Made in USA since 1986, Wiggy’s bills itself as the largest single producer of sleeping bags in the world. Customers include the U.S. military.
Jerry Wigutow, nicknamed Wiggy, spent much of his early career working in the garment district of Manhattan — a one-time capital of American textile manufacturing. Wigutow specialized in insulation, and he sold an insulating material called Lamilite to outdoor apparel companies for people to use when hiking, skiing, or camping. But in 1974, Wigutow gave up that life and set off for what ended up being a 15-month sojourn to the Bahamas in a sailboat with his future wife, Susanna and their cats.
Coming back from his time at sea, Wigutow found himself back where he started: the insulation industry. He jumped around between a few jobs in the sector, which Wigutow has since described as a first-class education in manufacturing. Wigutow also had a front-row seat to see the decline American manufacturing, and textiles in particular, faced during the 1980s as they were forced to compete against cheap competition from foreign sweatshops. Still, Wigutow persevered, and in 1986 he launched his brand of sleeping bags bearing his name — Wiggy’s.
Wiggy’s started off small. “Mostly I advertised in [magazines] and got a mail order business going,” Wigutow recalled, “And I eventually, in 1988, had a big contract with the forestry service for what turned out to be 39,000 bags.”
But Wigutow had problems with his manufacturing operation, which at the time was based in Columbia, South Carolina. So, he dissolved his company, moved out to Colorado, and set up a new manufacturing operation under the name Wiggy’s Inc, where he’s still in business today.
Since moving to Colorado, Wigutow has found a great deal of success. Today, Wiggy’s is the “largest single producer of sleeping bags in the entire world. We sell more in the United States than every single brand you can think of combined,” Wigutow boasted.
Wiggy’s sleeping bags are proudly Made in America, and Wigutow said that 90% of the company’s supply chain is domestic, too.
“I can get everything and anything I need domestically. There’s no need to go overseas,” Wigutow noted, adding that “It’s easier for me to deal with a [domestic company] as a supplier.”
Wigutow credits being an American-made company for a lot of his success.
“People were tired of seeing Made in China labels,” Wigutow reflected. “I was at a trade show once, and talking with a mid-sized retailer…and he said that when [customers would] look at the tag and see it’s Made in China, they’d put it down.”
Wigutow has also found success by selling to the United States military.
“When it comes to military special ops, we’re almost exclusively the” only supplier, Wigutow said. “When it comes to the Air Force, every single aircraft that has a survival kit gets it from Wiggy’s.”
Wiggy’s sleeping bags are made of Lamilite – the same material Wigutow made decades ago in the Garment District — an insulant that is more reflective than down that is capable of retaining heat even when wet. Lamilite bags are also compressible, chemical-free, and can be washed and reused. Wiggy’s has so much confidence in their products that they even come with a lifetime guarantee.
Their products are also priced competitively, a challenge for American textile manufacturers considering the higher labor costs in the U.S., compared to abroad where workers are paid poverty wages (if paid at all).
“I can make stuff using domestic materials, using domestic prices, that are more competitive than what comes from Asia,” Wigutow said.
And they didn’t have to cut corners to be in that position, Wigutow added.
“We don’t nickel and dime the people that work for us,” Wigutow said, noting that his employees appreciate the solid working conditions, “95% of them have been there 10 to 15 years.”
Instead, Wiggy’s just focuses on making quality products that are simple and effective, and on being accessible to their customers. In fact, Wigutow posts his phone number on the company website, and when customers have questions or concerns about his product, he’ll field them himself. Wiggy’s really is remarkably dedicated to the highest caliber of corporate values, and of course, to continuing to manufacture in America.