60s and could tell who had done research or not, pointing out two additional articles in the Backpacker that were obviously not researched.

Jim Chase had an article in the July 1987 issue, "Heavenly Rest." He notes that Polarguard is "long staple insulator." Long staple polyester fiber does not exist. (Had Chase been in the industry for any length of time he would have known what Polarguard is: continuous filament fiber. It's only been used by sleeping bag manufacturers since 1969.)

Article #2 was written by Marita Begley, July 1987 issue, titled "Behind the Label". This was a story about Caribou Mountaineering. The crux of the article dealt with the construction of the Caribou bags. They called it "louver loft." Louver loft is nothing more than a fancy term for "shingle construction," which has been a main stay of North Face bags since 1971. They, The North Face used Hollofill fiberfill sandwiched between two scrims. This proved to be a disaster, so they went to Polarguard in 1976.

(In 1982 or '83 I was contacted by Camp 7, and asked to put together a laminated package that could be used for constructing sleeping bags similar to what North Face was doing. The package included a scrim on either side of a fiberfill product known as Hollobond II. Camp 7 closed before many of these bags were made, I know, because I was one of two factories that made them. Both, myself and the other manufacturer walked away from making them because they were too labor intensive.)

Camp 7 sold out to Bristle Cone Mountaineering. Almost immediately Bristle Cone sold out to Caribou. Caribou management told Begley they invented the construction. Had Begley been in the business she would have known about the shingle construction as everyone else did.

I included with my letter a copy of my catalog and articles for Viehman to read and share with his staff, so they could familiarize themselves with my products and insulation.

I received Viehman's reply dated Feb. 7, 1989.

"Dear Mr. Wigutow,
Please accept my apologies for what obviously is a typographical error. To confuse sleeping bags with packs is not something I make a  practice of doing. at least not often.

(You may recall that he referred to my product as a backpack in an earlier letter. Typo error it was not. He probably didn't know the difference at the time).

Thanks for sending the additional information on your product, er, sleeping bag. (A poor attempt at humor.) I've made sure it becomes required reading for our product editors. (Right.) However, they'll be the first to tell me that they reserve the right to disagree. (How can you disagree if you have no knowledge of a subject?) 


I can't argue with your points about the two writers' technical knowledge. Whether or not they would isn't important, I made a conscious decision not to hire them when Rodale Press acquired the magazine last April. I would appreciate your comments on technical material we've published since acquiring the magazine, however. It should show a marked improvement. (There are no comments by me ever published in the Backpacker, and not only haven't there been improvements since being acquired by Rodale Press, it has gone further down hill.)

I responded briefly on Feb. 17, 1989.

"I very much appreciate your rapid response to my last letter and am glad you are sharing my information with your staff. They are certainly welcome to disagree with what I have written and they won't be the first. My business is based on that information and the general publics' response to my products will be the barometer for this technology ultimately. I am happy to state Wiggy's is now the largest producer of quality sleeping bags in the U.S.A. The general public has proved me right."

I didn't have any further communication with Viehman.

In 1992 I decided to reprint Larry Amkraut's review and send copies to all of the retailers around the country. I included a question asking the retailers if they could answer why they thought Backpacker chose not to print the review. One retailer called Viehman and asked the question. The following letter was sent to him and a copy to me.

10/1/92
James Johnson
PJ's Adventure Sport
1705 W. Main
Rapid City, S.D.57702

Dear James:
Thanks for inquiring about the allegations from Wiggy's. This is an item of concern on a number of levels. Not only are the charges of impropriety unfounded but the arrangements of "facts" here are grossly distorted. It is, in the final analysis, a pathetic attempt to cash in on BACKPACKER's credibility.

(Impropriety means incorrect. James told me he asked Viehman one question: Why didn't you publish the review? Viehman told him he would answer it in a letter. The "facts" you are about to read are a LIE. As for Wiggy's needing help selling sleeping bags, his statement is a joke. By 1991 Wiggy's was the single largest quality producer in the country. Back to the letter.)

To set the story straight, the following may help:
1) The author of this "review" received his equipment directly from
Wiggy's. He was not under assignment to field-test this product from
BACKPACKER before or after he made these arrangements.

