The Good: Power Pot is a lightweight thermoelectric generator. You can charge your appliances and make dinner at the same time.
The Bad: Since you’re dealing with heat sources and thermoelectric tech, you really have to follow the use and care guidelines (you know, for safety). Some of the rules are downright fussy, though, which can make usability a tad tedious.
The Bottom Line :The Power Practical PowerPot V is a useful gadget for connected outdoor-types, and $149 seems like a fair price for anywhere charging capability — whether you’re camping under the stars or hanging out at home during a power outage.
PowerPot V is a thermoelectric generator you can use on a ton of different heating sources to charge your various gadgets. Its Kickstarter campaign concluded in May 2012 and now Power Practical is selling its crowd-sourced product in kits starting at $149 through various major retailers, including Amazon, Cabelas, and Eastern Mountain Sports.
PowerPot strays a bit from the typical stuff we cover, but it’s an appliance at its core: part generator, part cookware. It’s as comfortable on a stove in your kitchen as it is over a fire at a campsite. And it isn’t just useful when you don’t have access to electricity — you can also use it to make food and drinks.
We haven’t encountered any PowerPot look-a-likes out there, so I can’t offer much in the way of comparison. Still, I like PowerPot and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to stay connected while out enjoying nature. Tech-minded outdoor enthusiasts and emergency-preparedness-kit compilers, I’m looking at you.
Design and Features
PowerPot V has a USB 5 Watt (5V, 1A) output. It’s made of anodized aluminum, has a 1.4-quart capacity, and weighs 12 ounces (18.2 with the lid and the cord). PowerPot is 4.5 inches in diameter by 5.5 inches tall (or 4.5 inches by 8 inches with the lid). It’s compact, it feels durable, and it looks nice (an added bonus for a product like this, where functionality is much more important than aesthetics).
In addition to the main pot, PowerPot V also comes with a USB charging cord (for any USB device), three additional charging adapters (compatible with older Apple products, and any gadget that uses a micro- or mini-USB adapter), a combo lid-bowl-skillet, and a mesh storage bag. The silicone handles are flame-resistant and you can put PowerPot over propane, butane, a campfire, a gas stove, or pretty much any heat source.
While PowerPot is extremely versatile and easy to operate, I also found it a little high maintenance to use at first. Due to the proximity of the cord to the heat source and the thermoelectric tech itself, there are a lot of “rules” you have to remember. For example, if you don’t feed the charging cable through the middle of the handle, it might end up touching your heat source, which isn’t good. The cord is fire-resistant, not fire-proof (so prop PowerPot over your campfire, don’t immerse it in the flames).
The instructions say you should fill PowerPot at least two-thirds full with water (you can also add ice or snow). You should make sure that the pot is never in contact with heat when it’s empty (that could damage the generator). And when you’re done charging your phone, camera, etc., remove the pot from the heat source and let it cool down before dumping the water, as that could damage the generator, too.
So, if you happen to be cooking dinner simultaneously, does that mean that you have to wait for everything to cool down before transferring it to a bowl or plate to eat? No. Just leave a small amount of water in the pot, let that cool down, and then empty it. Kind of annoying, though. Basically, just use common sense and caution and it will work as expected.
PowerPot V performed about as well as I expected. I put the charging cable through the middle of the handle, I connected the USB cord, added water to the pot, and placed it over the heating source (I tested it on a gas stove, an electric stove, and a propane camping stove). Shortly after, the green LED light illuminated, signaling that it was ready to start charging gadgets.PowerPot is straightforward and it works. My iPhone 5 takes about 2 hours and 10 minutes to charge from zero to 100 percent using an Apple wall adapter; PowerPot charged it fully in 2 hours and 50 minutes.That’s not bad. It charged my third-gen iPad pretty slowly, but for bigger batteries you’d want a more robust 10-watt charger anyway. For that reason, PowerPot V really works best with smaller devices like cameras, e-book readers, phones, and GPS systems (even if you don’t plan to charge them fully from zero, you’ll be boiling water for a long time). But, keep in mind that Power Practical did recently fund another Kickstarter campaign for PowerPot X and XL – both are 10-watt generators (compared to the V’s 5 watts) available in 2.4 and 4 quarts (compared to the V’s 1.4 quarts) which can charge medium-sized gadgets such as tablets. The X and XL versions can also charge more than one phone or camera at the same time.
I think PowerPot is a particularly practical charging solution for backpackers. It can boil enough water to make coffee, tea, or a freeze-dried meal for one to two people while it charges your device. The pot itself weighs just 12 ounces (the cord and the lid take it up to 18.2 ounces), which is comparable to many other anodized aluminum pots and pans for camping that don’t have built-in generators. And that’s where I think it has solar chargers beat. The $149 Joos Solar Orange is the same price as PowerPot and has a similar output, but it weighs 24 ounces and it doesn’t perform multiple functions. Your pack should hold only what you need, and, ideally, what you need should be as light as possible.Conclusion
PowerPot is a really neat product if you want to stay connected when you’re in the wilderness or stuck at home without power. Pick a heat source, add water to the pot, and you can start charging your phone or other gadget fairly quickly. You can also make freeze-dried food, pasta, coffee, and more at the same time, which is a multitasker’s dream. However, it did take a while to generate a full charge for my phone, and while I found its usability a little cumbersome, its understandable given it involves running power cords near a heat source. I am very interested to see how the newer PowerPot X and XL compare.
Regardless, I like PowerPot V and I think $149 is a fair price. That basic package comes with several adapters that can accommodate different devices. It also includes a lid-pot-skillet in case you want to cook something that doesn’t require boiling water. Sure, generators have been around for awhile, but this is a unique and elegant solution for campers (or for a home emergency kit). I dare you to not feel accomplished and resourceful after using PowerPot V.