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Reprint Of The March 1997 Newsletter

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Since the Marine Corps are looking for a new sleeping bag I think this article appropriate to publish at this time.



The March'97 issue of Backpacker magazine, the gear guide issue, reported that the sleeping bag manufacturers, Wiggy's excluded, has decided on a method to test sleeping bags on the copper man - probably located at Kansas State University. My October news letter will inform you of my thoughts on the subject of copper man testing and KSU. The month of January 1997 was an eventful due to testing carried out by the U.S. military. The results proved my point that all laboratory testing is misleading. In 1993, the U.S. Army purchased a two - bag system from several manufacturers of sleeping bags. The Wiggy Super Light FTRSS was one of the systems in this test. Military personnel were used as test subjects for each system and were placed in a cold chamber. The subjects were fitted with probes on various parts of their bodies, including one that was placed 5 centimeters into their rectums. I laugh each time I think about it. I had never heard of a heat-sensing probe placed there in any previous test of this type. Maybe the industry will consider that next in their test methods. I still have no idea who decided to incorporate that probe, but I do know it was, to say the least, not appreciated. The test results showed that my system and the military -designed system were equal. The military system utilized Polar Guard HV. A bid package was issued to any and all manufacturers who wanted to bid. The manufacturer of the military-designed is a contract sewing operation, not a sleeping bag manufacturer. The contractor made what the military designed and won the contract on price. The over bag was to have a temperature rating of +25 degrees, the inner bag was rated to-10 degrees and combined a temperature rating of -30 degrees. First, the provider was to deliver 2,400 bags for actual field use. If they worked, the balance of the contract would proceed. When the bags were used in concert at temperatures of +15 degrees, they didn't perform. Bags were sent to several Army and Marines bases. At no time were the bags separated for use as described in the "Commercial Item Description". For temperatures of +15 degrees they should have used only the inner bag. The contractor now had the opportunity to correct the deficiencies, if possible and resubmit product or lose the contract. He tried and failed. As you can see, testing sleeping bags in a cold chamber does not equate with field tests. During January 1997, the Army issued a modified (or so I am led to believe) version of the failed bag system to 1000troops stationed in Alaska. The description sent to me for the second bid did not differ from the first. The contracting officer still refused to accept my method of joining the bags, with a zipper or my insulation, even though it is from the same continuous filament fiber supplier, Hoechst Celanese. I did not bid. The original recipient of the bid got it again. Did it make a difference? No. The temperatures that the 1000 troops experienced ranged from -10 degrees to+30 degrees. Again, both bags were used as one. When I asked why they didn't use the inner bags only, it was suggested that I might be crazy. In addition to not staying comfortable, they ALL had condensation problems. Each man's body water was condensing in the bag, and since the temperature was not cold enough to freeze it, it puddle up between the bag and the ground pad. At the expense of "tooting my own horn", a lieutenant was given my Super Light FTRSS to use. He was never cold and all condensation appeared on the surface of the over bag. He slept warm and dry. My question for the military is how many individuals do you need to be uncomfortable before you accept the fact that laboratory testing is of no value? Virtually all testing of sleeping bags carried out in the laboratory has proven to have opposite results when the bags are tested in the field. According to KSU, who was given my Antarctic bag by the Hoechst Celanese Company, for testing, the bag was only good for 0 degrees. I am interpreting their clo reading of 4.9, since they do not give temperature ratings. I have sold several thousand of the Antarctic model for use in temperatures of -40 to -80 degrees, and I have yet to receive a complaint. So you can see, even a Wiggy bag shows different results when used in the field vs. laboratory tests. When you decide to become a manufacturer of sleeping bags, or a retailer of sleeping bags, you take on responsibility to provide your customer with a product that will best perform the purpose for which it is required. Every person I have sold a bag to advise me of the temperatures they are going to experience. I am quite sure all buyers of sleeping bags discuss this information with the salesperson in the retail store. If you put them in a product you think MAY work, but really aren't sure about, you very well may endanger their life. For me, that is an unacceptable situation. Unfortunately, there are manufacturers and retailers who simply don't care. Next time you are interested in purchasing a sleeping bag ask for the "field test" results, do not give any consideration to laboratory results, since they mean "0".


In the December '94 issue of Backpacker magazine an article Appeared, "ULTRA BAGS" by Mark Jenkins. He and 3 other Experienced climbers field tested 6 down bags, each rated to Perform at -40 t0 -65 degrees. All of the bags were down Filled. The weights varied from a low of 4.1 pounds to a high of 5.3 pounds. The manufactures who gave them the bags were Marmot, Feathered Friends, Integral Designs, the North Face, Western Mtneering and Jack Stephenson’s. I was asked to participate, but Backpacker would not buy the bag. Had they, it would have been my Antarctic model, which is rated for -60 degrees and weighs 6.5 pounds. The field use of these bags, by 4 experienced mountaineers, proved that the manufacturers rating of their own bags is erroneous. I quote from the article, "It was only slightly below 0 degrees F and the bags were rated to -40 degrees, but we were just barely warm." In spite of the short coming of all the bags to perform at the rating given them by the manufacturers, Mr. Jenkins states, "Nothing man-made beats nature-yet. Pound for pound, the fluffy white stuff that nestles goslings is still the best insulator. Down is also the most compressible of all insulations".

