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An Expensive Disposable Sleeping Bag

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Can you imagine paying $125.00 to $300.00 for a disposable sleeping bag? In my educated opinion of how sleeping bags are made and the synthetic insulating materials used in them the Mountain Hardwear Company (MH) has done just that, made the most expensive disposable sleeping bag I have ever seen.

Several years ago I was engaged in conversation with one of the owners of MH about licensing them to market Lamilite laminated sleeping bags. We conversed for I believe six years and ultimately MH decided that the down bag market was growing and would stick with the old shingle construction for their synthetic bags. In reality they were working towards the production of laminated continuous filament fiber sleeping bags. At this time they are marketing four models to the best of my knowledge.

Buyer bewares! I have worked with every form of fiberfill since the inception of polyester fiber for insulating purposes in about 1961. In my opinion silicone treated continuous filament polyester fiber makes the best insulating material ever created however, it is necessary to know how to work with it, you can't just stuff it between two pieces of nylon and say here is a sleeping bag. That is what MH has in my opinion done.
They have given thought only to the outer appearance so their bags look like my bags. Looks can be and in this case are very deceiving. I have purchased two of their zero degree rated bags. The model is called "Lamina 0" for zero degrees and they make "Lamina" this or that for different temperatures. In copying my products I would have thought they would at least come up with a different name but, alas they haven't much imagination or they want people to think their bags contain Lamilite. Unfortunately for any person who buys one of these bags they will not be getting Lamilite insulation.

A visual inspection of the bag shows a significant amount of fiber migration. When working with continuous filament fiber it is important to encapsulate the fiber between two layers of material in order to eliminate the migration of the fiber. Continuous filament fiber will move like a snake, once it finds a way out (migrate through the fabric) it will always come through that area of the fabric. With chopped staple fiber or down when it comes through the fabric you just pull it out and discard it but, not so with continuous filament fiber it just keeps coming. When I opened the first bag I was surprised to find that the fiber was laid in the bag length wise. I have always laid the fiber so its direction is across the bag or so it goes around the body versus laying length wise going from head to foot. This method of manufacturing is I believe a mistake. The fiber is laid over an 80 to 90 inch length and the width is 32 or so inches wide for both top and bottom of the bag. Placing the fiber in the bag in this manner will allow it to be separated by the body weight on the fiber when your cheeks flatten out it will cause the un-bonded fiber to separate by any movement of the occupant of the bag.

I washed one bag as I would a Wiggy bag, low water level and gentle cycle. I then opened the bag to see how the fiber looked. As I expected the fiber from the top layer of the bag started to intermingle with the fiber from the bottom layer which causes the fibers to warp or distort. Fiber separation was immediately noted. Had this bag been used for a week or two before laundering the fiber separation would have been extensive! In addition I noted that the fiber became lumpy in some areas and the number of thick and thin spots increased significantly throughout the laundered bag. Without opening the bag, just feeling it, it will feel to the consumer like the fiberfill shifted and distorted. Which is exactly what has occurred in the bag and I am quite sure those who chose to purchase one of these bags will find out very quickly about this fiber breakdown problem. I also noted that the fiber scrunched along the lamination points, imagine scrunching a cloth and applying it to a piece of tape so it is not smooth, that is what occurred as a result of laundering.

As for the temperature rating I doubt that they are accurate but it's a mute point as far as I am concerned. If the bags are used in moderate temperatures all of the problems I have seen in my testing will appear for any user of these bags.

Below are a number of photos I took of these bags before and after laundering.

This first photo shows how closely the MH bag looks to mine. It is their supposed zero degree bag.

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This photo shows the inside of the MH bag, note there are no stitch lines just like a Wiggy bag.

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This photo is the inside of the bag, note how uneven the fiber is and it should be noted that the fiber is laid in the bag length-wise; we put it in to circle the body.

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This photo shows fiber migration before the bag is used, it will get worse.

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This photo shows the difference in size after one laundering. The shrinkage was about 3 to 4 inches.

