/ April 2001
If a small group
of men were always regarded as guilty, in any clash with any other group,
regardless of the issues involved, would you call it persecution? If this
group were penalized, not for its faults, but for its virtues, not for its
incompetence, but for its ability, not for its failures, but for its achievements,
and the greater the achievement, the greater the penalty-would you call
that persecution? That group is the American businessmen.
--Ayn Rand, "America's Persecuted
Minority: Big Business," 1961
TRULY NEW FABRIC
I was recently shown a fabric that actually works the way the manufacturer
claims. It is called Super-Fabric. It has small dots of a proprietary
material impregnated in a double- thick knitted material. It has various
applications. The first product I am making is a glove. There are several
models in production at this time. They are for fishermen or law enforcement
and SAR use when rappelling down a mountainside or jumping out of a helicopter.
The second product is snake-proof-gaiters.
Fishermen need a glove that will allow them to hold a fish, and the
larger the fish the more important the gripping capability of the glove.
When handling lobster or king crabs the same is true. These small dots
give a gripping ability far better than any other material I have seen,
including leather, which I thought was the best. In addition you cannot
cut through the fabric. Another quality is that even when wet with water
or oil, it still retains its gripping ability.
I can imagine
a multitude of applications for gloves with this fabric on the palm and
When the fabric has the small dots on both sides it demonstrates that
it is impervious to puncture by a rattlesnake. One of the video
demonstrations I observed showed a five-foot diamondback rattlesnake biting
through three layers of 1000-denier Cordora nylon; however, the same animal
could not penetrate one layer of the Super-Fabric. I will also be making
As long as I have been making sleeping bags I have refrained from
putting my bags into any sort of competition against other sleeping
bags. My reason was simple: my bags were tested before they were sold
the open market, making sure they were correctly temperature-rated. I
have always believed the manufacturer is supposed to do his homework
before putting a product on the market.
Recently I contributed one of my airplane engine covers for a test
sponsored by Northern Pilot magazine. Northern Pilot is located in
Anchorage, Alaska, so they have a good reason to examine and compare the
engine covers available. It is crucial for Alaskan bush pilots to have
an "engine cover" that will hold the heat of the engine for
as long as
possible. You do not want the engine cooling down too fast; otherwise,
it may be very difficult to restart in extreme cold conditions.
Each of the four aircraft used, Cessna 182s, was placed in a warm
hangar overnight. In the morning covers were placed on each of the
planes and they were rolled out into the cold. Heat Loss Analysis, Inc.,
a well-respected company that conducts similar work for the major oil
companies in Alaska was hired to take the thermal photographs.
They did thermal imaging of each airplane engine, which exposes
where the heat loss is coming from. Three of covers were quilted, and
the quilt lines were quite discernable because the color red appeared
along the quilt lines and the color blue appeared where the areas were
thick, in between the quilt lines. The Lamilite cover was dark blue all
over, indicating the least amount of heat loss. This proved that the
uniform loft insulates better than quilting. Therefore, the aircraft
engine covered with the Wiggy's cover cooled slowest.
"According to our tests, the Lamilite used in the Wiggy's cover is
a superior product. While the Wiggy's cover may not have the perfect
Tanis fit, the low price of Arctic Covers or the smooth nylon
buckle-free design of E-Z Heat, it does offer the best heat retention,
smallest stowed size and, at $360.00 including shipping, a competitive
"Wiggy's takes the stowage and compressibility award," said
What I thought was interesting is that my engine cover was the
heaviest of the four and it is still the smallest when stuffed.
If the same test was done using people and sleeping bags, I expect
the same results.
If you want to read the whole article online, go to
www.northerpilot.com. It is in the December 2000 / January 2001 issue.
Several years ago I noticed an ad in one of the industry magazines for
four different models of boots made by the Rocky Shoe Company, each with
extraordinary temperature ratings. The ratings ranged from -20 degrees
for the mild-weather boot to -100 degrees F for the cold-weather boot.
If you don't believe the numbers, pick up a Cabelas catalog and review
the boot section.
Having read the ad, I called the sales director at Rocky and
introduced myself. I explained that I had been in the insulation
business from 1961 and was very interested in the insulation used in the
boots and the test method used to determine the ratings. He was very
friendly and I believe totally honest with his answer. The insulating
medium was Thinsulate, a product that I believe is as bogus as Gore-Tex,
and there had been no testing done. He went on to tell me that
"everybody" in the industry says the same thing. I believe he
in that one sentence a total disregard for both this customers and
I did ask if he had any second thoughts about what the ad stated
and what he was telling me, and he said no. At that point I ended the
conversation, as I realized he was immoral.
Two years ago I read an interview between a boot manufacturer,
Herman Survivors, and the writer for, I believe, Sporting Goods
Business, in which the interviewee stated that they now had boots that
were good for, you guessed it, -100 degrees F. These boots were using
new insulating medium, trade-named Comfortemp. Comfortemp is the phase
change material I have warned you about in previous newsletters. It is
made of the micro-encapsulated beads of paraffin, which are supposed to
absorb heat from your body and then give the heat back to you when you
start cooling down. Another bogus product. In any event, I called Herman
Survivors Company (now, way I believe, out of business) and asked to
speak with someone who could give me more details about these boots and
how they were tested.
