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Zippers

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I use the YKK number 10, molded-tooth zipper for all my sleeping bags and outerwear garments. The reason is simple: they are the strongest zippers you can buy.

When I became involved in the camping equipment business in 1968, all of the quality sleeping bag manufacturers used the number 10, molded-tooth zipper. Sometime in the mid-1970s they all changed to the coil zipper. Why? Because it is lighter. (I weighed one, cut the exact same length as what I use. The weight difference is less than one ounce.) The sleeping bag manufacturers never considered the durability of the lighter weight zipper. I've heard from many people who are replacing whatever brand of bag they owned because these zippers failed. The coil zippers, simply put, are inadequate for use on sleeping bags.

I remember a fellow coming into Wiggy's, a few years ago, with a North Face bag made between 1970 and 1975 when they were still using Hollofil insulation. The bag was flat as can be. The fellow said he needed a new zipper. He needed a new bag. The zipper was a number 10 YKK molded-tooth zipper, and it was in perfect condition, all that was needed was a new top slider. Today, look at any North Face bag and all you will see is a small coil zipper.

When I was starting to solicit retailers, they all commented that the zipper was too big. They said I should use what every other company used, so my bags could be mated to other brands of bags. My initial response was to say that a left zip Wiggy bag would only mate to a right zip Wiggy bag! I then told them I wanted my customers not to have to worry that the zipper might fail while in the field, as was happening all the time to other manufacturer bags. Wiggy's is a mail order business today because the retailers I tried to sell thought they could tell me how to best make sleeping bags. If they knew so much, they should have become sleeping bag manufacturers.

My customers are always telling me how great it is to have these big zippers, on the bags. You would think the other manufacturers would return to what once was-and still is-the best zipper made for sleeping bags.

THE END IS NEAR

As you know, I have been writing since the inception of my newsletter that "waterproof-breathable" fabrics are a hoax. A company named W.L. Gore and Associates supposedly developed a film that when laminated to a nylon fabric would allow body moisture out and not allow rainwater in. They patented their idea, but fortunately for them they never had to prove to the patent examiner it actually worked; and then they set out to tell the world about their product. Advertising dollars flowed like water to any manufacturer who would use it.

A growing market for outerwear garments that would perform like those made with Gore-Tex was ripe to buy these garments. Because of the supposed success they were having other companies in the textile business decided they could make a product that would perform as well. The truth of the matter is, these competing products were every bit the equal of the Gore product, at a considerable savings. These products weren't waterproof-breathable either. Did they sell as well? No, because these other companies wouldn't give as much away in advertising monies.

So Gore had the lion's share of the market.

For more than 20 years that the concept of waterproof-breathable has been on the market. It's is now very much on the decline because enough people have found that products made this way don't perform as advertised. The unhappy owners of these items tell friends about their lack of ability to perform, so the potential buyer is forewarned.

Proof that waterproof-breathable garments are losing favor with the public has been established by the fact that the Gore Company is closing plants and not only eliminating factory workers, but also eliminating in-house sales associates, as they refer to office personnel.

It is my opinion that some outerwear companies will continue to offer rainwear as being waterproof-breathable and using their own name for the material. When the sales of these products become low enough, those styles will go by the wayside for good.

The end is near!

A QUESTION

The most often-asked question of me is how or why I got into the sleeping bag business. I started in the business world selling interlinings and interfacings, i.e., construction fabrics used in the manufacture primarily of outerwear. All sewers will know what I am talking about. One of the materials was insulation made from reprocessed nylon. This was eventually replaced by polyester fiber.

I was fortunate to work for people who allowed me to experiment. I started experimenting with the lamination of fiberfill to nylon. After about five years, I found that continuous filament fiber worked best. I knew that by eliminating the quilt stitching the insulating properties of a jacket or sleeping bag would be enhanced. With this knowledge I went to all of the manufacturers of sleeping bags that were in business between 1968 and 1973 to show and try to sell them the on new way of using continuous filament fiber. I received a universal NO for my efforts. The stock answer I received was "the consumer will not buy a synthetic sleeping bag that does not look like a down bag." My response was, "even if it performs as well as a down bag?" Still no!

