You’re deep in the woods, being pursued by hungry bears, your cellphone battery’s dead, and all you’re carrying is something called a BioLite CampStove. What do you do? Rustle up some food (for the bears) on your port-a-crockery?
You could do that, sure — or you could climb a tree, use the stove to charge your cellphone, call for help, and wait for a dramatic helicopter rescue to play out, like Gandalf and company whisked away by giant eagles at the close of Peter Jackson’s preliminary Hobbit.
But wait, use the stove to charge your cellphone? That’s right — all you need is a bit of wood and your cellphone’s charge cable, because this thing exists: the BioLite CampStove is a water bottle-sized column of metal that weighs about 2 pounds, with holes in the sides that make it look a little like a cylindrical cheese grater. Into its biomass hopper, you can drop twigs, pinecones, wood pellets and the like to start a contained fire that generates about 2 watts of power at 5 volts (up to 4W peak). How much for the privilege? $129.95.
On the other hand, if you’re not being chased by hungry bears, and you’re already five by five with the campfire thing, you might instead consider the VOTO (pictured above), a much smaller device that looks a bit like one of those rectangular highlighter-school pens, but harbors a heat-activated fuel cell. A dongle attached to the VOTO runs to your heat source, say a campfire (or, you know, a crème brûlée torch), which charges the VOTO’s fuel cell, in turn allowing it to charge a USB-connected device.
Point Source Power, which designed the VOTO, says you can fully charge the fuel cell in the VOTO (4000 mAh, 1.2V; 4.8Wh) in as few as two cooking sessions. Alas, you can’t get the VOTO unless you live in Kenya, though that’s also arguably the point: as Point Source Power’s Craig Jacobsen explains in the video below, “There are 1.5 billion people in the world today that don’t have electricity, however they do have electric needs, primarily driven by the cellphone.”