Interview with TETON Sports designer Shawn Parry

The new Teton Sports Mammoth Sleeping Bag

My first sleeping bag was a substantial puffy cocoon lined in soft cotton, nothing like the gossamer light, synthetic-lined bags I carry backpacking today. In a less tangible way, my first bag made me feel closer to home. When I’m car camping, I still want that luxury sleeping bag, but they have become harder to find, especially for couples or a family.

Teton SportsTETON Sports recently launched the Fahrenheit Mammoth +20°F Sleeping Bag, a double sleeping bag with a 100-percent cotton flannel lining with a nostalgic soft bed-sheet feel. Every Labor Day, I car-camp with a huge group of friends, and THIS is the bag I want to sleep in come September.

I spoke to Shawn Parry, VP of Marketing and Product Designer at TETON Sports, about the decision to bring the Fahrenheit into production and the process of getting it to the shelves. I was intrigued that TETON was producing doublewide bags with two different linings. TETON had produced a cotton-lined bag in the past but switched fabrics as synthetics became more popular and cotton prices climbed. Now they are manufacturing the specialty bag in two fabrics, something not many (if any) manufactures are willing to do.

It became clear during our conversation that TETON places a high priority on listening, a trait that played a role in the launch of the Fahrenheit. They recognize that by listening to customers and retailers, they not only delivered good customer service, but also gain an edge on the market and product design.

I have paraphrased my informative conversation with Shawn for clarity and length.

 

Teton Sports Mammoth Sleeping BagWhat were the cotton-lined bags called in the past (before the switch to synthetic)?

The Fahrenheit is an adaptation of the Celsius line we have had since we started, the re-introduction of cotton warranted a new name so we can keep the brushed poly flannel. So, in the product’s past life it was the Celsius, but now that Celsius has a poly liner, we developed the Fahrenheit with an all cotton liner.

Why did TETON decide to bring a cotton-lined bag back to market?

We listened to our customers. In one instance in particular, a customer at Sportsman’s Warehouse was ready to buy a Mammoth bag but told the store rep that he wanted cotton lining, which we no longer produced. This was passed on to the store manager, who told their buyer, who then passed it on to us.

We know that when one customer speaks up, there are usually more who have not. After doing some research, sure enough, we found more cases of customers requesting cotton lined bags. That was when we made the decision to build the Fahrenheit Mammoth.

Teton Sports Mammoth Sleeping BagI’m picking up that you maintain communication between your retailers and your office, is that accurate?

Yes, we don’t sell products directly to the public because we want to focus on design and customer service, not sales. Therefore, it’s important that the lines of communication are open between customers, our retailers, and us. We go to great lengths to make sure every customer is happy but we can only do that if we listen.

Describe the typical customer who requests cotton lining?

It’s clearly buyers in their 40s. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, or simply the texture that they associate with comfort.

I’ll admit, I am in that age bracket, and I understand. I like the feel of cotton over synthetic fabric.

I see many thoughtful features in this bag and your other products. My first thought was that all of you are out playing in the woods a lot, but after talking, I gather you gain a lot of input from your customers as well. Is that correct?

Yes and we are active on Facebook, Twitter and other social media where we often ask for opinions and ideas as well. Sometimes we just ask questions and other times we use polls. Some days my boss walks in and I’ll tell him about an idea shared with me via social media. He will comment that it’s as if we have thousands of designers contributing to our work.

Additionally we do use our own outdoor experience (while playing in the woods) with other products to establish what we like or dislike.

Do you have any funny stories about how this bag came to market? There has to be one…

Teton Sports Mammoth Sleeping BagYes! The Mammoth series of bags initially came to market because the owner of TETON Sports, Scott Holmes, commented to his wife that he wanted to have a bed in camp that was as big, fluffy, and luxurious as their queen-size bed at home so that all of their kids could pile in with them too. He went on to design the doublewide sleeping bag for their growing family. It’s designed so that additional bags can be added to accommodate any number of campers.

Did you have any stumbles during the process of bringing the Fahrenheit to market?

No, this was our smoothest production roll-out because we had experience with the fabric before and know what to expect.

Now that the Fahrenheit Mammoth has launched, how has the reception been?

The reception has been good, there has been quite a bit of publicity, and sales have been good. Currently it is only available at Sportsman’s Warehouse.

 
Check out the specs, video, and Sherpa reviews to learn more about the Teton Sports Double Sleeping Bag.

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Erika Wiggins is a freelance writer specializing in adventure sports, travel and dining. Additionally, she is an Emergency Medical Technician and former firefighter. When not at her desk writing, she can be found backpacking, rappelling into a cave, or playing somewhere in the Wasatch canyons. Raised by nomadic parents, she sailed the South Pacific and Caribbean as a child and continues wandering to this day.