Therefore, if I was to sell my laminated insulation, later named Lamilite, I had to sell it as a finished product. After a 13-month sailing sabbatical I went into business, a partnership with a fellow who was, as I learned able to sew anything. That was when I learned, manufacturing, in my first company known as Olam Outdoor Sports Products. The fiber we used was Polarguard. The Olam bags were, and still are, better than anything the other companies make today. They were made with laminated Polarguard, and every now and then I will come across someone who still has one. The loft is pretty much gone, so they use them for warm weather.

I sold out in 1977 and went into the laminating business for the next nine years. I developed Lamilite at the end of that time and then decided to make sleeping bags. The laminating business wasn't doing well at the time, so I closed it, opened Wiggy's and moved from the southeastern U.S. to Colorado. Best move of my life. I decided not to show or sell the Lamilite to any other manufacturer of sleeping bags, but instead applied for a patent, which I received, and started to produce the bags, myself. By the way, there is an endless demand for the production of Lamilite.

I started out in mail order and slowly I received a call from a retailer here and there. Some were retailers that carried the Olam line and others were new to me. There weren't many, but it was a start. I put on sales representatives, and they all failed to develop additional stores. The reasons were the same as those given by the manufacturers: who will buy a sleeping bag that looks like yours? Some said to stitch the fabric so it looks like it is quilted. I'm pretty independent, so I told them we couldn't do business. I approached REI, and the buyer at the time was quite emphatic; he said, "we will never sell a bag that looks like yours." He was very prophetic, because I have no interest in ever selling to REI. In any event, mail order sales kept growing, so I terminated the sales staff and decided to stick with the mail order business.

By 1991 Wiggy's was the single largest quality producer of sleeping bags in the country. By 1995 Wiggy's was as large as all of the other so-called quality producers combined. Today we are significantly larger than all of the rest of the industry that is left. Keep in mind that Caribou and Cascade Designs are completely out of the sleeping bag business, which helped increase Wiggy's lead. The Cascade Company decided to use the Wiggy's Inc. slogan "Simply the Best," in their second season. I advised them they couldn't and they agreed not too. I guess now that they are gone from the business they didn't make a sleeping bag that would fit the slogan, but I knew that anyway.

I am happy to see companies in other industries, which make good products, pick up on the slogan. I believe very strongly that if you make a good product, you should be proud of your accomplishments.
I constantly get calls from retailers wanting to carry the Wiggy line of bags. The answer is an unequivocal No! Where were they eight or so years ago when I needed them, now I don't need them? I also think, as much go by out of business, that there goes another dealer who won't burn me with unpaid bills. Believe me, there have been enough to put many companies in serious financial straight. All one needs to do is study the number of firms that have either gone under or been sold. Very
often a Customer orders a product from a retailer and then waits months. Why? Because the retailer hasn't paid off the prior season's bills. Of course, the customer is given a song and dance. This has been very helpful for Wiggy's, so I guess I have a debt of thanks to the retailer after all.

I have just added 3,000 square feet to the factory, which is allowing for as many as five more sewing lines. This gives me the ability to stay ahead of sales, so we always have ready inventory to ship without delay.

REVIEW IN BACKPACKER MAGAZINE

While writing this newsletter, I received my copy of Backpacker. In it is a review of a sleeping bag by the sleeping bag maven Kristen Hostetter. "A bag for soggy nights."

It is my understanding that a review of a sleeping bag should concentrate on the bag's ability to keep you warm. Focusing on this primary is not the case in her review of a Mtn. Hardwear bag called the 2nd Dimension Stormlight. The bag is insulated with Polarguard 3D, is rated to +10 degrees and weights three pounds, three ounces. That I call a crock. That is the manufacturer's rating, not Kristin's. If she were to have used it in that condition, she might very well never have returned to write her article, so we know she didn't use it at a temperature even remotely close to +10 degrees.

The thrust of the article is how wonderful the shell material is. It is a "water-resistant, windproof, breathable fabric. It is a new proprietary 30-denier ripstop nylon laminated to a water-resistant membrane. She used the bag more than 30 nights in conditions that were wet, and the moisture never got into the bag. She always stayed warm and dry." At no point does she mention the ambient air temperature. Very often she repeats how well the fabric worked to keep moisture out and suggests that the moisture from her body got through the fabric to the outside.

