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TO THINK OR NOT TO THINK

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For all of the years that I have been making sleeping bags to this very day I am asked by someone who is going on an “expedition” or writing a review for a outdoor magazine if I will give them one of my sleeping bags to “test.” I always so no, but I’ll give them a break in the price of the bag, and then they can find out for themselves how well the bag performs. The price break is also offered if the “expedition” is actually legitimate. Very few are, and even fewer thank me for the discount and do buy the bag. Those who chose not to buy the bag often get angry which in my opinion is a waste of their time, unless of course they have nothing better to do. As a courtesy I explain to them that each and every product that Wiggy’s manufacturer’s has been thoroughly tested before it is ever put on the market. Therefore, I expect the reason they have contacted me in the first place is as a direct result of hearing how well my sleeping bags perform.

It is not an accident or divine intervention or mysterious how I was able to make what I believe are the finest most efficient sleeping bags ever produced since the inception of sleeping bag manufacturing, which began in Europe in about 1895, it is because I gave thought to the best possible components available to me and the best possible method of incorporating those components into a sleeping bag. Today I am flattered when I become aware of someone making an effort to copy me, however they all fail because they do not give thought (think) about what I have done; they simply try copying without knowing why. Without a proper understanding of the components as to why each component in and of itself is better than other similar components is the first step. As an example it is widely known the shell and lining of a sleeping bag should be nylon. But which of the nylon fabrics will perform best and how will your choice of nylon fabrics integrate best with the insulation chosen. I use 70 denier single ply taffeta weave nylon with a thread count of 86 by 104 that has a weight of two ounces per square yard. The total yardage needed to make a Wiggy bag is on average 10 square yards; a weight of 20 ounces. I could use 40 denier rip-stop nylon with a higher thread count and a weight of 1.1 ounces per square yard. Quick mathematics says that I could reduce the weight of the nylon used to make the bag by half simply by changing the nylon. Doing so would create a problem with respect to the retention of moisture inside the bag that will significantly reduce the efficiency of the performance of the bag. TO THINK OR NOT TO THINK!

The tighter the fabric weave, the less air permeable the fabric, the more retention of moisture that comes from the body. The moisture now retained in the bag will absorb the heat from the occupant which is detrimental. Using the lower count fabric means the spaces between the yarns; holes, will allow the moisture to more easily exit the interior of the bag and not absorb body heat. The end result is a dry body, and a dry body is a warm body. Is it worth giving up 10 ounces to get cold? Several years ago I actually made bags using the 1.1 ounce rips-stop nylon for hunters who frequent a web site that deals with hunting I am told. I believe I made between 80 and 100 of these bags and these people paid me a premium without any guarantee of their ability to perform. I didn’t believe they would perform and told them so. Sure enough I do not believe a one of them found the bag to perform as they wanted it to. I on the other hand learned what I believed from the very beginning the fabric would be the basic problem and the basic fabric I was using was still the best fabric to use for both shell and lining for my sleeping bags. Those who try to copy me have yet to make the copy with the same quality fabric I use because they strive for a bag that is as light as possible. They do not consider how each component will interact with other components of the finished product. TO THINK OR NOT TO THINK!

With regards to the bag that failed I do make it today for the Wiggy’s Alaska store using the single ply taffeta, I believe we have sold about 1000 of them in the past 4 years. Marc who owns the store has yet to receive a complaint.

The insulation I use is made of continuous filament fiber. When it was first put on the market in 1968 I recognized then that it was the best raw material that could be used for an insulating medium. At the time I had been in the business selling fiberfill battings for outerwear use seven years, which was made of chopped staple fiber. What I did not know was how much better the continuous filament fiber was versus chopped staple fiber. The acquisition of the knowledge which I possess today took a number of years to acquire. The knowledge came from three sources. Initially I recognized the method of use in the construction of an insulated product had to be uniform in nature; i.e. all quilt stitching had to be eliminated. But how best to use the continuous filament fiber batting economically if it wasn’t quilted, laminate it! In order to laminate, this batting needed special laminating equipment. At the time it did not exist so I built a machine that could combine via lamination this material with the nylon. In order to build the machine I had two important areas of knowledge; one lamination and two a knowledge of the machine that made the continuous filament fiber batting. The second source of knowledge dealt with the thickness of the insulation necessary to make a product that would work in a particular temperature range. That came from Gerry Cunningham’s booklet “How to Keep Warm”. In it he has a chart showing the thickness of insulation necessary for a given temperature. Keep in mind that he was working exclusively with down during his career so I had to modify some of his findings with respect to a synthetic. The end result is the synthetic now called Lamilite is so much more efficient that it makes down obsolete. But, I am very grateful for all of the pioneer work he did that helped put me in the right direction. And the third element of my education came from my original partner in my first sleeping bag manufacturing venture. The company was called Olam Outdoor Sports Products, the man is Roger Sload. I explained to Roger why we needed to make our products without quilting, a process he was acquainted with and instead use lamination. He taught me how to fabricate (sew) together sleeping bags or any other insulated product using the laminated package.

