When it comes to camping, I'm always searching for the next great gadget—a tent that's truly rain proof, a mattress that stays inflated, a camp chair with a cup holder designed for my Scotch glasses—and I may have found it in the BioLite BaseCamp, a grill funded by crowdsourcing that will cook your food while also charging your electrical gadgets via USB ports. Think iPad and grilled lobster tails, sweet corn on the cob and Android.
Okay, maybe electricity isn't what the great outdoors is all about—but my kids carry their iPhones to photograph wildlife when we hike, and the BaseCamp let me to charge them up on a recent camping trip. It also simultaneously made grill marks on some lovely asparagus.
Here's how it works: BaseCamp converts excess heat from cooking into usable electricity, and the conical-shaped body channels heat up a chimney towards the grill platform. On the way to your steak, a probe channels some of that heat to a thermoelectric generator and eventually to a USB plug.
If all that's too technical, just think heat equals power, power equals electricity, electricity equals happy children with iPhones.
The design makes efficient use of small limbs and twigs, which light easily and burn hot. One drawback: The wood you use must be dry—wet or green wood will create a lot of smoke, but ultimately little heat and no electricity. And like a regular campfire, you have to keep feeding it wood and make sure the fire stays going.
Proceeds from the grill, which costs $300, also help fund the company's HomeStove project. HomeStove is a similar product designed for daily family cooking in rural developing countries and off-grid communities. Find out more info here.