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The next two photos show how the fiber has scrunched along the lamination lines they use to attach the fiber to the nylon. This occurred after the first and only laundering.

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Fiber migration amplified after the first and only laundering.


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This photo shows the initial fiber separation after the one and only laundering.

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This photo show how the fiber is beginning to bunch after the only laundering.

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Some thoughts on the sleeping bag part of the outdoor / camping industry specifically about the insulating mediums that are available and how the so called designers view and use them. In my opinion these people are brain dead when it comes to insulations. Synthetic fiberfill has as I have said been in use since 1961 so it seems to me that the information as how to make and work with these fiberfill materials should be readily known and understood by the people who deal with them. If any representative from any company were to visit with me showing their fiberfill I know that I know more about their product than they do. How do I know this, I have been in the industry for over 40 years and have seen all possible products thus far. In all these years the equipment used to form fiberfill batting hasn't changed. There are several others who have been in the business almost as long but they just seem to have chosen not to learn regardless of their experiences with some of these materials.


As an example an individual that I know who will remain nameless has been in the camping industry since about 1970. I am using this person as my example since he is currently in the employ of MH and is the person at MH whom I had most of my communication with, with respect to licensing them to market Lamilite sleeping bags. When I met him years ago he was working at Sierra Designs (SD) I believe designing products which included sleeping bags. When SD started marketing synthetic insulated sleeping bags they were I believe only Polarguard (PG) filled. They may have used some chopped staple fiber and if so I don't recall. In the early 1990's 3-M Corporation brought to market polyester batting that is trade named Thinsulate Liteloft (TL). While I was attending the Outdoor Retailer trade show at that time I noticed that SD was showing a line of sleeping bags filled with this supposedly new polyester fiberfill product TL. When I saw him I asked why he was using a chopped staple fiber product since we all knew that it was much inferior to the continuous filament fiberfill PG. Keep in mind that other companies that existed at the time were also incorporating the TL in their sleeping bag lines. But, not knowing these other manufacturers personally as I did him I only suggested to him that it was a mistake and that he should stay with PG since we all knew it was the best of the synthetics. Even though I was a competitor, knowing I had the best bags on the market I was acting as a friend and told him TL was not a good product however, he refused my suggestion in a very matter of fact manner.
The history of TL's use by the sleeping bag makers lasted about three years after which all of them dropped the product, and for good reason. The fiberfill TL did not do a very good job of trapping body heat, it collapsed or went flat almost immediately from being stuffed in a stuff sack, would break apart when laundered, etc. A few years later he was one of the original owners of MH. When MH opened as I understand it 3-M approached him with the TL and he rightly so refused to consider it for his sleeping bags. What he did was to copy the construction method employed by The North Face Company as have almost every other sleeping bag marketing company in the USA. It is called "shingle construction" of PG and it has been noted in every major catalog selling camping equipment. It is a very expensive construction method and could never be done in the US because since manufacturing time is longer than making a down bag, hence why they are made in China. 


When I first discovered how well PG would perform when used in a non-quilted manner I showed it to all of the domestic manufacturers from 1968 to 1973, only to be rebuffed. I explained that the best method of working with the fiber was via lamination, all to no avail. As time went by they all had problems so when 3-M came along they were ready to try their product, as was the case later with the Primaloft. They simply chose not to learn and today they are resorting to copying the most successful sleeping bag ever a laminated continuous filament fiberfill bag, the Wiggy bag. However, as I have described above they aren't even copying my bag correctly. They are taking what I know to be the best insulating medium ever developed and are using it in a manner that will destroy it in the product of a sleeping bag. 


These bags are being sold through retail companies like REI and L.L. Bean to mention two of probably several hundred other retailers around the country. I noted in the L.L. Bean literature that is available online one of these MH bags attributes is "it (the insulation) stays consistently distributed, even after repeated compression and washing." Having laundered a single bag that was not ever used and seeing how the fiber started to separate tells me that the L.L. Bean Company, in my opinion never wash tested the bag. Had they wash tested the bag and then opened it they would have seen what I saw, fiber separation. They just said what they did to make the bag more appealing, after all I tell everybody to wash their Wiggy bag after each outing. Simply making the association I believe with Wiggy's, after all why show a non-quilted sleeping bag if not to associate it with a Wiggy bag.


