Review: Practically perfect PowerPot V turns fire into electricity to charge your gear
I grew up before such things even needed to be considered, but for most of the years I’ve been a Scout leader, I’ve held the opinion that tech and the Great Outdoors don’t mix. “No Electronics On Campouts” was my mantra, and for good reasons. Back then, tech meant a cellphone and maybe an iPod or Gameboy, none of which were conducive to a good camping trip. They got in the way of enjoying the outdoors, they exacerbated homesickness for the younger boys and kept older Scouts up all night texting with their girlfriends. In short, they just didn’t make for happy campers.
These days, though, there are some pretty good reasons for adding some tech to your backpack. Navigation, reference, instruction, First Aid, star gazing — even bird watching can all be enhanced with a smartphone and the right apps. But as we find more ways to use them, the limitations of today’s batteries become more and more apparent. And, as I’m fond of saying: I’ve never come across a tree with an electrical outlet.
For the last few years, the go to solution for recharging your iPhone and other tech has been solar — and the state of the art there has improved a lot in that time. Still, it’s hard to use the sun for power when it’s hidden behind a cloudy sky or when it’s gone down for the night. In those cases, a relatively new method may be just the thing to light a fire under your tired old devices — almost literally.
It’s called Thermoelectric power, and it simply means that heat is converted into electricity. The concept is nothing new; utility companies burn coal to generate electricity every day. What is new is the way the concept is being packaged for use by individuals. Recently, two companies taken two different approaches to that concept. BioLite’s solution comes in the form of the BioLite Stove — a small, ostensibly backpackable stove that includes a power converter. (And by “obstensibly” I mean “not really.”) The fire in the stove is converted into electricity that powers a small fan that stokes the fire to make it burn even hotter; the excess energy created can be used to recharge your smartphone, external battery or other device.
The other company is called PowerPractical. Its product, called the PowerPot V, charges all those devices too, but rather than building the power converting hardware in the stove, it incorporates it into a high quality backpacking pot. This approach lets you use your own stove, whether it’s a high efficiency backpacking model like a PocketRocket or JetBoil, a larger two burner campstove or even the gas range in your own home. It’s a versatile approach that I much prefer over BioLite’s offering, since it doesn’t force me into using a stove that might not be the right choice for a particular trip. And since the PowerPot doesn’t have to use any of the energy to run a fan, it can send all the electricity its two generators create directly to your device. The PowerPot’s creators say that this plus the fact that their product has two generators to the BioLite Stove’s one means the pot generates more than twice the energy.
At first glance, the PowerPot looks right at home in any camper’s backpack. Made of anodized aluminum, the stove (and it’s companion pan/lid) feature standard swing out handles with insulated coating. Both pieces fit together nicely and slip into an included mesh bag with plenty of room to add a backpacking stove and fuel canister.
You’d quickly notice that there’s more to the PowerPot than standard camping cookware, however. A circular, flat plate of metal has been added to the bottom of the pot. From it extends an insulated wire that runs up the side and in between the swing out handles. An included cable plugs into the wire and at the other end (far enough to stay safely away from your stove’s flames) is a USB port. It’s here you plug in whatever device needs charging (and the plethora of included adapters ensures you can charge virtually any device you can think of.)
Just don’t lose the recipe
Once your device is connected, charging it is literally as easy as boiling water. Since power is generated using the difference in temperature between one side of the plate to the other, starting with cold water — even ice water — will provide the most juice to your device. The folks at PowerPractical, which makes the PowerPot, say you can also generate power by cooking other “liquidy” things. That means you can charge your device as a byproduct of cooking your soup, for instance.
Power Practical notes that the greater the differential between the temperature of the top of the plate and the bottom, the more efficient the PowerPot is at generating electricity. That’s why they recommend adding ice to the pot as water is boiled. That’s all well and good if your primary goal is charging your iPod, but we got great results with the energy generated from cooking meals, and we preferred that meant using our fuel more efficiently too.
Practically perfect in every way
We tested our review unit in a variety of circumstances and it never failed to deliver — or to draw the interest of fellow campers. From a springtime backpacking trek in the Adirondacks to a single-digit winter camping trip in New Jersey’s Kittatinny Mountains, the PowerPot took the worry out of draining our tech gear as well as the worry about whether the sun would shine enough to drive our solar panels.
Oh, and the soup was delicious too.
As tech continues to earn a place on your adventures in the Great Outdoors, the PowerPot earns a place in your backpack. By providing reliable energy on demand, efficient enough to recharge your devices in short order, the PowerPot proves it’s more than a gimmick — it’s legitimate camping gear that belongs on your list of essential items.
The PowerPot V: www.thepowerpot.com
Rating: (4.5 / 5)