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Oxygen-making backpack a breath of fresh air

Out of Japan comes word of a backpack containing a battery-powered oxygen generator that can help fend off the dangers of hypoxia. The O2 Bag can be operated by remote control.

Out of Japan comes word of a backpack containing a battery-powered oxygen generator. It's doubtful that you'll need the O2 Bag if you're going for a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park near your house (unless the park near your house happens to be Yosemite). But if you're ascending to higher elevations, it could prove a nice alternative to bottled oxygen supplements.

Battery-powered backpack

The backpack's maker, Japanese adventure supply company Ymup, is touting the product as a first. It can even be operated via remote control, potentially helpful if you find yourself climbing, biking, or trekking in narrow spaces where it's hard to maneuver your gear.

The oxygen comes at 30 percent concentration and is inhaled via nozzle. The company says the battery lasts up to two hours, though the folks at Ubergizmo note that they wouldn't mind seeing a solar panel attached.

Ymup (product PDF, in Japanese) plans to release three models of the backpack in red, blue, and gray, on July 31, with prices ranging from $880 to $1,150.

The product measures about 6 inches by 9 inches by 2.5 inches, and it weighs about 2.86 pounds, including batteries--a key consideration, given that hard-core hikers will sometimes go so far as to cut the handle off their toothbrushes to save precious ounces. The pack's oxygen generator can function in temperatures ranging from 41 degrees Fahrenheit to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

When we gain elevation, air pressure drops, along with the amount of available oxygen. For serious mountain climbers who venture above 26,000 feet--known as the death zone--the risk of hypoxia is a very real threat.

As air pressure drops, the body tries to acclimatize itself with the production of more red blood cells, breathing becomes more rapid, the heart rate speeds up, and nonessential body functions shut down. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, a feeling of euphoria, and nausea. In severe cases, death can occur.

So here's a little piece of luggage that may actually save some high-elevation adventurers' lives. Machu Picchu and Tibet visitors, take note.