During the course of writing this newsletter I was informed that REI has dropped the MH Lamina sleeping bags from their product mix, I congratulate them for this. 


What I do not understand is why when MH was in discussion with me they simply walked away when they could have had an exclusive from me to sell to all retailers. It is also interesting to note that the two mentioned companies had the opportunity to purchase Wiggy's bags from the time I started in 1986 but refused then and for the next few years to deal with me, until I chose not to try any longer. Give them a name that is better known in the backpacking market and a laminated bag and they jump on it. These decision makers are as far as I am concerned brain dead when it comes to fiberfill insulations.


There is no doubt in my mind that any and all retailers selling these bags will experience returns, and that in my opinion is tragic. It one more time hurts American manufacturers even though these MH bags are made in China.

WHAT DOES WIGGY’S DO?

Strange question, not really.

Many years ago a friend of mine who worked at IBM asked me if I knew what IBM did. I responded by saying they built computers, yes he said but, that is only a very small part of what they do. They store and move information as their primary business. The building of the hardware was a necessity to perform the mission. He had a career in the Air force prior to joining IBM, hence his military jargon.
So what does Wiggy’s really do? They produce insulation, LAMILITE. You may think Wiggy’s makes sleeping bags as well as other insulated products which it does but, its primary function is making and selling insulation. The manufacturing of the sleeping bags and other products is simply the way of putting the insulation in the market place when no other company would use it for the same or similar products. If my insulation “Lamilite” were ever to be put in the hands of consumers I had to make those consumer products.
In the very early years of the skiwear business all the manufacturers made garments that were either quilt lined or had the shell of the garment quilted. In 1963 the style changed to non-quilted styles, no shell or linings were quilted. In production the manufacture went from making a two layer construction to a three layer construction, in essence the maker was making two garments to end up with one. I had what I thought a brilliant idea laminate the fiber to the nylon. Once laminated to either the shell or the lining you were back to making a two layer garment without any quilting. Easier said than done. The fiberfill products available at the time were only made from chopped staple fiber. The fiberfill products that were needed to make the three layer construction garments were heavily resin bonded to keep them from falling apart during laundering and when laminated were even stiffer. The fiberfill’s that were used for quilting were much softer but, they would not stay together when the garments were laundered if used in a non-quilted construction or if laminated. This all changed in 1968 when I was sales director for a company that made fiberfill products; they were the first company in the country that made Polarguard (PG), the only continuous filament fiberfill product in the world. After spending six years experimenting with chopped staple fiberfill lamination I tried the PG and it worked! The end result was a soft feel, smooth surface product that when laundered it never broke down or changed in any way, except to increase in loft. This is the forerunner to Lamilite. From 1968 until 1974 I worked almost tirelessly trying to convince every manufacturer of skiwear, outerwear and sleeping bags to try my concept of manufacturing because the end product would be a more efficient insulated product. Not one company had any interest, and I must emphasis not a single company had even the slightest interest in what I thought they should consider as an adjunct to their manufacturing methods. That has changed most recently, and for good reason. However, since they have no knowledge of polyester fiberfill construction for insulation purposes they will have problems. 


I am the reason several companies are now actively making products with laminated fiberfill as their insulation. It has only taken the industry in general 30 plus years to finally understand that having a uniform insulation throughout a garment or sleeping bag renders the product more efficient than quilting the fiberfill. Had I not pioneered selling products made with Lamilite the first laminated fiberfill insulation ever and become successful, not a single company would do it. The problem they will have as I have previously referred to has to do with the fact that they are using chopped staple fiberfill as their insulating medium laminated to their lining material. The advantage that I have over all of them is my background of so many years ago experimenting with all of the fiberfill available at the time. They will ultimately have product failure.
The chopped staple fibers will, and the order of deterioration is unimportant, break down as follows; shred as a direct result of laundering, lose loft or go flat. In addition on a weight for weight basis they have less than half the insulating retention capability of continuous filament fiber, Lamilite, and that will significantly lesson in a very short amount of time.


