SUPPORTING ARMED FORCES PERSONNEL
It is my understanding that the purpose of the military in the U.S. is
to protect the U.S. This would obviously include the citizens and their
property. This being the case, why are the developers of personal
equipment so reluctant to provide their protectors (military personnel)
with the best that is available?
In earlier newsletters this year, I reported that 2,000 infantry troops
were issued two- bag sleep systems that demonstrated in two field tests
that they were incapable of keeping the soldier warm at temperatures below
+15 degrees. The tests took place in Alaska during January and March 1997.
The following is the "Commercial Item Description for the Modular Sleeping
Bag (MSB), 29 March 1993. Sleeping Bag, Patrol: This sleeping bag will
provide an average user with adequate insulation to +30 degrees F
(industry standard 30 to 25 degrees F rating). Sleeping Bag, Intermediate
Cold: This bag will provide an average user with adequate insulation to
-10 degrees F (industry standard -5 to -10 degrees F rating). When used
together the temperature rating will be -30 degrees F.
The MSB, after 5 wash cycles will provide an average Marine user with a
level of comfort necessary to allow for 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep at
-30 degrees F. This is to be accomplished while the Marine is wearing the
Undershirt, Extended Cold Weather, Polypropylene (Industry standard
expedition weight undergarments); the Hood, Balaclava, Extended Cold
Weather, and the Sock, Wool, Winter. The maximum gross weight of the
system will be 7 pounds.
In addition the bag system will have at least 80 percent of its loft
regained after it has been kept in its compression stuff sack for three
As I reported earlier, the bag system didn't keep any of the soldiers
in Alaska warm. The temperatures during the four weeks of testing never
got below about 0 degrees. Also, they never stripped down to the clothing
configuration that is supposed to work at -30 degrees F, as stated in the
Additional fallacies in regard to this product are that if left in a
compression stuff sack for three months, less than 80 percent of the loft
will come back, and that it will have but one half its original loft after
five wash cycles. The truth of the matter is that the fiber producer,
Hoechst Celanese states in their literature that sleeping bags filled with
Polar Guard, and these bags are filled with PGHV, should never be
stored in a stuff sack, let alone a compression stuff sack. Why? Because
it will lose its loft.
At this time their are $33 million worth of these bags either delivered
or in production. A solicitation for approximately $15 million more is out
Now the same group that put the sleeping system into the military has
put a second product into the system. That product is a bivi bag. It is a
100 percent Gortex bivi bag. This contract is worth $39+ million. It
specifies 300,000 units.
A science officer told me that soldiers sleep in tents, therefore there
is no need for bivi bags. He also told that to the people in the same
group who authorized the product.
The history of the Gortex bivi bag is interesting. It was developed in
about 1980 by The North Face Company. According to Gore, they delivered a
quantity to Fort Drum, New York. The quantity could have been 10 or 100, I
do not know. They all demonstrated seepage through the bottom of the bag.
These were 100 percent Gortex. The bottom of the bivi was changed to 100
percent waterproof, 200 denier oxford nylon. This product has been used
for the past 17 years. While it does not allow seepage, it does have a
serious condensation problem. Moisture from the person sleeping in it
never gets out. If it's warm, you get water. If it's cold, you get
As I stated, the new bivi is again 100 percent Gortex. Why? I will
allow you to speculate, knowing that the contract is worth $39+
The organization responsible for these products is U.S. Army Natick
Testing Laboratories, Natick, Massachusetts. I used to think as many
others that the civilian employees of Natick had a "if we didn't invent
it..." attitude. But I was wrong. The real problem with Natick is called
Each project gets funding. If a project is completed, the funding for
that project ends. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the project
managers not to make the best product they can. If they place
300,000 sleeping systems in the supply system, they have bought more time
and development funding.
I believe the project managers know they will get negative reports
about what they have put in the field. On this project they have never
gotten a good report about either the bag system or the bivi. In
addition, they have rejected the positive reports received about
commercially available products that numerous Special Forces Groups have
been able to buy with their own funds. This disregard of facts about what
does work shows these project managers disregard for the soldiers.
These soldiers are the people these project managers pay tax dollars
for--for the protection they themselves are accorded as citizens of the
It seems to me that they would make a concerted effort to produce the
best products, materials or finished products for the soldiers. That, I am
sorry to say will never happen at Natick, as long as civilians are
paid to do the development work.
The solution to what I believe is a very serious problem is easily
achieved. Put military personnel in Natick. Men or women who have served
in the field, and will know what it is like to suffer with bad equipment.
