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In the Adventure Biz: Wiggy’s Sleeping Bags

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We’ve all been there; our friends have organized a camping trip, and we go searching to find our ancient sleeping bag only to realize it isn’t of the best quality. But that’s where Wiggy’s comes in. They are one of the only manufacturers of sleeping bags in the United States. That’s right, in Grand Junction they are producing sleeping bags that would make any adventurer happy. 

Wiggy’s was a long time in the making; the story starts in 1961 in the Garment District of New York City. Wiggy, himself, sold interfacings and interlinings (what gives garments their shape) at the age of 19. He started skiing frequently and would purchase different ski jackets to see how the insulation he was selling — those interfacings and linings — were working. He saw ski apparel change over the years, going from quilted jackets that had cold spots, to shell jackets that could be better insulated. 

He started learning about fabric lamination and was curious as to how it would work on warm clothing. At the time, jackets had to be made three times — a shell, the insulation and then the lining all sewn together. If they could laminate the insulation to the lining, they could save a lot of time. He took this to his boss, who didn’t like the idea of laminating, but Wiggy was convinced it would work. 

Wiggy went on to work for more garment companies, where he learned about fiberfill (a product used to fill pillows), and when he’d had enough of that, he headed for the Bahamas on a sailboat. 

On that trip, he brought two fiberfill sleeping bags that he made — the very first Wiggy’s sleeping bags, although it would be another 17 years before the company was founded. 

In 1967 he bought his first sewing machine and started attempting to make sleeping bags using that same laminating system he learned about in New York. He would meet sailors with sleeping bags made out of flannel that would soak up the sea air and become uncomfortable. Those sailors ended up loving Wiggy’s sleeping bags because they were lightweight and didn’t absorb water. 

When Wiggy got back from the Bahamas, he started learning the manufacturing process. He saw that most sleeping-bag producers didn’t understand synthetic insulation. They were still creating down bags, which Wiggy is not a fan of. If you’re going into a wet environment, down absorbs water and can turn into soggy clumps. Meaning, if it gets below freezing, your bag can fill up with ice. Synthetic is best if there is any chance of your bag getting wet. He took all of that knowledge and began the process of creating Wiggy’s. 

He wasn’t an immediate success though. His bags didn’t have elaborate cross-stitching along the front of the bags and stores were worried people wouldn’t purchase because they looked like cheap sports-store versions. So, he reworked them, and in 1986, he officially named the bags Wiggy’s. He took out ads in Backpacker Magazine and sold some bags, but the success still didn’t come. No, that didn’t happen until 1987.

That year the U.S. Forest Service offered him a contract to make 38,000 sleeping bags for their rangers. He went from making a few hundred a year to pushing out 1,000 bags a week. 

Wiggy landed on Grand Junction because Marmot Mountain Works was doing their sewing operations there, and he figured he could too. Grand Junction’s Chamber of Commerce helped with an economic development grant to help Wiggy move his business 29 years ago, and he is still there today. 

Colorado was the perfect move for the company, as adventure awaits right out the backdoor of the factory, and people in the state were avid buyers. Wiggy’s has since evolved from those early roots to produce not only some of the best sleeping bags but clothing, outerwear, footwear and more. The ideas for the clothing and outerwear come from hanging out with experienced hunters in Colorado. He learned that it isn’t necessarily the camo that will save your life in the wilderness, but fishnet underwear and Lamilite insulated garments.

Today, Wiggy’s is producing gear for Coloradans and the rest of world to go off on their adventures and not turn into sleeping-bag popsicles. 

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