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Simply the Best

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PROOF: That which makes good or proves a statement; evidence sufficient (or contributing) to establish a factor produce belief.

Source: Oxford dictionary.

Since 1986 when I first started producing the Wiggy’s brand of sleeping bags my motto has been “Simply the Best” and I believe that my customers have proven beyond doubt that the statement is true. I knew the insulating medium I chose to use, based upon the knowledge I acquired during the previous 25 years I had worked in the fiberfill industry, continuous filament fiber was without question the best there was. Applying the lamination process to the fiber; Lamilite was created, I was able to use the continuous filament fiber in an economical manufacturing method. The fact that the Lamilite is not quilted allows for a uniform loft for better insulation and when laundered since the fiber is not restricted by the quilting re-lofting of the fiber occurs.


I have been saving all of the letters I have ever received for the past 21 plus years and published many of them over the years. My sleeping bags have performed far better in the field than I could have imagined. Proof of their ability to perform has come from my many customers. 


How much proof is required by U.S. Army Natick Laboratory to realize that they are and have been rejecting the best possible insulation and manufacturing method that exists?  I am of the opinion that there is no amount of proof that I can present to them showing how well my products have and continue to perform for these many years that will be acceptable. Since it is my opinion that the civil servants (employees) working in the textile area of Natick Labs have as one recipient of my newsletters has told me, part of a one billion dollar budge that they do not want to lose. Therefore, all of their efforts to get made sleeping bags that are to perform in a variety of conditions leads them to people who have successfully failed to ever put a sleeping bag on the market that actually performs as they would like it. As an example one of the people who designed (?) two of the candidate sleeping bags for the RFI I wrote about in the May 2007 newsletter thought that I cast a “negative shadow on his efforts,” when he read the newsletter and realized I was referring to him. He and his company will remain nameless, however here is his e mail to me; 


“Jerry,

Although I enjoy and appreciate your passion for the sleeping bag industry, I don’t particularly care for the negative shadow you cast on my efforts. I’m pleased and proud of the fact that considering I am not really (really, my comment) in the bag business, I’ve been chosen along side the industry leaders who live in this world daily. Much of what the Marines are doing and wanting to achieve was a direct result of my numerous (emphasis added) meetings with them. I value the credibility (?) (emphasis added) and respect I have achieved and will continue to put forth my best efforts to succeed. Not many others are in the position I am, having two products in the hunt. I just may surprise you and win?”



He was very successful selling Wiggy’s brand sleeping bags after he found out from me that a vacuum packed Wiggy’s bag would return to full loft. He had tried every form of synthetic on the market with out success until I made contact with him at his prior company. He then sold my bags to the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and the National Science Foundation. He introduced Wiggy’s to these agencies of the U.S. government for which I am grateful. At one point I was even private labeling bags for him while he was still at his old company. When he left that company and started another where he continued to have me make bags for him. Then one day he called and told me he wanted to produce in his own factory. My response was “send your best operator to Grand Junction and we will teach her how to make Lamilite bags.” His response was will you give me $15,000.00 in advertising money, I said no. He then told me Albany International offered that amount and he was going with it. It made no difference to him knowing that chopped staple fiber which is what Primaloft is made from is obsolete since the advent of continuous filament fiber, it was the money. The up shot of all of his efforts to make viable sleeping bags with the Primaloft were failures. At one point he faxed me a copy of an order he had received from L.L. Bean for about 120 of his bags. In 30 days if I recall correctly Bean dumped the bags. He also tried to copy my bags. He did not laminate the continuous filament as I do, but copied the appearance of my bags by not quilting the shell or lining material. I brought a law suit against him for trade dress, making a look alike. As a result he started quilting the fabric. His success came to an abrupt halt and he left the sleeping bag business. What he experienced was in my opinion as successful a failure as can be accomplished. He is therefore the best candidate for the Marines and Natick to have as a consultant.

Prior to us going our separate ways I developed the Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System (FTRSS) for the Marines. He somehow got involved and told me they were interested in getting 50 systems each made with 6 different insulations. One being my Lamilite. He thought he would get the entire contract, however I said that I would sell them the Lamilite bags direct. The balance of the bags were filled with Primaloft, Liteloft, Thermolite, Polar Guard and a Dupont fiber vacuum coated with aluminum. I made all of the bags exactly the same way, laminated construction. I placed my woven label on my bags and the law label as prescribed by law on all of the bags. What I did not know is that he removed all of the Wiggy law labels and neglected to tell the Marines that I made the bags he sold them. As far as I know my bags, those insulated with Lamilite were the choice of all the bags used in the testing process. I know this because a sergeant involved in the testing was assigned to Grand Junction as a recruiter. He came in and told me he was one of the Marines involved in the program and they would fight so to speak each day for my bags. He personally owned one. 