Let them go into the marketplace and see what is available. Buy some of
this and some of that and let troops use it and report back their
experience. Then they can put out solicitations to bid on products they
The person who is assigned to the job will only be at it for the normal
time-span that anyone is assigned a job in the military. The records would
carry from one person to the next. If a company comes up with a better
mouse trap, give the military samples to test. If the product works
better, and more is needed, every company that so desires will be able to
get all the necessary information to bid.
I, for one, value the information I have received from the military
about my products--information I could never have gotten from the
civilian market. And who is the beneficiary of all of this knowledge?-- me
and my civilian customers.
STUFF SIZE IN A BACKPACK'S SLEEPING BAG COMPARTMENT
In an earlier newsletter, I commented that many people ask if my bag
will fit so-
and-so's backpack. I answered that I truly didn't know, because none of
the pack makers had ever visited me to see what bag fitted what pack. Now
I have definite information. It is good news for owners of Osprey
A couple came into Wiggy's to purchase some sleeping bags. The Osprey
packs they had were the Zenith Pro and Amelia.
We placed an Antarctic bag (rated to
-60 degrees) in the Zenith Pro. The Antarctic model is 90 inches long,
with a 68 inch girth and a total weight of 7 pounds. In the Amelia we
placed an Ultima Thule bag (rated to -20 degrees). It is also 90 inches
long, with a 62 inch girth and has a total weight of 5.5 pounds.
I still have no knowledge of how my bags will fit the other pack
brands' sleeping bag compartments, but I'm sure they can't be much
different in size than the Osprey. Since the heaviest weight bags fit
these packs, I can only imagine that any Wiggy bag will fit almost any
pack's sleeping bag compartment.
The September 22, 1997, issue of Sporting Goods Business
contains an article titled "Get Smart." It is a review of information
supplied by three companies: Marmot Mt., Frisby Technologies, and Outlast
The term "Smart Fabric" was coined by Marmot. They brought to market a
fabric trade marked "MemBrain," a waterproof laminate which, they claim,
changes shape to become more breathable as the temperature inside your
Greg Frisby, CEO Frisby Technologies, states "My parochial
perspective--given that we offer a (smart) insulating foam--is that the
industry has been waiting for the right delivery system to come along for
Outlast Technologies of Boulder, Colorado, states "its technology is no
less revolutionary, and could eventually supplant more standardized
thermal management systems."
MemBrain is a monolithic film. Marmot claims that their product, when
heated, will allow vapor to go through it more quickly than when it is
cold. This, I guess, is why they claim it is "smart." When I spoke to a
Marmot representative he told me that their film, when heated, gets
thinner and actually elongates. This allows vapor to move more rapidly
through the film, thus
creating less resistance. When it cools, it thickens and this slows
vapor movement, which I suspect, since it wasn't discussed, also holds in
If the film is attached to the fabric via a lamination process, which
includes an adhesive to hold the two materials together, how can one of
the fabrics increase in size and not the other? Even if what they state is
true about the film's ability to get thinner and have less resistance to
vapor movement through it, wouldn't the adhesive holding the materials
together also keep the film from getting thinner in the spots where it is
attached. And where the film is attached, wouldn't the adhesive block that
spot, totally inhibiting vapor movement in that area. If the MemBrain film
is laminated with the same type of adhesive applicator that Gore uses, 144
dots per square inch, wouldn't MemBrain be just as clogged as the Gore
The other two companies' products are "microthermal" materials, first
developed for NASA and the Air Force, or so they state stated in their
advertising as well as in various articles. I have yet to find a person in
the Air Force or NASA who has ever heard of this technology.
These are the paraffin bead products that give the heat they absorb
from you back to you when you start getting cold. They are referred to as
"phase change materials." This is why, I guess, they claim their products
I spoke with a representative of Frisby, who told me that the "phase
change took place when the temperature was +83 degrees." When the material
reaches +83 degrees it softens, signifying that it is absorbing the heat
from your body. This person also said that it kept on absorbing since body
temperature was +98 degrees. She obviously doesn't know that +98 degrees
is internal not external body temperature.
The Frisby company also doesn't know that the polyurethane foam, which
the paraffin beads are placed on, is an excellent absorber of moisture,
and therefore not a good material for use as insulation.
As for Outlast, I tried it, and it doesn't work. I also spoke to one of
their representatives and I now believe that they are only interested in
an advertising campaign.
Pity the poor consumer. Every consumer is interested in getting a
jacket that utilizes a fabric that works like the human body. Every
manufacturer would like to have such a fabric. It doesn't exist.
`'A sucker is born every day," is attributed to P.T. Barnum. He was
right. I have been reading articles about these "smart fabrics" before
they were even referred to as "smart fabrics." These articles have been
appearing in industry publications for