June 2012 #2
June 12, 2012
SLEEPING BAGS MUST BE BIG BUSINESS
I have been associated with the sleeping bag business since about 1970. During the years since I have seen either companies endeavor to make sleeping bags to go along with their other products, outerwear or tents or backpacks or some companies were started just to make sleeping bags and in both cases the failure rate is quite high with respect to the sleeping bag product line. The primary reason for the failure rate is because the people who have or still try to make sleeping bags are without knowledge of primarily insulation, the primary component of a sleeping bag.
What I have observed over the years is the preponderance of fashion that people in the employ of these companies put into the appearance of the sleeping bags they make. The appearance of the bag is more important than its ability to function in their minds. Then of course is their concentration on making the bags as light as possible. They succeed in making the bags light always at the expense of the temperature capability of the bag as well as fit, generally to tight. I am always told by those in the backpacking community specifically that my bags are heavy. I say to them if the work and the others don’t are they really to heavy.
Now there is a new sleeping bag entering into the market place. I think that is great. The more the merrier. People will buy the new bag and ultimately find out they have wasted their money and then there is a very good chance that Wiggy’s will be the beneficiary as I have noted over the years. The new brand is Nemo a company that has imported tents for several years. They now believe it is time to offer a line of sleeping bags. When I spoke with a representative of the company I was told the bags are imported from China. They are offering both down and synthetic. If it were only down bags I wouldn’t give them any thought, however they are offering a couple of synthetic bags. That also wouldn’t attract much attention from me except what their director of design Suzanne Turell had to say. The following quote comes directly from their web site. I quote “I’m extremely excited to be partnering with PrimaLoft on these bags to bring the highest performing synthetic insulations I’ve ever tested to the market. PrimaLoft Synergy offers all the benefits of PrimaLoft (insulates even when wet, highly durable, extremely compressible), with the advantages of continuous filament technology for more loft, softness and home-like comfort.
I would like to know how she tested the product and if she ever tested Climashield or Lamilite which is made from Climashield. The reality is she never tested Climashield or Lamilite. Had she, she would have found out that both products are far superior to the PrimaLoft version of a continuous filament fiberfill product. However that is really not the point. This person does not have any knowledge of synthetic fiberfill for the purpose of insulation. She joins a very large array of people who have preceded her in an attempt to make specifically sleeping bags. Would you build a house without first having knowledge of construction and the proper materials needed for each aspect of the construction of the house. Is there a difference when constructing a sleeping bag other than the materials needed to do the job? Prior knowledge dictates what steps to take first in the construction of the house i.e. concrete for the foundation, 2 x 4’s for the internal structure, etc. There is purpose to each component and the same holds true for a sleeping bag. The major difference between building a house versus a sleeping bag is the most important component in a house. There are so many components that are integrated that it is difficult to determine which part is singularly the most important. But when it comes to a sleeping bag it is quite easy to know the most important component; the insulation. As a maker of sleeping bags I could use a variety of shell and lining fabrics or zippers. However while there are a variety of insulating mediums to choose from knowledge of these insulations is vital to the making of a sleeping bag that will perform to whatever specifications are desired. That actually comes about after the bag is made i.e. testing of the bag to make sure it does what you want it to do.
As for the best insulation to use you must have knowledge of polyester fibers made for fiberfill purposes. Most companies in recent years that have made fiberfill products do not necessarily use fiber made for fiberfill purposes. Therefore, if you do not know the differences how can you determine which product might be best? Then you must have knowledge of how the fiberfill is manufactured into a batting to be used for insulation. If the fiber is chopped staple will it be processed on a straight line garnet or an air-laid machine? If it is continuous filament will it be cross lapped or in the case of the PrimaLoft product will the fiber be run straight out of the machine. In the case of the chopped staple which method is best or in the case of the continuous filament which method is best. Chopped staple fiberfill fiber is an okay product when quilted for use in the manufacture of such items as bed spreads or inexpensive outerwear, etc. it is not good for use in sleeping bags. Continuous filament fiber is not only the best fiberfill used for sleeping bags but also any other insulated product you can think of. Now to the two constructions of continuous filament; cross layering versus straight out, with cross layering the thickness of the fiber can vary depending upon the weight desired. As an example I use weights ranging from 2.5 ounces per square yard to 10 ounces per square yard. This cannot be accomplished when you run the continuous filament fiber straight out as is being done for PrimaLoft. To the best of my knowledge their supplier can not cross lap the continuous filament fiber. I do not believe PrimaLoft Company owns the facility that makes the batting, however I could be wrong. This means the fiber has to be layered if you want to develop any thickness for cold weather bags. [A representative of Nemo told me they have one layer of the fiber quilted to the shell and one layer quilted to the lining. They also think the quilting stitches are not cold spots. When told that I did not respond to the contrary, as it is a further indication of the lack of knowledge that exists at Nemo with respect to synthetic bag construction. The bags shown on their web site are for 25 degrees and higher, but in my opinion the 25 degree rating is very suspect.] When the fiber is cross layered as is done by Climashield all you need is one layer for top and bottom for most bags. When you make cold weather bags as in -20 or colder layering of the fiber is necessary.
I will not bother to explain the other components since the most important component is the insulation as it will always be.
The problem the ultimate consumer is presented with when one goes into a retail store that sells sleeping bags has to do with what knowledge the sales person has about the bag you might be interested in. it is my opinion the sales person has very limited knowledge in the overwhelming number of stores. What information they do have is from the sales representatives for the company selling the sleeping bags. Of course the sales representatives get their information from people like Susanne Turell and where did she get her information from; the PrimaLoft representative who hasn’t a clue. So we ultimately have the blind leading the blind. Who then is the beneficiary of all of this non-sense the ultimate consumer! Of course there is no benefit.
We as consumers must be on guard more so today I believe than ever before. The profusion of erroneous information about ever so many products is extensive these days. The bottom line therefore is buyer beware. I have personally approached the “consumer protection agency” with factual information about several products that in my opinion falsely advertised to find out that the process needed to stop these companies from false advertising would take a lifetime and who knows how much money. Hence again buyer beware!