Is this a person to whom the Marines and Natick should be giving respect too? In his eyes I guess he thinks so.

Mistakes happen all of the time, we are all fallible, some more so than others. Those in my opinion who are more fallible can be stupid, ignorant, or arrogant. Let me explain. In 1993 I developed the Ultra Light FTRSS. It was initially a summer to -20 F degree system for the Marines. A Chief with the U.S Navy SEAL base in San Diego, CA. called and told me he wanted a system. I told him about the Ultra Light FTRSS for the Marines. He told me he needed -40 F capability since the SEALS who were to be issued the bags were heading to Kodiak, Alaska for their training. The Super Light FTRSS was the end result. The SEAL base was purchasing so many that they went to the proper agency to have a National Stock Number issued; NSN 8465-01-395-4094 so they would not have to constantly request competitive bids when ever they needed a quantity for each new group of trainees. The Department of the Navy also sent me a letter congratulating me; Wiggy’s as a qualified blue Ribbon Vendor. We were given the award because of our service, quality of product and its performance. Our sales to the SEALS deteriorated in 1998. I called the purchasing department enquiring as to what had happened. I was ultimately directed to contact a Chief located at the Kodiak base. It seems he had developed a relationship with three companies; Sierra Designs for sleeping bags, Wild Things for outerwear, and Albany International for insulation; Primaloft. He was interested in reducing the weight of these items if possible. Since I was an existing supplier with solid credentials why didn’t he approach me? Anyway he didn’t and when I spoke with him the conversation was such that I knew he would do nothing with me. I never called him again about this subject. During the ensuing few years the number of bags that Wiggy’s has provided the SEALS has been at a level below our original sales. Recently that has started to change since the SEALS have learned through experience Wiggy’s bags are “Simply the Best.” 


However, there was an incident that took place January 1999 during a training exercise involving 19 SEALS on Fort Richardson, Alaska. Eleven of the 19 suffered frost bite. As far as I have been able to learn while they were in the field the weather turned very nasty and the temperature dropped severely. The SEALS had to be saved by the pararescue jumpers; i.e. the elite rescue team. I have gone to the Navy through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) trying to find out what type of equipment, specifically what sleeping bags they were issued. I am quite confident they were not Wiggy’s Super Light FTRSS’s. The reason I know that is because my system has never failed. I have much documentation from military as well as civilians who use my system in Alaska as well as all over the world and they have been used when temperatures were as low as -65 F. Had the SEALS been using my bags all they would have had to do is stay put in the bags and waited out the storm. Maybe I’ll prevail with my request through the FOIA to get the actual report.  The person who I believe is responsible for the change of sleeping bags from Wiggy’s to I believe Sierra Designs is now retired from the Navy and employed at Natick.


As I said mistakes happen, but we should learn from mistakes. In the case of this person I am not sure it is possible. It is becoming clear those who have followed him at the SEAL base in San Diego are making the necessary corrections.


The reason I suspect a particular individual is based upon an e mail I received from him. The subject of the March 2006 newsletter titled “Logic” caused this person to e mail me. One of the subjects I discussed was the loss of 150 trainees of the Chilean military when they were heading out of the mountains and hit as one of their generals described it; ‘ a tsunami of a snow storm.” This fellow took accept ion to my facts even though I read in several newspapers from Europe about the incident and then called the Chilean embassy in Washington D.C. to make sure I had the facts. He wrote to me the following;


“Jerry,
Anyone with a little knowledge can see how this tragedy occurred and how what sleeping bag they allegedly carried would not have helped. There is no reference to a soldier found in his bag frozen to death. From my perspective as an equipment specialist, one that has built sleeping bags in the past and will field more in the future I look forward to your submissions backed by data from Kansas St with wet and dry clo values for your insulation... SOF Special Projects Team.”



Considering that this person as best as I know spent 20 years in the Navy how did he come by all of this knowledge necessary to know how to make sleeping bags? In reality he does not have the knowledge from past experience nor does he have it today. He just knows what some of the snake oil salesman have provided him with, particularly when it comes to insulation. As for his statement about the testing done at Kansas St.; he knows I know it is meaningless. If he read my January 2007 newsletter titled “LAMILITE NEUTRALIZES WATER” he would know that Lamilite performs equally well wet or dry; and it performs the function of retaining heat better than any other insulating medium in the world. With respect to his reference “one that has built sleeping bags in the past” should probably be “has had others build sleeping bags for me with the insulation I want”; this is probably more accurate, unless the Navy now has a sewing factory in Kodiak, Alaska. I believe the bags issued to the SEALS who had to be rescued were of his composition. Contrary to his statement in the e mail “what sleeping bag they carried allegedly would not have helped.” is asinine; countless people have saved them selves because they had a sleeping bag and possibly only a sleeping bag to get into in similar situations. I have seen survival stories on television as well as receiving letters from people some of which I have published attesting to being saved because they had a sleeping bag to get into. Is this person stupid, ignorant, or arrogant? Ignorant of the facts which are readily available, arrogant to the point of not wanting to know the facts or just plain stupid? I do not think stupid, one does not attain the rank of Chief in the Navy by being stupid, however he is ignorant and arrogant.