I was very happy that Wiggy's was not represented for one basic reason, I doubt that Mr. Jenkins would have stated that the only bag to actually perform was the Wiggy bag, although 0 degrees is only a starting point for the Antarctic bag. He did demonstrate that a 4 to 5 pound down bag is only good for a temperature of 0 degrees, which means that down is NOT better than Lamilite, since my Super Light model is rated for use in 0 degree temperatures, and it is 4 pounds. Further, the Antarctic bag easily fits into a 11" x 23" compression stuff sack, and the Super Light fits into a 10" x 20" compression stuff sack. He does not note the stuff size of the bags tested, but I am quite sure they use stuff sacks of comparable size. I did call Mr. Jenkins to thank him for the article and I offered to lend him an Ultima Thule to use all winter. He lives in Laramie, Wy. and he would have had ample cold nights to use it. I also suggested he lend it out to friends. There were no strings attached, such as writing an article. That was his choice, or Backpacker's decision. My purpose was to educate him. He said OK. The next day he called and told me he couldn't do it. I naturally asked why, he told me his boss, equipment editor Dave Getchell, said no. I didn't ask what his objection was, but I'm sure if Mr. Jenkins had used my bag and found out what thousands before him know, maybe he would want to write an article.


According to Albany International the manufacturer of PrimaLoft a polyester fiberfill product, that is supposed to be an insulating material, used in products such as sleeping bags, has developed a unique PrimaLoft construction that will be available in the spring of 1997 in a sleeping bag from L.L.Bean Co. The manufacturer is Integral Designs. In the March '97 issue of Outfitter magazine, a industry publication, an article appeared which explains the new construction of this polyester fiberfill product. Albany has taken a fiberfill known as PL2 and placed on top of it a second layer of fiber cut in 1 1/2 inch strips that cross each other forming a grid. On top of the grid is a second layer of PL2. The space created between the two layers of PL2 is 3 inches. The convective air movement that can now occur is significant. I am equally sure the space will be short lived. Once the bags are stuffed into a stuff sack, the 1 1/2 strips of fiberfill forming the grid will collapse.

According to a representative of Albany by separating the two layers of fiberfill with the grid, this product is 25% more thermally efficient. According to the article the idea to make a fiberfill product constructed in this manner, was the brain child of "the folks at Integral". At this point L.L.Bean was called in, I guess to be the marketer of the newly created AirLoft bag. L.L.Bean is bringing the bag to the consumer market for spring of 1997. The first model will be temperature rated for use in the +20 to +30 degree range. How they determined it will perform at the stated temperature is not known. I called Albany and Bean making inquiry as to the length of time bags were put into the field, and none of the individuals I spoke with knew. As a point of fact, they didn't know if the bags had ever been field tested. The lack of knowledge in the field of insulation, on the part of the creators of this product, is very obvious when this product is examined for but a few seconds. Air sticks to a surface for a distance of 1/8 inch. Therefore, if there are spaces created such as the grid creates, were you have only air and no surface for the air to attach itself, convection occurs. Convection is when heated air moves away from the source of heat. When a person is in the bag, the heat from their body will rise. The area where the fiberfill is the thickest and most dense, will initially stifle the movement of the heated air. The fibers create a maze through which the heated air will have to pass. The more dense the fiberfill, the slower the heated air movement. When the heated air reaches the top surface of the first layer of PL2, it will find a nice open area, and its speed of movement will accelerate. The heated air that is initially stifled by the 1 1/2 inch thick grid made of fiberfill will be drawn to the open space on either side, just like heated air, in a room, goes up the flu of a fire place. The statement about having 25% more thermal efficiency is factually incorrect, and comes from an individual with no background in the field of insulation.

The "folks " at Integral Designs who thought up this concept I know personally. I can assure you that their knowledge of insulation leaves everything to be desired. Their whole operation in the area of synthetic sleeping bag sales is based on the amount of advertising dollars they will receive from Albany International. If they were truly interested in manufacturing a sleeping bag that performs, they would utilize Lamilite insulation. They were the licensed Wiggy producer in Canada, and our relationship was terminated. The reason for termination was because I would not give them advertising monies and Albany did. Again, if they had knowledge of insulation the concept would not have been considered. You will also notice that the appearance of the bag is almost identical to a Wiggy bag. The only change is a couple of rows of stitching in a chevron pattern.

As for L.L.Bean, it is a retail store essentially. Their high priced synthetic sleeping bag program has been a successful failure. They have gotten on the various advertising band wagons over the years. They thrive on exclusive products, and who could blame them. But, having an exclusive product that does not perform as it is supposed too, means you have nothing. If the buyers were knowledgeable of insulating materials, they wouldn't even consider this product, but they aren't, or so it appears. The conclusion, the blind leading the blind.

Included in the above mentioned group should be R.E.I. I noted in the R.E.I. sleeping bag section of the gear guide a very interesting rating for two sleeping bags. Bag number one is a synthetic filled bag, Thermolite Extreme for insulation, rated to -20 degrees F, weight 4.9 lbs., cost $210.00. Bag number two is a down bag, weight 4.5 lbs., cost $245.00. If the temperature rating were true, who would want to buy the down bag. The temperature rating for the synthetic is false. Thermolite, is a fiberfill product, comprised of chopped staple fibers, which are held together by a thermal bonding process. For all intents and purposes, it is no different than the PrimaLoft PL2 or what LiteLoft was, or for that matter all resin bonded fiberfill battings. When I called R.E.I. and asked how the synthetic bag got its rating, I was told all about the plastic manikin they call Fred. Fred has water heated to 98.6 degrees pumped through it, and is placed in a sleeping bag and then placed in a cold chamber. The chamber temperature is set at the temperature that the bag is rated for. The water flow occurs from 5PM to 7AM, according to the testing department. If the temperature drops only a degree or so the temperature rating is certified. The person I spoke with said this was the primary test of the bags, not field testing. He further made effort to explain how the fiberfill is manufactured. Unfortunately this person has almost no knowledge of insulations with respect to how they are made or work.

The continuing effort put forth by these companies to sell you their products via false and or misleading information is pathetic. They are morally bankrupt, when they sell a product not knowing if it will actually function for the intended use.

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