Nuclear heater for Expeditions

Arjen Kamphuis (
Tue, 6 Jan 1998 02:41:15 +0100 (CET)

last week I was again confronted with the problem of keeping the inside of
my little dome-tent to an agreeable temperature while there was a blizzard
going on outside (temperature someting like -25 C). I know, it's completely
illogical to want to camp at 12.000 feet at newyear but humans do things
because they _want_ to, not out of neccesity.

Non-isolated nylon tents do little more than keeping wind and percipitation
out. The difference between the out- and inside airtemperature is only a
few degrees without special action. I've tried with several methods that
vary in effectiveness (tips welcome):

- lite the burner.
Not very good, costs a lot of fuel and generates nasty gas-
byproducts inside the tent, also the H2O condensates and forms
ice on the inside of the tent-shell during the night.

- Heat a stone with the burner and place in inside the tent.
Better, still cost fuel but at least no nasty CO or H2O
vapours. Works long enhough to fall asleep.

- Lite candles.
The candles in my Northern Lights lantirn burns about 8 hours,
and ups the temperature by a few degrees. It's more the
psychological effect of the warm yellow light I think, also: you
run out of candles.

- Sex.
I you can still do this after 10 hours of mountaineering with
a 55-pound backback in knee-deep snow you can be on my team any
day. Actually this doesn't warm the tent at all and causes a
_lot_ of condensation but, hey, who cares.

- Forget about the tent.
And buy the thickest goose-down sleepingbag you can find (mummie).
1400 gramms of down and a pertex/nylon outershell should keep you
happy 'till about 40 degrees below zero.

This last option seems to be the most energy-efficient, rather expensive
and also a bit boring considering some of the alternatives (It's _so_ much
more fun to cook a rock ;-)

In the not to distant future a nice gadget would be a portable (2 kilo's)
nuclear heating device, prefferebly something that doesn't cause cancer
after 1 hour of usage. Does anyone have an idea how much heat can be
generated by a few ounces of plutonium (in a controllable reaction)?

Even better would be a fusion-pile that uses snow/water/air as a
hydrogensource, this could also be used to generate electricity to charge
the battery's of my cell-phone (works very well now in the Alps) and GPS.
If you're away during the hollidays you'll want to call some people and
it's a real drag if you can't call the rescue-service because you drained
your battery wishing everybody a happy newyear. And it's always nice to
play with the GPS, see how late the sun goes down in Reykjavik on the april
1st 2019 (20:15:34 @ N64.08.758-W021.54.865).

Would it be (at least theoretically) possible to contain the radiation of a
fusion-reaction inside an object the size of a 2-liter bottle? What kind of
material would that take? No neutronium please, I don't like snowshoes as
large as aircraftcarriers.

Ideas anyone?

Just in case I lose my sleepingbag, run out of fuel, candles and other
things that_make_life_worth_living when climbing Olympus Mons on Mars

Thanks in advance.

Arjen Kamphuis | Eat a live toad every morning and nothing | worse will happen the rest of the day.