It is this attitude that prevails at Natick. They simply refuse to accept field experience and want to get test data from KSU. Test data that can not be confirmed by field study. 


Therefore, in my opinion had the SEALS been carrying a Wiggy’s Super Light FTRSS they would have been able to sustain themselves! With what they had probably this fellows concoction they had the problem.


With respect to the RFI; USMC Three Season Sleeping Bag System I wrote about in the February 2007 and the May 2007 newsletters bags have been “down selected.” Did those who chose the bags follow the requirements they set forth in the RFI? Before I answer the question note that most of the bags selected have a quilted construction regardless of fill used as the insulating medium; continuous filament or chopped staple. The answer to the question is no. One of the requirements is “Cleaning: The sleeping bag and bivi must maintain performance up to 20 machine wash and dry launderings at warm temperatures.” Knowing what was submitted I know that all of the bags “down selected” cannot meet this requirement. For all the years sleeping bags and outerwear have been manufactured with either quilted chopped staple polyester fiberfill (regardless of brand name; Primaloft, Liteloft, Hollofil, Quallofil, etc.) or quilted continuous filament fiberfill the fiberfill (Polarguard) it either collapses and breaks apart in less than 5 launderings as is the case with chopped staple fiberfill or simply collapses as is the case with continuous filament fiberfill. The only fiberfill that will not collapse is continuous filament fiberfill when it is not quilted but rather laminated before manufacturing, and the weight must be at least 4.7 ounces per square yard or more. 


Another of the requirements has to do with the “manikin clo values; minimum 5.3 clo, 6.0 clo desired.” I have been told the bags chosen had clo readings from 5.8 to over 7. If you go to the Follow up Newsletter category on my web site I wrote about “clo.” A lot of the bags listed tested at KSU none of which are made any longer, had clo readings of 5.8 to 6.7 and weights from 6.2 pounds to 9 pounds. This test was done in 1986 and all of the bags were temperature rated by the manufacturers from -5 to -25 degrees F. The RFI states “6.0 lbs max required 5.0 lbs desired, and the weight also includes the bivi bag. When you read the “predicted temperature ratings for sleeping bags based on insulation values measured with a thermal manikin” chart published by KSU the lowest temperature reading for the noted clo number is 5.5 degrees F for four hours. I maintain my firm belief that the clo numbers are completely bogus and a bag cannot be made to accomplish meeting the requirement of +20 degrees F and weigh less than 3.5 pounds. That said, since none of the bags can meet the washing requirement; doesn’t that disqualify all of those submitted? 

I guess not.


Wiggy’s sells sleeping bags to military’s of other countries and they too have requirements they want met. In 2001 the British version of our Natick Labs put out a tender for -20 F sleeping bags. One of the requirements was they had to sustain their integrity without damage for 30 machine launderings. They had one bidder; Wiggy’s Inc. and I received the contract. Where was their local manufacturer who produces bags; not to be heard from! They use chopped staple fiberfill which as we know breaks apart quite easily when laundered since they don’t bother to even quilt it. Thirty launderings for them is a pipe dream.


On May 23, 2007 I received an e mail from my representative in Switzerland; he has been working with their military and reported that he gave them two of my Super Light FTRSS. They launder tested one system before starting field tests because they believe 20 launderings is the life of a sleeping bag. Following is the e mail;


“Hello Mr. Wigutow,
It is a pleasure to let you know that our Military have tested your Sleeping Bags (Super Light, FTRSS).
This they did with 2 sets that we supplied them, where they washed one 20 times, (they consider this the life span of a sleeping bag). They kept the unwashed one as a reference. They did this because they were aware that most sleeping bag systems will loose insulation after laundering. (With exception of Wiggy’s bags ALL others made DO lose their insulation capabilities.) My comment.
The results: your bag gave BETTER insulation after washings, than before!
Marc”


Do the Swiss have a different type of washing machine than we do to allow this to happen; NO. Do they have a different way of testing for insulation capability, I do not know. But I do know they will be buying Wiggy’s just like the British and several other European countries as have the Aussies and Japanese.

