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a factual presentation of my involvement with rei co-op

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The following I took directly from the rei web site and I take exception to the statement.

“We don't just love and sell high-quality outdoor gear and apparel. We also design and develop our own: REI Co-op and Co-op Cycles. Our teams get outside with members in the dirt, wind and rain to put our designs to the test. That way our products work for you and can be passed down a generation—or two.”

The following is a factual presentation of my dealing with rei starting in 1987.

I started making the Wiggy’s brand of sleeping bags at a former company that I owned in late 1986. I called rei in early 1987 and asked for the camping equipment buyer who handled the sleeping bags; Jerry Watt. Instead of giving the call to Jerry I was directed to his assistant, I do not recall his name. He was very positive to hear what I had to say and as I explained Lamilite he stopped me and told me he knew all about it because he worked for Jim Forrest owner of Forrest Mountaineering located in Denver, Colorado. Jim had been a customer for a few years buying the L-10 Lamilite laminated to a red brushed nylon tricot that he lined his booties. Can you imagine how delighted I was to know I did not have to educate him to a new use of continuous filament fiber?

At the time the Polar Guard continuous filament fiber that I used to make Lamilite. As a result of the conversation he was very receptive to receive a sleeping bag for review, so I sent it out almost immediately. I was thinking of the biggest feather I could put in my hat.

About a week later we spoke again and he asked if I could laminate some of his material so he could make his own bags. Obviously I said yes. After three weeks no materials arrived. So I called and guess what he was not available and I never received a call back. This activity went on for another three weeks.

Not knowing what I had done wrong, which was nothing I decide to call Jerry Watt. Jerry took the call, I explained what had transpired and he said he would check into the situation. I also told him that I was a big boy and if his assistant did not want to do anything all had to do was return the bag.

The next day Jerry called me and could not be any more emphatic when he told me after viewing the bag rei WOULD NEVER SELL A BAG THAT LOOKED LIKE MINE!!! He said he would return the bag. The next day Federal Express showed up at my door with the bag. I was hoping they did not send it back collect, they didn’t.

In the late 1990’s Mountain Hardwear came out with their line of sleeping bags they branded lamina because that was as close as they could get to Lamilite. Their first effort used continuous filament fiber and it was a bust but rei bought them. So much for NEVER SELLING A BAG THAT LOOKED LIKE MINE!!! When the first effort failed they then went to a chopped staple fiberfill. Today anyone who buys a lamina branded sleeping bag from rei can expect to number one learn that the temperature rating is enormously, irrationally wrong as well as it going flat in weeks and if washed the chopped staple fiber claimed to insulation breaks apart.

Now reread what rei states on their web site, I quote: “We don't just love and sell high-quality outdoor gear and apparel”. They at rei like to think they “love” etc. but do they know these sleeping bags do not fit the category of “high quality”, NO!!!

Having had communication with several people in the employ of rei on the phone and at the outdoor retailer trade show I can unequivocally tell you they do not have in their employ any person or persons that have any knowledge of what it takes to make sleeping bags.

I had also been told by an employee of rei that their return factor of sleeping bags may be as high as 40 percent, is that a factual percentage I do not know but I would not be surprised if it were close. I say that because I do not believe rei sells sleeping bag that are quality products. The do sell “no sleep sleeping bags” that are poorly constructed in China using the cheapest chopped polyester fiber as well as cheap down not that it makes a difference if the down is cheap or expensive it is still a detriment product to begin with.

Based upon the recently learned way scheels does business maybe rei also is doing the same, a kiosk program which contributes to their change of policy about their life time guarantee.

Back to selling rei! I have a very good friend who was on hard times so I said you know the upper management of rei to see if you can sell them. He had a meeting with one of the camping buyers who actually ordered an Ultra-Light sleeping bag. I sent it with an invoice. Several months went by and no word of interest or no interest so I called the payables department and when they told me they needed direction from the buyer whether to pay or return the bag who was in China. The next day the payables person called and said they were instructed to pay the invoice. So rei now owns the best and only sleeping bag they have ever owned. I was not concerned that they paid for the bag because I knew back then they could not or would not copy me. To do so would mean shipping the Climashield to China, very expensive and then identifying the new bag which would be a copy of Wiggy’s which would be a confirmation of the quality of what I have been making since 1986. Price wise they can’t compete even if they cloned my products.

In the middle of all of this I did sell rei a 10 yard length of the L-12 Lamilite to a product development guy named David M., he had to beg them, upper management to let him buy the sample yardage and he told me the bag he made was the loftiest 20 degree bag he ever made. Obviously his efforts were to no avail. Upper management stifled the research and development that David was interested in pursuing. Does that sound like a company that really wants to sell “high quality gear and apparel”? I think not!!!

Based on my experience with rei I think of the organization as being disingenuous at minimum. The following is the dictionary definition of disingenuous. It sums up what I believe describes rei as well as many other manufacturing and retail companies associated with the outdoor industry.

dishonest, unfair, deceitful, false, artful, crooked, cunning, designing, duplicitous, feigned, foxy, indirect, insidious, mendacious, oblique, shifty, sly, tricky, two-faced, underhanded

There is a major push you might say by these companies to encourage young people to get into the outdoors, however I think one of the reasons these people don’t necessarily get into the outdoors is because they are being offered products such as equipment and clothing that simply do not work for the purposes they are being made. Not only are these companies selling sleeping bags that don’t work, but the ever popular waterproof breathable jackets that don’t work and footwear that doesn’t work. So if the equipment purchased does not work why pursue outdoor pursuits when you will be miserable.

I believe the textile products sold as outdoor items will continue to get cheaper because manufacturing in Asia is getting more expensive so the costs of textile materials are becoming cheaper to offset increased labor costs. The Asian people are certainly entitled to want higher wages just like we have in the USA. The words “two faced” certainly applies here, since some of these USA companies who get production in Asia want to do the right thing for the work force but still want the lowest cost for the products. My opinion “they do not care about the Asian workers”.

All I can say is if you are looking for a sleeping bag you have two choices; #1 a bag that works; Wiggy’s or #2 a bag that does not work; all the rest available on the market today.  

And to think rei could have had the chance to sell sleeping bags that they would never have to worry about getting back, as i told them if you get one back send it to me and i'll replace it for you. Just plain old stupidity.


One of my customers sent me a note today saying he is seeing more and more participants using Wiggy's bag. Not a surprise to me since having my bag makes the participants life in the bush much more enjoyable. They wopuld also be better off using many of the other products a make so they would not have to be concerned about moisture from their own body or from nature. 

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