In the case of some of these companies, they have called me about selling them Lamilite, which I would do since I am in the business of making and selling insulation. For what ever reason I do not know these company representatives have chosen not to get back to me after the first contact. In all cases I have explained to them the many advantages of using continuous filament fiber as the core of the product; i.e.: Lamilite, all to no avail. I guess they think, believe they have or someone has more knowledge than I do about laminated insulations, they will ultimately learn.

WHY IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE CONDENSATION IN A WIGGY BAG

In November 2004 I engaged in an internet discussion about condensation in a Wiggy bag. It was and is my contention that an action of this nature can not occur, and stated so to the individual who claimed he experienced it. For those of you who read the posts you know what sort of furor occurred, to the point that the moderator no longer wanted me to post on the site. The problem was created when I said the individual didn’t own a Wiggy bag, which he didn’t but, because of my comments they were interpreted that I called the individual a liar, which proved to be the case.


The individual stated that he had experience condensation in an Ultra Light (borrowed) while on a canoe trip in the boundary waters of Minnesota. He was in the bag under a canoe while it was raining. I suspect the bag was wet. During the course of the discussion one poster reprinted a comment from this same individual posted on this very web site months before I ever joined it, that he had used a Wiggy bag that was soaking wet but, it kept him warm regardless and “probably saved his life.” When I read of his experience I questioned why it would matter to him if he was at a later date in a Wiggy bag that had a wet spot, as that was how he described the condensation in a small area of the bag. When I brought this point out in a subsequent post, his response was that I was using this information to my advantage. Absolutely, anytime anyone says that one of my bags probably saved their life that is quite an endorsement. This type of information has a positive affect and may very well help to increase sales. What manufacturer wouldn’t appreciate publicity of this nature? All would!


This exchange caused the individual to do research into synthetic insulations which was to be published on the site whenever. When it was published I could return to the site to comment. After about 4 or 5 weeks his post appeared. To my surprise almost all of the quotes he used were taken from my newsletters. The only form of synthetic insulation he wrote about was silicone treated continuous filament fiber in all of its forms, Lamilite or the various Polarguard products. This was terrific since it is now and has been since its inception my opinion the continuous filament fiber is the best raw material ever created for making an insulating medium and mine in particular is the best of the lot.
This discussion was without question the best internet discussion I have yet to experience. It presented me with the opportunity to answer questions and ultimately brought to light the answer to a question I have pondered for a long time, why Lamilite insulation does not allow condensation to occur. Why when Lamilite gets wet it still performs the function of retaining heat when other synthetics don’t, and the heat generated by the person in the bag will dry the wet bag as well as the wet clothing they may be wearing. I now believe I know the answer.


