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.