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As a high-altitude climber, what unmet needs do you have?

Original Post
WillamTi sena · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2019 · Points: 0

Which could be satisfied with a mechanical device?

The second part of the question is less important since you may not know what the solution to your unmet need is.

This is for an advanced product design class at the University of Colorado. We are engineers working toward advanced degrees in mechanical engineering design. We are trying to determine whether we will be able communicate with enough climbers and guides to gauge their needs. Then we will design a product that they need.

One idea that we currently have a prototype of is a backpacking stove that burns hotter in low oxygen/cold environments than what is currently available. Is cooking at altitude an area that could be improved for you as a high-altitude climber?

master gumby · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 262

A more efficient oxygen mask. The ones out there just aren't that great.

Kelley Gilleran · · Sacramento, Ca · Joined Sep 2012 · Points: 2,815

Jet boots for avalanche evasion.

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 612

I think you need to define "high-altitude" before going any further.    

Actually, I'd recommend dropping that phrase altogether and using something like "Alpine climbing" or "Mountaineering" instead.  High-altitude is a narrow and very specialized subset of Mountaineering, and that limits the types of things you can design.  And it sounds like none of you have been there.  

Redyns · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 60

Straight up, I'd like to see some sort of Ironman suit - you know what i'm talking about at the end of the first one where he takes that sh*t way up into the atmosphere with like 4% left.  

Thomas G. · · SLC, UT · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 160

I'm not a "high-altitude" climber, but I do a fair bit of mountaineering and winter travel. For me, hands down, improvements in stove technology would be most appreciated. Lighter designs, more fuel efficient, faster boiling times - all of those result in less time spent melting snow, less fuel weight to carry, and an overall more enjoyable experience.

The gold standard for snow melting right now is the MSR Reactor. If you can beat that at the same price, I'm all in.

abandon moderation · · Tahoe · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 209
Thomas G. wrote: I'm not a "high-altitude" climber, but I do a fair bit of mountaineering and winter travel. For me, hands down, improvements in stove technology would be most appreciated. Lighter designs, more fuel efficient, faster boiling times - all of those result in less time spent melting snow, less fuel weight to carry, and an overall more enjoyable experience.

The gold standard for snow melting right now is the MSR Reactor. If you can beat that at the same price, I'm all in.

Now this is onto something. At 20,000ft boiling is 173f. Not really hot enough for dehydrated/freeze dried food.


A jetboil pressure cooker? I'd buy one tomorrow. Bonus if it fits inside the iron man suit.
grog m · · Saltlakecity · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 70

Recommend you read some of the 'denali gear threads' on here. Lots of long gear discussions with pros and cons of different equipment. Great reading too!

brian burke · · santa monica, ca · Joined Nov 2013 · Points: 140
WillamTi sena wroteOne idea that we currently have a prototype of is a backpacking stove that burns hotter in low oxygen/cold environments than what is currently available. 

seems like a very worthy idea.

DesertRat · · Flagstaff, AZ · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 196

I am in no way associated with the OP, but I think I can help clarify the question.

Ideally, I think the OP would like to better understand the challenges that are faced in the Alpine environment, both large and small i.e. what tasks are difficult, or time consuming?  The idea is if they can better understand those things, then there is room for innovation. Instead of answering that stoves need to be improved, maybe the answer to the question might be that melting snow and heating food is painstakingly slow and that fuel is heavy.

OP, please correct me if I am off base. 

Dan Cooksey · · SLC, UT · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 365

Inserts or lining for boots that mold to your foot.  No hot spots.  No dead spots.  No Blisters.

abandon moderation · · Tahoe · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 209

Since we're on the topic of stoves, here is my dissertation on cooking at altitude:

Yeah, melting snow is ridiculously slow. I don't know if the heat involved is as much of a problem as the frequency that you need to go grab more snow. You need to tend to a little 1liter pot (because weight) and gradually stuff more snow in. Not that much fun if there's a storm raging outside.

A pot that has a heat exchanger on helps this along a lot (like the MSR Reactor) but a downside of the heat exchange is that you produce a lot more carbon monoxide than one without. If you're huddled freezing cold in a tent cooking at altitude and it's blowing like hell outside, you're probably going to say screw it and just zip up the door to keep the snow out. Thus, increasing the chances you fall asleep nice and warm and never wake up the next morning.

Liquid fuel (white gas) solves a lot of the temperature related stove problems that exist. But, white gas is not easy to find in some parts of the world. Some stoves will burn kerosene, 87 octane, etc, but people end up using the pressurized cannister stoves with isobutane and propane (partly because they're lightweight) in places where it's too cold for them to work well. Some stoves you can flip the cannister upside down to liquid feed the fuel, but it still sucks. How 'bout a cannister that heats itself without blowing up?

As mentioned above, the boiling point of water at altitude is a big problem for anyone wanting "real" freeze dried/dehydrated food at altitude. It just doesn't work, so people end up living on gu shots and protein bars.

One thing I've tried before: A large thermos (aka food storage jar) to throw in dehydrated food, then boiling water, seal the thing and 30 minutes later you have dinner. The problem with it is that the thermos is a pain to clean (I used snow and a kitchen brush), and the water doesn't get hot enough to rehydrate some foods. Mountain House meals kind of fill this niche, but they're expensive and now you have to drag all the bags around with you.

Bill Shubert · · Lexington, MA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 55
abandon moderation wrote: One thing I've tried before: A large thermos (aka food storage jar) to throw in dehydrated food, then boiling water, seal the thing and 30 minutes later you have dinner. The problem with it is that the thermos is a pain to clean (I used snow and a kitchen brush), and the water doesn't get hot enough to rehydrate some foods. Mountain House meals kind of fill this niche, but they're expensive and now you have to drag all the bags around with you.

So it sounds like a disposable (pack out) sleeve for the thermos would be good, so you just just take enough sleeves for the trip, pack 'em out, toss them when you're home. No cleaning needed.

And if they can be small and light enough, why not chemical heat packs so you load your sleeve with dehydrated food, snow, and a chemical pack, put it all in your thermos...thirty minutes later food comes out!

OK that's not practical most likely, but if this thread is just ideas...
abandon moderation · · Tahoe · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 209
Bill Shubert wrote:

So it sounds like a disposable (pack out) sleeve for the thermos would be good, so you just just take enough sleeves for the trip, pack 'em out, toss them when you're home. No cleaning needed.

And if they can be small and light enough, why not chemical heat packs so you load your sleeve with dehydrated food, snow, and a chemical pack, put it all in your thermos...thirty minutes later food comes out!

OK that's not practical most likely, but if this thread is just ideas...

I tried a few things (plastic bags) along those lines for a pack out sleeve, but didn't find anything that I thought was safe to pour boiling water on that wouldn't melt, and small enough to compress for carrying trash (or hey why not edible if we're really going for ideas). If someone sold a system for this that worked though, I would buy it.

Maybe even just a liner that's removable for cleaning would be fine, but invariably I think food/water would get frozen to it.
Matt N · · Santa Barbara, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 384

Poop disposal.

And oxygen tank recycling.

At least that's what I read are the big unmet needs. 

Roots · · Redmond. OR · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 20

Why are you asking?

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107

i would give my left nut for something that i could use for higher altitude acclimitization while living at sea level. i have heard mixed reviews about the altitude tents, so i am a bit reluctant to shell out for one though.

Abandoned User · · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 9,705

Lighter weight selfie stick

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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