It all has to do with the anti-static finish that has been applied to the fiber which occurs as a result of the silicone coating. In the abstract of the patent for continuous filament fiberfill it states; “the fiber is coated with a silicone finish which is substantially free of anti-static agents.” This means that the fibers aren’t drawn or attracted together, they repel each other. This also means that there is always a space between the fibers, it is very small and that is a good thing. Gerry Cunningham the founder of Gerry Outdoor Products wrote a booklet “How to Keep Warm” published in 1971. In it he states “air is the best non-conductive material we know of, a non-conductive material is one which when heated on one side will stay cool on the other. Air right next to any surface tends to stick to that surface. How small do we have to chop the air in order to prevent circulation by convection (heat loss)? This effect extends about 1/8th inch for all practical purposes. Thus, any material that interrupts the air at 1/8th inch intervals or less will deaden it so it can be used for insulation.” The deadened air is essentially the insulation. If you have a thin insulating medium as is used by virtually every other sleeping bag company the air space is greater than the fiber space so heat does escape via convective air movement very quickly. The thicker the insulation surrounding you the better and, the density is also a factor. If you have too much density as was the case when Will Steeger discovered not that he realized it, when he went on an expedition in 1986 with 5 other people “Journey to the Top of the World Expedition” sponsored by Dupont Corp. The bags they used were made by Sierra Designs and were insulated with Quallofil and had a starting weight of 15 pounds. The trip lasted about 60 days and within the first month the bags accumulated 35 pounds of ice. The cause of this was directly related to the extreme density of the fibers, there was no air space between them. The perspiration that each person generated was trapped in the bags and due to the extreme cold the moisture condensed and froze. Once the process started, basically the first night the bags were used, each and every day following would trap more and more moisture until the accumulation reached 35 pounds. They were in fact building ice boxes around themselves. This does not happen with Lamilite. When Lamilite is manufactured I have considerable loft but the fibers repel each other so the moisture while in a vapor state and still warm will move upwards (heat rises) and out of the bag. The silicone coating on the fiber also acts like a lubricant. Testing by Albany International of all companies found that two fibers one with a silicone coating and the same fiber without the coating will allow moisture while still in a vapor state to move past it 16 times faster than the uncoated fiber will allow. The air that is trapped and attached to the fibers stagnates and like stagnating water heats or doesn’t lose its heat and is sufficient to drive the moisture out of the bag while it stays. It is also important to know that the nylon fabric which I use is very air permeable and doesn’t restrict this movement as well. High count calendared nylon used for down bags or synthetic bags works against you because this form of fabric will significantly restrict the movement of moisture while it is a vapor. Note that condensation in all down bags becomes noticeable within three days of use.
It is my belief that all of the factors noted above are the reasons that moisture retention; condensation simply has not occurred in any Wiggy’s bag or our clothing and why thousands of people have had the same experience of drying themselves and a wet bag while sleeping in their Wiggy bag.

VISCOSITY OF BLOOD

One morning while working out I was listening to one of the morning news shows. I was listening to a doctor speaking about the increase in deaths particularly among the elderly during the winter months. What I learned was the basic reason why, blood viscosity. The viscosity of our blood changes with temperature and when it gets cold or rather when we get cold our blood thickens. I gave it some thought and how this affects younger people, it’s the same regardless of age.


The internet as many of you know is a source of information like no other, so I went into a search engine with the words “blood viscosity when cold” and received pages of information.


Over the years I have encountered more people than I care to think about who want the lightest sleeping bag, jacket etc. when they head into the great outdoors. It could be hunters as well as the backpackers. The time of year is also irrelevant. The information available to all of us dictates that going as light as possible is not versus not necessarily in ones best interest, and it all has to do with “blood viscosity.”


When you start to get cold the viscosity of your blood thickens and when this happens the flow of the blood through your body becomes sluggish. The thicker blood is now not only going slower through your body but, it is to thick to get into the very small capillaries in your extremities like fingers and toes, that is why they react faster to the colder temperature than the rest of the body. The chance of frostbite to those areas increases. Blood flow brings oxygen wherever it goes in the body but, if the flow is reduced there is a decreasing amount of oxygen going to vital organs such as the brain and heart. The blood concentrates in the core of the body which causes the kidneys to excrete more urine; chilled kidneys also have a reduced capacity to retain fluids. These two factors cause increased water loss, so you become dehydrated. I have hunted in the month of November for years and it is cold at 12,000 feet. I have noted that most of the other hunters young as well as old make several nature calls each night. These are the men who are not using a Wiggy bag made for the environment. Actually they aren’t using a Wiggy bag at all. If they were using a proper bag for the environment they wouldn’t be up as much, you see they are dehydrating. I may be wrong but, if they were warm all day and then got into a good sleeping bag they would be much better off.
The process of getting frostbite can be a long time in the making. Your young and spend lots of time in a moderately cold climate. You do a lot of things without gloves because the temperature is in the 30’s you don’t realize that your blood flow has been compromised and several years later your hands aren’t doing quite as well in similar conditions. That is because the damage has been slow and progressive with each passing winter. Simple solution, wear gloves especially at a young age and continue into old age.