Now here is in chronological order the correspondence between me and the U.S. government about my insulation; Lamilite and my products; sleeping bags and outerwear.

MAY 10, 1978 I received a letter from a Textile Technologist Fiber and Fabric, Natick Labs. I quote; 

“A notable result is that both bags retained their initial insulation values after three complete laundering.” Actually the insulating values increased. Not one mention of the bags breaking down in any manner from the launderings.”

SEPTEMBER 28, 1981 I received a letter from a Textile Technologist Fiber and Fabric, Natick Labs; I quote; “Because of the excessive liner shrinkage, the batting structure was completely distorted making subsequent evaluations impractical. We were unable to accurately determine performance properties after laundering, which include: compress ional recovery, thermal resistance and durability.”


NOVERBER 6, 1987 I received a letter from the Acting Director for Research and Technology, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C. I quote; 

“In its October 1986 evaluation (with respect to all of the correspondence I have saved, I either did not save or I never received a copy of the evaluation), the Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center concluded that your product did not exhibit a potential for military applications. The test data indicated that the material has insufficient insulation performance, and it exhibited excessive shrinkage and unsatisfactory durability after three laundering cycles. In view if these findings, I believe Natick acted properly in declining to conduct further testing. (Is it possible the person at Natick who gave him the information was actually reading the September 1981 report and that is why I do not have a copy dated October 1986?)

The Army is currently pursuing the shingle construction continuous filament polyester batting construction manufacturing method because it appears to come closer than any other method to meeting the military’s needs. I realize that this method is more costly than conventional insulation lay up, and that is why the Army is continuing to conduct research and development in this area.” (The Army did issue a contract to a company in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1990 or 91, for 5000 I believe of these bags. The cost was about $178.00 each. I believe the company went pout of business after completing the contract. In addition possibly all of the bags were sold to a wholesale distributor in Atlanta, Georgia. I know this since The Sportsman’s Guide sold them at retail describing them as Lamilite bags. They had to replace all of the military bags with Wiggy’s Ultima Thule’s as a result.) It is possible the government kept some and issued them, however I do not know if that happened. 


DECEMBER 2, 1988 I wrote the President R. Reagan. I expressed my concern for the government wanting to spend a substantial amount of money trying to procure shingle construction sleeping bags. The following was a result of this letter.


DECEMBER 18, 1988 I received a reply from the Acting Chief Support Systems Division, Department of the Army, Material Command; I quote; “A through review of the information you furnished is being conducted. You may expect a reply from me by the end of January 1989.” 


FEBRUARY 12, 1989 I received a letter from the Deputy Chief of Staff for Development, Engineering and Acquisition. “I quote; “The U.S Army Natick Research and Engineering Center (Natick) Report dated May 10, 1978, enclosed with your letter, was considered. This is one of several reports compiled by Natick on your product. Reports compiled in 1981 and 1986 indicated after three laundering cycles there was unacceptable loss of durability in the form of tearing, thin spots and low strength. The lining demonstrated excessive shrinkage which would result in reduced sleeping bag dimensions and internal volume and thus reduced insulation performance. Fro these reasons, your product was at those times found unacceptable for military use.”


The letter also makes reference to costs; he thinks they can get the bag, sleeping socks, waterproof cover (bivi) and sleeping hood for approximately $125.00 each. It also refers to a new synthetic that is referred to as “synthetic down” that would be better than Polar Guard which is what the military was getting in the shingle construction bag.

FEBRUARY 22, 1988 I answered the letter. I quote; “Keep in mind that when all of what you do fails, I will still be producing the MOST EFFICIENT SLEEPING BAGS IN THE WORLD.”


APRIL 9, 1990 I received a letter from Natick Labs; in this letter I am told that my Lamilite insulation “maybe satisfactory for the commercial market, however, they do not meet military functional needs and requirements.” The letter further states “Your product would have to be improved to meet military requirements before it could be reconsidered for military applications. Improvements in the material combination and batting stabilization are needed to eliminate differential shrinkage, resultant distortion and unsatisfactory batting launder-ability.”

Is it me or do others see a pattern here. They deny the original test report done in 1978. For over 20 years I have produced sleeping bags and insulated clothing with Lamilite and have never experienced once the problems that the Natick employees are saying occurs. Can all of the buyers of Wiggy’s bags which include thousands sold to the military be wrong? Of course not; I wouldn’t have stayed in business if they were right. The facts are very, very clear they are wrong but have only in my opinion one reason to disagree with me, they simply do not want to accept that someone out side of Natick can make something better.

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