One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is reviewing hardware that is completely unique, and that's the case with The PowerPot V (US$149.00). The device is a thermoelectric generator in the form of a camping cook pot; put it on a heat source suitable for boiling water -- a campfire or camp stove, for example -- and it bumps out 5 W of power (5V, 1A) to charge your favorite electronics.
When would you use something like The PowerPot V? While backpacking, or perhaps during an extended power outage when all of your backup battery packs have already discharged. For that reason, it's the perfect accessory for campers, hikers, or anyone who wants to be sure that they have power where they need it, when they need it.
To set up the PowerPot for charging, I guess the first thing you'd want to do is get your heat source going -- light that campfire, get the camp stove lit, or ignite the gas grill. Next, you take the PowerPot and extend the handle so you have something to grip onto as you put it onto the heat source. Before you do so, however, you want to fill the PowerPot with liquid -- the colder, the better. In fact, it's recommended to add snow or ice to your water so that it takes longer to heat up the liquid and give you a longer charging period.
Next, you take that full pot and center it over the heat source. As noted in the included quick start guide, you don't want to engulf the PowerPot in flame. Instead, it's best to focus the heat source in the center of the bottom plate of the pot. At this point, the green LED in the charging cord turns on, and when it does, it's time to plug in your device for charging. The charging cord has a USB port so you can plug in your own favorite cable, or you can use the three-headed (micro-USB, mini-USB and 30-pin Dock connector) cable supplied with the PowerPot.
You need to be sure that you don't run the PowerPot dry, so while charging you may want to just keep a pot of water boiling for tea or coffee the entire time... The pot has a 1.4 Liter (1 quart) capacity, and a combo cup/bowl/skillet that can be used as a cover or to cook other items separately.
Once your device is fully charged up, you take the PowerPot off of the heat source and let it cool down slowly. Since there's still a temperature differential, it will continue to generate power for some time.
I tested the PowerPot over two heat sources -- a small gas camp store (using "Coleman Fuel") and our electric range. And yes, I know that the range wouldn't be available during a blackout -- I was just testing the PowerPot...
I was quite surprised how quickly the green LED lit up once I "lit the fires", and my iPhone responded by noting that it was charging. The PowerPot can also be purchased with an 1800 mAh portable battery pack ($25) that also works as an LED flashlight -- something else that would be quite handy in an emergency.
The entire PowerPot V kit comes in a mesh bag that's perfect for tossing into your backpack or emergency preps kit. Use this with one of the very cool wood-burning Biolite campstoves that also contains a thermoelectric generator, and you can charge a pair of devices while cooking your dinner.
Whether you're a hiker, camper, or just want a way to charge electronics when all power fails but you have a way to start a fire, the PowerPot V is a handy, smartly-designed and well-executed accessory. Just about anyone can boil water; the PowerPot V provides a way to keep your gizmos topped off while doing so.
Rating: 4 stars out of 4 stars possible