2) The editors knew of the author's whereabouts (i.e., that he was on a
long-distance hike and making good progress, etc.) because he called our
offices from time to time to provide an update and inquire about writing
stories for the magazine. We receive a lot of these types of calls, as
you can imagine. We had not worked with the author prior to this and, as
such, would be reluctant to assign any story, much less equipment
review, to someone we had no experience with. Obviously, many issues
come to play, our editorial integrity chief among them. He pressed us on
writing up some reviews on his equipment (giving us the sense that he
was under pressure to "pay back" his sponsors, etc.) and we indicated,
as we typically do with unknown authors, that we'd be happy to take a
look at his material but only speculatively. This implies no commitment
on the magazine's part and is standard operating language within
publishing circles.

3) When reviewed the comments from the author, we couldn't help noting
the similarity between "his" words and the descriptions featured in the
Wiggy's catalog. There was too much overlap, which made us suspect less
than objective comments. Further, the author mentioned in following up
his submission that he had provided a copy of his review to the
manufacturer.

4) BACKPACKER has very rigid guidelines and policies regarding equipment
testing, which include: All equipment requests must come directly from
staff editors; all field testing is "by assignment only" from the
Equipment Editor Dave Getchell; we do not guarantee publication of our
field test findings, nor do we allow manufacturers to preview what is
published prior to publication; we do fact-check our data to
publication, however, we return all product provided to us unless it is
agreed upon before testing that the product won't be returned (i.e., the
manufacturer doesn't wish it returned). In short, we take great pains to
ensure that our equipment reviews and field tests are free from any
outside influence that the consumers themselves would not encounter.
I cannot say that the above policy was in effect prior to Rodale Press
acquiring the magazine in early 1988, so perhaps Wiggy's complaint has
its origins with the past owner/staff of BACKPACKER. Or perhaps he's
just not comfortable with the black-and -white nature of what we do here
at Rodale Press/BACKPACKER. In any event, the tactics that he is using
to sell his product by questioning our integrity are at best underhanded
and at worst unethical.

Thanks for bringing this item to our attention. If you have any further
questions, I'll be happy to respond.
Signed, John Viehman, Executive Editor
Cc: Jerry Wigutow, Wiggy's Inc.

After I read the letter I called James, and asked what he had done. He told me he called Viehman and asked why the review hadn't been published. Viehman said he would send him a letter of explanation. Viehman sent me a copy, since he knew James would also probably have done so. After speaking with James, I wrote the following letter and faxed it to Ardath Rodale on Oct. 8, 1992. On Oct. 30, I sent via mail or Federal Express a copy of the letter.

"Dear Mrs. Rodale,
"I am in receipt of a letter from John Viehman, your executive editor, copy enclosed. He truly is a man of little or no integrity. If you refer to his items you will observe that his "facts" are not grossly distorted, but "lies."

"#1 & #2, enclosed is a copy of my account receivable showing an invoice for the bag in question ordered by Dave Getchell and given to Larry Amkraut, never paid.

"Until Larry called and introduced himself to me after using the bag I had no previous knowledge of his existence. Also, see a copy of John Viehman's letter dated 1/30/89. As you can see Larry was paid a kill fee, why!, if he arbitrarily submitted his review?

"#3, see copy of letter to John Viehman with reference to my comment about Cindy Ross review.

"#4, Backpacker will write reviews that are favorable to its advertisers. "Objectivity" is a word of no meaning at Backpacker.

As for being underhanded and unethical, that is a joke. He, John Viehman, and/or any other employee of Backpacker cannot substantiate a single fact that can support any activity by me in my business that can even remotely be considered either underhanded or unethical.

"When attacking a battleship, you need more than a "pea shooter."

"Signed, J.N. Wigutow

Cc: James Johnson
P.J. Adventure Sport Shop
Larry Amkraut"

Letter#2
"Dear Mrs. Rodale,

The enclosed is being sent to you in the event that you did not see it as it was originally faxed to you, which may account for me not receiving an apology.

Signed, J.N. Wigutow

"P.S. You may want to call Jamie Johnson and get his opinion of Mr. Viehman's allegations."

I have never received a response.

The prevailing attitude at Backpacker magazine, is that they make companies. The Good Housekeeping seal of approval for the outdoor industry. I am of the opinion they would not exist if Rodale Press wasn't their parent.


"One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.
No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man."
- -Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

Wiggy's Signature

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