I believe it is better to be safe than sorry. Wearing clothing that keeps you a little warmer can be opened to allow ventilation versus wearing the lightest weight item that you have been sold by slick advertising, and no matter what you do you are uncomfortable. Not having enough sleeping bag is an even greater problem. You are tired, you get into your sleeping bag and you are very dormant. The amount of insulation you surround yourself with had better be more that when you are awake and active. If not you will be uncomfortable. All of this leads to slow blood flow and when that happens you are doing damage that is long term in showing up.


As you can see being part of the “go light” group isn’t such a good idea. The damage isn’t necessarily immediate but it will show up eventually.

WATERPROOF BREATHABLE IS COMING TO AN END

“It takes a tremendous amount of force to get water vapor through water that’s [condensed] on the inside of Gore-Tex, Twight explains.” 


Twight is Mark Twight a very accomplished climber, as I have been informed, but do not know personally, who works part of his time or has for the U.S. military as an advisor on how to move through mountains and what clothing to wear.


His statement is partially true. I believe the amount of pressure needed to get vapor through a Gore-Tex shell garment that has condensation on the inside is so great the stitching would break before the vapor past through the material. He is now stating from what I believe was his experience as true a statement as I have ever read about waterproof / breathable (W/B) advertised materials. He was being kind to those companies who sell the stuff. What he should have said is it doesn’t work based on his experience. 


If the moisture your body is generating moves away from your skin surface and stays as a vapor until it reaches the inside of the garment you are wearing and there it condenses, which occurs with every W/B garment made, why even think that the vapor can actually get out. It can’t, and it will build up layer upon layer until you take the garment off and hang it to dry in a warm building. It will get heavier and heavier while it is retaining the ice which in turn causes you to get cold or colder as will happen with a down parka.


The real point that all should be aware of is what Natick Testing Labs has known for some 30 years, when the outside fabric of any garment is a synthetic material and it has been laminated to a film such as PTFE otherwise known as Gore-Tex, Event or any of the myriad of W/B’s, the fabric will be the same temperature as the air temperature or very close to it. If the temperature is 10 degrees then the fabric is about 10 degrees on the outside and any water vapor hitting this fabric on the inside is going to condense immediately. If you are out for a long enough period of time the moisture on the inside of your garment will freeze, and that is something Natick Labs experienced in the early 1980’s when they tested Gore-Tex. 


I am glad to see, read, that the rouse of false propaganda is finally coming from others, other than myself. As this information becomes more common place with the consuming public the greater the loss of sales of jackets made from these film laminated garments will happen. Although I can imagine some younger buyers being swayed for a while until of course they experience the truth.


As for Mark Twight’s advice on clothing, that leaves a lot to be desired, from what I have read of his remarks and the garments I have seen, he should stay with his climbing expertise.

COMBAT DESERT PARKA

The U.S. Marine Corps issued a solicitation to bid on 256,700 combat desert parkas. The style and materials were left to the manufacturer to provide, they were not dictating anything except that the material would ultimately be printed with the new Marine Corps digital camouflage print.


I decided to submit a sample. At this writing I have no knowledge if my design is in contention. However, I have decided regardless of the out come of the solicitation I was going to make the garment anyway.
It has one very unique feature, that being the pocket closure. The Marines needed a parka for desert use and the desert is sand and we know that it can be very blustery in the Middle East so the pockets would need to close to keep sand out. Using a zipper, hook and loop, buttons or snaps would naturally be needed, except with my new closure these methods are eliminated. I have incorporated a funnel top to the pockets which closes flat over the opening. In addition the sleeves are raglan style for greater ease of movement. There is a Lamilite L-6 liner that can be zipped out and worn as a stand alone garment if desired. I also made a lined head cover that could be worn by it self or over our standard insulated head cover.


The cost for the parka with liner is $200.00, the head cover un-insulated is $25.00 and the insulated head cover is $40.00.


At this time the parka is available in woodland camouflage coated (waterproof) and uncoated (vapor permeable).
The temperature rating is from -10 degree F and warmer.

