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Being Copied

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The greatest form of flattery is when a company that wants to compete with you makes an effort to copy what you have done.

A few years ago the Mountain Hardwear Company chose to copy the Wiggy’s bags by laminating a continuous filament fiberfill and making a sleeping bag. I reported their effort in an article titled “An expensive disposable sleeping bag”; see the archives; Spring 2005. The bag line was called Lamina and as I expected it was a failure. They then made the bag line with a chopped staple fiberfill which is currently being sold and I expect once they have had their fill of returns for various reasons it will also be dropped. Now a new company is touting their “new technology of a laminated constructed sleeping bag”.

The company is actually quite old established as I read on their web site in 1862. It is Mammut located in Switzerland. Their bags are sold under the Ajungilak brand name. The following is what they have to say; “The Future is Ajungilak’s first ever synthetic fiber sleeping bags to have no quilting seams--the company’s synthetic MTC © 12 insulation is now spot-laminated to the inner fabric. The disadvantages of seams-they form cold spots, add to the weight and impair the fabric-are no longer an issue. As a result, the future benefits from a higher European EN 13537 warmth rating than a quilted bag using the same materials.” They even show an inset of the lamination and an inset of the quilting.

The fiberfill being used in these bags as far as I can tell from their web site is a chopped staple form of fiber. If they were to use continuous filament fiber they would have to buy it here in the USA since it is only made in the USA and the cost of shipping would be prohibitively expensive. Therefore, I can only assume it is chopped staple. Under this circumstance I expect they will have the same result as the Mountain Hardwear company will experience; product failure. I could save a considerable amount of money if I were to use a chopped staple fiberfill; however all of my efforts in the 1960’s to develop a laminated fiberfill product using a chopped staple fiber ended in failure. Why these companies think they will fair better is amazing to me to think about. But they will as I did. The fact that the laminated bag tested better than the quilted bag is understandable; getting rid of the quilting and having a uniform loft is always better. The bags tested were obviously unused bags. They should test them after six months of use; sleeping in them, stuffing them and washing them. I am sure the results would be equal.
The EN 13537 rating system is no different than the clo rating system; neither in my learned opinion have any value.

But it is terrific for my ego to know a company as old as Mammut thinks enough of what I have been doing for 40 years is good enough for them. They have recognized the value of eliminating the quilting and the need for laminating the fiberfill for easier manufacturing, but they are avoiding the truly real necessary ingredient; continuous filament fiber as the insulating medium.

So, once again I am being complimented by a company recognizing my accomplishment and they try to copy me. For this I am very grateful since it ultimately gives me even more credibility in the market place.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

After reading what they had to say I called the company and was given considerably more information. First off they are definitely using a blend of chopped staple fiber for their insulation. Again; it didn’t work for me so it will not work for them.

One item that was sent is a publication online titled “sleep well; temperature ratings; a review of temperature standards for sleeping bags”. It is interesting with respect to the history of sleeping bags being used as early as 1890. Aside from that aspect of the paper it is a review of how the scientific world has attempted to correlate temperature ratings from machines to humans. They write about the development of the copper manikin and their EN temperature rating system. EN is short for European Normal. An explanation for what European Normal is is not explained. Could it be that European people are different than we in America physiologically? All sleeping bags sold in Europe must meet the EN standard which was set by CEN (European Committee for Standardization). The Treaty of Rome in 1957 saw the establishment of the European Common Market. It was at this time that the CEN was established to “harmonize” various national standards and the EN became the binding standard in all European countries. If you sell to retail stores and your product does not meet the EN standard you can be fined. I was told by the buyer at REI they would not carry any sleeping bags that were not EN compatible or certified or something of that nature. I told him I would not be able to sell him under those circumstances since I at the time had no knowledge of what the EN was nor was I going to go out of my way to find out. So now I know and I know that the EN rating system is no different than the clo rating system. BOGUS and MEANINGLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The paper goes into detail as to the differences between men, women, children and age groups. It tells you what you should eat, keep dry, and wear extra clothing and a myriad of other bits of information that has little value. However they demonstrate their ignorance of synthetic insulation and what we now know after 40 years of use in the field. Continuous filament fiber when used in the proper construction method and adequate weights for the desired temperature rating and totally voids any detrimental effect of water in any of its forms. When that is in place it negates the need of extra clothing, slows the metabolic rate so what you have eaten produces heat in the body for a longer period of time. Their knowledge of fiberfill for insulation is relegated to chopped staple fiber; truly a dinosaur of the industry. Of course if one were to produce continuous filament fiber in Europe they would change to it as their insulation immediately.

The paper also notes that their results when testing any bag are not reproducible. Imagine that, maybe they should do as I have “put people, humans inside the sleeping bag” and let them tell you how cold a temperature it is good for. I have yet to meet a machine capable of doing that that is to tell you if they are hot or cold. Human results are very reproducible. We, each of us are not very much different physiologically. If we use as an example young men of approximately the same age as I have; military personnel, the results are quite accurate. After all when they are using my bag they are all wearing the same clothing, involved in the same activity, dining on the same food all at the same time. What I have gleaned in information is invaluable. No machine or group of machines can equate.

I pity the European retailers as well as the consumers. The consumer is buying a sleeping bag that has this mandatory EN rating. When the consumer finds that the EN rating does not equate to use in the temperature “C” that has been equated to the bag they will justifiably return it. Of course the retailer will now have a used bag which I expect they will be able to return to the manufacturer. When enough of the camping public has gone through this process they may decide not to camp any more. I have come in contact with people here in the USA that stopped camping because of faulty equipment to include a bag that would not perform as advertised (not a Wiggy bag, sometimes they do now order one and voila they go back to camping). I read on outdoor forums that are frequented by tree hugger backpackers as well as hunters stating in no uncertain terms that this brand or that brand of bag didn’t come close to the manufacturer’s temperature rating. The primary reason the bag was purchased in the first place was due to its light weight and compactibility for the temperature rating. Some of the brands of bags purchased were from European manufacturers.

At least some minor progress is being made with respect to construction; there is a trend to laminating the fiber even though it is the wrong fiber. I offered the original Polar Guard laminated to every manufacturer in the USA starting in 1968 and was turned down obviously by ALL. Today there are no employees of any of the companies still around who were with those companies years ago who now see what I am doing and they think it is something new. As time proceeds I expect that sooner or later ALL companies making synthetic sleeping bags will try laminating their fiberfill. If they chose as Mountain Hardwear and Mammut have done to go with a chopped staple they will fail. If they were to come to me and wanted Lamilite I would be happy to sell them. After all I do not believe I can make all of the sleeping bags sold in the world, but I can supply all of the Lamilite that is needed.  

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