The original product had been used in the Orient to warm communities when electricity wasn’t affordable or to sensitize nerves for medical purposes.
Our own American soldiers used them in World War I. “ You used to have to break a capsule of water inside of the packet and kneed the materials together,” Chris told me. They were hot spots since they hadn’t yet found the right element to distribute the heat evenly. People would get burned. The product needed be further developed.
The warmers in the retail market of 1980 were also inefficient. The air holes, or pores, were too big or too small and covered by a label to keep the air out. Once it was peeled off it would sometimes pull the fiber from the packaging- leaving you with black dust all over your hands. When the non-woven fabric was developed, it opened up a whole new market for hand warmers- they became disposable. You no longer had to cover air holes, since the ingredients could breathe through the fabric. Japanese companies only manufactured a larger size of warmer because it was often used as a source of heat. Heating oil was too expensive so people would put warmers under their blankets to stay warm. In 1985, Chris Treptow was an avid skier.
And although she was a big fan of hand warmers, the standard size was too large to fit into her gloves. That’s when Chris designed Heat Factory’s ‘Mini Size Warmer’. The Mini Warmers took off in the United States with skiiers becoming her target buyer persona. She attended the local ski shows, when they were still popular and well attended. When demonstrating the product, enthusiasts would often look under the table to see if Chris was hiding a microwave or oven- they just couldn’t believe that a warmer could activate on its own. It was a long process of education.
Traveling to tradeshows in cold-weather became a recurring theme for Chris Treptow. “ When I would go skiing, no matter what my ears would always be cold. We decided to put a pocket over the ears on a headwear piece. That was the first patent that we ever filed,” says Chris. The same patent carried through to all
Heat Factory headwear over the years, including Heat Factory’s traditional balaclava, facemask, headband, etc.
In 1992, Chris met a gentleman called Phil Oren and with his help developed the Heat Factory Footbed, designed with a cavity under the toes that had airchannels, to carry airflow to the warmers allowing them to generate heat. Chris then designed a special Foot Warmer that could work in areas that had restricted air like a shoe or a boot and then incorporated that very warmer into the footbed. Around the same time, the combo glove was developed. It had a zipper on the side to and an inner glove liner so that you could pull your hand out when dexterity was needed while remaining protected from the cold.
Then Chris designed a pocket that could hold a warmer.
Chris giggles and says, “ The manufacturers didn’t want to develop the pocket, because it would show that their gloves were not warm. So Heat Factory came out with a line of Heated Gloves.”
Chris’s son, David graduated from school in 1990 and started working under his mom. David became the company’s engine and took the company to the next level. Somewhere in the mid 90’s, the Toe Warmer was developed. It was shaped like a half moon and had an adhesive
backing on it. The Toe Warmer was much thinner then the foot warmer and therefore didn’t take up as much room in shoes and boots. In the late 90’s, we started noticing
other trade show exhibitors putting our warmers on their sore backs half-way through the show. The warmer would always slip out and fall to the floor. And so Heat Factory’s back wrap
was developed- allowing the warmer to be held in place. Hunters were also taken into consideration; Chris knew that putting warmers over their kidneys while sitting in a tree stand would make their experience a more pleasant one. “ That works the reverse of hypothermi a. It tricks your mind into thinking you’re overheating and therefore
dilates your blood vessels, allowing more blood flow to circulate to your finger tips and toes,” Chris says. With David’s help, the manufacturing facility was opened. In 2004, Chris and Dave started manufacturing their own products, accomplishing one of their priority goals- bringing jobs back to the US.