Here are photos of the parka.

Combat Desert Parka

Raglan Sleeve and Cuff

Optional Hood

Lamilite Zip-out Line

Funnel-top Pocket Closure

CLO VALUE

Several years ago I wrote an article explaining CLO VALUE, and stated that clo had no value. The subject is rearing its head again. 


Sometime in the early 1980’s The North Face Company sent some of their sleeping bags to the Institute for Environmental Research (IER) at Kansas State University for testing. The testing was to determine temperature ratings for their sleeping bags. KSU has a copper manikin, copper being a metal that distributes heat more evenly than say steel. Natick Army Testing Labs has had one for many years where they have tested bags and clothing for their own use.

I started making Wiggy bags in January 1986, and in the ensuing months became aware of KSU from retailers who wanted to know how my bags tested. I had not known of the existence of the IER so I contacted them and found out that the cost of testing was $1000.00 per bag. I sent one bag, a bag I estimated would work between 0 and +20 degrees F. Having been in the sleeping bag business nine years earlier I had a good knowledge of where the bag would fit temperature wise. In May of 1986 I sent this 3 ½ pound laminated Polarguard bag off to KSU. The report I received back was prepared by Bernard J. Rueschoff. I have know knowledge if he is still in their employ. The report starts with the “apparatus,” an electronically heated manikin that is the physical shape of a typical man. It is made of black anodized copper material with heating wires bonded to the inside surface to provide internal heating as to approximate the skin temperature distribution of a human.

The “procedure” was to place the nude manikin inside the bag and then lay it on a wire cot. This was inside an environmental chamber. The air velocity created was about 30 feet per minute, the temperature was 13 degrees F and relative humidity was not controlled. The temperature of the manikin was regulated to 88/90 degrees F. When the system reached a “steady state” temperature measurements were taken for 30 minutes using a watt hour meter. The thermal insulation of the sleeping bag plus the surrounding air layer was calculated, here is the formula I/T =K A/s (T/s – T/a) over H. The test is replicated three times. The bag I submitted for this test averaged 4.42 clo.
When I received the report I scrutinized it for a temperature rating but, never found one. Yes, I saw the clo rating but had no idea what it meant. I called Mr. Rueschoff and inquired as to the conversion from clo to F. His response was that he could not give me an answer. I have since learned that no equation of clo to any temperature exists.

However, that is not stopping KSU from offering without factual support a graph titled “Predicted Temperature Ratings for Sleeping Bags Based on Insulation Values Measured with a Thermal Manikin.” According to their chart the bag I submitted which I rated for 0 to +20 degrees F (my Ultra Light is conservatively rated for +20 degrees F and weights between 3.25 and 4.25 pounds depending upon size) and the temperature rating at 4.42 clo is according to their chart good for +52.3 degrees F in a steady state model not explained, +42.1 degrees F in a typical 8 hour sleep model and +35.5 degrees F for four hours of sleep in a survival model. So, am I now to believe the ratings I have been applying to my bags which have proven themselves time and time again since 1986 are wrong. According to there chart my Ultra Light has a clo rating of 8.0. Let’s go to the bottom of their chart. The highest clo rating is 10 which equal’s 3.1 degrees F in the steady state, -16.7 degrees F in 8 hour sleep model and -31.8 degrees F in four hour survival model.

During March 1990 KSU tested my Ultima Thule sleeping bags, one was vacuum-packed when they received it and one was not. The Ultima Thule, which I have rated for use as cold as -20 degrees F, has shown that it is the most under rated sleeping bag ever made. I have letter upon letter from customers who regularly use the bag in temperatures of -40 degrees F, the test report from KSU states that the clo reading for these two bags is 4.9. How is it possible that the Ultima Thule which I produce many thousands each year is able to keep people warm and comfortable in sub-zero temperatures (not survival model) and only register 4.9 on their chart. Boggles the mind. Or, as I have stated in the past, clo value has no value. Another aspect of the test done on my Ultima Thule bags was the fact that unbeknownst to me KSU was given two North Face Igloo bags. The Igloo model if memory serves correct were rated for -25 degrees F use. They averaged 6.7 on the KSU clo calculation. The Igloo model is no longer made, and was replaced several years ago with the Dark Star model. The Igloo never performed much below 0 degrees and the Dark Star is even lighter in weight, rated for -35 degrees F and it also does not perform much below 0 degrees. So much for KSU’s Environmental Research Laboratory.