The acquisition of all this knowledge took place over a 14 year time span. Since then my knowledge of Lamilite’s performance capability has come from the many thousands of satisfied customers who have used my products in situations that I will never experience, although having had my own experience getting lost in the mountains of Colorado in a blizzard certainly demonstrated to me how well the Lamilite does perform.

Probably the most important characteristic of Lamilite; the combined fiber and nylon is its ability to allow moisture while in a vapor state to get out of the bag. Even if it gets wet Lamilite still performs the same as if it is dry. That simply does not happen with any other insulation made or grown in the world.

The next component is the zipper. Imagine having a zero degree rated sleeping bag and finding while out when the temperature is 20 degrees that the zipper has failed. That is not a pleasant situation to experience; many do unfortunately. When I was making Olam bags we used a light weight coil zipper. After all the weight of the sleeping bag for any given temperature range had to be as light as possible was the demand of the market place. After a series of returns that were costly I changed to the YKK #10 molded tooth zippers and have yet to have a zipper failure. The number of zippers that I have purchased the past 22 years for use in the Wiggy’s bags is in the hundreds of thousands. I am the single largest buyer of the #10 YKK molded tooth zipper in the world for use in sleeping bags. The number of zippers we have had to return to YKK for any defects (we inspect every zipper before it is put into a product) in 22 years is about 20. When I first started Wiggy’s I was told by retailers that this size zipper was adding weight to my bag, so I weighed the coil zipper other companies use and found the weight difference to be less than ½ ounce. The cost was also insignificant, the zipper I use a little more costly. Considering the failure rate of coil zippers versus a non-existent failure rate for the #10 molded tooth zippers which zipper would you prefer installed on your bag? Today we use a breakaway zipper in all of our mummy model bags. It is twice as expensive as the non-breakaway zipper. I believe it is worth the extra cost because it is a significant improvement and since we sell so many bags to the military having an easier faster exit from the bag could be the difference between life and death for a soldier.

For anyone who has followed my newsletters all these years they have read the extensive amount of information that I have willingly exposed to the market place. It is my belief the more you know about my products as to how I make them and why I use the materials and method of construction the more likely you are to buy a Wiggy product. This philosophy has been very beneficial to the success of Wiggy’s. However, all of the strides I have made and all of the successes I have had there is one organization that has been steadfastly against my products. I’ll let you guess who that might be.

Recently a presolicitation notice appeared from Natick. They are looking for a new sleeping bag and bivi for mild temperature conditions. The wish list consists of the following; total weight of bag, bivi and compression stuff sack 4.8 pounds. Temperature capability 5.3 clo (as R. Reagan would say there they go again) or plus 20 degrees F. The other specifications include the use of #8 and #5 coil zippers on each item; coil zippers are notorious for failing in the field. The current bag uses a #10 coil zipper; to the best of my knowledge these zippers have a very low failure rate. Why the change, because the #8 coil zipper weighs less than the #10, maybe ½ ounces. The construction of the bag has the nylon shell and lining fabrics quilted to the insulation. I know that they want quilting because they want the quilt stitch lines to off set each other when the bag is manufactured. They understand that the quilt stitched lines are cold spots but will not consider eliminating them. If they did it would mean the materials would need to be laminated. One additional farcical aspect of the bag is the direction of the quilt lines; horizontal versus vertical. Why does this matter? If the lines are vertical the cutting and sewing time are reduced. If horizontal more pieces must be cut so cutting and sewing time increases. The end result is a synthetic bag looking like a down bag with vertical lines in appearance. The technical difference is exactly the same; cold spots from the quilting. The only thing about the bag that is partially right is the insulation; continuous filament fiber. The wrong part is the weight; simply not enough to cover the temperature desired.

The bivi bag is a technical nightmare. It is made from 3 ply Gore-Tex. Since history has shown these laminates do not allow for an easy exchange of breathing out carbon dioxide and allowing in fresh air the bivi has to have a hood and mosquito netting. The hood apparently must set up by it self or so I presume. I believe the cost to make this item will be very expensive.

When I tally the weight of these items based on my knowledge of the materials used 4.8 pounds just isn’t in the cards. Maybe 5.8 or 6 pounds is more like it, but what do I know.

If you go to my web site and click on sleeping bags you will find my version of a center zip bag and bivi. Bag weight is 4 pounds and the bivi weight is 1 ½ pounds then the weight of the compression stuff sack about 6 ounces.

The last specification is all items fit into a compression stuff sack which when compressed take up a total of 850 cubic inches. Mine is between 1000 and 1200 depending upon your strength.

I believe giving this bag system to anyone would be misleading them, a false sense of security.

Those involved with this system have chosen to THINK OR NOT TO THINK, and in this instance it is not to think.



“The Objectivist Ethics”: Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active purposefully directed awareness of reality—or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make…

A process of thought is not automatic nor ‘instinctive’ nor involuntary—nor infallible.Man has to initiate it, to sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results…” (“The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness) by AYN RAND

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