Equipage: Rush Slept Here

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Equipage: Rush Slept Here

Jerry Wigutow has just the bag for your right-leaning dreamer
By Wendy Marston

"It's the best sleeping bag ever made for a mediocre and ungrateful world," boasts Jerry Wigutow, the Brooklyn-born founder and CEO of Wiggy's Bags, a ten-year-old manufacturing company whose line of heavy-duty, hand-sewn sleeping bags is finding new popularity in these politically more conservative times. "Not everybody deserves one." Wigutow, 54, scratches his salt-and-pepper beard and waxes about childhood hero Howard Roark, the brooding perfectionist in Ayn Rand's industrial-size ode to capitalism The Fountainhead. "Roark would have understood, as I do, that if it weren't for the capitalist system, the environment itself wouldn't exist."

Presumably Roark would have been proud. Wigutow's company, located in an unremarkable warehouse in the former oil-shale mecca of Grand Junction, Colorado, grossed "seven figures" last year, landing contracts with such sleeping-bag-using heavyweights as Outward Bound and all four branches of the U.S. military. While Wiggy's Bags tend to weigh more than otherwise comparable top-of-the-line bags, customers swear by the famous lifetime guarantee. "Talking to Wiggy is a religious experience," says Joe McGurn of Maine-based Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, which has been outfitting students and staff with Wiggy's Bags for four years. "And we haven't had to replace one of his bags yet--not even a zipper."

Of course, other factors contribute to the company's bullish sales figures. Wigutow, who maintains that "the only endangered species is the American businessman," is the somewhat official provider of sleep to a growing tribe of outdoorsmen: cagey right-wing survivalists and militiamen stocking up for an uncertain tomorrow. Testimonials on Patriot radio stations lead them to his front door. "I don't distinguish between customers," he says proudly. "I'm just very happy they are interested in my product. Besides, my bags do last forever."

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