WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN? NEVER!
I never cease to be amazed when I see a new super duper insulating medium and construction method advertised for sleeping bags put on the market. The latest comes from a consortium of three companies. The batting creator Pinneco located in Hong Kong with their product called Pinneco Core, a polyester fiberfill laminated to a film possibly on both sides as the picture shows on their web site at www.pinneco.com.
The second company involved is Insotect located in Canada and their claim to fame is creating new constructions of sleeping bags using this material. Go to their website at www.insotect.com.
And the third company involved is Big Agnes — the marketing company of the bags. I have purchased one of the bags they sell to REI and opened it up to examine the insulating material as well as the construction method used. The insulating material is nothing other than a chopped staple polyester fiberfill, probably as cheap as one can get. The construction method makes the shingle construction that has been used by The North Face for years look easy. The bag in question is the "Betty SL" petite size weight noted on the Big Agnes hangtag is 3 pounds. Go to their web site at www.bigagnes.com.
Pinneco Company is an Asian company that makes polyester battings I can only guess for use in outerwear as well as sleeping bags. All of what they make to the best of my knowledge is chopped staple fiberfill products. There is a company in Asia that attempted to make continuous filament batting and it may be them, but it was/is a failure. The Pinneco Core product according to the information on their hangtag and I quote:
"...represents a new synthetic insulation features a breathable membrane, CoreScreen fused onto unique fiber layers with the Corefusion process, capitalizing on multi-faceted performance capabilities as each layer offers its own unique benefit. CoreScreen directly repels the majority of your body heat back into the inner insulation fiber and keeps more heat around your body, giving you more warmth in an instant. CoreFusion technology combines CoreScreen and the fiber layers into a natural air pump, actively extracting moisture away from the body to keep you dry all the time."
All of this is gibberish. "REPRESENTS A NEW SYNTHETIC INSULATION" is utter nonsense. Copped staple polyester fiber for fiberfill purposes has been used since 1960. I do not know how old this company is but I do know they have been making batting from chopped staple fiber for many years. The membrane referred too does not breathe because it does not have lungs so it cannot breathe. However, it is not "vapor permeable" either. When I put the membrane against my lips and tried to draw air through it, the membrane collapsed into my mouth as any polyethylene bag would. The membrane is what they call CoreScreen and one layer of the chopped staple fiberfill is laminated to it on one side. On their web site they show one layer of chopped fiberfill on each side of the membrane but that is not the case in the sleeping bag. The CoreScreen does not repel anything. It certainly does not return the heat that your body has given off back to you. It is very apparent these people have no understanding of physics just like the people at Out Last who believe heat can be returned to the body from the balls of paraffin. Heat moves from the source to cold and it never turns around. And lastly "a natural air pump actively extracting moisture away etc." is as outlandish a statement as I have ever heard in regards to sleeping bags.
The first I heard of Insotect had to do with down bags. They designed a baffling method of construction for down sleeping bags that is from head to foot versus the traditional method of baffles going across the bag. Somehow they believe this construction makes a better bag. Now they have convinced the Big Agnes people to apply the same vertical channel stitching to some of their synthetic bag models. Actually they probably enticed them with advertising dollars. I am sure the Pinneco Company did the same thing. The Big Agnes Company probably knows their bags are not what they claim so they look for as much promotional help as possible. If enough promotional money is spent almost anything can be sold, the perfect example is Gore-Tex, a product that has never worked but the Gore Company has sold millions of dollars of their film lamination and created a market that others have cashed in on.
The "natural air pump" does not exist in any sleeping bag so how they came up with this action taking place is beyond me to comprehend, but then again maybe we are not supposed to comprehend what they mean but just take it on face value. I actually tried talking with someone at Pinneco Company and Insotect. For Pinneco one would have to call Kowloon, Hong Kong and for Insotect it appears easier since they are in Canada, but no such luck, they either aren’t there or they do not return calls when you leave a message. Neither of these companies is interested in soliciting the largest sleeping bag manufacturer in the USA. Of course if they did solicit me after reviewing what they presented to me I would turn them down. Also, the fiberfill would have to be shipped here from Asia and as I said the manufacturing method is incredibly difficult. I find it hard to believe that the actual manufacturer is able to make money even at $.50 an hour wage. So I will never get an explanation as to how the natural air pump works.
The third company involved in this hoax is the marketing company Big Agnes. They are a marketing company since they do not manufacture their sleeping bags. They do not have any employees that are knowledgeable of synthetic fiberfill for insulation purposes. I know this because if they did have someone in their employ with this knowledge, that person would know the only form of fiberfill to use for insulation in sleeping bags is continuous filament fiberfill. As I have stated many times, chopped staple polyester has been used in quilted products since 1960 and regardless of what you do with it, it doesn’t change. It never has been a good choice for use as insulation in sleeping bags. As I have written recently about Mountain Hardwear using chopped staple fiberfill in their attempt at copying me, they may very well buy it from this very same company. It looks and feels the same.