I was transferred to the president of the company. I introduced
myself, explained my background and again asked about the insulation and
test methods. To my amazement he told me that nobody goes out in weather
when the temperature is -100 degrees F and he surly didn't make boots
for such conditions, and as a matter of fact they were getting many
complaints about their Thinsulate insulated boots not performing very
well. The person I was speaking to, the president of the company, was
Anthony DiPaulo; the person quoted in the trade magazine was Anthony
He was very friendly and was interested in hearing about Lamilite.
I sent him some sample yardage and he made a couple of sample boots.
That is how I got into the boot business.
During the course of the following year we made boots and had good
success selling them because of the reputation Lamilite has acquired.
received many letters from satisfied customers, which I shared with
Anthony, and which I also shared with you who receive the newsletters.
thought that if he saw the response, he would increase his use of
Lamilite in other models, not just for me. That never happened.
Since he had no interest in working the Lamilite into his product
mix, I looked towards the other manufactures in the industry.
I proceeded to contact several other boot manufacturers, companies
you are familiar with: Redwing, LaCross, Cove and Weinbrenner. I told
story of successful involvement with Herman to each manufacturer and
inquired if they would be interested in seeing a pair of boots and
receiving some sample material. Not surprisingly, they were all very
interested, and each of them told me what I originally heard from
Anthony: Thinsulate just wasn't cutting it as an acceptable insulation.
Lamilite when used in a boot is not a miracle insulation, it is
just better than Thinsulate or foam, and because it does not absorb
moisture, when it does get wet it dries very quickly. Thus far in my
experience with the boots, they are excellent when moving in
temperatures as low as -10 degrees F; when sitting still you would need
the over boots.
So far not one of the boot manufacturers mentioned has contacted me
for additional yardage. In the case of Cove Shoe Company the sales
director I dealt with was so discourteous I wrote to the CEO of the
company, explaining why I would fire him. No, I did not get a response.
It does not seem to matter to these companies if the boots they
offer for sale do not perform as advertised. This is a way of life in
the outdoor industry, for the most part. Illusion is more important than
substance. As long as 3-M Corporation is willing to spend untold amounts
of money advertising these manufacturers, the manufacturers will
continue to use the Thinsulate even though they know it doesn't perform
Now we have two companies (Outlast and Frisbee) marketing their
phase change materials in the footwear industry. They are getting a
"foothold" with the manufacturers, the same way 3-M does: with
advertising dollars. Their product has proven not to be any better than
I still have a few hundred pairs of the Hermans boots in stock. So
if any of you want a decent boot (because I do not expect any of the
boot companies to be knocking on my door in the foreseeable future,
unless I come up with mega bucks for advertising) they are still
available for $110.00 a pair.
During the past year, sales of the insulated flotation suit have been
very brisk. Recently, I reprinted a letter from a customer who jumped
into 38-degree water and I used the comments in my advertising. That
letter has helped to further increase sales.
I have had the opportunity to hear from commercial fisherman some
interesting information about the other survival suits on the market,
which is directing them to my buy mine.
Generally, commercial fisherman do not wear any form of flotation
device. The reason they don't or haven't worn what is available is
because they are uncomfortable or are cumbersome. Therefore, the
flotation devices end up stowage on the vessel. The neoprene suits
deteriorate. In a survival situation, aside from being difficult to put
on, the "gumby suit," as it is referred to, shouldn't be worn
if it has
the slightest hole. It will fill with water and you will sink like a
I find it interesting that neoprene survival suits deteriorate very
quickly and are still mandatory as per the Coast Guard, since nobody or
very few wear, are to be carried on all commercial fishing boats,
The suit I manufacture is to be worn all the time, so in the
unfortunate situation of having to abandon ship you are already wearing
your survival suit.
I recently received an order from a fireman who also does ice
rescue. The reason he wants to try my suit is for the same reason
fishermen are buying it: comfort and ease of movement. It is also much
warmer than neoprene suits.
In addition to commercial fishermen and ice rescue, you will find
sport fishermen, snowmobilers, duck hunters and dog mushers using them.
I am happy to say that I receive letters weekly and would like to print
them all. However, I am only printing those that are unusual. Here is
one of them:
I am writing this letter to thank you for making such a fine product.
Some years ago I bought an Ultima Thule, and in the summer of 1999 it
saved my life.
Some friends and I have been going into the Selway Crags of Idaho
for over 20 years. It is a harsh but spectacular land. On the second day
I got onto some snow in a very steep gully and went for a long slide.
When the crash was over, my right leg hurt like hell and things were not
looking good. I had heard a loud wet snap when I hit the rocks, so the
immediate and ugly swelling was no surprise. The walls were too steep
for any type of extraction, so I grabbed my pack and made my way
painfully to the bottom. I set up my tent and got my partner to fill a
garbage bag full of snow. I stuck my leg in the bag, duct taped the top
shut, crawled into my Wiggy's bag, and wished the world away. It was the
longest night of my life. Your bag kept the rest of my battered body
warm with one leg immersed in snow. I don't know if I would have
survived the night in a lesser bag. The temperatures dropped to around
freezing and it rained/snowed all night. It took me seven days to very
slowly make my way out of there. The leg was broken straight across on
the big bone, and slant wise on the on the small bone about three inches
above the ankle. Walking out of there was the most technically demanding
thing I have ever done. While the rain pounded down, I would hobble
along and think of how nice it would be to be curled up in my warm bag.
Thank you again. I truly believe that your sleeping bag saved my
life. Please send me a current catalog / pricing, as I need to invest
a new parka.
East Wenatchee, WA.