Superefficient campstove that charges your phone while it boils water, using only twigs

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But, do I need?
Oh, the pain.


Minor correction: it uses a thermoelectric generator to power the fan, there’s no dynamo. using the fan to power a dynamo to power the fan has obvious problems with the laws of thermodynamics.

But if I were going camping, the last thing I’d want is an excuse to take gadgets with me.

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Responsible hikers carry a GPS or cell phone. They don’t need to use them, and hopefully won’t, but if they rescuing, they can save responders a lot of trouble.


Ya, but are you forgetting the built in battery that powers the fan initially and - once the fire is going - the energy output from the fire which is being harvested?

Cell phones require cell towers, though. Aren’t you going to lack coverage in most hiking areas? Wouldn’t you be better off with a two way radio of some sort, or a satellite phone?

The GPS is good for knowing where you are, but that only helps you to get yourself out of trouble, not request help from the outside if you get injured or something.

Bin the cellphone (although, they do work in a surprisingly wide area, especially if you can get up high enough to get line-of-sight to a distant cell tower), or take it because it’ll be useful when you get back to the road end. But do take an EPIRB for when you need rescuing. They’re small, light, can often be hired rather than bought outrigt, and they work.

Edit: I agree with Smash Martian :smiley:


PLBs/EPIRBs are what I’d go for these days. Small, light, tough and relatively affordable. Sat-phone rental is now a lot cheaper than it was when I was seriously hiking, but has the same drawbacks as normal phones, being either bulky or fragile.

Having said that, for the more relaxed hiker, the non weight-weenie or the one that wants to document/live-tweet their trip, this is a very neat device. I’d like one, even though I no longer hike and even when I did, it would be far too heavy and fragile for me.

I’ve played with one. It does a good job of boiling water, but the charging current is trivial. Don’t imagine that a stop to boil water for a drink and hot food will equate to a charged phone. You’d need to be burning twigs for hours. A photovoltaic panel on your backpack might be a more practical idea.

Summary. It’s a good stove, a poor USB charger.


I had to look up both “PLB” and “EPIRB”, because (I imagine like most people) I had never heard the terms before in any context.

For those like myself who are not already familiar, here’s a quick summary.

A PLB is a Personal Locator Beacon.

Basically it’s a radio emitter that directly interfaces with the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme - a satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) distress alert detection and information distribution system. It’s much better than a basic radio because it is designed to communicate directly with emergency services through a dedicate satellite system.

An EPIRB is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.

It’s essentially the exact same thing, just a different name.

To be honest, these are basically just satellite phones specifically reserved for emergency usage and linked to the extant search and rescue satellite system.

Apparantly these sorts of devices are typically found on boats and aircraft, being legally required for all commercial shipping in many countries.


PLBs are usually smaller and lighter. EPIRBs are larger, heavier and need to conform to a bunch of marine requirements. It’s kinda like the difference between a phone and a tablet.

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I based my post on news items about lost hikers in my area (the woods and mountains near Portland Oregon). You’d be surprised!

But yes, deep wilderness hikers would need more than a simple cell phone.


A PLB is intended for an individual to carry. ELTs and EPIRBs are associated with (and registered to) a vehicle (plane or boat respectively). Being bigger they have more battery life, often float, and transmit on the classic aircraft guard frequency in addition to the SARSat beacon to make it easier for rescuers to home in on you.

There are also SPOT beacons and similar, which don’t rely on the SARSat constellation at all, but relay a distress call through the GobalStar or Iridium sat-phone networks. Somewhat less reliable in an emergency (canyons and canopy bother them more), but some of them can relay non-emergency information, and others can allow the rescue team to communicate with you.

I own one of these, along with the grill attachment. It’s ridiculously gratifying to use. You can cook a surprisingly large amount of food on the thing using a small amount of windfall twigs. I may never buy charcoal again.

Charging my iPhone is a distant 2nd to the super-efficient burn, but it’ll work in an emergency.

And to the person who commented that it would take hours to charge your phone, so does plugging it into a wall outlet. It outputs 5 watts if I remember correctly. The BaseCamp version coming out this fall doubles that.



Tablet computers are designed to perform different functions beyond simple telephony. They are computers, not just telephones, and the two functions fall into distinct categories of technology and usage.

To be perfectly accurate, modern “smartphones” are more tablet computers with additional telephone function, than they are telephones with computer functions. People no longer merely carry phones, they carry personal computers with the added capabilities of phones.

Yet despite this, there are still countless phones the world over which completely lack tablet functions - and there are likewise tablets that lack a telephone function. They are separate technologies, even if the recent trend has been to combine the two into a single device.

In contrast, PLBs, EPIRBs, and Satphones all perform the exact same basic functionality in the exact same way, communicating through radio signals sent directly to satellites. The only difference is how you choose to house the tech, with some models of course being compact and fragile, and others being more sturdy but bulkier.

Yeah, whatev.


I’m just trying to be accurate here. You’re the one who had a problem with my saying they were “essentially the exact same thing, just a different name”.

To be honest, they are essentially the same thing - they only differ in minor ways, and perform the same basic function. They do not differ in their essence.

For example, if someone had no clue what an [FN-P90][1] was, and one person explained to them that it was a [PDW][2], and another person explained to them that it was an [SMG][3], both explainations would be essentially correct.

Considering my post was about clarifying and explaining the basic concept and meaning of unfamiliar acronyms, I don’t really see why you feel the need to nitpick about the minor details, especially when you were content to gloss over all details to begin with.

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Yeah, I think there used to be some practical differences, but as far as I can tell the two are converging on a single thing, and the acronyms are esentially synomous, or nearly so. There are still some minor differences, but a small EPIRB is practically identical to a large PLB.

However …

… you’ve introduced your own bit of ambiguity here. Yes they use a sat system to communicate, but they aren’t phones. The communication is unidirectional - from the device to the relevant SAR facility only. Basically it just squawks a “help needed!” signal which can be triangulated to derive a position, along with a specific location if the device includes GPS (which they mostly do now).

Light, rugged, simple, and cheap. Use 'em.

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Telephony doesn’t have to be two way, although the vast majority of it is. The underlying principle is still unchanged, even if the communication only flows in one direction.

If someone calls you on your old fashioned houseline, but your microphone is broken, does that mean it’s no longer a phone simply because you can only listen and not respond?

If I say things are “basically just satellite phones,” as a way of explaining unknown technology to people, I’m not sure I can really hide behind “yeah, but phones don’t have to be two-way.” That’s like explaining a pager as being basically like a cell phone, and expecting no one to call you on it.