Since I purchased the bag from REI, I called them to inquire about a very significant bit of information about the bags capabilities. This bag is rated for use as stated on the Big Agnes hangtag from plus 27 degrees F to -18 degrees F. The REI representative told me that they had the bag listed for use from plus 25 degrees to -18 degrees. As the retailer to the consumer, I suspected REI has no regard for their customers. All I was told is that these numbers are determined by the European rating system known as EN testing, which is also stated on the hangtag. This is a woman specific bag as the hangtag states "Women’s Traditional Mummy Style SL Synthetic". I would not be surprised if a healthy person using this bag found that they could not stay warm below 40 degrees F and that would be the first time it is used. After that the loft of the bag will have deteriorated enough that at 40 degrees you would be cold. The fiberfill is no different than what you find in Coleman bags. Since Coleman has their bags made in China, this company may also be their fiberfill supplier.
I am of the opinion that all of the companies that market sleeping bags have absolutely no concern about the ultimate consumer who uses the bag. If they did, they would take the time to get all of the facts that are available about synthetic fiberfill for insulating purposes and then start building sleeping bags. They would then take the bags into the field — those involved in the actual making of the bag, not a paid mountaineer — and find out for themselves if the bag performs at whatever temperature they made it for. Sending a bag to a place like Kansas State Universities Environmental Laboratory does not get you a result that has any validity. When I first started Wiggy’s, I sent a bag to them that represented my Ultra-Light, plus 20 degree bag. The report they sent to me stated the bag had a CLO reading of 4.42. After I read the report I called and asked a silly question; what temperature equates with a 4.42 Clo value? The person who did the test did it 3 times and the average was 4.42. Bernard Rueschoff was the tester and the one who told me that he could not give me a temperature equivalent in F, he did tell me that the Clo value of 4.42 was very high for the weight of the bag, approximately 3 ½ pounds. The test was done in May 1986. I suspect he is long gone from KSU. The EN ratings are as bogus as the Clo ratings are. Please note that when the Natick people tested my Super Light and Ultima Thule in 1978 they had Clo values of 5.21 and 5.94 respectively. When I asked for an equivalent in F they told me they couldn’t give that information to me. Why not? Because an equivalent number does not exist! In 2010 I believe Natick actually bought an Ultima Thule from me and the Clo value they received was above 10. I have several more reports done on my bags at KSU all showing different Clo values. Hence Clo has no value, nor does the EN ratings.
I went on the Big Agnes web site to read if it were there how they decided to get into the sleeping bag business. No such information exists and I did not expect to find any. They, like virtually all of the companies that market sleeping bags, have no foundation to support why they make sleeping bags; they just make them in any manner that existed. This is particularly true of the insulation they use and the temperature ratings they apply to each model bag. They function as Natick Laboratory’s does. There is no rhyme or reason as to why they do what they do, unless of course you realize that Natick doesn’t want to succeed. The individuals charged with developing sleeping bags have no more knowledge about what it takes to make a sleeping bag than a gnat. On a seasonal basis they modify or change the bags because what they have failed to perform as desired. They look for help from any charlatan that comes along with an idea that they never heard of before. This is the case with Big Agnes and their two associations. Just like the Natick crowd: if at first you don’t succeed just look for a new charlatan to help you. Who is hurt by all of these shenanigans? The people who make up the general public that have an interest in camping and buy sleeping bags, as well as every soldier that is issued a sleeping bag. When do these people find out that they have been hoodwinked? When they go into the field and do not sleep because they are cold. Many people over the years have told me they are cold sleepers. Impossible; when you are cold you do not sleep.
There is no other product used in the outdoors that has received the attention that has been bestowed on it like sleeping bags. Companies like Big Agnes and Mountain Hardwear to name but two strive to make sleeping bags a fashion item just like a jacket. They use different color combinations for the exterior of their bags that add nothing to the performance of the bag, but they look so good. I am sure there are people who like the looks of these bags but are sorry afterwards when they discover from experience they do not perform as advertised. Do the retailers who sell these bags care? In my opinion, no. If they did, they would field test them personally. They would then go back to the supplier and tell them the bags don’t work as advertised. But they will not do that because, if they did, they wouldn’t have a sleeping bag to sell other than those rated for temperatures of 50 degrees and higher. I personally find what these people do despicable and they will never learn.
To purchase any sleeping bag other than a Wiggy’s bag is a waste of money.