I have a question. Why doesn't Mtn. Hardwear start to sell this material or film to all of the rainwear firms in th world if it performs as Kristin claims? We know there is a waiting market for waterproof-breathable fabrics. Mtn. Hardwear would make a ton of money-as a supplier to the industry; they wouldn't even have to stay a manufacturer.

Bottom line: the fabric doesn't do what it is advertised to do, and the bag temperature rating is equally inaccurate. Like I said in "The end is near," each manufacturer will come up with his own name for a waterproof-breathable until nobody buys it any more.

WET IN A WIGGY BAG


I have published letters from many customers attesting to the fact that they have stayed warm in a Wiggy bag even though they were sleeping in a pool of water, caused by a leaking tent or for some other reason. I was always happy to know they were warm, however, it wasn't until recently that I realized why they were warm.

Have you ever experienced using a wet suit? If so, you know that the water that gets trapped in the wet suit is warmed by your body's heat. When the water is trapped in a Wiggy sleeping bag the same thing occurs. What sets the Wiggy bag apart from all other brands of bags is the Lamilite insulation. Its ability to retain the heat produced by your body is so efficient; that the heat absorbed by the water does not get out. Therefore, you stay equally warm in a Wiggy bag even if you have to share some of the space with a little water, as you would if it were dry.

LETTERS FROM CUSTOMERS

I receive letters every week from satisfied customers. To state that it is gratifying is an understatement. I take great pride in bring them to you.

E-mail received Feb. 4, 1999

Hiking on Mt. Jefferson in the White Mtns. Of NH in January has generally excited us with sub zero temperatures. Two of us set out on Jan. 15, 99 a day before the rest of our group, to have an extra day on the Mt. (just can't seem to get enough). We started out in sleet but the higher we climbed the warmer it became needless to say we hiked several miles in a hard rain. Soaked to the bone and totally spent we pitched our tent at dusk, looking very forward to climbing into our new Wiggy's Ultima Thule bags which we purchased the week before, which by the way had gotten wet in our packs. I stripped of my outer layers and climbed into my bag still in my long underwear, which I could have rung out. The temperature went from 34 to 6 that night (perfect hypothermic conditions.) Almost immediately the tent filled with fog that was rolling out of our bags. We actually found this hysterical and were thankful we decided to replace our old bags when we did. Within 4 hours I was bone dry and enjoyed the most comfortable night's sleep I can remember in the mountains.

I am a very skeptical person in believing what is written about a product and this is what prompted me to write to you. I have never been so impressed with any gear that I've purchased. I will be on Mt. Washington in two weeks and hope that I can experience pushing the bag to its limits in the temperature dept.

Thank you very much for an awesome product.
Tom Scott
P.S. I'm very thankful I've entered into the "WIGGY Zone"

E-mail received Dec. 29, 1998

Dear Sir:
I am an U.S. Marine First Sergeant and would like to share my personal observations about your company's sleeping bags with you. First I must make it clear that these are my "personal" observations and are in no way the official views of the U.S. Marine Corps.

To begin with I have twenty years of active duty behind me as well as having been an avid outdoorsman/hunter for over thirty years. Approximately two and a half years ago I was issued the sleeping bag system your company is producing for our Marines. I have used this system extensively in conditions ranging from the dessert of Twenty-Nine Palms, California, in August/September time frame to the cold of Bosnia in March/April as well as all manners of conditions in between. I feel my experiences qualify me to state that your sleeping bag is by far the best I have ever used in my more than thirty years of being out in the elements. In the time I have used this sleeping bag I can honestly state that is has never let me down, it has always kept me warm and given me many comfortable nights of sleep, something that is very precious to most Marines.

After the bag has been packed in it's compression stuff sack all day it comes back to full loft in a matter of minutes and is just as your product information claims, very easy to maintain. After a six-month deployment it took nothing more than a washing machine and a clothesline to make it as good as new.

Soon I will join the ranks of the civilian world and continue enjoy my love for the great outdoors, hiking and hunting. I can assure you that you will hear from me again when I am ready to order one of your sleeping bags for my personal use, I won't be without one ever again.

Thank you for a great product and keep up the good work.

Semper Fi
L.J. "Holly" Hollingsworth



"We cannot fight against anything, unless we fight for something-and
what we must fight for is the supremacy of reason, and a view of man as
a rational being."

Ayn Rand

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