I could site several more examples from reports that I have in my possession that KSU has conducted on sleeping bags from other companies some of which are no longer in business. All of the information shows without exception that the method of testing, using the copper manikin is worthless and the use of associating a clo value with a temperature measured in F are ridiculous. Once again I must remind you that clo has no value.

IT’S NOT THE INSULATION, IT’S THE SHELL AND LINING FABRICS

Several years ago Albany International presented to the outdoor industry’s insulated products market place their version of a polyester fiberfill batting for use in outerwear and sleeping bags. They trade marked the product Primaloft. At the time they presented the product to the market to the best of my knowledge not one of the companies that existed in the USA as a manufacturer of sleeping bags showed any interest. They did sell L.L. Bean on using their material for some outerwear garments. Bean was, at the time sponsoring the Peace Climb of Mount Everest. The Everest climbers were given outerwear made by Bean that contained the Primaloft as their insulation. The climbers found out in short order it was not acceptable for the conditions that are present on Mount Everest. Bean did show one of these garments in their catalog, it was similar to the Lamilite sweater. After a season or two they dropped the product. Sometime in the mid 1990’s a company that shall remain nameless got an order from Bean for 100 or so Primaloft sleeping bags. These bags were terminated after about 30 days, never to be seen again.

For all intents and purposes Primaloft is nothing more than a thermally bonded polyester batting. Thermally bonded means, that one polyester fiber, that has a melt point above 300 degrees, is blended with a second polyester fiber that has a melt point of less than 300 degrees. When the blended fibers are formed into a web and run through an over that is heated above 300 degrees for about 10 minutes the low melt fiber liquefies and joins the high melt fibers together at the point that these fibers touch each other. This construction of polyester batting predates Primaloft. So the product was not new when it was presented to the market place, only the name and possibly the combination of fibers used. They are using a hollow fiber with a slick finish such as silicone. Dupont may have predated them as well with this construction. However that is all immaterial, chopped staple batting is chopped staple batting regardless what the fiber blend is or the web structure or if it is resin bonded versus thermally bonded. This form of polyester batting has never been acceptable for use as sleeping bag insulation in any bags other than those that fit into the least expensive category such as you would buy a child for use at slumber parties.

The lack of success that Primaloft has had in the sleeping bag market place has not stopped Albany from pushing forward with what I term outlandish statements of their products ability to perform. One of their representatives told me the lighter the weight of fabric the faster the heat loss, the greater the air and vapor permeability the greater the heat loss. Based on the shell and lining materials one uses will have an effect on a sleeping bags ability to keep you warm at a given temperature, not the insulation used. They sent me a sample of a 4 ounce per square yard weight. They told me if I used the proper shell and lining materials (didn’t tell me which they were) and two layers of this 4 ounce polyester batting both top and bottom I would end up with a sleeping bag that would perform at 0 degrees F plus or minus five percent. If I use one layer top and one bottom I will have a +35 degree bag. And used together they are supposed to function as low as -40 degrees F. Now that is what I mean when I say an outlandish statement. Each of these bags is good for 40 degrees F at minimum and higher and when used together about 25 degrees F.

Based on the information I have received from them “it’s not the insulation, it’s the shell and lining fabrics” that makes for a warm versus a not so warm sleeping bag. If in fact this were the case it wouldn’t make to much difference what insulation one used as long as the fabric was the right fabric. So, according to Albany’s representative if I do not use the proper fabric I will have a poorly insulated product; it’s not the insulation, it’s the shell and lining fabric that fail to keep in the heat that easily goes through the Primaloft insulation.


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---Benjamin Franklin

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