My first attempt to climb a “big mountain” was Mont Blanc. I packed my gear knowing that if a problem occurred high on the mountain, I would have to bivouac in an extremely cold environment. When packing my gear, this was my primary consideration. I packed all of my cold weather gear to survive an emergency. Two-thirds of the way up to the summit, the weight of my pack had drained my strength and forced me to return down the mountain. When I unpacked my gear, I realized that half of the weight was from all of the cold weather gear. This realization sparked the idea “If I could stay warm, I wouldn’t need all of this weight. I need some sort of portable heater.”

When researching my options for a portable heater, there were basically three types available. The first was battery powered. However, batteries are heavy, have a short life, and do not work in extreme cold. This option was quickly ruled out. The second option was chemical heat packs. Although these created ample heat, that heat remained localized. Weight, durability, size, duration, and chemical composition led me to believe that the heat packs would not be a good solution for an emergency bivouac. I then researched heaters that used traditional fuels, such as butane, propane, and kerosene. Experience dictated that the fuel bottles were heavy, quick to consume fuel, and less efficient the higher I climbed. They also required a second device, such as stove, which I also had to carry uphill. But the most important factor was the realization that I could not use them in a combined space, such as a sleeping bag or tent, without risking carbon monoxide poisoning. I was not a fan of this notion.

The lack of available options led me to identify the “need” that would later become the PolarHeat invention. After the need was defined, I then established attributes that were equally important to achieve a great solution. The device had to be small, lightweight, and wearable. There could be no batteries or traditional fuels.  And, adhering to the principle of Leave No Trace, there could be no canisters to be left littered on the mountain. I decided that my invention would be 100% environmentally friendly. This attribute never left the forefront of the design.


Realizing “The Need” For PolarHeat